Thursday, January 24, 2008

"Handle, Code-3" -- The Need for Urgency in Evangelism

The below article was originally posted in November 2006 by Tony Miano. If you didn't see it then, I want to make sure you get a chance now.

Introduction

Modern evangelism methods have convinced many Christians that spiritual conversations with unbelievers are to be entered into slowly and cautiously while avoiding, at all cost, offending the sensibilities and sensitivities of the unbeliever. Subjects such as sin, judgment, and hell are rarely spoken of, and many Christians, if they do share their faith, believe that they must have the permission of the person with whom they are going to speak, before talking to them about Jesus Christ.

When it comes to evangelism, one thing that is lacking in the thinking and practice of many Christians these days is a sense of urgency. The message of God’s pending judgment, and His amazing grace for those who repent of their sin and put their trust in Jesus Christ alone for their salvation, is an urgent message. The message is an urgent one because it has been appointed once for a person to die (Heb. 9:27), with each person having no idea when his or her day will come. The message is urgent because, as Christians, we should share the loving heart of God whose desire is for none to perish but that all should come to repentance (2 Pet. 3:9).

The police officer continually operates with a sense of urgency. The man or woman who dons the gun and badge realizes that any given call, traffic stop, or contact could be his or her last. In addition to this ever-present stress is the reality that during any given shift an officer may have to save a life, or take a life. The police officer daily faces the real possibility of dealing with emotional and physical trauma, tragedy, and death. The worldview of the Christian officer should be such that he or she recognizes the spiritual component of every aspect of the job—none more important than the responsibility to bring the truth of the Law and the gospel to lost people, whenever the Lord provides the opportunity. These are urgent times, and this is the day of salvation (Isa. 49:8; 2 Cor. 6:2).

The Question

So, when should we share the Law and the gospel with people? Should we wait until we feel led by the Holy Spirit before we talk to people about the consequences of breaking God's Law and their only hope for escaping the wrath to come? I say no. I do not believe Scripture supports it. I believe Scripture supports the premise that the born again follower of Jesus Christ is always led by the Holy Spirit to live a life pleasing to the Lord, which includes engaging in evangelism, because Scripture commands every Christian to be engaged in evangelism (Matt. 28:18-20; Mark 16:15; Acts 1:8). Some would argue that these Great Commission passages were directed specifically to the apostles and are not to be applied to every Christian today. If that were the case, then Christianity would have died by the end of the First Century, along with the apostles.

The Holy Spirit's leading will never contradict His Word. And nowhere in Scripture are we told that we shouldn't engage in evangelism. Therefore, the determining factor in one's decisions regarding evangelism should not be one's subjective feelings, but one's obedience to the Word of God.

The Holy Spirit is God (the Third Person of the Trinity) and should be believed as such, worshipped as such, and obeyed as such. But does the Bible teach that we should only engage in evangelism when we sense or feel the leading of the Holy Spirit?

"Led By The Spirit"

There are only two New Testament passages of Scripture in which the phrase "led by the Spirit" or "led by the Spirit of God" appears. They are Romans 8:12-17 and Galatians 5:16-18.

"So then, brethren, we are under obligation, not to the flesh--for if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are the sons of God. For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, 'Abba! Father!' The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him" (Romans 8:12-17, emphasis added).

According to the above passage of Scripture, if one is led by the Spirit, he or she understands that they have been adopted into God's family, because there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Rom. 8:1).

"I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law" (Galatians 5:16-18, emphasis added).

The person who is led by the Spirit of God will behave as such (see Galatians 5:22-26). Through their righteous behavior, their holy living, and their obedience to God's Word, a Christian's life will continually reflect the Holy Spirit's leading in their life.

Neither of the above passages speaks to following a subjective feeling about the Spirit's leading before sharing the Law and the gospel with lost people. In fact (and I agree with Pastor John MacArthur on this point), "believers are not led through subjective, mental impressions or promptings to provide direction in making life's decisions--something Scripture nowhere teaches. Instead, God's Spirit objectively leads His children sometimes through the orchestration of circumstances (Acts 16:7), but primarily through: 1) illumination, divinely clarifying Scripture to make it understandable to our sinful, finite minds (Lk. 24:44-45; 1 Cor. 2:14-16; Eph. 1:17-19; cf. Eph. 3:16-19; Col. 1:9); and 2) sanctification, divinely enabling us to obey Scripture (Gal. 5:16, 17; 5:25)" (MacArthur Study Bible, pp. 1707-08).

Should We Wait To Be Asked?

"But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear" (1 Pet. 3:15).

Some Christians believe that they should wait to be asked about Jesus Christ before they share the good news with them. With more than 90% of Christians admitting that they do not mention Jesus Christ to a single lost soul, in a year's time, apparently not too many people are asking. I have traveled throughout out country, as well as to Canada and South America in order to minister to the law enforcement family. I have visited dozens of different law enforcement agencies, spending many hours with officers in briefing rooms and patrol cars. If my belief and practice were to wait for an officer (or anyone else for that matter) to bring up the things of God, I would rarely share the gospel with anyone. And as a follower of Jesus Christ, I am not called to rarely share the gospel.

Some of those who hold the position of not speaking about Christ until asked to do so might turn to 1 Peter 3:15 to support their position. They might emphasize the portion of the verse that speaks about giving a defense to "everyone who asks." However, this is a misinterpretation and misapplication of the verse. The emphasis of the verse is not waiting to be asked, but always being ready to defend your faith.

There are scenes in the Bible where people approached Jesus or the apostles and asked them questions (ex. Jn. 3; Lk. 18; Acts 16). However, none of these passages serve as a mandate for waiting to be asked before warning people about the wrath to come and presenting the gospel to them. Nowhere in Scripture are we told that we must wait to have a person's permission to speak the truth to them, in love. Nor does Scripture say we must first have a long-term relationship with a person before sharing the Law and the gospel with them. What we see in Scripture is Jesus and the apostles quickly developing a relationship with a person, by simply establishing rapport with them (ex. Jn. 4:7-26; Acts 8:25-40).

While it may be helpful information, we do not need to know someone's personal history or what may be troubling them presently before we can or should share the gospel with them. The reason is that our purpose for sharing the Law and the gospel is not to help a person feel better about themselves or to promise them a solution to their current problems--which, more than likely, have been brought on by their own sinfulness.

A Tourniquet, Not a Band-Aid

The Law and the gospel is not a self-adhesive band-aid designed to merely cover the superficial wounds of a sinner's felt needs. It is the tourniquet that must be applied with care, firmness, and urgency to the sinner's mortal wound. For the Law and the gospel is the only thing that will stop their eternal bleeding and the death of their souls, as they are brought to repentance and faith in Jesus Christ.

Consider the following scenario. You are a police officer who receives a call of a traffic collision, with injuries. As is sometimes the case, you arrive before fire and paramedics. You see a man on his back, in the middle of the street. He was thrown from his car, by the force of the collision. You rush to his side and see that his arm is broken and that he has a gaping wound in his chest, which is bleeding profusely. The man is in shock and is unaware of the seriousness of his condition. He can't see his chest, but he can see his arm. Still conscious, he looks up at you and screams, "Help! My arm is broken! Do something about my arm!"

It's obvious to you that the wound in the man's chest is far more serious than his broken arm. You bend down and begin to apply direct pressure to the wound in his chest. Your hands are now covered with his blood. The man screams again that his arm is broken. You holler back at him to lie still. The man demands that you stop putting so much weight and pressure on his chest and instead get a splint and bandage for his arm. What would you do?

Would you stop addressing the potentially mortal chest wound in order to make the man feel better about his arm? Of course you wouldn't! You have been called to protect and serve; and, under the circumstances, you are a better judge of what the wounded man needs than he is. Why? Because you see the extent of his injuries when he can't. You don't know how much time the man has left. But you do know that if you spend too much time addressing the injury to his arm he will die as a result of the chest wound. You don't want him to simply feel better. You want him to survive.

The man continues to be uncooperative--yelling and thrashing about--because all he can think about is his arm. "Look!" You tell him. "You have a terrible wound in your chest. You are bleeding severely. If we don't get this bleeding stopped, it won't matter that you have a broken arm. You'll be dead! Now, hold still so I can help you."

The man calms down. His arm still hurts, but he now realizes there are more important issues than his broken arm. He doesn't want to die. He understands that not only do you want to help him, but that you also know what you're doing. Instead of complaining about the pressure you are putting on his chest, he is thankful that you are trying to stop the bleeding.

As a follower of Jesus Christ, you have received the "Code-3" call to reach the entire world with His gospel. People are dying all around you--most of them now facing eternity in hell--and you know it. In the law enforcement family, one of our brothers or sisters behind the badge sacrifices his or her life, in the line of duty, every 57 hours. 2-3 times that many commit suicide every year. They are troubled with broken relationships, work stress, alcoholism and other forms of substance abuse, and a bitterness and hardness of heart that often comes from seeing the worst of what man can do to his fellow man. Yet most of them are completely unaware that they are bleeding to death, spiritually. They are blind to the fact that once they pass from this life they will stand before a holy and righteous God who will judge them in righteousness. "And inasmuch as it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment" (Heb. 9:27).

Conclusion

You have the answer--not an answer to making all of their problems in this life go away. Remember, Jesus said, "These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world" (John 16:33). You have the answer (the cure) for their mortal wound--the terminal disease of sin. You know the One who has overcome the world, the One who can and will forgive their sin and grant them everlasting life--if they will turn from their sin and, by faith, trust Jesus Christ alone for their salvation. "And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved" (Acts 4:12).

When will you tell them? Will you wait until they ask? They may never ask. Will you wait until you feel "led," when you have already been commanded by Scripture to share your faith? When you are working the streets, you don't need a supervisor to tell you before every shift to go out and make arrests. You don't need the dispatcher to come on the radio and encourage you to make a traffic stop or to contact a suspicious looking person walking down a darkened alley. You know your job. You know why you are out there. You know the law and your department's policies and procedures. You know how to talk to and treat people. You know the right thing to do. The same is true when it comes to evangelism. "Therefore, to one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is sin" (James 4:17).

These are urgent times. An estimated 150,000 die every day. Thousands of people died in the time it took you to read this article. Don't wait any longer. When it comes to evangelism, you do not love people with your silence. Handle evangelism the same way you would handle a "Code-3" call--with care, courage, wisdom, discernment, and authority (in the case of evangelism, the authority of Christ and His Word). If you have been saved, then you have been led to share the Law and the gospel with lost people. Now, go share your faith, while you still have time.

3 comments:

pastorbrianculver said...

great article. I have been having an interesting conversation with a pastor on my blog. He believes we should just "love" people and create a relationship with them first. Myself and several others on the comments were trying to show him why we need to show urgency. What if I only have 3 minutes to live? Will you go buy me some coffee? Or tell me what I need to know to go to heaven? It is scary because this man is a seminary trained pastor and yet his lack of knowledge of the Bible is amazing. He didn't think that Jesus ever said the word REPENT and he wanted me to prove it. He admitted that the world around him loves him and does not hate him. You can see it at the post dated Jan 17, 2007. I have posted some of the excerpts on todays post. Will you fight for Jesus? Part Two

thanks again for the article, very good!

pastorbrianculver said...

can you all please be praying for a little 9 yr old girl in my hometown? I worry for her safety. I have it on my blog today.

thanks for the prayers
Brian

http://time2changechurches.blogspot.com/2008/01/very-serious-post-today.html

Jo Ann said...

Excellent article! Many thanks for presenting the urgency message so clearly!

Jo Ann LeQuang