Witnessing In Our Own Strength, & The Folly Thereof

p1471865060-e1302654290942 The command to “go” and “make disciples of all nations” is, for the most part, accepted by all of Christianity as a gospel imperative. Most churches will agree that at least one of their missions is to train up their membership for engaging the culture and proclaiming “Christ crucified” to the lost—even if they may not put it into practice. But it seems that in large part the church has become rather silent; in America we have created a type of comfortable Christianity, that many lament. It is a peculiar thing that the eye roll has become a greater silencer of the Church than the noose or the stake. Why? Is it simply because the Church has no answers to the objections? Or that the Church is not adequately training their membership in answers to their faith? Possibly, and probably partially.

But I think the problem is deeper and much more subtle, thus making it more detrimental to the Church and her witness.  It is this: we have forgotten who it is that saves and the method by which He does it (i.e. the foolishness of the Gospel), and we have replaced it with every mechanism, method, evidence, plausible arguments, logic, and pragmatic approach short of sin (or not..).

People have begun to think that these types of approaches are effective.  That we can, in a sense, inch a person closer to Christ by convincing them by degrees that the cross is okay, that Christianity is not as silly as it sounds.  Paul says this:

“For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe.  For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.” -1 Corinthians 1:21-24

And again:

“The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are follow to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.” -1 Corinthians 2:14

It is tempting to believe that arguments of God’s sovereign election, calling, and decrees are subjects better left for the ivory tower theologians and abstract theory, but it is the very basis of what keeps us rooted in the saving work of God through Jesus Christ.

The Many Excuses

Doubtless you have either heard one of the following, said it yourself, or at least thought it (and trust me, I think we all have if we’re honest):

+”I don’t know enough to go out and speak to people.  What if I can’t answer their objections?”

+”What if I say something wrong? Or I don’t say everything that I should have?”

+”I’m just not the type of person to go out talking to random people.  I think the Gospel is better shared by how you live than what you say.”

The excuses and rationalizations for not proclaiming your faith boldly and unequivocally are many, trust me.  While there are important things to address about each, one trait is common to all: they make the Gospel rely upon our presentation, intellect, or ‘goodness’, that is, it rests in our own strength, rather than in the Holy Spirit who is working through the proclamation of Jesus’s birth, life, death, resurrection, and ascension.  It’s an issue of faith.

Paul’s epistles are laden with reliance upon the Spirit to give life, not his own inherent goodness or the eloquent words he speaks (1 Cor 1:17); 2 Corinthians 3 is a good example:

“Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God, who has made us competent to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit.  For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.”

And in 2 Corinthians 4:

“But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways.  We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God…For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as LordFor God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (vv.2, 5-6).

The point is this, we will most probably never be perfect evangelists; our human frailty and imperfections hinder it.  We will never be perfect apologists; the objections to the faith are numerous, because the rebellious heart is not looking for answers, just more doubts so as to remain in rebellion.  We will never be perfect theologians; the Bible is difficult even for the most knowledgeable theologians, and mining its depths is a life-long endeavor.

That said, our purpose—our obligation—is to proclaim Christ and Him crucified, risen on the third day, seated at the right hand of God, and coming again in glory.  Offer the Gospel!  If nothing else, proclaim the Gospel.  The excuse that you don’t know “enough” cannot be found among any believer in Christ, because anyone who is a believer in Christ knew enough to do that much…therefore, they know ‘enough.’  Now share it, for it, not you, is the power of God unto salvation:

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes…” -Romans 1:16

Various are the pleas and arguments which men of corrupt minds frequently urge against yielding obedience to the just and holy commands of God.” -George Whitefield

The Two of Types Witnesses

There are two types of evangelists, apologists, witnesses, whatever you wish to call them; two types of proclaimers of the truth.  1) Those who rest on the Holy Spirit working through the proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ alone, and 2) Those who do not, but rest on their arguments, evidences, logic, or the other person’s emotions.

The latter group can be split into those who evangelize and those who don’t, but they are essentially the same.  It is the attitude of the heart, the faith in what you believe, and where you believe salvation ultimately comes from.

In 1 Corinthians 2, verse 4, Paul says something interesting:

“…and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.”

I submit to you, that if you, or anyone else’s faith rests upon the “wisdom of men”, then it is on shaky ground.  If someone is convinced by a “good argument” or a one liner that got them thinking, then it is likely that an argument from the opposite side could do the same in the opposite direction.

It is important for every one of us to examine what the motive is behind our witnessing to others.  It is very easy to fall into the belief that we somehow have a great say in what happens to the soul of those who hear our message.  I am not condoning sloppy presentation or a lack of concern for what we know and how we say it, but it is not what converts the human soul.

The Church Gone Crazy

Because the Church has largely abandoned any biblical meaning of original sin or man’s depravity, every type of mechanism for conjuring up “conversion” has been invented to fill the void.  If it is true that man is blind, dead in sin, and cannot discern anything spiritual (Rom 8:7; 1 Cor 2:14), then we would have to rely on the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit to regenerate a heart and make it love the things that it once hated.  However, if this is abandoned, then it is an inevitable consequence that man will try to generate conversion.  Prayer for the lost—signifying a reliance upon God for conversion—is replaced by appeals to emotion, manipulating elevator music, long, drawn out altar calls, and guilting people into the faith.

Evidence for the perversion of the message can be witnessed in the several mega, “seeker-friendly”, whitewashed churches of the United States.  The word of faith/prosperity gospel is an obvious example of this trend.  The liberal church is nothing more than a complete capitulation to the culture, because they want to make Christianity more palpable to an unbelieving, depraved world…and in the process they have lost their soul and the Holy Spirit.

Conclusion: Trying To Avoid A Minsunderstanding

One might be tempted to think I don’t believe there is a place for answering objections.  This is not at all what I am advocating, and Christianity ought to give a reasonable defense for its veracity (1 Peter 3:15).  In fact, Christ gave “proof” and “evidence” of who He was from the Old Testament and by miraculous works, however it was always with the understanding the it is the Spirit that gives life.

“Jesus answered them [the Pharisees], ‘I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name bear witness about me, but you do not believe because you are not among my sheep. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me…'” -John 10:25-27

“The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.   But there are some of you who do not believe…This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.'” -John 6:63&65

This is not a question of giving defense against opposition, or having a reasonable faith; if God gives logic, reason, and meaning to the world, then of course all proofs and evidences point to Him.  This is a warning against letting it rest in what you do, what you say, and how good you sound when arguing.  The Gospel is the means of salvation (Rom 1:16), the Spirit is the heart changer (Eph 1:17), Christ is the author and finisher (Heb 12:2), and God is the one at work in us to will and do His good pleasure (Phil 2:13).  Everything is predicated on the presuppositional truth that God is the founder, giver, and perfecter of all knowledge, wisdom, and spiritual life.  You will never have success with any person if God does not give it…

This is meant to give comfort to those who are worried, afraid, nervous, or think themselves incompetent to take the Gospel to those around them.  Step one to proper apologetics?  Stop letting it rest in you, have confidence in your God and the Gospel He has given you to proclaim.  If you say nothing else to anyone, tell them about what Jesus has done and promises to do for those who believe in Him.

“Faith in the self-attesting Christ of Scripture is the beginning, not the end result of wisdom.” -Greg Bahnsen

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge…” -Prov 1:7

Remember, “all authority” has been given to Christ, and He has promised to be with us until the end of the age (Matt 28), so then take heart and proclaim the Gospel in whatever capacity or situation you are given.

 

SDG,

Jon

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~ by TSL on March 29, 2013.

 
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