Tuesday, February 17, 2015

What Jesus Can Teach Us About Evangelizing Seekers

I hate watered down Coca-Cola.  I despise tea that is weak.  I loathe mashed potatoes with too much milk in it so that it is runny potatoes.

So, why do I feel like I have to make the cross and Jesus' love for people so much less than what it is? Why do I apologize for offending people when talking about their sin?  Why do I go soft when asking them if they are afraid of dying without God's forgiveness?  How do I fix this in my evangelism?  The answer:  go to Jesus, see what He can teach us about evangelizing seekers.

In Luke 18:18-30 Jesus has the model "Seeker" come up to him and ask him the "perfect" question. A young Jewish ruler comes running and kneels before Jesus (Mark's Gospel) and asks Jesus what he must do to inherit eternal life?  Sounds like the perfect prospect for baptism, doesn't it?  He wants to know how to receive eternal life.

The young ruler even calls Jesus, "good."  Everyone knew that only God was "good."  So did this young ruler infer that Jesus just might be God?  If he does, will he follow Jesus?

When Jesus asks him about keeping the Law this young ruler doesn't miss a beat, he responds by saying he has kept all of the commandments.  Jesus isn't surprised by this comment, He sees it coming, and so without letting this young ruler off the hook He goes after what really is at the heart of this young man.  He knew the young man to be rich and tells him to go sell it all and come follow Him and be like the disciples -- men who gave up everything to wander around the Judean countryside following Jesus.

That was the proverbial line in the sand.  The young man turned and left.  He had never measured himself against the first commandment - Thou shall have no other gods before Me.  This young man was bowing down to the idol of wealth.

This young man looked, sounded, and acted like the perfect "Seeker" that every church wants.  But, Jesus showed him his heart and exposed him.  He had a superficial heart.  Jesus was never interested in superficial hearts who only worship on Sunday.

So, why does the church obsess over "seekers?"  Why do we continue to add to our numbers those who have never professed Jesus as Savior?  Why do we think that the more entertainment we can provide the more people will want to follow Jesus?  Why do we have to bask the cross in neon lights, loud drums, and amazing feats of daring?  Why do we apologize when sharing the gospel?  Are we embarrassed to make people feel uncomfortable under the penalty of their guilt?

We need to boldly profess the Gospel!

We must not be afraid to share the whole ugly truth about sin, death, and damnation.  Jesus has not asked us to water down his gospel.

"For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will also be ashamed of him when He comes in the glory of His Father with the Holy angels."  Mark 8:38

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Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Four Preaching Mistakes You Don't Know You are Making, part 3 & 4

As I finish up this post I am going to combine the last two mistakes, simply to save your and mine sanity. 

Mistake #3:  Group Therapy preaching

This type of preaching hones in on some emotional or psychological need that the preacher thinks the people need salvation from. 

I have listened to a lot of bad sermons via Christian apologists and many pastors think that what their people are missing out on is lost dreams. Somewhere you and I got off track from Gods plan and we have forgotten that God has a really big dream for us to accomplish. You could probably switch the word "dream" for "vision" too. 

Bad theology will couch this in "little faith."  We just need more faith and know that God has good plans for us. 

Maybe your dream/vision was to be happy in your marriage, the owner of a successful lama farm, or be a visionary church planter. Whatever it was you have got to repent of your lack of dream/vision planning and get back into the game.  God does not want any losers in His kingdom. 

I say this all tongue-and-cheek, but many preachers are nothing more than Oprah and Dr Phil wanna-be's.  These are just band-aids. Preachers give all kind of successful stories of people they found on the Internet or relate stories from their own life that sound really magnanimous. Unfortunately, what people need is to see Jesus Christ crucified for their sins and risen again conquering death, sin, and Hell. 

Pastor, are you telling people the bad news of their sin and the good news of Jesus or are you simply propping up corpses?  

This leads to...

Mistake #4:  Preaching Law

Pastors do this when they either take Old Testament laws and impose them on the church or they take New Testament commands and place them on par with truly being able to please God. "You want to please God?  Than you need to do ABC and XYZ!"  

They skim over the fact that our true need is cleansing from sin and restoration with a holy and angry God. Preachers love to make tithing an absolute command for pleasing God or witnessing or not drinking alcohol. They use a multitude of Bible passages to back up their claim, and make us feel absolutely guilty if we do or do not do certain activities. We should tithe - because we love Jesus. We should witness - because we love Jesus. We should refrain from drunkenness - because we love Jesus. These do not guarantee Jesus will love us more. It guarantees the proof of our salvation. Jesus has saved from more than we can imagine in our sinfulness and no amount of good works will cause Him to love us more. 

The law is a guide that drives us to Jesus because we can not keep His laws. Only Jesus could and that is why He is our substitute. He kept the law perfectly and not only that He took on Himself the punishment we deserve for not keeping the law. The law then becomes a guide to teach us Gods will and by the power of the Holy Spirit and a lot of grace and mercy we live it out. 

As a preacher do you put more guilt on your people than is necessary?

Are you making mountains out of mole-hills?  

Monday, August 12, 2013

Four Preaching Mistakes You Don't Know You are Making, part 2

In part 2 of "Four Preaching Mistakes You Don't Know You Are Making," I want to share a huge danger in preaching and that is making the Bible passage all about "you."

Preachers are notorius for doing this with narratives such as David and Goliath. The preacher always associates David with who?  YOU!  

Guess what?  You are not King David!  Goliath is not your (fill in the blank).  Goliath is my "bad marriage," "dead-end job," "lack of vision and purpose for my life," or whatever else obstructs your dream fulfillment. 

They preach saying all it takes to conquer your Goliath is faith. Faith in a God bigger than the giants you are facing. Faith to believe God wants you victorious over these giants who slow you down. 

This kind of teaching fosters the false doctrine of, "God wants me to be happy." So I will divorce my wife, leave a job, or make a wreck of my life by putting "me" at the center. 

If faith in Jesus is anything, it is this:  "less of me and more of Jesus." Yet, to often preaching puts man at the center, instead Jesus should be at the center. 

David was Gods chosen vessel for leading His people, the Philistines stood in the way of Gods people.  So,  God used one man, a shadow of the future Messiah, to bring deliverance in a bold and spectacular way. The story is about God rescuing His people, which foreshadows our Savior rescuing His people in another bold and spectacular way.  You are in the story but the story is not about you!  

Preacher, handle the Word of God carefully!  If you start every sermon with "you" you are doing a dis-service to Gods people and you are spoiling Gods Word of its Gospel power.