Sunday, October 18, 2009

Chief Evangelist

The Scriptures say that God Himself is the chief evangelist. For the Spirit of God is the Spirit of truth, love, holiness and power, and evangelism is impossible without Him. It is He who anoints the messenger, confirms the word, prepares the hearer, convicts the sinful, enlightens the blind, gives life to the dead, enables us to repent and believe, unites us to the body of Christ, assures us that we are God’s children, leads us into Christ-like character and service, and sends us out in our turn to be Christ’s witnesses. In all this the Holy Spirit’s main preoccupation is to glorify Jesus Christ by showing Him to us and forming Him in us. John Stott, Making Christ Known: Historic Mission Documents for the Lausanne Movement, Eerdmans, 1996, p. 238.

Only a disciple can make a disciple. Cultural change can be difficult, after all, things have changed a lot in the last 2,000 years and they will continue to do so until the return of Christ. In order to see God’s church grow, we should use the means God has given to us. We ought to acknowledge, in humility, that any growth that comes does not ultimately come from us. It is the Holy Spirit who gives assurance of life in Christ, not the evangelist (Rom. 8:16). We are to relate the basis of assurance but leave the actual assuring to the Spirit. God, and God alone, can read the human heart. Our gaze cannot penetrate beyond the outward appearance. We may worship through evangelism, but never are we instructed to evangelize through worship. Evangelism is indeed an act of worship. It is an act of worshipful obedience to the Great Commission of the risen Christ (Matt 28:19-20, cf. Acts 1:8). Lutherans are a sometimes neglected group of evangelicals because we are are not known to be "evangelicals" but we are. We are not like other evangelicals because what I see is that we "disciple". Christianity without discipleship is always Christianity without Christ. Personal discipleship takes months while Church discipleship takes years. God commanded us to disciple but there are those whose mission is to "save" rather than disciple. God knew making disciples is the best way to go.

Matthew 28:19 Therefore go and make disciples. A disciple is literally a follower, a pupil, a learner, an apprentice. He is one who has dedicated not only to follow his master but also to become like Him. In the Christian life, thinking is crucial, emotions are crucial and serve is crucial. Jesus touches our lives (inward) and enables us to touch others (outward). And since the Gospel so transforms us with the power of the Word, we can demonstrate God's grace power with the reality of our lives. Through Jesus Christ through the guidance of the Holy Spirit, we have apostolic succession, but it is not in a line of men who pass along authority from one to another. It is the passing on of apostolic truth that goes from one generation to the next, in the context of the ministry of the truth in local churches around the world. God reveals Himself primarily through the pages of Scripture; that is why I believe the Bible as my absolute authority. The idea that Jesus Christ has absolute and final authority over all of us in every detail of our lives is simply having faith in Him and His power of Grace. God will guide us into all truth. God is spirit and faith is required to know Christ and then, the Holy Spirit will reveal who God really is through His grace and power.

One thing I have learned over the years relating to the "doctrine of salvation". I have to remember that the Bible does not present faith as simply "mental assent to the facts of the gospel" but rather true saving faith involves repentance from my own sin and a complete trust in the work of Christ to save me from sin and make me righteous. Through the doctrine of Soli Deo gloria: All glory is due to God alone, since salvation is accomplished solely through His will and action—not only the gift of the all-sufficient atonement of Jesus on the cross but also the gift of faith in that atonement, created in the heart of the believer by the Holy Spirit.

The atonement is the work of God from beginning to end. God alone provides the means of salvation through the incarnation, life, death, and resurrection of Christ; through the call of God for all to repent and don't reject; and through the God-given restoration. God wants our hearts more than He wants us to follow rules. If we give our hearts to God, then we will know what is sinful and what is not sinful. One of the greatest examples I have learn is from Lot's wife. Lot's wife died when she looked back. Looking back means you rely on flesh's desires more than God's commands and desires.

The sacraments are visible means through which we and Christ commune. They encourage us to be like Christ in all His holiness. The grace received through the sacraments is no different from that received through the Word. Both convey the same Christ. Many people are forgetting the REAL purpose of the CHURCH. Through the Old Testament, we learned that man's destiny revealed by God, man's destiny restricted by sin, and through the New Testament, we learn that man's destiny recovered by Christ. Jesus Christ died the death that you deserved. He became sin who knew no sin. He died in our place. He is our substitute. He had to be man to die as man, He had to be God to overcome death and sin. And so the God/Man had to suffer. Jesus said, "The Son of Man must suffer and be killed."

Through communion, we are to examine ourselves that we are sorry for our sins; we believe in our Savior Jesus Christ and in His words in the Sacrament; and we plan, with the help of the Holy Spirit, to change our sinful lives. ts a reminder that the life of the church is made up of spiritual attitudes and spiritual motivations, spiritual graces that come from deep within the community. Its a reminder of this verse in Ephesians 4:4, "There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all." Jesus is the one who does the real cleansing on the inside. He does that constantly, as we appropriate His forgiveness. At a church communion service, this is pictured in a very meaningful, Christ-like way.

Grace is we live in the Spirit AND also walk in the Spirit. The Holy Spirit dwells in us with all the power and gifts of God, necessary to enable us to walk the noble, spiritual, Son-like life with God. With Grace, we can show mercy and help others (Heb. 4:13-16).

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