This is the sermon I preached at The Fellowship at Two Rivers on 11/23/2014.
I first read Will Metzger’s Tell the Truth: The Whole Gospel Wholly by Grace Communicated Truthfully & Lovingly at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. Will Metzger has been a campus minister at the University of Delaware since 1965, where he serves with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship and Christian InterAction. Here is an introduction to the main points of his book Tell the Truth:
“Witnessing is confined to a rehearsal of a few gospel facts in the hearing of a nonbeliever. Broadly defined, it is whatever we do as Christians before the watching world.”
“The airplane of Christian witnessing has two wings: our lives (conduct) and our lips (conversation).”
“The content of our message is Christ and God, not our journey to faith. Our personal testimony may be included, but witnessing is more than reciting our spiritual autobiography. Specific truths about a specific person are the subject of our proclamation. A message has been committed to us- a word of reconciliation to the world.”
“Martyn Lloyd-Jones has drawn the following foundational principles for evangelism:
- The supreme object of the work of evangelism is to glorify God, not to save souls.
- The only power that can do this work is the Holy Spirit, not our own strength.
- The one and only medium through which the spirit works is the Scriptures, therefore, we “reason out of the Scriptures” like Paul did.
- These preceding principles give us the true motivation for evangelism- a zeal for God and a love for others.
- There is constant danger of heresy through a false zeal and employment of unscriptural methods.
Understanding that God, not us, is the evangelizer (the one who brings the results) is wonderfully liberating.”
Principles for Evaluating ‘Evangelism Methods’
- What truth was taught?
- Was the nature of God defined clearly and its implications impressed on the mind and the heart lovingly and firmly?
“I have found three questions helpful to guard against this aberration:
- Were the truth points of the gospel elaborated on clearly so that a meaningful response was possible?
- Did appropriate Scripture probe the conscience, or only reinforce sinful desires?
- Was the impression given that they can decide for Christ by their own abilities whenever convenient?”
“Our evangelism needs to stress a God of holiness, not just a God who exists to give us good times and pleasant feelings. We gained redemption through a sovereign Savior rather than through a relationship to him as a mere friend.”
“There is a ‘truth bomb’ ticking away in evangelical Christianity that could explode misconceptions in evangelism. This bomb’s ingredients are the sovereignty of grace, dependence on prayerful pleading, truth-centered witnessing, genuine love and friendliness.”
The Five Primary Points of the Gospel
1. God: Our Owner, Father, Judge.
“We must give people a thorough grounding in the character of God as the self-sufficient Creator as part of our basic Gospel.”
2. God-Centered Living: The Two Rules of the Road.
“It compels conviction of sin and reveals a compassionate Savior, guilt (law) and forgiveness (love).”
“Repentance before God and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ are the goals of the gospel.”
“God has designed a way for us to live.”
“It is essential that they measure themselves by God’s requirements.”
3. Self-Centered Living: Separated and Enslaved
“The corruption of what is best will lead to the worst results.”
“How can human beings be so inconsistent? At one time they display self-sacrifice, at the next moment they are all selfishness and pride. This point of tension is explained by the Christian view of human nature. When people are able to see a reason for the human paradox, they may begin to admit sin is in their nature and a radical solution is therefore needed. Man plays God and man fights God.”
Bring back to God’s holiness;
“God’s rules requiring perfect obedience to see how powerless we are.”
“If we don’t treat people as persons when we witness to them, we deny a basic tenet of the very gospel in which we believe. If we turn this outline into a formula, we have depersonalized those we encounter.”
“In explaining what it means to be human, we must vividly contrast Genesis 2 and 3 (creation and Fall) and personally punctuate Romans 1:18-23 (Creature tries to be Creator).”
“to admit I am sinful in my nature (not just that I make mistakes or am imperfect), and by simply not loving God (vertical relationship) I have offended his holiness, making me liable for punishment.”
4. Jesus Christ: The Way back to Life.
“The law convicts but is powerless to convert a person.”
“It is the dying Savior on a cross who causes us to hate sin and surrender to love.
- The cross shows us how heinous sin is. (The innocent Son was punished)
- The cross reveals a way of forgiveness consistent with the justice of God.
- The cross demonstrates the love of God.”
“grace is costly but free.”
“Much of witnessing is bringing people to understand and feel the extent of their helplessness and corruption.”
Christ “provides for us two things his Father required of us:
- Our obligation to live a morally perfect life.
- The punishment we deserve for disobeying God’s holy law.”
“The fire of God’s wrath has touched down at one particular point in history. And when it did, it utterly consumed a man as he hung on the cross.”
5. Our Necessary Response: Coming Home to Jesus.
“If God is sovereign, and if the person’s conviction is of the Holy Spirit, then God can finish what he has begun.”
Assurance: “The first pillar of assurance is a trust in the promises of God as being promises to you. You count them true and take them personally. The second is the beginning of a change in your attitudes and actions corresponding to the fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5) and the marks of salvation (1 Jn). The third is the inner witness of God’s Spirit to your spirit that you are his child (Rom 8).
“When we sin it is to be expected that our assurance of salvation will be weakened.”
“Remind them of the three tenses of salvation: I have been saved (Eph 2:8), I am being saved (1 Cor 1:18), I will be saved (Rom 5:9). The basis of assurance of salvation is threefold: the promises of God made real to the heart, the inner testimony of God’s Spirit to our Spirit, and the production of attitudes and actions congruent with the fruit of the Spirit and God’s commandments.
- Test of Consciousness of Sin (1 Jn 1:8, 10)
- Test of Obedience (1 Jn 2:3-5, 29)
- Test of Freedom from Habitual Sin (1 Jn 3:9; 5:18)
- Test of Love for Other Christians (1 Jn 3:14; 4:7-8)
- Test of Belief (1 Jn 5:1)
- Test of Overcoming the World and Satan (1 Jn 2:13-14; 5:4)”
Note: The Biblical mandate to ‘examine yourself’ can be found in 2 Cor 13:5
“Regeneration and conversion are words to describe two different ways of viewing salvation. Regeneration is viewing salvation from God’s side; it is an instantaneous impartation of new life to the soul…Conversion, on the other hand, is viewing salvation from our perspective. It is a process of the entire work of God’s grace from the first drawing of understanding and seeking to final closing with Christ in new birth…We respond in time to God’s action in eternity.”
F.W. Faber once said, “Deep theology is the best fuel of devotion; it readily catches fire, and once kindled it burns long.”
“In witnessing we must be emotional. How can we not? We’re talking of the deepest love in the world. We’re pressing on the conscience the awful anger of God against personal sin and social injustice. We’re communicating the reconciled peace of God. Our theme is the liberating joy of no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus, the Jesus who wept over Jerusalem’s unbelief.”
“It is a mistake to appeal to the unbelievers will directly if we do not accompany such an appeal with biblical content. Why? Because such content is needed to instruct the mind in its choice and humble its sinful desires.”
“A compulsion to earn salvation is deeply rooted in the nature of fallen mankind.”
“Our first parents, acting as our representatives, made a choice to disobey their maker, and their sin has affected every human since them except one. When Adam and Eve sinned, the image of God was defaced but not erased.”
Three Myths That Obscure Grace
- The myth of my inalienable rights.
- The myth of human goodness.
- The myth of [absolute] freewill.
“Grace to the Rescue
- Human beings crash, We are ‘totaled’ and ‘dis-abled’
- Re-creation (new life) is needed.
- Alien (from outside ourselves) aid is needed.
- Our maker devises a salvation plan involving his Son and the Holy Spirit.
- The Father, unobligated to save any, chooses to save many, not because of any quality in us but because it pleases him. He thus sends his Son.
- Jesus, the God-Man, provides redemption via keeping perfectly the Father’s law and through his death as our substitute sin-bearer and resurrection for those given to him (chosen) by the Father.
- The Holy Spirit, following God’s plan, regenerates those given to the Son, granting Christ’s benefits to them.
- Having spiritual new birth, they wholeheartedly respond in repentance and faith.
- They willingly and freely love God because he first loved them, and they choose to do his will.”
“We hear the outward call offering good news, but we are unwilling, Then the Holy Spirit enters…I become willing and choose Christ because what I desired in my mind was changed by God’s empowering, evocative grace!”
“The Holy Spirit regenerates people because it pleases God (Gal 1:15). It is according to his good will or purpose. “God…has saved us and called us to a holy life- not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time.” (2 Tim 1:9).
“The new meaning of tolerance has expanded to include the necessity to approve all beliefs, opinions, values, and lifestyles. “To be truly tolerant…you must agree that another persons position is just as valid as your own…you must give your approval, your endorsement, you sincere support to their beliefs and behaviors”…Now evangelizing is called proselytizing. Although the dictionary definition of this term is mild, meaning to convert or change beliefs,” it is now linked with actions that are manipulative, pressuring, and bigoted.”
“Christianity’s distinctive features can be summarized under three headings;
- Ruin: Christ teaches that we are helpless and lost, wholly unable to save ourselves.
- Redemption: Christ is risen, we serve a living savior who bore the Father’s judgment on our sins.
- Regeneration: Christ recreates a new heart in us, and we live united with him in newness of life. Our nature is changed.”
- Common Interests
- Immediate Questions
- Abstract Questions
- Christian Explanations
“Practical Effects of Grace Centered Evangelism
- Pray for God’s will to be done, since his purposes are best.
- Are bold and less fearful of others.
- Are quietly confident, for God has promised to use them.
- Are humble, for they know God is taking the lead.
- Are filled with love, for it is God’s love that motivates them.
- Speak to the conscience, knowing it is our point of contact.
- Are expectant, for God’s purposes will come to pass.
- Are patient, trusting in God’s timing to bring new life.
- Are persistent, realizing conversion is a process.
- Are honest, not hiding any of the hard parts of the gospel.
- Emphasize truth, not just subjective experiences
- Lift up Jesus, knowing that he will draw people to himself
- Use the law of God to expose peoples inability to save themselves
- Wait for the Holy Spirit to give assurance of salvation
God-Centered Goals in Evangelism
- “Disciples (not decisions), conversion of the whole person, conscience moves them to call on God for mercy in their own words.
- Responsibly teach the gospel clearly, forcefully, patiently.
- Balance the benefits of the gospel with the sacrificial demands of the gospel.
- Allow time for prayer in their own words. (Not standardized prayer)
- Face them with the impossibility of saving themselves or exercising faith on their own.
- Emphasize baptism, partaking of the Lord’s Supper to proclaim his death, changing sinful ways of life.
- Present truth to the mind, call on the will to obey, expect heartfelt emotions to follow.
- Let the Holy Spirit give assurance via subjective inner witness and objective biblical evidence of changed life.”
- Lecture 1: What is Good Preaching?
- Lecture 2: Preaching to Secular People and Secularized Believers
- Lecture 3: Preaching the Gospel Every Time
- Lecture 4: Preaching to the Heart
Matt Chandler at Catalyst 2014.
Perhaps you have heard the story from Stanley Weintraub’s book Silent Night: The Story of the World War I Christmas Truce?
In December of 1914 something amazing happened along the Western front during World War 1. During the weeks leading up to Christmas, parties of German and British soldiers began exchanging Christmas songs across the trenches. Essentially, they were battling each other with season’s greetings, at some points individual soldiers walked across enemy lines bearing Christmas gifts. On Christmas eve and Christmas day both sides agreed to a truce, an unofficial cease fire. These enemy war units ventured into what they called “no mans land”, neutral territory, to share their rations of food and sing Christmas carols together.
What a beautiful picture. Enemy troops coming together under the banner of Christmas. Coming together in peace to celebrate with one another. Just a small taste of what’s to come when Christ returns. As Isaiah 2:4 reads:
“He will judge between the nations and will settle disputes for many peoples. They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore.”
In a world of chaos and war, where the effects of sin ripple through our lives and our lands – we all long for peace. And every now and then, we catch a glimpse of what is to come.
This fall, The Gospel Project for Adults and Students have been on a journey through the story line of Scripture once again, this time looking at the theme of God’s kingdom. With every study we run a corresponding blog series as an additional resource for churches and groups using The Gospel Project. Here are the posts focused on the kingdom of God, and its implications for everyday life.
- What Is The Kingdom of God? – Tullian Tchividjian
- Jesus and The Kingdom of God – Phillip Bethancourt
- Jesus, Our Long Awaited King – Matt Capps
- Culture and The Kingdom of God – Bruce Ashford
- Family Life and The Kingdom of God – Gloria Furman
- Mission and The Kingdom of God – Ed Stetzer
- Political Engagement and The Kingdom of God – Russell Moore
- Work and The Kingdom of God – Matt Perman
Every week, we pray for people studying the Bible and using The Gospel Project. This fall, we are praying God reveals the hidden idols of our hearts, magnifies the greatness of King Jesus, and transforms us into heralds of the returning King. May God make us a people who live under the lordship of Christ and speak of His excellency to those around us who have not yet bent the knee. The King has a mission, and we are His messengers.
In seminary I first read J.I. Packer’s Evangelism and the Sovereignty God as part of my reading in an independent study on evangelism with Dr. John Hammett at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. Packer (Ph.D., Oxford) is a British-born Canadian Christian theologian in the low church Anglican and Reformed traditions. Packer is the author of numerous books, and is considered one of the most influential Christian theologians today. Here is an introduction to Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God:
“Divine sovereignty is a vast subject: it embraces everything that comes into the biblical picture of God as Lord and King in His world, the One who ‘worketh all things after the counsel of his own will’ (Eph. i. I I), directing every process and ordering every event for the fulfilling of his own eternal plan.”
“The only aspect of divine sovereignty that will concern us in these pages is God’s sovereignty in grace: His almighty action in bringing helpless sinners home through Christ to Himself.”
“I shall try to show further that, so far from inhibiting evangelism, faith in the sovereignty of God’s government and grace is the only thing that can sustain it, for it is the only thing that can give us the resilience that we need if we are to evangelize boldly and persistently, and not to be daunted by temporary setbacks.”
“The prayer of a Christian is not an attempt to force God’s hand, but a humble acknowledgement of helpless dependence…what we do every time we pray is to confess our own impotence and God’s sovereignty.”
First, “you give God thanks for your conversion…because you know in your heart that God was entirely responsible for it.” Secondly, “You pray for the conversion of others…when you pray for unconverted people, you do so on the assumption that it is in God’s power to bring them to faith.”
“The root cause is the same as in most cases of error in the Church- the intruding of rationalistic speculations, the passion for systematic consistency, a reluctance to recognize the existence of mystery and let God be wiser than men, and a consequent subjecting of Scripture to the supposed demands of human logic. People see that the Bible teaches man’s responsibility for his actions; they do not see (man, indeed, cannot see) how this is consistent with the sovereign Lordship of God over those actions.”
“This is because thinking through it we have to deal with an antinomy in biblical revelation, in such circumstances our finite, fallen minds are more than ordinarily apt to go astray.”
“It is an apparent incompatibility between two truths. An antinomy exists when a pair of principles stand side by side, seemingly irreconcilable, yet both undeniable…You see that each must be true on its own, but you do not see how they can both be true together.”
“An antinomy is neither dispensable nor comprehensible…an observed relation between two statements of fact…Accept it for what it is, and learn to live with it….think of the two principles as complementary to each other…Use each within the limits of its own sphere of reference.”
“Hearers of the gospel are responsible for their reaction; if they reject the good news, they are guilty of unbelief.”
“Man is a responsible moral agent, though he is also divinely controlled; man is divinely controlled, though he is also a responsible moral agent.”
“The temptation is to undercut and maim the one truth by the way in which we stress the other: to assert man’s responsibility in a way that excludes God from being sovereign, or to affirm God’s sovereignty in a way that destroys the responsibility of man.”
First, “there is the temptation to an exclusive concern with human responsibility.” Secondly, “there is an opposite temptation that threatens us also: namely, the temptation to an exclusive concern with divine sovereignty.”
“Our evangelistic work is the instrument He uses for this purpose….it is God’s prerogative to give results when the Gospel is preached.”
“Only by letting our knowledge of God’s sovereignty control the way in which we plan, and pray, and work in His service, can we avoid becoming guilty of this fault.”
“God’s way of saving men is to send out His servants to tell them the gospel, and the Church has been charged to go into all the world for that very purpose.”
“To evangelize, is to present Christ Jesus in the power of the Holy Spirit, that men shall come to put their trust in God through Him, to accept Him as their Saviour, and serve Him as their King in the fellowship of His Church.”
“…evangelism is the issuing of a call to turn, as well as to trust; it is the delivering, not merely of a divine invitation to receive a Saviour, but of a divine command to repent of sin.”
“Evangelism is man’s work, but the giving of the faith is God’s.”
“it is by teaching that the gospel preacher fulfills his ministry. To teach the gospel is his first responsibility: to reduce it to its simplest essentials, to analyze it point by point, to fix its meaning by positive and negative definition, to show how each part of the message links up with the rest- and go on explaining it till he is quite sure that his listeners have grasped it.”
“Evangelizing includes the endeavor to elicit a response to the truth taught.”
“Evangelism it to be defined, not institutionally, in terms of the kind of meeting held, but theologically, in terms of what is taught, and for what purpose.”
“In a word, the evangelistic message is the gospel of Christ, and Him crucified, the message of man’s sin and God’s grace, of human guilt and divine forgiveness, of new birth and new life through the Holy Spirit.”
The Gospel is a message about Christ, and a message about sin.
- Conviction of sin is essentially an awareness of a wrong relationship with God
- Conviction of sin always includes conviction of sins
- Conviction of sin always includes conviction of sinfulness.
A message about Christ.
- We must not present the Person of Christ apart from His saving work.
- We must not present the saving work of Christ apart from His person.
“The question about the extent of the atonement…has no bearing on the content of the evangelistic message…” (Good discussion points)
On the summons to faith and repentance. “Faith is essentially the casting and resting of oneself and one’s confidence on the promises and mercy which Christ has given to sinners, and on the Christ who gave those promises…repentance is a change of mind and heart, a new life of denying self and serving the Savior as king in self’s place.”
- The demand is for faith as well as repentance.
- The demand is for repentance as well as faith.
“In common honesty, we must not conceal the fact that free forgiveness in one sense will cost everything.”
“They [the Disciples] did not need to be told to do this; they did it naturally and spontaneously, just as one would naturally and spontaneously share with one’s family and friends any other piece of news that vitally affected them…it was a great privilege to evangelize.”
“personal evangelism needs normally to be founded on friendship. You are not normally justified in choosing the subject of conversation with another till you have already begun to give yourself to him in friendship and established a relationship with him in which he feels that you respect him, and are interested in him, and are treating him as a human being, and not just some kind of ‘case’.”
“The seemingly inevitable glamorizing of Christian experience in the testimonies is pastorally irresponsible, and gives a falsely romanticized impression of what being a Christian is like. This together with the tendency to indulge in long drawn-out wheedling for decisions and the deliberate use of luscious music to stir sentiment, tends to produce ‘conversions’ which are simply psychological and emotional upheavals, and not the fruit of spiritual conviction and renewal at all,”
“There is only one means of evangelism: namely, the gospel of Christ explained and applied…There is only one agent of evangelism: namely the Lord Jesus Christ…There is only one method of evangelism: namely, the faithful explanation and application of the gospel message.”
Questions to assess ones gospel preaching:
- “Is this way of presenting Christ calculated to impress on people that the gospel is a word from God?”…
- Is this way of presenting Christ calculated to promote, or impede, the work of the word in men’s minds?…
- Is this way of presenting Christ calculated to convey to people the doctrine of the gospel, not just part of it, but the whole of it?…
- Is this way of presenting Christ calculated to convey to people the application of the gospel, not just part of it, but the whole of it?…
- Is this way of presenting Christ calculated to convey gospel truth in a manner that is appropriately serious?…”
“Older theology distinguishes the two as God’s will of precept and His will of purpose, the former being His published declaration of what man ought to do, the latter His (largely secret) decision as to what He Himself will do. The former tells man what he should be; the latter settles what he will be. Both aspects of God are facts, though how they are related in the mind of God is inscrutable to us.”
“The sovereignty of God in grace does not affect anything that we have said about the nature and duty of evangelism.”
- It does not affect the necessity of evangelism.
- It does not affect the urgency of evangelism.
- It does not affect the genuineness of gospel invitations.
“It is true that God has from all eternity chosen whom He will save. It is true that Christ came specifically to save those whom the Father has given Him. But it is also true that Christ offers Himself freely to all men as their Savior, and guarantees to bring to glory everyone who trusts in Him as such.”
- It does not affect the responsibility of the sinner for his reaction to the gospel.
“The sovereignty of God in grace gives us our only hope of success in evangelism. It should make us bold.”
- It should make us patient.
- It should make us prayerful.