Evangelism Pep Talk

Posted: June 27th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Articles

“And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ” (Eph 4:11-12).

Back in the spring of 2014 I taught a Wednesday night Bible class on personal evangelism. For the most part, the class focused on the motives and mindsets behind evangelism. I hoped to stoke the fires of zeal for evangelism and cultivate a more outreaching atmosphere among the membership here at Kirkwood. And while I still believe this is vitally important, I am starting to realize that this alone is not enough. Stirring up the saints is not quite the same thing as equipping the saints.

At one point in this Bible class I handed out a “prospect evaluation form” asking members to identify individuals in their life they would like to reach with the gospel. The intention was to gather information about how I might be able to help brethren in reaching their family and friends with the gospel. I was disappointed not to receive a single response.

While I am still very eager to help members reach their loved ones with the gospel in any way I am able, I realize that my role may more properly be to equip than to intervene. So, I hope to focus much of my evangelistic effort on providing the congregation with effective tools for evangelism. If I can help equip you with the knowledge and ability to evangelize, you can be much more effective in reaching your family and friends than I ever could be.

So, in these monthly pep talks, I hope to shift my focus from informing you about what I am doing to evangelize, more to discussing the tools you can use to evangelize.

It is my sincere hope and prayer that this will help you bring your loved ones to the Lord. What is on the line is not their church affiliation, but their eternal soul. What we are seeking is not to get their name on a church roster, but to help them have a hope of a home in heaven some day.

As a first step in this effort to equip I have once again updated our tract rack. I hope to make it more of an “evangelism armory” for the congregation. We have not actually added any new tracts, but have consolidated and reconfigured to make room for evangelism material.

Over the last 4 years I have slowly been developing a series of evangelistic charts that I commonly use in my personal studies.  I have entitled this series “Coming to Know God”—these are the charts that are now available in the tract rack:

  1. How Do I Know: There is a God?
  2. How Do I Know: The Bible is Reliable?
  3. How Do I Know: The Bible is from God?
  4. Know Your Purpose
  5. Know Your Bible
  6. Know Your Failure
  7. Know God’s Solution
  8. Know What You Need to Do
  9. Know the Lord’s Church
  10. History of the Holy Spirit
  11. Was I Born a Sinner?
  12. Can I Lose My Salvation?
  13. What Happens After Death?

My hope is to teach through these outlines periodically on Sunday evenings to help members see how they can be presented. I want to help equip you as effectively as I can, so if there are specific topics that you would find helpful in reaching your friends and family, please let me know. I will be glad to develop or find a chart or tract that addresses the topic.

Over time, I hope to provide more tools that you can use in talking to others about the Lord.  If you have any evangelistic material that you have found especially helpful, I will be glad to add it to the “evangelism armory” for others to use as well.

Don’t grow complacent… don’t give up! Gird up your loins and renew your efforts to save the souls around you!  Stay salty, stay bright, and keep sowing the seed!

-Grady

 


How To Please Everyone

Posted: June 27th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Articles

A man and his grandson went on a journey, walking and leading a donkey. Soon they met a man who said, “How foolish for you to be walking. One of you should be riding the donkey.” So the man put his grandson on the animal.

The next traveler they met frowned and said accusingly, “How dreadful for a strong, young boy to be riding while an old man walks.” With that, the boy climbed off the donkey and his grandfather climbed on.

The next person down the road, however, said, “I just can’t believe that a grown man would ride and make a poor little boy walk.” So the man pulled the boy back aboard and off they rode on the donkey together.

That is, until they met the next fellow who screamed, “I never saw anything so cruel in all my life. Two intelligent human beings riding on the poor little scrawny donkey.” They dismounted, picked up the donkey and carried it down the road.

Down the road our trio met a couple of men traveling together. When the parties had passed, one of the men turned to the other and said, “Did you ever see two fools carrying a donkey before?”

How to please everyone? Don’t even try! Just try to please God. “For do I now persuade men, or God? Or do I seek to please men? For if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ,” (Gal 1:10).

The sooner we learn we cannot live by the conscience of any other man, the better off we will be. Each of us must walk by the rule of faith that comes by hearing the word of God according to (Rom 10:17). We understand James 4:4 to teach that friendship with the world causes us to be the enemy of God.

When it comes to preaching the word, preachers must realize they too must also live by the word. To proclaim something that would just tickle ears and not be in harmony with “the God-breathed word” causes one, even if he were an angel from heaven, to be accursed.

We must not confer with men as to the preaching of the word. It has been certified already. Our job is to persuade men to obey it.

As our travelers soon learned, trying to please everyone only led to confusion. Confusion leads to doing something foolish, like carrying your donkey! Or worse yet, confusion leads to denominationalism!

-Wendell Ward

 


Full Mouths, Empty Souls

Posted: June 27th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Articles

“All the labor of man is for his mouth, And yet the soul is not satisfied (Eccl 6:7)

What is most important to most people is the satisfaction of their worldly desires.  Even if they acknowledge that there are some spiritual realities over and beyond the concerns of this world, most people spend most of their time trying to satisfy the latter rather than the former. Basically, as the writer of Ecclesiastes observed, “the labor of man is for his mouth.” And maybe we wouldn’t put it so strongly, but when Paul described some by saying that their “god is their belly” (Php 3:19), he might easily have been commenting on our own culture.

And yet, for all our effort, we end up being distinctly unsatisfied. No matter what we manage to enjoy, the question still seems to be: Is that all there is? So frankly, what should be our attitude?

First, we need to admit the transitory nature of all temporal pleasures and possessions. Yes, it’s right to enjoy what God has created in this world, but we shouldn’t expect more from this enjoyment than it was intended to deliver. We may “hold” these things, as long as we’re willing to let go of them at any moment.

Second, we need to spend less time pursuing these things and more time seeking God. With our words we may say that God is our most pressing priority, but if our schedule books show that on most days we spend very little time on that pursuit, who are we fooling? Where our heart is, there our “To Do” list will be also.

Ultimately, we can’t “get” anything more out of our existence than what we “want.” And so we need to be careful what we want. Eventually, all of our alternatives come down to two choices: (1) We can live for no higher fulfillment than our worldly desires, and having gotten them, find ourselves still empty inside, or (2) we can hunger and thirst for righteousness and find ourselves “filled” where it counts the most (Matt 5:6).

To the Samaritan woman at the well, Jesus said, “Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life” (John 4:13-14). It’s worth asking whether we really believe that or not.

“Naught but God can satisfy the soul” (Philip James Bailey).

-Gary Henry

 


Mighty Oaks From Little Acorns

Posted: June 27th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Articles

“Therefore, we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things that were heard, lest haply we drift away from them” (Hebrews 2:1).

The word ‘drifting’ aptly describes the process of apostasy. It is seldom accomplished by giant leaps; rather it is the result of short steps. The steps appear to be only the slightest variation from the accepted truth and altogether innocent, but each one is used as justification for the next one until truth has been left completely, even by individuals who would never have dreamed it possible.

We have known of congregations where a piano was first allowed in the basement to teach children how to sing. But having learned with it, the children continued to need it in their Bible classes. Once this was allowed, someone asked the difference in young folks and adults — the difference in Wednesday night and Sunday night. No logical difference could be shown so it was allowed at those times.

Then someone had only to point out the inconsistency in using it Sunday night and refusing it Sunday morning, and from then on it was used at all services, a thing that would have been opposed when the piano was first moved into the basement.

A group of Americans preaching in Africa said they were strongly opposed to churches of Christ operating a hospital in the United States. But they thought churches could and should support a nurse in Nigeria to treat wounds and minor illnesses. But once the nurse was supported, a hospital was proposed. Anyone who objected would be asked, “If you can support a nurse and clinic, why not a doctor and hospital?” No logical difference could be shown, so the hospital was built. Often now we are hearing of a proposal for a “Church of Christ Hospital” in the United States. The argument: “If we can do it in Nigeria, why not here?” Granted that premise, no sound reason can be given. It all started with letting a church support a nurse.

A church we know has a kitchen. They defend it on the grounds that it costs the church nothing. The kitchen and equipment were in the building when it was purchased and they have a minimum electric and water bill each month, anyway. But a generation will arise that is accustomed to the kitchen. They will want to build a new building and they will want a kitchen. Their argument will be “We’ve always had a kitchen. If we could have it in the old building, why not in the new?” There will be no chance of keeping it out.

In our town, a kindergarten is beginning in the meetinghouse of one of the churches. In a news item, it is stated, “The kindergarten will be at the church, but will not be operated by the church.” This will satisfy the minds of many who would object to the church operating or supporting a school of any kind. But one of these days another step will be proposed. It may be opening a first grade. If someone objects, the question will be raised, “But what is the difference in a first grade and kindergarten?” There is no difference, so the opposition will be silenced and the way will be clear for second grade, third grade, etc., etc.

But some day the school will need to be subsidized. Those opposed to support of education will rise up to object. But someone will say, “It’s true we haven’t been contributing from the treasury, but we have been providing a place for the school and it has been using the name of the church. Now if we can contribute facilities and influence, why not money?” That question will be hard to answer, for there is no difference and the opposition will then be silenced.

From this, the next logical step will be to send money to a college, because, after all, what is the difference between contributing to our own school and contributing to one operated by someone else? And it all began with a kindergarten, which “will be at the church, but will not be operated by the church.”

Truly, “Mighty oaks from little acorns grow.” The mistake is ever allowing an acorn to get mixed with the seed of the kingdom.

-Sewell Hall

 


“Be Thou My Friend”

Posted: June 27th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Articles

In the hymn, “Purer in Heart,” the second verse says: “Purer in heart, O God, Help me to be; Teach me to do Thy will Most lovingly; Be Thou my Friend and Guide, Let me with Thee abide; Purer in heart, Help me to be” (Fannie E. C. Davison).

This song is written as a prayer and is a petition to God—asking Him to be our friend. The word “friend” in Scripture comes from a Greek word for love that denotes “warmth,” “affection,” or “personal attachment.” It is the word Greeks would use to identify someone they like, enjoy being with, and believe they can depend on. In this hymn it is a call to God for a close, intimate relationship. To have a friend means to have a companion who will, the wise man says, “stick closer than a brother” (Prov 18:24). That we can depend on when God is our friend.

Intimacy. God, however, is not going to address us directly to befriend us. He will speak to us by His Spirit and His Spirit speaks to us through the revelation of truth in the scriptures. We note this to assure us that if we want God as our friend, we must delight in His law, go to Him daily in His word, and meditate on His law both day and night (see Psa 1:2).

It means also that we must petition Him daily in prayer. Intimate friends communicate, speak often to one another, and maintain an ongoing relationship. Yes, God speaks to us in His word, but He also answers the prayers of His friends in Christ. He will by His grace and mercy providentially give to His friends wisdom, strength, boldness, health, daily food, forgiveness, and all other kinds of help He sees that they need (Matt 6:9-15; Heb 4:16-18).

Wounds. Having God as a friend does not end here. The Psalmist tells us: “Faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are profuse” (Prov 27:6). Enemies for their advantage will, with pleasing words, flatter men. But a friend, because he genuinely cares, will speak frankly and by words of counsel “wound” and hurt the feelings of the ones he loves. He will say whatever is good and necessary for the well-being of his friends.

As a friend God is not only closer than a brother, He accepts us and treats us as sons. And that means He may chastise us if it’s in our best interest (Heb 12:5-11). He permitted Satan to afflict Paul with a “thorn in the flesh” out of His concern that Paul with his special privileges from God as an apostle might be “exalted overmuch” with pride (2 Cor 12:7). God, as our friend, would do these things to us also to keep us holy and undefiled before Him in love.

Sacrifice. Friends will also lay down their lives for one another. God, as our friend, gave to us His Son who laid down His life to redeem us from sin. Are we willing, as friends of God, to lay down our lives—to offer up ourselves as living sacrifices for Him (John 15:13; Rom 12:1-2)? Will we crucify ourselves spiritually that God as our friend can live in us and purify and save us (Gal 2:20)? Loyalty as friends with God means we, as He, will stick to Him even closer than a brother.

So, brethren, be careful what you ask for. When we sing, “Be Thou my friend and guide,” we are asking God to be an intimate companion to us—meaning we will study and pray daily, will receive with joy His chastening rod, and will forsake all in life to submit to His will and obey Him. Are we up to this?

-L. A.

 


Mark These People

Posted: June 13th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Articles

Quickly now—what type of people are to be marked by Christians according to the scriptures? Those who cause divisions and offenses contrary to Christ’s doctrine? Yes, for so we are taught in Rom 16:17.

There is another type of person to be marked, however. “Brethren, be  followers together of me, and mark them which walk so as ye  have us for an ensample” (Php 3:17, KJV). The word “mark” is not synonymous with the word “withdraw.” According to W. E. Vine the word means “to look at, behold, watch, and contemplate.” Those who are evil, then, are to be marked and avoided; while those who walk in God’s way are to be marked and followed.

Godly elders should be marked. Elders are to be examples to the flock (1 Pet 5:3). They are to be men whose character is above reproach, who rule their own house well, who are hospitable, and whose sound teaching can convict the gainsayers. We know such elders, and their example is priceless. Even after such men have passed on, they are to be remembered: “Remember those who rule over you, who have spoken the word of God to you, whose faith follow, considering the outcome of their conduct” (Heb 13:7). Thank God for godly elders; mark them and follow their good example!

Godly women should be marked. If there are women in the congregation who stand out for their piety and humility, whose major attractiveness is their “meek and quiet spirit,” who have adorned themselves with good works, who love their husband and children, who find joy and contentment in being a wife and mother and keeper at home, who feel no resentment toward their position of subjection to man, who have devoted their lives to doing God’s will—and there are such women in every congregation—mark these godly women and follow their example. In these days when the women’s liberation movement is affecting so many and actually intimidating many women who want to do right, it is wonderful to have godly women in the church who are able to lead the way and provide a role model for other women who are Christians. Thank God for godly women; mark them and follow their good example!

Godly preachers should be marked. Not all preachers are godly, but most of the gospel preachers of our acquaintance are godly men whose lives speak as effectively as do their lips. They do their work, not as hirelings, but as men concerned for truth and the souls of men and women. Mark such men and follow their example.

Godly parents, godly young people, godly older people, godly suffering people, godly dying people—the godly faithful! How sad that some are so blinded by the faults of the few that they cannot see the virtues of the many. Good people are all around us. Let’s look for them, contemplate their good qualities, mark them, and follow their example.

-Bill Hall

 


Where Are We Headed

Posted: June 13th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Articles

Everyone has some idea or definition of sin. To the majority of men and women it is some major moral act that harms or violates the rights of another human being. But even this list is getting shorter and shorter in the view of modern, liberal society. In just the past few decades a rather large element of our nation has sought to rationalize the thinking and practices of many who have little regard for upright moral behavior and common decency.

Think of how many nowadays look with favor on the divorce of couples who have simply grown apart; who think nothing of consenting adults engaging in sexual immorality; who feel no shame of a vigilante murder of someone they see as despicable; who have no conscience against aborting the life of an innocent baby before he/she sees the light of day; who are not disturbed by the lewd display of immodesty whether on the streets or in nightclubs; who deride and shame one who opposes the illicit sexual relationship or marriage of a man with another man. Need we say any more about society’s ignorance, perversion, or rejection of the meaning of sin?

The problem, of course, is that our nation and the world have no real sense of God, the Creator of man, and His authority to define what is right and wrong. What God revealed through Moses to Israel and through Jesus to the world is to them old fashioned and outdated. The Bible, many believe, is a book frozen in time, has not kept up with the enlightened thinking of modern society, and its “rules” must be revised to meet the demands of today’s “game” of life. Our nation needs, many tell us, to update our thinking and recognize how archaic the ancient views of sin are. Those who believe in the “unfounded,” “unscientific,” and “unproven” hypothesis of the evolution of man have no problem believing also in the evolution of what is good and evil.

If atheist and infidels are right that there is no God, then they are also right about sin. Its definition must come from man, and any society or nation of men can determine for itself what is “right” and what is “wrong.” And yet, in reality where does any one man get the right to define for another man what is “good” and what is “evil.” What standard of “righteousness” and “sin” does mankind choose to say “this,” “that,” or “the other” is wrong? Is “might” the standard? Is “pleasure” the scale or measuring rod? May it be “personal” opinion or desire? Maybe the “majority” should decide.

The word “sin” means to “miss the mark.” This suggests that there is a “target” that must be hit or a “goal” that must be reached. But what is that target or goal? This must be determined before any man can say that another man missed it. If there is no God, then man has to determine what to shoot for. But which man gets to decide? This, folks, is the “humanist” view of life. Man, they believe, is the apex of evolution and it is he who must set the mark toward which every man must take aim.

No man, according to this reasoning, has any more authority than another, meaning that each may set his own goal or target. This takes today’s society back to the chaos in the days of the Judges of Israel when “every man did that which was right in his own eyes” (Judges 21:25). Think what that means.  It is apparent to me that this is where we are headed and I don’t want to imagine where this will lead our nation and the world.

What we can conclude, brethren, is that we must get busy proclaiming and teaching the evidence that “God is,” that Jesus is “God’s Son,” and apostles and prophets were guided by the “Holy Spirit” to reveal in the Bible the principles of right and wrong! Only the Bible can define sin.

-L. A.

 


The Appeal to Wisdom

Posted: June 6th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Articles

The appeal to wisdom is sometimes met with defiance. In some cases, people might respond with something to the effect that an action may not be wise, but that doesn’t mean it’s a sin. Therefore, we can do it. Some would rather that actions be defined by whether or not they are sinful rather than whether or not they are wise. “Wise” seems to be too undefined, leaving the door open to engaging in the activity anyway because, after all, folly and sin are not necessarily the same thing. And we do have our rights, after all.

What this misses, though, is the fact that Scripture does use wisdom as a great appeal. Appealing to wisdom is not academic. It is one of the most practical ways to approach a number of subjects and actions. It is, also, one of God’s ways of getting us to learn how to discern right from wrong, and to be able to make the kinds of wise choices that glorify Him rather than foolish choices that will destroy us.

When we seek to answer every question from the standpoint of whether or not an action is technically sinful, in order to avert judgment, we are likely missing the greater picture. When we seek to answer every question from the standpoint of whether or not the action is wise, from God’s perspective, we are truly seeking understanding. This is the heart of the mature, who want to define their lives not simply by what sin they refrain from committing, but rather by the positive wisdom that characterizes those who seek to honor God with discerning and sacrificial lives.

Yes, we know many sinful actions are spelled out in Scripture. Many other actions, however, need to be discerned through a heart of wisdom (Heb 5:12-14) — a heart that seeks to understand Scripture, coupled with an understanding of the times in which we live (cf. 1 Chron 12:32). “I can do this because it’s not technically a sin” is not the same attitude as, “I should not do this because it is unwise.” Jeopardizing our wisdom for the sake of our rights is not, shall we say, very wise.

To that end, we should all make it a habit to continually read the wisdom literature of Scripture. Why? Because God wants us to be wise, and that appeal to wisdom ought to be what characterizes all of our choices.

“Behold, You desire truth in the innermost being, and in the hidden part You will make me know wisdom” (Ps 51:6). “So teach us to number our days, that we may present to You a heart of wisdom” (Ps 90:12). “Make your ear attentive to wisdom, incline your heart to understanding” (Prov 2:2).

-Doy Moyer

 


Redemption of the Body

Posted: June 6th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Articles

The theme of the Bible is the redemption of man. Two words in the New Testament are translated “redeem” or “redemption” and both in their root meaning express the thought of a “purchase.” One of them means “to buy out” and may give greater emphasis to the “release” from bondage that is inherent in the idea of redemption. A second word derives from a noun that means “ransom” and may put more stress on the “price” that is paid. Both, however, convey the thought of “reclaiming” man, of paying a price to spring him free from sin and its eternal condemnation.

The root problem in the Bible story, as suggested above, is—sin! Man was created pure and upright by the holy and righteous God. But man of his own free will chose to violate God’s law, even after God had warned him that the consequences would be bondage to sin and death. The righteousness of God will not permit Him to forego the punishment of man’s sin and man himself is unable by his own ingenuity or good works to free himself from this predicament. The result is that man’s soul will suffer eternally for his transgression, and his body will rot in the grave. Unless, of course, some price can be paid to appease the wrath of God, satisfy the demands of His justice, and provide for man’s release from the bondage of sin and death.

God Himself saw this need and provided not only in eternity but in promise from the beginning to send forth the seed of woman who in bruising His heel would crush the head of the serpent who beguiled woman in the beginning and lured man into this predicament (Gen 3:14-15). In the fullness of time Jesus of Nazareth was “born of a woman,” having been conceived in the womb of a virgin by the Holy Spirit, and as the Son of God entered into the flesh to live a life free of sin (Gal 4:4; 1 Pet 2:22-24). By this loving act of God in sending forth His Son and by the gracious offer of Himself and His blood in death, Jesus bore in His body the sin of the world and the punishment of death for sin. By His death Jesus made propitiation for sin, God’s wrath was placated, and God was satisfied by the offering of this perfect life in atonement for sin (John 3:16; 2 Cor 5:21; Is 53; Rom 3:24-25). Only the blood because of its life can supply the “ransom” to atone for sin (Lev 17:10-11; Matt 20:28; 1 Tim 2:5-6).

But this “redemptive price” is available only in Christ Jesus. It is in Him that man has “redemption  through His blood, even the forgiveness of sins” (Eph 1:7). Jesus tasted of death for every man, but only those who by faith are baptized into Christ can put on Christ; only they can enter Christ to reach His death; only by calling on God’s name in obedience have their sins been washed away and their consciences cleansed from the dead works of sin (Gal 3:26-27; Rom 6:3-4; Acts 22:16; Heb 9:14-15; 1 Pet 3:21-22).

But redemption is more than freedom from sin. Paul writes of being “set free from the bondage of corruption” to “obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.” He notes how men “suffer” and “groan” in the flesh as they eagerly await “for the adoption as sons, the redemption of the body” (Rom 8:18-25). This same apostle spends an entire chapter on the resurrection of the body which is assured by the resurrection of Jesus whom he calls the “first fruits of those who have fallen asleep” in death. Paul says that in the resurrection man’s earthly, natural, corruptible, mortal, fleshly body will put on a heavenly, spiritual, incorruptible, immortal body. Then will come to pass the saying: “death is swallowed up in victory” (1 Cor 15).

That, brethren and mankind, you cannot find in Buddha, Mohammed, Confucius, Zoroaster, or anyone other than—Jesus of Nazareth!! (see Acts 4:12).

-L. A.

 


New Location

Posted: June 6th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Articles

“For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Php 1:21).

A bank in Binghamton, New York, had some flowers sent to a competitor who had recently moved into a new building. There was a mix-up at the flower shop, and the card sent with the arrangement read, “With our deepest sympathy.”

The florist, who was greatly embarrassed, apologized. But he was even more embarrassed when he realized that the card intended for the bank was attached to a floral arrangement sent to a funeral home in honor of a deceased person. That card read, “Congratulations on your new location!”

A sentiment like that is appropriate for Christians, because they move to a wonderful new location when they die. They go to be with Christ, and the sorrows and heartaches of this earthly existence are past forever. Near the end of his life, Paul said that to be with Christ is “far better” than to remain on earth (Php 1: 23).

What comfort this brings to those who are left behind! Yes, separation is painful, but as Christians we do not grieve as those who have no hope. Rather, we can rejoice, even with tear-filled eyes, because our loved ones have taken up a new residence in heaven.

To every believer who dies, therefore, it would be appropriate to say, “Congratulations on your new location!”

“Someday my earthly house will fall
I cannot tell how soon ‘twill be;
But this I know my All in All
Has now a place in heaven for me”
(Crosby)

 -Author Unknown