Category Archives: Evangelism

The Heart of the Gospel

   In all the world there is not, never has been nor will there ever be anything to compare to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Simple in its truth, yet profound in its origin it is the only power that has the ability to transform the lives of sinful men.

   In Paul’s first epistle to the Corinthians, he describes the presentation of the message of the Gospel. In verse seventeen of chapter one he states:

For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of non effect.

   I have emphasized the phrase, “cross of Christ,” because it is the very heart of the Gospel. It is the cross that reveals our sinfulness as well as the righteousness of Christ.

   The message takes precedence over everything else. Baptism is not wrong, but it is no substitute for the power of the cross. There is certainly nothing wrong with wisdom, in fact God places a high premium upon it, but wisdom cannot replace the proclamation of the cross.

   Paul clearly states that he has been called to preach the Gospel. His conviction concerning his call and his determination to let nothing neutralize the cross are a direct testimony to the centrality of Christ’s crucifixion to the message of the Gospel.

   There are those today who do not believe the cross is essential to the content of believing unto salvation. Some choose not to preach the cross for fear of repulsing the lost with the message of a “bloody salvation”. Some preach the cross, yet do not believe it is necessary for one to be aware of the death and resurrection of Christ. I would submit that without believing in the cross, there is no hope of the lost being saved.

   Verse 18 tells us that this message of the cross is not just for believers, but for those who do not believe, as well.  Consider with me the words of verses 21-24.

For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe. For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom: but we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumbling block, and unto the Greeks foolishness; but unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God.

   The desire of the unbelieving Jews to see a sign was to establish in their mind the credentials of the Messiah. The unbelieving Greeks desired the wisdom of a god. In other words, if they were going to believe in Christ, it would be on their own terms. Those, however, who placed faith in Jesus did so by believing on God’s terms, that is receiving the message that was given to them, the message of the cross. Only those who embraced this truth experienced the transforming power of God unto salvation.

   To those Jews who believed, the cross became the power of God. To believing Greeks it became the wisdom of God. Both of these were superior to the expectations of man. Literally, the cross has become the credentials of Jesus Christ to the world. When we remove the cross from the message of salvation, we have gutted it, rendering it no more able to save than baptism or earthly wisdom.

   Jesus, Himself, pointed to the crucifixion as His credentials in John 20:24-29. Thomas refused to believe that Jesus was alive, until Jesus pointed to the scars of His crucifixion. The Lord used the cross to establish His identity, even among His own disciples.

   How can we do less than proclaim the message of the cross? How dare we elevate our wisdom above God’s plan and think that it is not essential to power of salvation? I’ll cherish the cross, I’ll proclaim it, I’ll remember it, I’ll hold it forth as the last and only hope of salvation for fallen man.

What Must I Do To Be Saved?

This was the question that the Philippian jailer posed to Paul and Silas after the midnight earthquake in Acts 16:30. Their answer was short and simple, “Believe on the Lord, Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved.”

I was asked by a fellow believer at my church recently, “What exactly do you think a person must believe in order to be saved?”

The content of saving faith has been a hot topic recently among some of the blogs that I frequent. The answers run the gamut of a broad spectrum of extremes, with many other positions between the two.

Believe on the Lord, Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved.

There are two texts that I believe shed some light upon exactly what it is that we must believe in order to be saved:

  1. Romans 10:9-10, That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.
  2. I Corinthians 15:1-4, Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye received, and wherein ye stand; by which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. For I delivered unto you first of all that which also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; and that he was buried and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures.

Both Acts 16:31 and Romans 10:9-10 refer to Jesus as being “Lord”. This recognition of His lordship is where I believe we find the element of repentance imbedded in saving faith. This recognition is not a work of the flesh, but is indeed a “change of mind”, realizing that it is to Jesus that we are accountable and that it is He who holds the keys to eternity. He alone has the authority and the ability to provide salvation to those who believe. It is an awareness that we are a sinner, that we are not “okay” as we are and that we have a definite need to be forgiven of God.

When the angels announced His birth to the shepherds in Luke 2:11, they stated, “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.”

His work as Savior was coupled with His lordship, even at His birth.

These texts also refer to Him by His name, Jesus. One must know in whom they are believing to be saved. Rom. 10:14, How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? It is not enough to receive Him as a mere teacher or prophet, one must believe that He is the Son of God, receiving Him as the light of God come into the darkness of this world. (John 1:12)

These texts also refer to Jesus as “Christ”. There can be no salvation apart from a belief in what Jesus did as the “anointed one” to cover our sins. The Lamb of God, slain from the foundation of the world is the only worthy sacrifice for our redemption. It is only through the message of the cross that one understands their need of salvation. One must understand that they are a sinner in need of divine forgiveness and that Jesus has provided access to that forgiveness by His death, burial and resurrection.

If you are reading this post and have never put your faith in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, I would encourage you to take this step. Anyone who calls on the Lord will be saved. Come to Him in faith, believing that He is the Son of God and that He died and rose again to cover your sins and you can receive His gift of eternal life.

In the Words of a Child

“Preacher, can I please be saved?” the little six-year-old boy asked me during the invitation after yesterday’s sermon.

I instructed him to have a seat on the front pew and I told him I would talk to him after the service. When everyone was gone, he and his mother joined me in my office where I had the privilege of showing him the truth of the gospel and leading him to Christ.

As he called on the Lord to save him, he reached a point in his prayer where he said, “Jesus, I want to stop doing bad things and start doing good things.” I was not asking him to “repeat after me” or anything else. This was what was in his heart as he asked God for the gift of salvation.

With all of the debates and definitions that surround the word “repentance”, I must say that this is about as clear and biblical a definition as one will find.

Burgers With the Big Dawg

   I had a great opportunity last night, along with about 1200 others to hear Mark Richt share his testimony at a hamburger supper. For those who do not know, Mark Richt is the head football coach at the University of Georgia.

   He gave a wonderful testimony of the circumstances God used to bring him to faith in Jesus Christ. His life had been built upon his love for football and his dreams of a professional career. When things didn’t work out as he planned, he followed the wrong voices for a time in his life, but through the witness of a former team mate and his new boss (FSU coach Bobby Bowden) he came to see his need of being saved.

    We hear so much today of the scandals and problems of athletes and coaches, it was very refreshing to find one who is willing to take a public stand for Christ.

The Incredible Blackness Of the Human Heart

   With all of you, I have watched in horror for the last twenty-four hours as the awful events that have taken place at Virginia Tech University have unfolded. I have shaken my head at the senselessness of the whole ordeal. I have prayed for the friends, faculty and families of those involved.

   I have listened to the talking heads go on with their speculations, theories and queries. Almost immediately, it seems, people were trying to pin blame on the university administration and security for allowing the situation to escalate as it did. It is human nature,  I suppose, to try to find scapegoats upon which to place our grief and lack of understanding.

   I have listened to so-called “experts” analyze the situation, particularly the mind of the shooter, 23 year-old Cho Seung-Hui. I listened in amazent as one psychologist gave a diagnosis that was based entirely upon theory and guesswork at what might be found if a CAT scan was performed on the young man’s brain. He presented his thoughts that murderers had a different brain than “normal” folk. He had examined the brain scans of a number of murderers and stated that they seemed to have certain “abnormalities” that made them “vulnerable to violence.” His entire thesis was an effort to reassure those who heard him that their basic human goodness was still intact and that this shooter was some kind of deranged victim of a brain configuration that caused him to act the way he did.

   I am not an expert when it comes to matters of the human brain. My knowledge on the subject is limited to the facts that each of us has one and that we do not use it nearly as much as we should. The shooter may indeed have abnormalities in his brain that may have been contributing factors to this outburst of murderous mayhem, but his brain is not the root of the problem.

   The problem is his heart.

   The problem is the incredible blackness that sin produces in the human heart.

   When tragedies such as this occur, it is easy for us to try to identify with the victims, often to the point of feeling violated ourselves. We shed tears of compassion and commiseration. We may actually become sick to our stomach to think of the loss of precious lives. It is indeed sickening to see what sin has wrought in this situation. In one sense, this is a crime against all humanity.

   If we look hard enough, perhaps we can find some way to connect ourselves to these victims. It seems to make us feel better to do so.

   But one thing is for certain, each of us can identify with the shooter. Those words may produce a visceral reaction but they are the sordid truth. Every one of us has a heart that is blackened by the curse of sin. Given the proper series of circumstances and choices, any one of us is capable committing this heinous crime or worse. We can ignore and deny it, try to explain it away, but the truth remains, we are all sinners and there is only one antidote, the blood of Jesus.

   Think about it, the first sin that the Bible records is Adam and Eve partaking of the forbidden fruit. What is the second sin? Cain murdering his brother. Here are two sons from the same family, raised in the same manner. What was the difference? One of them chose to worship God, the other chose to worship self.

   When we put self on the throne of our lives, we remove the moral restraint that prevents us from being murderers, thieves, rapists and child molesters. We become more concerned with self-gratification than we do with obedience to God. His laws become inconsequential to us, our feelings become our prime directive.

   I look at this tragedy and feel incredible sympathy for the victims and their families. I am praying that the peace of God will enfold them and draw them close to Him. I see the utter bleakness of what has happened and realize that only God can bring healing to those who have been wounded so deeply.

   I look at the shooter and say, “There but for the grace of God, go I.”

And We’re Back!

  What a trip! My dad and I had a wonderful trip to Atlanta the last couple of days to attend the State Evangelism Conference of the Georgia Baptist Convention. We were not able to get there for the entire event but we were thoroughly blessed by what we heard.

    We had the opportunity to hear Dr. Fred Luter, Dr. Ergun Caner, Dr. Johnny Hunt, and Dr. David Jeremiah among others. I was refreshed and challenged on several levels. Charles Billingsley brought some inspiring music as well.

   In addition, we had some wonderful fellowship with some old friends and made some new ones as well. It was especially nice to meet Galen Towns, aka Misawa, and fellowship over a cup of coffee with him. He is a frequent visitor and commentor here and is just as pleasant in person as he is on the web.

   After a quick visit to Bass Pro Shops (I could have stayed there all day) we returned home yesterday feeling a little tired in the body, but very refreshed in the spirit. The only problem is, since my dad is preaching a revival for us at Pine Park next week, I don’t get to preach for another week and a half or so. I may burst a blood vessel or something in the meantime.

Squeezing One In

   I really am sorry for the lack of posting the last few days. I had fully intended to follow up on the previous post much sooner.

   We had a death in the family this past week and our family has been spending some time together around that. I have sandwiched several committee meetings and a concert in between that and homeschooling. Two basketball games, an RA Derby, and spending time with my wife’s family who is in town for a visit have kept me busy up until this point.

    Tomorrow, we have our normal church schedule with an ordination service at another church tomorrow afternoon. Monday I have to go to Madison, FL, for a funeral, then come back to Bainbridge, GA, that evening to teach my class. Tuesday morning my dad and I are traveling to Atlanta to attend our GBC State Evangelism Conference where I am looking forward to hearing Ergun Caner, Johnny Hunt and David Jeremiah among others. We are supposed to return home Wednesday.

    I said all that to say this, it will probably be Wednesday or later before I get to post again. I hope to post on the conference as well as the next article on Christian Statesmanship at that time.

    In the meantime, I pray that God’s grace and peace will be upon all of you.