Archive for the ‘Preaching’ Category
In my previous post I talked about the blog, Rethinking Hell. There are some, myself included in this, who have preached hell to the lost thinking that this was the best way to evangelize. Sort of “scare them” into the kingdom. My thinking was that hell is such a terrible place that if we preach what hell is like then people will repent and be saved.
I now believe this type of evangelism is not effective. Why?
First, “hell fire and brimstone” preaching doesn’t produce people who love God. They just fear hell. They don’t love Jesus for His work on the cross other than having a fire insurance policy that allows them to escape from eternal torment. If anything, they still fear Satan more than they fear God. Remember Jesus’ words in Luke 12:4-5 (NKJV):
4 “And I say to you, My friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. 5 But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear Him who, after He has killed, has power to cast into hell; yes, I say to you, fear Him!
Notice Who it is who casts into hell. It is God. Not Satan. In fact, Revelation 20:10 says that the devil will be himself cast into hell.
While we are called to fear God (Proverbs 1:7), fear doesn’t lead us to love God but only to tremble before Him. We should fear God (Romans 11:20-22) but we should also love God (Mark 12:29-31). Jesus said that if we love Him, we will obey His commandments (John 14:15) and John the Apostle says that His commandments are not burdensome (1 John 5:3).
Secondly, we find none of the Apostles preaching on hell in the book of Acts to the lost. Even in Acts 17, Paul the Apostle does not preach on hell. He does preach on the judgment to come (Acts 17:30-31) but he never preaches on hell. Strange that the Apostles would not preach on hell if in fact hell fire preaching produces true disciples of Christ. Even in Acts 2, the very first sermon preached after the resurrection focuses entirely upon Jesus and His work rather than hell. In fact, Peter never mentions hell at all. Hell is never talked about as a motivation for evangelism (“consider those about to go to hell as you go out sharing your faith”) nor for evangelistic preaching (“come and be saved from that awful place”).
Thirdly, such thinking undermines the sovereignty of God in preaching the gospel to the lost. Remember that God is the One who saves sinners (John 6:44). Through the preaching of the gospel He draws the lost to Himself (John 12:32; Romans 10:14-17). Jonah 2:9 is clear that salvation is of the LORD. The Lord God saves the lost by His sovereign power. He is the One who regenerates the unbeliever by His grace (Titus 3:5-7). Salvation is by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:1-9) and not by the will of mankind (John 1:12-13). We don’t need to go out in our evangelism thinking that we need to get people saved by our abilities to reason or to scare them into the kingdom. God will draw the lost as the Church is faithful to go out and make disciples (Matthew 28:19-20). Our duty is to go and preach the gospel (Mark 16:15-16) and not to try to argue people into the kingdom or to persuade them to repent by telling them scary tales about hell.
In closing, I do believe in hell. I believe that Matthew 25:46 is clear that the righteous will go to eternal life while the wicked will go to eternal punishment. However, our motivation for evangelism and salvation must not be hell. It must be the cross. Paul said in 2 Corinthians 5:11 (NKJV):
Knowing, therefore, the terror of the Lord, we persuade men; but we are well known to God, and I also trust are well known in your consciences.
Notice that Paul feared God above hell or above Satan. His fear of God motivated Him to want to preach the gospel to the lost. Yet he turns around in 2 Corinthians 5:14 (NKJV) and writes:
For the love of Christ compels us, because we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died.
Paul feared God and he loved God. This led to his desire to preach to the lost.
I pray that I would have the balance of fearing God and yet loving God. It is not hell that should push us to preach to the lost. It should be fearing and loving God. Further, as we preach to the lost, let us preach the cross. Let us show sinners their sins (1 Timothy 1:8-11) but let us preach the truth of the cross, that Jesus died for the ungodly (Romans 5:8-9). Jesus shed His blood for the souls of men (Isaiah 53:12). May the cross be our focus (1 Corinthians 1:23)!
Several weeks ago I posted a post on Tony Miano and him preaching outside of an abortion clinic in Portland, Oregon in which he had an atheist come and yell in his face while Tony sought to preach to those visiting the clinic. The atheist shouted over and over again, “Old white men should not be allowed to tell women what to do with their bodies.” In the course of the video, the man asks Tony why he is doing what he is doing, why doesn’t he go out and adopt children if he wants to help, and he tells Tony that he is judgmental for preaching at the women in the clinic.
I read another blog post where a lady wrote about the same video in which she makes the point that she agreed with the atheist and she finds Tony’s approach to “evangelism” as offensive. She thinks that his tact of preaching outside of an abortion clinic does nothing for the kingdom of God, brings shame to the women in the clinic rather than hope, and presents Christians as we are often seen, “critical and self-righteous.” She never offers any advice for how to evangelize and I have a feeling from her blog that she likely doesn’t share her faith, doesn’t see the necessity of sharing the gospel with the lost, and basis her entire view of Jesus on pure love and not holiness.
I have been asked about open air preaching and confrontational evangelism in the past but let me state again that I feel that the New Testament examples are clearly in favor of this type of ministry. Friendship evangelism, lifestyle evangelism, etc. often never lead to the gospel. Doing good works (as the lady advocates on her blog as the best form of presenting Christ to a skeptical world) are fine if they are accompanied with the gospel. To merely feed a person or to clothe the person without the gospel just makes them comfortable as they go to hell and nothing more. Jesus said that only those who have been born again (John 3:3-7) will see the kingdom of God.
I do agree with Paul Washer, however, that street preaching and evangelism should be done out of brokenness and out of a burden for the lost and not out of anger. I have seen angry street preachers. The wreathe and pronounce judgement after judgment upon the lost without any hint of compassion and fear for their souls. When I was in Washington DC back in November I saw the folks from Westboro Baptist Church preaching outside of Arlington National Cemetery and they were full of rage, hatred, and lack of love at all for the lost around them. Westboro folks are hyper-Calvinists and so they had no problem saying that all these people they were looking at (including myself) were non-elect and were going to hell for the glory of God.
Preaching to the lost must be done in brokenness. We should weep over the lost before ever whipping the lost (see Jesus’ example in Luke 19:41-46). Jesus had no problem denouncing the world (Matthew 11:20) and we should not fear from preaching the truth of God. Truth is offensive by nature (1 Corinthian 1:18). Truth separates. Truth divides at times. Truth shows people that they are in error and people hate to be told they are wrong about God, about eternity, about heaven and hell. In our postmodern age, people want to believe that we are all equal, we are all right, we all have truth. To be told otherwise always leads to anger and resentment.
In conclusion, do we really think that people today would treat Jesus any different if He preached to us in the flesh? If Jesus said what He said such as in Matthew 5-7 or in John 14:6, would the world accept His teachings? If Jesus defined marriage as He does in Matthew 19:1-9 then would the world accept Him? If Jesus taught what He taught in Luke 14:25-35, would the world (or even many so-called Christians) accept Him? I believe the results would still be the same: let us kill this man called Jesus. Face it, we don’t love God, we hate Him (Romans 1:18-32).
What is astounding to me is to listen to various evangelistic preachers on the Internet. You can listen to an Arminian, Calvinist, or even a Pelagian evangelist and they will all sound the same. All three will cry out, “Repent of your sins. Turn to God through faith and repentance in Christ Jesus. Trust Him alone to be saved.” All three will use these words when preaching to the lost. All three groups agree that Jesus alone saves and that He is the only way to be saved (John 14:6). All three agree that faith and repentance are necessary for eternal life. All three agree that the Spirit of God must work on the sinner to draw them to salvation.
No doubt there is much difference between the three especially between the Calvinist and the Pelagian. The Pelagian would agree with the Arminian that humans have free will though Arminians differ in that we teach that while the will is free, it is free to sin. To come to faith in Christ, the Spirit of God must woo the sinner and draw the sinner (John 6:44; Acts 16:14-15). Arminians, such as myself, deny that we can just come to Christ in our own free will powers. The Spirit of God must be at work and He works through the gospel to draw sinners to salvation (Mark 16:15-16; Romans 10:14-17; 1 Corinthians 1:21.
The Calvinist evangelist, while crying out for the lost to repent, likewise agrees with the Arminian that the lost can only come as the Spirit of God works. Both the Arminian and the Calvinist believe that salvation is accomplished by the grace of God who draws the sinner to Himself by the gospel. Both affirm that faith and repentance will come forth by grace. The key difference would be whether this salvation is conditional or unconditional. The Calvinist evangelist will tell the lost to repent but he knows that the lost will not repent unless they are elect. The Arminian would preach justification by faith alone and would call the sinner to repent. This repentance would come forth by the sinner’s will that is freed to either believe or reject the gospel. God does not force the sinner to repent but He allows the sinner to repent out of his will that has been freed to hear the gospel and be saved. Even the Calvinist evangelist would acknowledge that people who believe the gospel do so on their own free will. The Calvinist would say the sinner was “made willing” through the special inward call that goes out to the elect. The Arminian would say that the Spirit of God opens the eyes of the sinner and allows them to repent and place their saving faith in Christ and thus becomes the elect of God although God foreknow (1 Peter 1:2).
My point all here is not to ramble. I simply wanted to point out that the gospel message of these three will often sound the same. Repent. Faith. Trust in Christ alone. Turn from your wickedness. All these three groups would preach this. The difference would be the results. If a sinner repents, the Calvinist evangelist would say that this was the sovereign work of grace. The Arminian would agree but note that the sinner did believe and was saved. The Pelagian would say that through the exercise of the will, the sinner was saved by grace through faith.
Interesting. We are different but oddly sound the same.
In Matthew 3 we read the account of John the Baptist. We read that this great prophet of God was the forerunner for the Christ (v.3). We read that his appearance was not that impressive (v.4) and yet we read in verse 6 that “Jerusalem and all Judea and all the region about the Jordan were going out to him.” Impressive to say the least that large crowds were gathering to hear this prophet of the Lord.
What was John’s preaching? What was it that drew large crowds to hear him? We read in Matthew 3:2 that his preaching was, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” We read in Matthew 3:7-12 the style of his preaching:
7 But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8 Bear fruit in keeping with repentance. 9 And do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father,’ for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham. 10 Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.
11 “I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 12 His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into the barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”
Notice how confrontational his preaching was. Notice how bold he was in his call to repentance. John’s preaching on repentance was more than just theological in nature. His preaching on repentance demanded a transformation in life. Verse 8 is one of my favorite passages for preaching on repentance.
Amazingly we read of these large crowds that came to hear John preach. Jesus said about John the Baptist in Matthew 11:11 that “there has arisen no one greater than John the Baptist.” Yet we find nothing in the pages of Scripture about any miracles that John did nor do we read that John gathered a crowd through human means. You’ll find no posters, no advertisements for his preaching, we find no glamour, no lights and whistles, nothing to create a stir with his own means. John simply preached repentance and obeyed God faithfully.
John recognized the source of his success. In John 3:27 we read these words from the lips of John, “A person cannot receive even one thing unless it is given him from above.” John knew that his ministry was from God. He knew that his mission was to preach the gospel and leave the results to the Lord. Large crowds came to hear John but his focus was on pleasing God. He rightly acknowledged that Jesus had to increase while he decreased (John 3:30).
What an amazing focus. Too often modern Bible teachers draw crowds using worldly means. They think that a video, gimmicks, tricks, advertisement, music, showmanship, etc. will draw the crowds but certainly not the preaching of the Word of God. Unlike the Apostles in Acts or the prophets in the Old Testament, modern preachers falsely believe that it is the duty of us to draw the crowds. Further, we don’t even preach today what John preached: radical repentance. We don’t call people to forsake their sins (perhaps because we ourselves are struggling with some pet sin) nor do we preach a call to complete transformation in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17). We dare not preach that God requires us to be righteous before Him both by faith (positionally) and practically (Hebrews 12:14; 1 John 2:3-6; 3:6-10). We dare not do as John the Baptist did and call out people for their sins.
I believe that what we need is a good balance of grace and law preaching. Charles Finney said, “Where I found much grace preaching, I preached law. Where I found much law preaching, I preached grace.” Ray Comfort often says, “Grace to the humble; law to the proud.” We need to preach grace to those who are humble before God and broken over their sins. We read in James 4:7-10 that God draws near to us when we draw near to Him. Further we read that God opposes the proud but He gives grace to the humble (1 Peter 5:5). Yet we must preach the law of God to those who want to abuse the grace of God (Jude 4). We need to warn those who falsely believe God’s grace allows them to abide in sin (Hebrews 10:19-39). We need to warn those who would claim the name of Christ while living in sin and blaspheming His holy name with their lives. The balance to preaching is grace and law.
Preaching is our duty. The application of our preaching is up to the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit will bless faithful preaching such as that of John the Baptist. I pray to the Lord that He would rise up and anoint great men of God such as men like John the Baptist or great women of God such as Deborah (Judges 4-5). Saints of God who will powerfully declare God’s truth to this generation and will not fear the flesh. Certainly we will face trials just as John did (Matthew 14:1-12). Being faithful to God will cost us (Hebrews 11:32-38). Yet our passion should always be like that of John the Baptist, to exalt the Lord Jesus Christ and faithfully serve Him. We may lose our heads but we will be rewarded in eternity for His glory.
Oh God raise up more true prophets of God!
I am convinced that preaching of the gospel must focus in on Christ. He must be the focal point, He must be the One that we are exalting. Our preaching should not focus on ourselves or on the hearers but upon the Lord Jesus. When we do this, we are truly exalting God and calling people to the very One (and the only One) who can save their souls. Whether you are doing open air preaching, house church preaching, preaching in a traditional church, teaching a Sunday School class, teaching a small group Bible study, preaching in the prisons, discipleship, etc., we should focus upon Christ. After all, Scripture elevates Him and exalts Him above all others (Colossians 1:15-20).
In 2 Corinthians 5:11-15 we read:
11 Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade others. But what we are is known to God, and I hope it is known also to your conscience. 12 We are not commending ourselves to you again but giving you cause to boast about us, so that you may be able to answer those who boast about outward appearance and not about what is in the heart. 13 For if we are beside ourselves, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you. 14 For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; 15 and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.
Paul’s focus in these verses was upon Christ. He wanted Jesus to be exalted (v.14). That should be our focus as well (1 Corinthians 2:1-5). Christ is to be our all in all (1 Corinthians 10:31). Christ is to be the One that we lift up in calling people to repentance (John 12:32). Christ is to be our focus completely. After all, He is our Master and Lord (Ephesians 6:9).
Make much about this Jesus. When people hear you speak, they should focus on Jesus and walk away knowing that they heard about Jesus. Focus on Him alone as the only One who can save us by His grace (John 14:6). Jesus alone is worthy!
This video is a demonstration, in my estimation, of poor open air preaching. My advice when preaching the gospel whether in the open air or anywhere else, preach Christ. Exalt Him. Preach against sin but preach Christ. Your passion should be to glorify Christ and to exalt Him and to bring honor to Him. No doubt some will hate us for the name of Christ and many will despise the truth of the gospel, that God saves sinners by His grace through faith. But our passion should not be to make others mad, to provoke them to hatred, to make them angry by being angry at them. Preach Christ. He is faithful to save (1 Corinthians 1:21).