I don’t usually start my messages on a somber note, but I will today because that somber note moves us into the theme of today’s focus.
I titled this message: 2020 Vision – Looking at Evangelism and our text is from 1 Corinthians 9:19-22. I am quoting here from The Living Bible Translation because I like how it opens the text for me.
“. . . . I have freely and happily become a servant of any and all so that I can win them to Christ. When I am with the Jews I [am] as [a Jew] so that they will listen to the Gospel and I can win them to Christ. When I am with Gentiles who follow Jewish customs and ceremonies I don’t argue, even though I don’t agree, because I want to help them. When with the [unbelievers] I agree with them as much as I can, except of course that I must always do what is right as a Christian. And so, by agreeing, I can win their confidence and help them too. When I am with those whose consciences bother them easily, I don’t act as though I know it all and don’t say they are foolish; the result is that they are willing to let me help them. Yes, whatever a person is like, I try to find common ground with him so that he will let me tell him about Christ and let Christ save him.”
What was foremost in the apostle Paul’s heart? Clearly, it was the salvation of souls. Why? Because through revelation of Jesus Christ, Paul was convinced in his heart of hearts that Jesus is, and forever will be, the way, the truth, and the life. Many of you recognize His words in John 14:6. To which the Lord ALSO warned, “No one comes to the Father except by Me” (John 14:6)
Paul – the former anti-Christian terrorist – understood that eternal life is possible ONLY in and through the Lord Jesus Christ. But the Lord’s crystal-clear statement in John 14 has, throughout history, even to this present day, been so often ignored and rationalized away that you’d think Jesus never said it.
We are 2,020 years since the birth of our Lord Jesus – whom the Father sent to earth to rescue humanity from the devastating siren-call of Satan’s lies and seductions. And for what purpose does Satan seduce and lie to unwitting and spiritually blind men and women – but to bring them into the lake of fire with him.
His deceptions began in the Garden with our first mother. Moses tells us, “Now the serpent was more crafty than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said to the woman, “Indeed, has God said, ‘You shall not eat from any tree of the garden’?” The woman said to the serpent, “From the fruit of the trees of the garden we may eat; but from the fruit of the tree which is in the middle of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat from it or touch it, or you will die.’” The serpent said to the woman, “You surely will not die! For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
Did you catch that? The devil suggested to Eve that God was lying to her. And don’t think for a moment that Satan has changed his tactics. He hasn’t’ His lies continue. For example, only a few days ago I read this report regarding a world-known religious leader. This is part of what he said:
True disciples of Jesus do not proselytize. A Christian should never try to convince others of the truth of Christianity, but should simply give a testimony of consistency and wait for others to ask about the faith.
“The last thing I should do” he said, “is to try to convince an unbeliever. Never,” he said. “If someone says he is a disciple of Jesus and comes to you with proselytism, he is not a disciple of Jesus.”
As the devil lied to our first mother and told her God could not be trusted, Satan now deceives those in the Church to believe Jesus was not being honest when He said, “No one comes to the Father except by Me.”
But what exemplifies Church history, dating back to the apostles – what exemplifies Church history if not proselytism? Jesus COMMANDED His disciples to evangelize, to proselytize, to urge others to convert to the only faith that can save them from an eternal lake of fire.
"Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen." (Matthew 28:19-20)
It is a popular lie of the devil to deny that Christianity is the only means by which humanity can receive forgiveness of sins – forgiveness which is available ONLY through the blood of Jesus.
The Lord Jesus said again and again: “Blessed are those who hear with their ears and see with their eyes!” No wonder He warned the lukewarm church at Laodicea – and the lukewarm churches of today –many of which belong to the World Council of Churches – ‘I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot; I wish that you were cold or hot. So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will vomit you out of My mouth. Because you say, “I am rich, and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing,” and you do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked, I advise you to buy from Me gold refined by fire so that you may become rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself, and that the shame of your nakedness will not be revealed; and eye salve to anoint your eyes so that you may see.” (Revelation 3:15ff)
This world-known religious leader is also quoted as saying, “All good people are God’s children” – which is another demonic lie.
Jesus said to some of the religious men in His day: “You are of your father the devil.” (John 8:44). And the apostle John identifies the children of Satan this way: “By this the children of God and the children of the devil are obvious: anyone who does not practice righteousness is not of God . . . .” (1 John 3:10).
John further tells us in the first chapter of his gospel: “[Jesus] . . . came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. (John 1:10-13)
Listen! Not all good people are children of God. The ONLY people who have the right to be called God’s children are those adopted into His family through their faith and obedience to His Son. THAT is why Jesus Himself said, “No one comes to the Father except by Me.”
Regardless of the obfuscations and the rationalizations of some religious teachers, all those with whom we interact each day – if they do not love the Lord Jesus, if they are not continually seeking the Lord Jesus, then they are all in grave danger of never seeing the Lord Jesus after they die.
I’ve gotten into the routine each year of asking us how many of our number at Ashwood have died in the past year. That number is always for me a sobering number. But – and this is the point – how many of them died without loving the Lord Jesus, without even caring to know the Lord Jesus?
Please hear me. If that is how they took their last breath, then scripture tells us they are right now as we sit here – suffering in agony. And according to the infallible and unalterable word of God, their suffering will continue forever.
Oh, Holy Spirit, give us 2020 spiritual vision that will inform our hearts and our spirits to pray for our friends and loved ones – to pray that the "God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give them a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him. May we pray that the eyes of their heart may be enlightened, so that they will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward everyone who believes." (see Ephesians 1:17-19)
God help us prove to be living testimonies to others, sharing with all who need to hear the dire message that only faith and obedience to Jesus will gain for us eternal life. God help us remember the Holy Spirit’s words to the Christians at Rome – and to the Christians everywhere, “How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher? How will they preach unless they are sent? Just as it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news of good things!” (Romans 10:14-15)