Week 1: The Importance of Evangelism, Part 1
March 08, 2006 | Andy Davis
TEACHING NOTES - CLICK THE "NOTES" LINK ABOVE FOR THE CLASS BOOKLET
A. Course Introduction
- Letter of welcome and encouragement
I am so thankful to God for each of you who has taken to heart the responsibility Christ lays on each of His disciples to be a witness for Him. As will become clear in our study together, there can be no more significant commitment one can make, given the immense weight which hangs on the ministry of reconciliation: the eternal destiny of human souls. This is also one of the primary ways we can obey God’s Law. When asked by some experts in the Law which was the greatest commandment, Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” (Matthew 22:37-39) Evangelism, if done properly, is a potent expression of love for God. It is also a tremendously self-sacrificial expression of love for our neighbors.
Although there are significant obstacles to a lifestyle of “risk-taking” evangelism, it is glorifying to God and of saving power for many who will hear our message. I look forward to making this journey with you by the power of the Holy Spirit for the building of Christ’s eternal Kingdom.
- Ten-week overview
3. Responsibilities for participants
1) Faithfully attend the ten training sessions.
2) Learn and practice the Evangelistic Outline, with its corresponding Scripture passages. Be prepared each week to recite the appropriate portion to your team leader. Be prepared to share this portion in actual witnessing situations.
3) Be responsible for any other homework assignments.
4) Faithfully attend Sunday School and worship
5) Pray for opportunities to witness during the week.
- Our goal: laborers for the harvest field
Jesus commanded us to pray faithfully for God to raise up laborers for the work of evangelism: “The harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few. Ask the Lord of the Harvest, therefore, to send out workers into His harvest field.” (Matthew 9:37-38) The harvest field is a world for of lost sinners who need salvation lest their souls be lost for eternity. The Lord of the Harvest is the Father, and He is ready to answer the very prayer the Son commanded us to pray. The crying need of the day is for prayer and for committed laborers who will stay in the harvest field until the day is done. Jesus had a tremendous sense of urgency about this work: “As long as it is day, we must do the work of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work.” (John 9:3) He had been sent into the world to do His father’s work, and that was the work of salvation for His sheep: “For I have come down from heaven not to do my own will but to do the will of Him who sent me. And this is the will of Him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all that He has given me, but raise them up on the last day.” (John 6:38-39) This work was not drudgery to Jesus, but actually was his very food: “My food is to do the will of Him who sent me and to finish His work.” (John 4:34) Having said that, he then commanded His disciples to join Him in the same harvesting work: “Do you not say, `Four months more and then the harvest'? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest. Even now the reaper draws his wages, even now he harvests the crop for eternal life, so that the sower and the reaper may be glad together.” (John 4:35-36)
Our goal in this course is to help you be fully equipped and Spirit-empowered for a lifetime of laboring in the harvest fields for Christ.
- Our covenant
B. Doctrinal Instruction
1. The Centrality of God’s Glory
Perhaps the most important doctrinal truth to which we must give wholehearted assent is that God does all things for His own glory, and that nothing in all the universe is more important to God than His own glory. This includes our own salvation:
Isaiah 43:7 "Bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the ends of the earth-- everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made."
Isaiah 48:11 "For my own sake, for my own sake, I do this. How can I let myself be defamed? I will not yield my glory to another."
Ezekiel 36:22 "Therefore say to the house of Israel, `This is what the Sovereign LORD says: It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am going to do these things, but for the sake of my holy name, which you have profaned among the nations where you have gone.
It is more important that God be glorified than that human beings be saved. If this were not so, then God would be putting us above Himself in His own affections. Thankfully, in Scripture our salvation and God’s glory are not at all opposed to one another. Rather, God is glorified greatly by the salvation of sinners through faith in Christ:
Ephesians 1:11-14 "In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, in order that we, who were the first to hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory. And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God's possession--to the praise of his glory."
However, we as evangelists must constantly see ourselves primarily as messengers for God’s glory, seeking to tell out the wonders of our God and the mighty acts that He has accomplished.
Sadly, many approaches to evangelism these days have forgotten this basic fact. Human salvation becomes the highest and greatest end, and nothing is all the universe is as important as that. If this reversal is allowed to take place in our thinking, it will actually begin to affect the only message that exists for human salvation, the gospel of Jesus Christ. We will begin to put human beings above God, and begin subtly to think too highly of their efforts toward salvation or of our efforts as evangelists. We will be willing to change even the message itself if it seems like it’s “not working” or “people aren’t responding.” We may even be tempted to filter out central aspects of the gospel—blood atonement, the reality of hell as a place of eternal torment, the wrath of God, the total lostness and spiritual deadness of humanity apart from Christ, the impossibility of salvation apart from Christ—because they are unpopular. May it never be!
We must realize that God is a mighty King who created all human beings and who has a rightful claim on our lives. We must realize also that we sinners deserve nothing from Him but wrath and eternal punishment. Therefore, we must see that the gospel message is an amazing offer of forgiveness from a God who has every right to be enraged at persistent rebels such as us. God “commands all people everywhere to be saved,” and this command is to be obeyed. This gives us a sense of the authority of the gospel. We are not beggarly salesmen, trying to get a passing notice for our new product from the hustling masses that scurry by. We stand as representatives of the eternal God, proclaiming a message that will bring glory and honor to God whether they believe or not. And we are confident that many will believe because God will be glorified by their faith and He has decreed that the gospel will be the power of salvation for everyone who believes.
Finally, understanding the centrality of God’s glory takes away many errors into which we can fall in our evangelism:
Errors removed by keeping God’s glory first:
1) Fear of people: If the centrality of God’s glory is kept in mind, then evangelism is nothing less than an expression of public worship; we are going out to declare the wonders of Him who has called us into His marvelous light. This takes away fear of people and puts the focus on God.
2) Laziness and neglect of evangelism: keeping the glory of God central reminds us that we are under orders of a King who has commanded us to evangelize, and who will hold us accountable for what we’ve done to obey.
3) False motives: some evangelize for their own glory, the building of their reputations, the building of a sizable and impressive local church, even the desire to cause trouble for others (Philippians 1). Keeping the glory of God central in evangelism makes every effort to witness an act of supreme love for God, as it should be.
4) Over-preoccupation with results: Closely related to the previous error, this one shows up frequently in the desire to report “successful” outreach endeavors by relating the number of “decisions for Christ,” a statistic never kept in the New Testament. Most evangelistic endeavors cannot be assessed in terms of their fruitfulness until the plants spouting from the seed have been tested by trials over time. Furthermore, many outreach efforts are short-circuited by a “poor harvest,” i.e. lack of “results,” so that laborers become discouraged and are tempted to give up. But if the gospel was faithfully preached, God has been glorified immediately, and this is the most important “result.”
5) Pride over fruitfulness: If the glory of God is the central issue, we will not boast over results or take credit where it is not deserved. This is closely related to the issue of God’s sovereignty in salvation. We plant, others water, but God gives the growth.
6) Exalting human will over God’s will: False evangelistic systems which focus on human decision over God’s sovereign initiative and grace lead into many errors. More than anything, they do not slay human pride which is the root of our rebellion against God. Keeping God’s glory central in our evangelism will keep human will in proper perspective compared with God’s sovereign will. It will lead sinners into a true conversion and a total salvation from all aspects of sin which will give them solid security based on God’s actions rather than their own feeble wills.
2. Christ’s commandments & the “Great Commissions”
Christ has given us two great commandments which sum up all the Law and the Prophets:
Matthew 22:37-40 “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
Evangelism may be one of the greatest ways we can obey these two commandments. We love God by glorifying Him with our sacrificial obedience in laying down our lives to witness to others. We love God by honoring Him with the gospel that we preach, a gospel which puts His glory, His character, His achievements and His promises at the center. We love our neighbor by being willing to pay any price and bear any burden in order that they may hear this message. We are willing to risk ridicule, rejection, loss of job, threats to our families, physical attacks, imprisonment, torture, and even death that some of them may have eternal life. I can hardly think of anything else in the Christian life which more perfectly obeys these two great commandments.
This is enough motivation for us: glory for God, compassion for the lost.
Furthermore, Christ has given (at least five times) the “great Commission”:
Matthew 28:18-20 "Then Jesus came to them and said, 'All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.'"
Mark 16:15-16 "He said to them, 'Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation. 16 Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.'"
Luke 24:46-49 "He told them, 'This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.'"
John 20:21-23 "Again Jesus said, 'Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you." And with that he breathed on them and said, "Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.'"
Acts 1:8 “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
The clear commands of Christ make evangelism non-optional for the Church. So also does the law of love. As Jesus said plainly:
John 14:15 “If you love me, you will obey what I command.”
Finally, Paul states very clearly that the “ministry of reconciliation” has been committed to the Church, and that, in light of the immense eternal issues at hand, he begs people to be saved:
2 Corinthians 5:18-20 "All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19 that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men's sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. 20 We are therefore Christ's ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ's behalf: Be reconciled to God."
3. Human need
We must constantly keep in mind as evangelists what the Bible reveals about the spiritual condition of people without Christ. (Realize the Bible must reveal this condition to us, for non-Christians may appear very happy, successful, well-adjusted, generous, loving, religious, and virtuous. The eye cannot perceive what faith instructs through the Scripture!) The Bible reveals the following about people apart from Christ:
1) Spiritually Dead:
Just as a corpse cannot do anything physically, so a person apart from Christ cannot do anything spiritually towards God: cannot turn to God, cannot repent, cannot believe, cannot do anything to please God, cannot change his spiritual situation in any way. And just as a corpse does not respond to any stimulus, so a non-Christian will never respond to the gospel, no matter how clearly and forcefully it is presented, unless God works it in their hearts by giving them life. This person is as lifeless as a corpse and needs a work of spiritual creation as dramatic as was the original physical creation:
Ephesians 2:1-2 "As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, 2 in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient."
2) Already Under God’s Wrath:
The Bible teaches that there is a wrath to come, and we’ll speak about that in a moment. However, the Bible also reveals that all who are apart from Christ are constantly and daily under God’s wrath because of their willful rebellion against Him. They are already under His wrath, and live under it moment by moment, though they do not feel it:
Ephesians 2:3 "All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath."
John 3:36 "Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God's wrath remains on him."
3) Storing Up Ever Greater Wrath:
Not only do non-Christians live every day under the wrath of God, but also by their daily choices and sins they actually increase the wrath they will experience on Judgment Day. This wrath is stored up by God’s perfect and detailed record of their deeds:
Romans 2:5-6 "But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God's wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed. God will give to each person according to what he has done."
This is done by a flood of sins proceeding from a vile heart of rebellion. These sins follow certain recognizable patterns and are listed in many places in the New Testament:
Romans 1:29-31 "They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless."
4) Law or Conscience Constantly Accuses:
Every non-Christian stands constantly accused either by God’s revealed Law or by the internal law of conscience. The written Law saves no one, but only reveals the incredibly deep roots of sin in our hearts. In places where God’s written Law has not yet been revealed, creation testifies to the existence and attributes of God, no pagans living there are completely without excuse, and their own consciences testify that they are evil:
Romans 2:14-15 [Gentiles] "show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts now accusing, now even defending them."
Romans 3:20 "Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin."
Romans 4:14 "…law brings wrath"
Galatians 3:10 "All who rely on observing the law are under a curse, for it is written: "Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law."
James 2:10 "For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it."
5) Not one good deed accounted to their credit:
It is especially important to understand that even the “best” deeds of a non-Christian are actually “sins” in God’s sight because they are not done through faith. Nothing done apart from faith in Christ is pleasing to God, therefore a non-Christian has no truly good deeds:
Romans 3:12 "…there is no one who does good, not even one."
Matthew 12:33-34 "Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognized by its fruit. You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks."
Isaiah 64:6 "All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags"
Romans 14:23 "…everything that does not come from faith is sin."
6) Incapable of Pleasing God:
The world is full of “religious” people who are trying to reach God through religious duties. Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Animists, and others think that by their efforts to please God they will somehow improve their standing with Him. Furthermore, many nominal “Christians” are relying on their religious lives to commend themselves to God on that final Day. But the Bible reveals clearly that all such efforts apart from Christ are useless:
Romans 8:8 "Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God."
Hebrews 11:6 "And without faith it is impossible to please God"
7) Enemies of God:
Whether a non-Christian feels it or not, they are at war with God and God is at war with them. They are enemies of God, and God opposes them. This is true even of people who claim to “feel close” to God, but who have never repented and trusted in Christ:
Romans 5:10 "…we were God's enemies"
Romans 8:7 "The sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God's law, nor can it do so."
Colossians 1:21 "Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior."
James 4:4 "You adulterous people, don't you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God."
8) Incapable of Atoning for Sin:
Not only are non-Christians under the wrath of God and alienated from Him, they have nothing they could possibly offer to Him as an atonement for sins. The debt they owe to God is overwhelming, because they have sinned day after day against an infinite God:
Psalm 49:7-9 "No man can redeem the life of another or give to God a ransom for him—the ransom for a life is costly, no payment is ever enough—that he should live on forever and not see decay."
Matthew 18:23-25 "Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him. Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt."
Micah 6:6-7 "With what shall I come before the LORD and bow down before the exalted God? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousand rivers of oil? Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?"
9) Blind and Deaf to Spiritual Truth:
This is especially important for evangelists to remember: non-Christian people are spiritually dead, so they are blind and deaf to spiritual truth. They will never understand the gospel for it is foolishness to them and they are blind to its truth:
Matthew 13:14 "In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah: " `You will be ever hearing but never understanding; you will be ever seeing but never perceiving."
1 Corinthians 1:18 "For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God."
1 Corinthians 2:14 "The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned."
2 Corinthians 4:3-4 "And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God."
10) Incapable of Changing:
Contrary to prideful human estimations, non-Christians cannot simply change their most basic nature. They cannot suddenly “decide to follow Jesus,” nor can they repent and believe on their own. They can make life reformations of a sort (i.e. stopping drinking, quitting smoking, losing weight), but they cannot change any of the things we have said above: they are still spiritually dead, under God’s wrath, constantly increasing that wrath through new sins, under the law/conscience, incapable of doing any truly good deeds, incapable of pleasing God, incapable of atoning for past sins, enemies of God, incapable of understanding spiritual truth. The basic issue is, they cannot change their heart, have no desire for spiritual things, but only a continual lust for more evil:
Jeremiah 13:23 "Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard its spots? Neither can you do good who are accustomed to doing evil."
Epheisans 4:19 "Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, with a continual lust for more."
11) Harassed and helpless
Matthew 9:36 "When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd."
4. Ultimate issues: Heaven & hell
Other than the glory of God itself, there can be no more compelling issue than evangelism simply because of the infinitely high stakes involved in the outcome. For each soul confronted with the gospel message, eternity in heaven or hell awaits. Their final response to the gospel will result either in a timeless experience of unmeasurable pleasure and joy in the very presence of God, or a timeless experience of unmeasurable torment and agony under the wrath of God. Other than the glory of God, nothing could be more important.
It is therefore important to understand some of what the Scripture teaches about heaven and hell.
The basic idea of heaven can be summed up in one verse of Scripture:
Psalm 16:11 "You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand."
The essence of heaven is eternal life, a life characterized by the unending joy and pleasure of being in God’s very presence. It is also a place of incredible beauty, adequate description of which exceeds the ability of human language. The closest we get is found in the visions of John in the book of Revelation:
Revelation 21:10-11 "And he carried me away in the Spirit to a mountain great and high, and showed me the Holy City, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God. It shone with the glory of God, and its brilliance was like that of a very precious jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal."
The predominant theme of John’s unearthly descriptions is of a transparent city which is totally illuminated by the glory of God. The streets are made of “transparent gold”:
Revelation 21:21 "The great street of the city was of pure gold, like transparent glass."
The foundations of the city walls are made of gemstones of every color in the rainbow (Revelation 21:19-20). The city is brilliantly lit by the glory of God, causing all these “structural elements” of the city (walls, streets, foundations) to refract and radiate aspects of God’s glory in a dazzling display of who God really is:
Revelation 21:23 "The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp."
Every part of heaven glows with God through Christ, and who can imagine what kind of beauty that will be? Along with this is the fact that God will create a new heaven and earth, undoubtedly even more spectacular than before. The “meek” will inherit this:
2 Peter 3:13 "But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness."
Revelation 21:1 "Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea."
Matthew 5:5 "Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth."
C.S. Lewis, in a sermon entitled “The Weight of Glory,” summed up the five basic promises God makes to all believers concerning heaven:
1) We shall be with Christ
John 14:1-3 “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. 2 In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.”
John 17:24 “Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world.”
1 Thessalonians 4:17 And so we will be with the Lord forever.
Revelation 21:3 "And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God."
Revelation 22:4 "…they will see His face."
2) We shall be like Christ
1 John 3:2 "Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is."
3) We shall be glorious ourselves
- Perfect resurrection bodies, incapable of being corrupted
1 Corinthians 15:42-44 "So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body."
- Perfect souls, incapable of evil
Hebrews 12:22-23 But you have come to Mount Zion, to the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the judge of all men, to the spirits of righteous men made perfect
- Shining brilliant radiance
Matthew 13:43 "Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear."
4) We shall in some sense be fed, feasted or entertained
Matthew 8:11 "I say to you that many will come from the east and the west, and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven."
5) We shall have some sort of official duties of ruling
2 Timothy 2:11-12 "Here is a trustworthy saying: If we died with him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with him."
Revelation 5:10 "You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth."
1 Corinthians 6:3 Do you not know that we will judge angels?
To these I would add five more things:
6) We shall know God intimately and perfectly
1 Corinthians 13:12 "Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known."
7) We shall be rewarded and praised by God in proportion to our service
Matthew 16:27 "For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father's glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what he has done."
1 Corinthians 4:5 "At that time each will receive his praise from God."
8) We shall be perfectly one with all other believers from all history
John 17:20-21 "My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you."
Hebrews 11:39-40 "These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised. God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect."
9) We shall worship God continuously
Revelation 5:13 "Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, singing: "To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!"
10) We shall be free forever from all evil things
Revelation 21:4 "He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away."
Revelation 7:16 "Never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst. The sun will not beat upon them, nor any scorching heat."
Revelation 20:10 "And the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown. They will be tormented day and night for ever and ever."
This future is so bright, the promises so immense that I wonder why we ever fear or get discouraged in any way in our present lives! Since all this is kept in heaven for us, what can man do to us? We should be utterly fearless in witnessing. We should also realize how tragic it would be if anyone missed such a lavish treasure box of blessings. Even if there were no hell at all, it would be unspeakable misery simply to be eternally on the outside looking in at this experience.
But there is a hell. Scripture makes this plain, and therefore there is a double penalty for all who reject the gospel: 1) they miss out eternally on these incredible blessings; 2) they suffer eternally the torment of the active wrath of God.
1) What Jesus taught
Hell is not simply a metaphor, nor is it a myth. It is the most terrifying threat which we can face. So great is the danger that Jesus said it wouldn’t be worth it to gain the entire world and to lose our soul:
Matthew 16:26 "What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?"
He urged us to fear God, who has power to throw us into hell:
Luke 12:4-5 "I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more. But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear him who, after the killing of the body, has power to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him."
He said it would be better to be horribly disfigured in life than to be thrown into hell:
Matthew 18:7-9 "Woe to the world because of the things that cause people to sin! Such things must come, but woe to the man through whom they come! If your hand or your foot causes you to sin cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life maimed or crippled than to have two hands or two feet and be thrown into eternal fire. And if your eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into the fire of hell."
He taught that hell is a place of eternal torment, of a burning which will never cease:
Mark 9:44-48 "…[hell], where the fire never goes out...their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched."
Luke 16:23-24 "In hell, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. So he called to him, `Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.'"
He also called hell a place of total darkness. In every case in which He did, Jesus also included that it would be a place of “weeping and gnashing of teeth.” Coupled with the story about Lazarus, it seems that the damned have eternal regrets about the way they lived their lives, and constantly weep over their foolish rebellion.
Matthew 8:12 "But the subjects of the kingdom will be thrown outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth."
Matthew 22:13 "Then the king told the attendants, `Tie him hand and foot, and throw him outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth."
Matthew 25:30 “And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
Luke 16:25 "But Abraham replied, `Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony.”
Jesus stated that hell was created originally for the devil and his angels. The Scripture also reveals that the devils live in abject terror of hell:
Matthew 25:41 "Then he will say to those on his left, `Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels."
Matthew 8:28-31 "When he arrived at the other side in the region of the Gadarenes, two demon-possessed men coming from the tombs met him. They were so violent that no one could pass that way. 'What do you want with us, Son of God?' they shouted. 'Have you come here to torture us before the appointed time?' Some distance from them a large herd of pigs was feeding. The demons begged Jesus, 'If you drive us out, send us into the herd of pigs.'"
Jesus was extremely concerned that we not go to hell. He died in our place that we might avoid this terrible destiny. Most of the people we will witness to underestimate how horrible hell will be, making light of it with jokes (“All my drinking buddies will be there!”) or dismissing its existence. Jesus urged that we should put avoiding hell among the greatest concerns of our lives.
2) What the apostles taught
Paul taught that every sinner who has not repented and trusted in Christ will suffer the wrath of God eternally:
Romans 2:5-6, 8 "But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God's wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed. God 'will give to each person according to what he has done...' …But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger."
Peter spoke of the torment of false teachers who pervert the gospel:
2 Peter 2:17 "Blackest darkness is reserved for them."
The writer of Hebrews speaks of what enemies of the gospel can expect:
Hebrews 10:26-27 "If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God."
John wrote most plainly about eternal burning for those who receive the “mark of the beast”:
Revelation 14:10-11 "…he, too, will drink of the wine of God's fury, which has been poured full strength into the cup of his wrath. He will be tormented with burning sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and of the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment rises for ever and ever. There is no rest day or night for those who worship the beast and his image, or for anyone who receives the mark of his name."
John also spoke of the “second death,” which is the lake of fire:
Revelation 20:10, 14-15 "And the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown. They will be tormented day and night for ever and ever… Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death… If anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire."
The Bible clearly warns us of the condemnation that awaits all who have not repented and trusted Christ. The language is so consistent that it cannot be misinterpreted, and so terrible that it cannot be ignored. If Christ spoke so much of hell, we must also. We must also allow it to motivate us in our passion for the lost.
5. Urgency: Today is the Day!!
We must never lost sight of the fact that God has not promised any of us that we will be alive tomorrow! “We must work as long as it is day,” said Jesus, “for night is coming when no man can work.” (John 9:4) We must also not permit our hearers to postpone their commitment to Christ for a better time. Finally, we must communicate with passion and with urgency:
James 4:13-17 "Now listen, you who say, 'Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.' 14 Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. 15 Instead, you ought to say, 'If it is the Lord's will, we will live and do this or that.' 16 As it is, you boast and brag. All such boasting is evil. 17 Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn't do it, sins."
Hebrews 3:15 "Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion."
2 Corinthians 6:1-2 "As God's fellow workers we urge you not to receive God's grace in vain. For he says, "In the time of my favor I heard you, and in the day of salvation I helped you." I tell you, now is the time of God's favor, now is the day of salvation."
The apostles preached with passion, pleadings, and tears:
Acts 2:40 "With many other words [Peter] warned them; and he pleaded with them, 'Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.'"
Romans 9:1-2 "I speak the truth in Christ--I am not lying, my conscience confirms it in the Holy Spirit-- 2 I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart."
2 Corinthians 5:11, 20 "Since, then, we know the terror of the Lord, we try to persuade men….We are therefore Christ's ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ's behalf: Be reconciled to God."
Acts 20:31 "Remember that for three years I never stopped warning each of you night and day with tears."
Philippians 3:18-19 "For, as I have often told you before and now say again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is on earthly things."
6. Our accountability: Judgment Day assessment
One final motivation for us is that, on Judgment Day, we will have to give an account for ourselves, for every decision we have made on earth. This will include all our sins, and all things we left undone which God lined up for us to do. We must seek, by the power of the Spirit, to minimize our regrets on that Day, and to maximize our fruit. For not only will we have to account for wrongdoing, we will also be rewarded for whatever we have done by faith. Heaven is a place of rewards for faithful earthly service. These rewards are not truly deserved, but really given by grace to unworthy servants who have simply done their duty (Luke 17:7-10). Yet God gives them anyway, simply by grace!
God expects us to do specific good works which He has prepared for us:
Ephesians 2:10 "For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do."
As we do these, we store up treasure in heaven:
Matthew 6:18-20 “…your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.”
On Judgment Day, we will give an account for everything we’ve done or not done:
2 Corinthians 5:10 "For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad."
Judgment Day will test the quality of the works we do for Christ:
1 Corinthians 3:8-15 "The man who plants and the man who waters have one purpose, and each will be rewarded according to his own labor. 9 For we are God's fellow workers; you are God's field, God's building. 10 By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as an expert builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should be careful how he builds. 11 For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, 13 his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man's work. 14 If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. 15 If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames."
Our “reward” is nothing less than praise from Almighty God Himself!!:
1 Corinthians 4:5 "At that time each will receive his praise from God."
Matthew 25:21 “His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master's happiness!’”
Paul spoke of his converts as his “crown”:
1 Thessalonians 2:19-20 "For what is our hope, our joy, or the crown in which we will glory in the presence of our Lord Jesus when he comes? Is it not you? Indeed, you are our glory and joy."
C. Practical Instruction
Romans 15:30 "I urge you, brothers, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to join me in my struggle by praying to God for me."
Ephesians 6:19-20 "Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should."
God has left us with a great responsibility, one far too great for any of us to face alone. That responsibility is to proclaim the Good News of salvation through faith in Christ to the lost of our generation. Jesus came to seek and to save what was lost, and He has sent us to accomplish His task: “As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” (John 20:21) The scope of our concern should reach to the distant shores, for God has stated that He will be glorified to the ends of the earth, and that some from every tribe, language, people, and nation will be saved. This is a great burden, alt- hough also a great privilege. But this burden is not one we should bear alone.
First, we should regularly come to God with this burden, and pray for the lost we know personally, and the lost we have never met (in unreached people groups on the distant shores). We should lay this burden back on the God who gave it to us, for He alone has the power both to convert dead sinners and to raise up the laborers who will take the gospel to them.
Second, we should gather other believers around us to pray together for the advance of the gospel. This burden is laid upon the whole church, not merely individuals within the church. Paul prayed for the Israelites, that they might be saved (Romans 10:1, above). He also asked prayer from the Thessalonians that the word would “spread rap- idly and be honored...” (2 Thessalonians 3:1). “Be honored” is passive, and it clearly means “be honored by lost people to the end that they will believe its message and be saved.” Amazing that Paul turns to the Thessalonians to join him in the success of his own evangelistic ministry. Amazing also that Paul considered the way lost people re- spected and honored the word to be in the hands of the sovereign God! Intercessory prayer to a sovereign God for Paul to preach boldly and clearly, and for the gospel to be held in honor by formerly rebellious people. That is Paul’s recipe.
Evangelism must be taught with a balance between theological content and practical experiences. The art of conversing about spiritual things with a person who needs Christ can only be acquired in real-life situations… role-playing, memorization, and reading can only take us so far. We must go out and do it!
Of course, this is scary for many of us. Some of that fear may never completely leave us. However, we should keep the following in mind:
Courage is not the absence of fear, but the presence of unwavering commitment despite imposing obstacles.
Yet, we have noticed that fear is reduced if, during our time of training we can take a more passive role, learning by observation from someone more experienced. We are committed to this kind of training: 1) classroom training providing a clear understanding of Biblical evangelism and the true gospel; 2) real-life witnessing opportunities under the leadership of experienced mentors.
- Our outreach visitation strategy: first-time visitors, neighborhood surveys, teams of three
We have a set of priorities in terms of who we will visit:
1) First-time visitors: these are people who have recently visited our church on a Sunday morning (or some other time)
2) Ministry visits: these are people who have been referred to us and who may have some kind of need (i.e. someone is in the hospital, or perhaps there is a new baby); this would also include past attendees who have stopped coming for some reason
3) Neighborhood surveys: this is a systematic outreach in a targeted neighborhood using a spiritual questionnaire and a door-to-door approach.
We will go out in teams of three if at all possible. The teams will be composed of one leader with two learners, and will be of mixed gender: one male and two females, or one female and two males. If circumstances compel us, we could have teams of two, but we will never send a male with a female who are unrelated by marriage or family ties. Men were sent out two by two by Jesus, but some people say the sight of two men on the doorstep can be intimidating to someone being visited. And there are some settings into which we would not want to send two women alone for safety reasons.
- Personal testimony: guidelines for writing
A personal testimony is a brief account of how you came to faith in Christ. Its purpose is to help illustrate the power of the gospel to change your life. Because we will be explaining the gospel more clearly later in the visit, it is best not to go into theological details at that point. The personal testimony should be comprised of three parts:
1) pre-conversion experience; 2) conversion account; 3) post-conversion experience.
It should be brief: no more than two minutes or so. It should avoid negative references to other denominations. It should avoid giving a sense that the primary reason someone should become a Christian is for the differences that it makes in this world. Remember what Paul said:
1 Corinthians 15:19 "If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men."
Too many testimonies give the sense that, if Christ comes into your life, all your earthly problems will be solved. Paul had FAR MORE earthly problems as a result of being a Christian, but he also had eternal life, the indwelling Holy Spirit, and the Scriptures opened to him.
Your testimony should center on the actions of God and the satisfaction of knowing God. It should make the hearer thirsty to know God too.