This is probably one of the best excerpts I’ve seen from The Elephant Room so far:
(RSS Readers: Can’t see the video? Click through to the site.)
HT: James MacDonald
A personal testimony does not replace a biblical proclamation about Jesus, but it is an important complement. And it requires that we have a close relationship with the Lord. If we are not excited about God’s Word, if we are not warmed by close fellowship with God, and if we are not humbled by Christ’s suffering on the cross for our sins, we will not be very effective witnesses. Yet it is essential that we be able to give such a witness. MacArthur is right when he says:
Most people do not come to Christ as an immediate response to a sermon they hear in a crowded setting. They come to Christ because of the influence of an individual…. In the overwhelming majority of [new believers' testimonies], they tell us they came to Christ primarily because of the testimony of a coworker, a neighbor, a relative, or a friend…. There’s no question that the most effective means for bringing people to Christ is one at a time, on an individual basis.
Between [Peter and Andrew] we see the two main kinds of witnesses God provides in the church: the public preaching of the Word and the personal testimony of individual Christians. Every church needs a Peter who will preach the gospel publicly, and God greatly uses faithful preaching. Peter’s sermon at Pentecost, when three thousand people believed on Christ, is one such example. But as important as preaching is, it is at least as necessary that a church have a legion of Andrews: those who bring people to Jesus one by one through their heartfelt testimonies.
Richard D. Phillips, Jesus the Evangelist (Kindle Edition, location 573)
Perhaps the greatest obstacle to our usefulness is the false belief that our witness does not matter. This is especially a danger if we think a previous witness has been ineffective. I suppose even John might have thought that. After all, few people went to follow Jesus after John pointed him out. But there is a detail later in John’s Gospel that helps us to understand better. John 1:28 says, “These things took place in Bethany across the Jordan, where John was baptizing.” In John 10, we learn that Jesus at one time took His disciples back to that place: “He went away again across the Jordan to the place where John had been baptizing at first, and there he remained. And many came to him. And they said, John did no sign, but everything that John said about this man was true.’ And many believed in him there” (John 10:40-42). Despite his apparent failure, John the Baptist’s witness was not wasted; in God’s timing, it led many to be saved.
One person who might think poorly of her witness is a woman whose words were instrumental in my own salvation. I do not know her name and doubt that I could recognize her. One day, as I moved into an apartment, she was moving out next door. I carried one box of books to her car. After thanking me, she asked whether I was looking for a church to attend. My body language made it clear that I did not appreciate the question. So she quickly stammered, “If you are ever looking for a church, I would recommend this particular church a few blocks away.” With that, she drove off and I never saw her again. I have often imagined her kicking herself for her weak attempt to witness. But a few months later, when the Holy Spirit had prepared a way for the Lord into my heart, I remembered her words, went to that church, and, hearing the gospel there, I believed and was saved.
You may think you are just one “voice” and that your witness doesn’t matter. But if Jesus is the Word your voice brings-and if He is living in you and you know Him-then your witness is mighty to cast down strongholds and lead dying sinners to salvation.
Richard D. Phillips, Jesus the Evangelist (Kindle Edition—location 343)
Many people are not interested in heaven, caring only about their present happiness. But have they compared the lights of their liking to the true light of God’s Son? There is no light other than Jesus that can lead to true joy now or to eternal life in days to come: not money, adventure, or success; not the pride of morality; not the pleasure of sin. The only true light is Jesus Christ, and God in His grace sent Him into this world to be our Savior. What will happen to those who reject Him? How will God respond if they do not receive His Son, bowing the knee and opening their hearts to believe and be saved? As John declared, “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him” (John 3:36).
It is especially important that we never think that what we are doing for Christ is of ultimate importance. James Montgomery Boice warns us, “Whenever a Christian layman, minister, writer, teacher, or whoever it might be, gets to thinking that there is something important about him, he or she will always cease to be effective as Christ’s witness.” We also must never permit people to glorify us for what God has done in our lives. If people notice that you have changed, you should praise God and tell them that it was Jesus’ work, for they will gain what you have, not by admiring you, but only by believing on Jesus. In some cases, redirecting praise in this manner will result in people who previously admired you becoming hostile; the world hated Christ, and it will often hate a faithful witness to Him. But we must accept this risk so as to bear testimony not to ourselves but to Christ.
People have a lot of hard questions for the Christian faith. But why is it that, while there are some that we certainly give it our all to answer, there are others that Christians don’t seem to want to answer?
Why is that?
It’s (hopefully) not that we don’t want to give the answers, but it’s most likely that we don’t have the answers themselves.
That’s where The Questions Christians Hope No One Will Ask comes in. Author Mark Mittelberg, along with his publisher and the Barna Research group polled one thousand Christians asking them what questions they hoped no one would ask. The results came down to ten questions:
These are not questions with easy answers, and Mittelberg offers thoughtful responses to each, along with very helpful discussion aids and small group questions.
One of the things I appreciated about the book was the author’s ability to be speak plainly on some very complex subject matter. Particularly when speaking about subjects such as evolution, it can be very easy to get bogged down in language that is foreign to the average person. He also tries to be careful about letting his position on each answer be the only position. Again, using the example of evolution, he doesn’t simply provide one option, but several generally accepted Christian views. While I don’t know if I would agree his inclusion theistic evolution, Mittelberg keeps his eye on accessibility and that’s something that should be commended. [Read more...]
Title: Is the Bible True . . . Really?
Authors: Josh McDowell & Dave Sterrett
Publisher: Moody Publishers (2011)
Meet Nick. Nick grew up going to church, believed the Bible, and was generally a pretty good kid.
Then he went to college and met Dr. Peterson, his Religious Studies professor, a critical scholar of the New Testament who rocked his confidence in what he (Nick) had been taught about the Scriptures.
Is the Bible reliable? How can we really know that what we have today is really what was originally written? What do we do with all the variances in the manuscripts that exist?
Is the Bible true… really?
These are the questions that Nick was left facing. And they’re the same ones faced by all Christians today, especially those heading off to college where their faith will be severely tested. Without good answers to these questions—and many others—their faith will not stand.
That’s what inspired Josh McDowell and Dave Sterrett to write Is the Bible True . . . Really? In this book, the first in their Coffee House Chronicles series, the authors seek to equip and encourage readers as they follow Nick on his quest for the answers to the questions surrounding the reliability of the Bible.
By late January of his freshman year, Nick was a professing agnostic who put a lot of stock in the ideas popularized by the Zeitgeist movie that’s been making the rounds on YouTube for the last couple years and in books by Dan Brown and Bart Erhman.
So convinced is he that he decides to write a twenty-one page paper entitled The Plagiarism of the Bible: How the Bible Stole from Pagan Mythology. Hoping to get his teacher’s input, he instead meets Jamal Washington, Dr. Peterson’s new teaching assistant, a graduate from Dallas Theological Seminary (and former college football star). As he begins a friendship with Jamal, he finds his new-found agnosticism shattered as Jamal details the real facts surrounding the reliability of the Bible.
So what does Nick (and readers along with him) learn? [Read more...]
A couple years back, Piper was asked, “what could unravel the gospel-centered movement?”
His answer was insightful: The disconnect between the majesty of God and the way we entertain ourselves.
“There’s an awakening to the majesty of God around the country, a filling of hearts with God-centered, Christ-exalted, Bible-saturated songs . . . a zeal for truth and biblical doctrine . . . and I’m concerned that there’s a disconnect between the big thoughts of God and how we live our daily lives.”
I’ve been thinking hard about this for the last few days. Am I inconsistent in how I entertain myself? Probably. Am I seeking to be more consistent? I hope so.
If anything is going to be offensive about how I live, I want it to be the gospel.
How about you?
HT: Justin Taylor
I really appreciated this reminder from Driscoll in his recent sermon, Jesus vs. Fear.
The transcript follows:
See, if we believe that God loves us, then we believe that even if what’s happening to us isn’t good and holy and just, it’ll be used by a good, holy, and just God to teach us more about Jesus and to make us more like him. So we overcome fear of man with the love of God. God loves me. One way or another, he’s going to get me through.
And then Jesus closes with sort of the culminating big idea, that you overcome fear of man with the fear of God.
Luke 12:8–12, “And I tell you, everyone who acknowledges me before men, the Son of Man,” that’s a title of himself from Daniel. He uses it about eighty times. It means God become a man. “Also will acknowledge before the angels of God,” who will serve as the witnesses, “but the one who denies me before men will be denied before the angels of God. And everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but the one who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven. And when they bring you before the synagogues and the rulers and the authorities,” the bullies are going to get you, you’re going to suffer at some point.
“Do not be anxious,” fear, fear, fear, fear, fear.
“Do not be anxious about how you should defend yourself or what you should say, for the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say.”
Here’s the big idea: fear of man or fear of God. Those are your options. There is no alternative.
Someone is the most important person. Someone is the biggest dominant personality in your life. Okay, if it’s someone other than Jesus, you have fear of man. You’re worshiping them. They’re your functional lord even if Jesus is your theological Lord.
Proverbs 29:25 again, “The fear of man is a trap or a snare.” It won’t work for them, it doesn’t work for you, it doesn’t work at all. The alternative is the fear of the Lord. Proverbs 1:7, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” Before you can get anything straight in your life, you have to get straight who the Lord is. Jesus is Lord. The shortest confession of Christian belief is, has always been, Jesus is Lord.
It seems like everywhere you turn, people are asking the same question:
Typically there are a couple of ways to answer the question. One camp suggests that we don’t need to evangelize until after the need has been met, if at all; that our focus should be eliminating extreme poverty or ending human trafficking. A cause is at the center instead of Christ.
The other tends to run to the opposite extreme, seeing any sort of social action as anathema to the Christian life.
Both extremes, obviously, are wrong. How, then, do you find a healthy, biblical middle-ground?
I’ve written about this a few times (here and here for example), but over at the Gospel Coalition last week, they examined the issue by posing the question to a number of wise pastors and theologians. Here’s a look at their insights:
1. By doing evangelism. I know numerous groups that claim to be engaging in “holistic” ministry because they are helping the poor in Chicago or because they are digging wells in the Sahel, even though few if any of the workers have taken the time to explain to anyone who Jesus is and what he has done to reconcile us to God. Their ministry isn’t holistic; it’s halfistic, or quarteristic.
2. By being careful not to malign believers of an earlier generation. The popular buzz is that evangelicals before this generation focused all their energies on proclamation and little or nothing on deeds of mercy. Doubtless one can find sad examples of such reductionism, but the sweeping condescension toward our evangelical forbears is neither true nor kind…
3. By learning, with careful study of Scripture, just what the gospel is, becoming passionately excited about this gospel, and then distinguishing between the gospel and its entailments. The gospel is the good news of what God has done, especially in Christ Jesus, especially in his cross and resurrection; it is not what we do. Because it is news, it is to be proclaimed. But because it is powerful, it not only reconciles us to God, but transforms us, and that necessarily shapes our behavior, priorities, values, relationships with people, and much more. These are not optional extras for the extremely sanctified, but entailments of the gospel. To preach moral duty without the underlying power of the gospel is moralism that is both pathetic and powerless; to preach a watered-down gospel as that which tips us into the kingdom, to be followed by discipleship and deeds of mercy, is an anemic shadow of the robust gospel of the Bible; to preach the gospel and social justice as equivalent demands is to misunderstand how the Bible hangs together.
4. By truly loving people in Jesus’ name—our neighbors as ourselves, doing good to all people, especially those of the household of faith. That necessarily includes the alleviation of suffering, both temporal and eternal. Christians interested in alleviating only eternal suffering implicitly deny the place of love here and now; Christians who [fail] to proclaim the Christ of the gospel of the kingdom while they treat . . . suffering here and now show themselves not really to believe all that the Bible says about fleeing the wrath to come. In the end, it is a practical atheism and a failure in love.
When it comes to worldviews, belief systems and religious practice, we live in an age of seemingly unparalleled and unlimited options. North Americans today enjoy meditation, practice yoga, and dabble in a variety of different religious practices as they seek to find something that brings meaning, purpose and fulfillment to their lives.
But according to Peter Jones, the choice is really much more simple: There’s the Truth and the Lie. And in One or Two: Seeing a World of Difference, Jones explains how our worldview affects our understanding of God, what we worship and our sexuality.
One or Two is an incredibly challenging read, especially in an age when it’s controversial to be anything but affirming of all beliefs and religions. Tolerance is seen as the highest of values in culture, and increasingly in the Church as well. So doctrinal distinction is downplayed; gender distinction is eliminated; social causes become the new mission of the Church… and eventually Christianity looks no different than anyone or anything else.
But according to Jones, this should not be. He writes, “Western culture . . . is being hijacked by a spiritual ideology that I call Neopaganism.” (p. 11) Neopaganism is at the heart of radical environmentalism, the more extreme elements of the social justice movement, and theological liberalism.
However, Jones writes, “If there is any hope for us in the twenty-first century, gorged as we are on materialism, One-ist pagan spiritualities, endless sensual fantasies and cock-eyed global utopian illusions, the old rabbi [the Apostle Paul] must speak to us again.” (pp. 13-14)
Jones builds his argument by carefully examining culture through the lens of Paul’s writing in Romans 1:24-25:
Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.
What we learn is that these words have, perhaps, rarely been more relevant than today. [Read more...]
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:
HT: Colin Hansen