You Be the Judge: Is He or Ain't He?
POST UPDATED: SUNDAY, JULY 29 @ 9:30 AM, PST.
I stand for these truths: clarity, specificity, and precision in the gospel invitation. I want to let you all know that I love Jesus. I personally am filled with appreciation that He gave His life for me. I am awed by the fact that Christ rose again from the dead, triumphant over death.
I am a sinner (as some of you know better than others). I am a frail, subject to sin, human being. The Lord knows that I am but dust. Often I let my will and desires trump the Spirit who desires to work through me. In some of my correspondences with you all during the last couple of months, my writing was not saturated and grounded in love. I became a machine, bent on proving a point, and in many cases, in the absence of tact and sensitivity. For this I apologize.
Bear with me for one more post on this important subject. I am going to provide a scenario, and I wish for you all to be involved. I am really asking that you participate, and I desire your input.
Jeremy Myers told me of a method that he and Bob Wilkin like to use in evangelism. What they do is to provide the "invitation" up front before they go into the gospel message. So for instance, they will start the conversation off this way:
"Did you know that Jesus Christ promises, better yet, guarantees to immediately give the free gift of irrevocable eternal life to any who simply believe Him to do so [or believe in Him for it]?"
More times than not, the hearer will be taken for a loop. Of course, this assertion does not usually convince anyone. "Aren't works necessary?" one may ask. "How is it that simple?" another may wonder. They then go into the gospel message explaining various points about the Lord Jesus Christ that will lift Him up in such a way as to show Christ authoritative and qualified to give the gift, and trustworthy of one's faith for it.
Lets say that I had the opportunity to do evangelism one on one with a man. The first thing I say to him is, "Jesus Christ promises and guarantees to immediately give you the free gift of eternal life the very moment you believe in Him for it." And then I quote to him John 6:47, "Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever believes in Me has eternal life." He immediately responds in curiosity and interest, asking me to explain more about Jesus.
Let's say next, I talk to him about John the Baptist, and what God told him concerning how he would know who God's chosen Messiah was: Jesus came to be baptized of John, and the Holy Spirit descended upon Him so that John knew that this indeed was God's Christ (Jn 1:32-33).
I tell this man about Jesus being led to the wilderness to be tested by Satan 40 days, and I tell him of Jesus' remarkable words to Satan (Mt 4:1-11).
I discuss with this man how Jesus turned water in to wine (Jn 2:1-11), how He healed the sick (Mt 8:16), gave sight to the blind (Jn 9:6-7), cast out demons (Mt 8:16), made whole the lame (Mt 21:14), and raised the dead (Jn 11:38-44). I tell this man about Jesus calming the storms (Lk 8:24), feeding 5000 men with a few loaves and a couple fish (Jn 6:1-14), and walking on water (Mt 14:26).
I go into some of the teachings of Christ, where He taught heavenly truth with authority, not like the scribes of the day (Mt 7:29).
I speak of Jesus' love and compassion on broken-hearted men and women (Mk 6:34).
I tell the story of the woman caught in adultery, where He is quoted as saying, "He who is without sin cast the first stone," and "Woman, where are your accusers?" and "Neither do I condemn you" (Jn 8:2-11).
I relate Jesus’ conversation with the Samaritan woman at the well of Sychar (Jn 4:1-42). "If you knew the gift of God, and who says to you, 'Give me a drink,' you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water" (Jn 4:10).
I speak of the raising of Lazarus (Jn 11:38-44), and His conversation with Martha, "I am the Resurrection and the Life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?" (Jn 11:25-26).
At this time, the man stops me. He says, "Hold on for a moment, please. I want to tell you something. I believe you! I believe what Jesus says in His promises! I now know that Jesus has given me eternal life!"
Now, I had planned to present to him further truths about Jesus. I had every intention of continuing on to explain the deity of Christ, His substitutionary atonement for sins, and His subsequent bodily resurrection. But I had not yet got to these points.
Simply, my question for you is this:
Is this man born again? In other words, does he have eternal life?
If he doesn't, why not?
This person has entrusted his eternal destiny to Christ! Would it be your position that this man, who believed Christ in His promises (whereby Jesus Christ guarantees eternal life to the believer in Him), ends up lost for lack of knowledge of some bullet points on an orthodox doctrinal checklist?
Imagine someone solely trusting Jesus Christ as His certain hope of heaven and Jesus letting him down. Envisage a man relying completely upon Jesus Christ for eternal life through His promise yet Jesus reneging because of the man's ignorance of a doctrinal stipulation, thus missing heaven by a creedal technicality.
Picture a man believing only in Jesus Christ for eternal salvation and leaving empty handed. This unquestionably impinges on God's faithfulness. What happened to "faith alone in Christ alone"? Checklist evangelism has it dying the death of a thousand qualifications.
But if you agree that he does have eternal life, doesn't this prove that the place we need to be pointing men and women is to faith into Jesus Christ in His promise (and not confusedly to a list of doctrine)? Does this not dictate for us the essential issue between God and man: the reception of life through faith in Jesus by way of His guarantee?
If the man in this illustration has eternal life then we have just pinpointed the clear and simple gospel invitation, which happens to be the same one that Jesus used time and again. Jesus proclaimed that He was the Guarantor of eternal life to the believer in Him for it. Shall we not present Him the same way?
Gospel invitations should be simple, accurate, precise, and biblically phrased. We do not want to use unbiblical terminology or practices (such as "praying to receive Christ") that can confuse those we evangelize. We should be able to show the subjects of our evangelism specific passages in the Bible that clearly identify for them how they can have eternal life. If we use the "two-step" invitation formula, "You must believe that Jesus is God, died on the cross for your sins, and rose again from the dead. (But that is not enough) You then must personally trust Christ's work for salvation," we will never be able to show them any single, clear supporting passage. Instead, we would have to piece together a patch-work quilt using scriptural hopscotch. Even then, it will be awkward and ambiguous.
Confusion is the enemy of evangelism. The construction of our gospel invitations should not generate uncertainty and misapplication. This could lead to a false profession and assurance.
Jesus is the one who has "the words of everlasting life" (John 6:68). Those words are contained in His promise to impart eternal life to all who simply believe in Him for it. When Jesus evangelized, His promise was His core and simple invitation. Shall we not emulate Him in His clarity and simplicity?
Yes, Jesus had the "words of eternal life" during His time on earth, as evidenced by the Gospel of John, the only evangelistic book in the Bible. And He still does today. Let us use them!