“Why Should I Let You Into Heaven?” “Because I’m Dead!”

A tool that some find helpful in evangelism is a series of diagnostic questions. “Have you come to the place in your spiritual life where you know for sure that if you were to die tonight you would go to heaven?” “If you were to die tonight and stand before God, and God were to say to you, ‘Why should I let you into My heaven?’ what would you say?”

Some might bristle at the thought of asking these questions, for fear of being linked to Ray Comfort and Kirk Cameron (that said, who wouldn’t want to go out street preaching with Mike Seaver?). But they’re actually more helpful than you might think. R.C. Sproul explains:

Once, when my son was young, I asked him these two questions. I was delighted that he immediately answered the first question by saying “Yes.” But when I asked him the second question, he looked at me as if I had just posed the silliest question he had ever heard. He said, “Well, I would say, `Because I’m dead.”‘ What could be simpler? My son was being reared in a home committed to biblical theology, but not only had I failed to communicate justification by faith alone to him, he already had been captured by the pervasive view in our culture that everyone goes to heaven and that all you have to do to get there is to die.

We have so eliminated the last judgment from our theology and expunged any notion of divine punishment or of hell from our thinking (and from the church’s thinking) that it is now widely assumed that all a person must do to get to heaven is to die. In fact, the most powerful means of grace for sanctification in our culture is to die, because a sin-blistered sinner is automatically transformed between the morgue and the cemetery, so that when the funeral service is held, the person is presented as a paragon of virtue. His sins seem to have been removed by his death. This is very dangerous business, because the Scriptures warn us that it is appointed for every person once to die, then to face judgment (Heb. 9:27).

People like to think that the threat of a last judgment was invented by fire-and-brimstone evangelists such as Billy Sunday, Dwight L. Moody, Billy Graham, Jonathan Edwards, and George Whitefield. But no one taught more clearly about the last judgment and a division between heaven and hell than Jesus Himself. In fact, Jesus talked more about hell than He did about heaven, and He warned His hearers that on that last day, every idle word would come into judgment. But if there’s anything unredeemed human beings want to repress psychologically, it’s that threat of final, comprehensive judgment, because none of them wants to be held accountable for his sins. Therefore, nothing is more appealing to human beings than universalism-the idea that all are saved.

R.C. Sproul, Can I Be Sure I’m Saved? (Kindle Edition)

Evangelistic vs. Doctrinal Preaching: Is That The Right Question?

The first conversation from the Elephant Room was on preaching to build attendance vs. preaching to build attendees. Over on his blog, James MacDonald posted parts one and two of the dialogue between Steven Furtick and Matt Chandler. Unfortunately, the embed on Furtick’s opening statement isn’t working, so I can only show Chandler’s response. I’d highly encourage watching part one on James’ blog:

(If you’re reading from the RSS or email, please click through to see the video.)

Having watched both clips, I definitely appreciate where both men are coming from and their (in my mind) equal passion for seeing the gospel go forth. However, I couldn’t help but wonder if maybe we’re asking the wrong question when we talk about evangelistic vs. doctrinal preaching. Maybe the question isn’t so much one of building attendance vs. attendees as it is this:

What is the purpose of the corporate gathering? Is the Sunday gathering primarily for nonbelievers or for the believer?

Or am I also asking the wrong question?

Let’s chat in the comments.

Why Do We Need To Talk About Sin?

“Sin” is an ugly word (and indeed one that has lost a great deal of its meaning within and without the church). So why do we need to talk about it? Does it even matter anymore? Richard Phillips offers these thoughts on why we cannot not talk about sin:

From start to finish, Jesus’ life and ministry were aimed at dealing with our sin. The angel who announced His birth told Joseph, “You shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins” (Matt. 1:21b). This is why Jesus was born into obscure poverty, His infant body placed not on a royal bed but in an animal’s feeding trough. Though very God of very God, He was born into humiliation so as to take up the cause of sinners. This is why Jesus insisted on receiving the baptism of repentance. John the Baptist tried to refuse, saying, “`I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?’ But Jesus answered him, `Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.’ Then he consented” (Matt. 3:14b-15). This is why Jesus associated with sinners, a practice that drew the criticism of the Pharisees. They complained to His disciples: “`Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?’ But when [Jesus] heard it, he said, `Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick…. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners”‘ (Matt. 9:11b-13).

Above all, this is why Jesus meekly submitted when He was unjustly convicted, even though Pontius Pilate had declared Him completely innocent. This was why Jesus accepted the dreadful lash of the Roman scourge, when He might have called down legions of angels to His defense. This is why He permitted Himself to be abused, allowed His body to be draped with a mock purple robe, and submitted His head to be pierced with a bloody crown of thorns-that He might be presented before history as the very picture of sinful mankind judged, condemned, and punished. And this is why the Son of God willingly took up the cross, forsaken by God and man, and died for sins He did not commit. Jesus Himself summed up the purpose of His whole saving work: “The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matt. 20:28).

Do you see why, therefore, we not only can but must bring up the issue of sin in our offer of God’s salvation? If sin was so important to God that He sent His only beloved Son into the world to deal specifically with it; if sin is so great a barrier between God and man that only the precious blood of Christ could remove it; and if Jesus was so committed to the salvation of sinners that He was willing to go to this horrific length to achieve it, how dare we cover up the topic of sin as some embarrassment to us or an impediment to the success of Christ’s church! Do you see why we must be willing to ask people to confess their sins in worship that is offered up in Christ’s name? Do you see why we must preach a gospel not just of cheery sentimentality but of the true and bad news of sin for which Christ paid so great a cost?

Richard D. Phillips, Jesus the Evangelist (Kindle Edition)

If this is true, how does it impact each of us individually? Do we find ourselves shying away from talking about sin? In our efforts to evangelize, are we at risk of neglecting this essential aspect of the gospel in the hopes of gaining a hearing?

Always Get to the Gospel: Dever, Driscoll and MacDonald on the Pastor and Personal Evangelism

In the above video, Pastors Mark Driscoll, Mark Dever and James MacDonald speak of the challenge of engaging in personal evangelism as pastors who spend a great deal of time with Christians. The dialogue is quite intriguing and well worth spending a few minutes watching.

After you’ve watched the video, consider the following questions:

  1. Does the gospel need to be shared in the every sermon? If so, why? If not, why not?
  2. Are you, whether you’re in vocational ministry or not, being proactive in seeking out non-Christians for the purpose of evangelism?

HT: Colin Hansen