On winning the lost

 Senior bible study is still on the theme of winning the lost. They should be asking my dad, he would put Pastor Greg Laurie to shame, and he seems to have a come back for everything. What they do not seem to understand is that it is not mandatory, nor necessary to lay guilt trips on people. Jesus never did, unless they were spewing religious garbage at him. Religious folk are more than willing to not only spew, but also validate their feckless lives by tradition.

For weeks now it seems that we are being asked the question, how do we win the lost? I can tell you what does not work:

  • Pounding on a table or nearby object only seems to intimidate and irritate people, me included.
  • Leaning upon religious tradition is ineffective for most. Religious tradition restrains more people than it leads to life.
  • Screaming at them only conveys an angry God, and misrepresents Him. Considering that God sent his son because he loved the world, and that includes you, should make some sort difference in what you say and how you say it.

Salvation is only found in Christ.

Because of my faith in Christ, I no longer have to rely on the law for my righteousness (tradition often gets substituted for law – do not go there). Do not allow yourselves to think that this was exclusive to the Jews. Every church is filled with bylaws and demands. To this day, some churches will not allow women inside the church building without their heads covered. Christ came to set us free, free to live for him and to the Father.

Romans 10:4 ESV For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.

There is a catch to it though, this freedom only applies to the believer, and if I were pitching salvation to you, you would not be there yet.

All right then, get me there.

John 3:36 ESV Who ever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.

In effect, I am trying to sell life to you. That may seem like an odd way to put it, but it is true. The opposite of life is death, but we all have eternal spirits, which scripture tells us are more real than the physical world around us. What is death then if I live eternally? Adam had the same dilemma, for God had told him (Adam then passed that info along to Eve) that eating from that one particular tree would bring death. Satan’s ploy then, and play on words, was meant to get around that logic. Really, did he really mean that? They had no reason to not believe God, and yet standing there, hearing the arguments of the serpent, and then watching his woman bite into the fruit and not drop dead instantly opened the door to doubts.

Adam would not have been aware of the difference until he bit into the fruit, and he did. Instantly the realization of his separation from God hits; he may have said, I have never felt this before, as a rush of emotions and fears wash over him. It took over nine hundred years for his body to die, but the separation from God was immediate.

This separation was one-sided. The creator of life and knowledge was very much aware of where they were in the garden, and yet he does something brilliant, he calls out to the man who has hid himself in the bushes because of the shame he now feels. God treated his creation with respect. Do you now realize that the death we carry, an aspect of God’s wrath, has everything to do with separation?

Do you need me to tell you that everything around you is dying? I think your wise enough to know that. The problem is that you are comfortable in your hot tub. Look around you, and then look at yourself. Everything is going downhill fast. There is a day coming, sooner than you wish to believe, in which Christ will come back for believers. For those that chose not to follow Jesus, the time that follows will be a living nightmare.

One of the guys sitting there said, “John 3:36 only has one demand.” Is that the case? It does say that who ever believes in the Son has eternal life. Now you really have to start asking questions.

What does believe mean?

Believe – To credit upon the authority or testimony of another; to be persuaded of the truth of something upon the declaration of another, or upon evidence furnished by reasons, arguments, and deductions of the mind, or by other circumstances, than personal knowledge. When we believe upon the authority of another, we always put confidence in his veracity.

So the answer is no! This is not a simple, one-part agreement. You are persuaded by the truth of something. When Jesus said this, he had spoken, and acted out what the Father had shown him. He had shown them life and the life emanated from the Father.

The people hearing him say this understood what he meant. It was no secret, no mystery.

Jesus it seems was intentional about giving evidence. Things meant to convince them and move them toward belief. If you have read the Old Testament, where it talks about the early days of God’s relationship with Abraham, God knowing that Abram was just a man, demonstrated His commitment to Abram with “as for me” statements. God then proceeds to do what he said. This increases the validity of a man, making him believable.

Apparently, the Jews had standards for believability, and Jesus fulfilled them all. This begins to come clear as you look at Matthew 8:2.

Matthew 8:2 And behold, a leper came to him and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, if you will, you can make me clean.”

The Jewish New Testament Commentary states:

By the first century, Judaism had developed a list of major signs the true Messiah could be expected to give as proof of his identity (see Matthew_16:1-4). Healing a leper was one of them. Another was casting out a deaf, dumb and blind demon (Matthew_12:22-23). Other Messianic signs and references to them are found at Matthew 11:2-6 and John_6:25-33, John_9:1-41, John_11:1-52. The comments for Matthew 16:1 are: Sign from Heaven. A triple wordplay: (1) the appearance of the sky (heaven), which foretells the weather; (2) a sign from God (Heaven); and (3) “signs of the times” (Matthew_16:3), where “times” evokes both weather seasons and where we stand in the flow of history. See Matthew_3:2.

John the baptizer, sitting in prison at this point, wants to know if Jesus is the Messiah they are looking for.

The JNTC continues with: Having instructed the Twelve and sent them away, Yeshua continues his itinerant healing and preaching; the narrative joins up with Matthew_9:36. The disciples of Yochanan the Immerser come to Yeshua with a message “in code,” which he also answers in code (Matthew_11:2-6).

Here is how Matthew’s gospel describes the exchange.

Matthew 11:2-6 NASB Now when John, while imprisoned, heard of the works of Christ, he sent word by his disciples and said to Him, “Are You the Expected One, or shall we look for someone else?” Jesus answered and said to them, “Go and report to John what you hear and see: the BLIND RECEIVE SIGHT and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the POOR HAVE THE GOSPEL PREACHED TO THEM. “And blessed is he who does not take offense at Me.”

If they were looking for signs that Jesus was the Messiah, he did not miss one of them. He verbally lays out the menu for John’s disciples. You have to know that others saw this as well, especially the religious folk, as they were looking for evidence to have him killed.

In response to the adamant way in which the “teacher” laid this out for us, one of the men, an older, contentious, marine said, “why should I waste my time with Romans 10: 9-10? It demands I do two things. I am sticking with John 3:36, it only has one requirement.” I believe I covered the word belief of John 3:36, but perhaps I am missing something.

Romans 10:9-10 gives a bold contrast to John 3:36, or does it?

Romans 10:9-10 NASB that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved;   (10) for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.

“. if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved” It seems like two parts are necessary.

Confess – To own, acknowledge or avow, as a crime, a fault, a charge, a debt, or something that is against one’s interest, or reputation.

Taking this at face value, we simply acknowledge the Lordship of Jesus over our lives.

Wait a minute here. Standing on the street corner, trying to save some person from the pull of hell, before the next bus comes, did I fail to mention the commitment involved in this decision?

If I think in terms of restraint, then a yoke would certainly do that, but restriction seems to be the general idea people have when you begin to present Jesus to them. However, Jesus told us his yoke was easy. I cannot say that I have not felt it, but it has never occurred to me that it was ever a burden. I do believe that most of the burden ensued by putting on this yolk, has more to do with constraints religion places on us. Jesus was the freest man I ever met. Certainly, he fulfilled the law, but he constantly broke it. I so wish I could dance before the Lord without restraint. I did it a couple of times when I was sure there was no one watching and it was so liberating.

Just the idea of someone being lord over our lives infers subservience, and our broken nature fights the idea of submitting. Did Jesus ever convey dismay at being God’s Son? No, there was a pride and knowledge that he was representative of the Father’s authority and power. The Greek word for Lord is kurios and undeniably conveys someone supreme in authority. If I am going to confess Jesus as my Lord, then I am clearly giving him a supremacy over me. That may be something that needs to be understood in the course of time.

Is it possible to confess without belief?

I suspect we did it all the time as children. Remember when, as children, we said the pledge of allegiance to the flag. Seriously, a flag, how about some strong moral conviction or goal, but we were just kids and did what we were told. To be honest, there was an implied punishment for non-compliance.

To believe also carries the definition: to expect or hope with confidence. How do you get to that place without some deeper explanation? It is not the mere pronouncement of eternal judgment for those outside of Christ that moves people toward God. Again, my mind goes back to Abraham. How effectively would God have promoted the life he had in store for us, if he started his pitch talking about the fiery damnation that awaits those who reject him? I might have responded affirmatively, merely to escape some future pain and not have a stitch of sincerity about me.

Have you ever noticed that eternal condemnation comes upon them that “take the mark, AND worship the beast?” Children are the most susceptible to tactics like this because their hearts are tender and do not want to see a family member beheaded because they did not give the right answer. Here in America, we opened our borders and if nothing else allowed some hideous diseases back into the country that had not been seen for over 30 years. How do we do handle those diseases now? We excoriate doctors and parents who refuse to comply with voluntary inoculations. Did you catch that, voluntary? So ask yourself, how many people will be coerced into taking a mark and then suddenly realize that the next step is the selling of your soul?

We should be able to see that there really is no difference between what Jesus said in John’s gospel, and what Paul wrote to the Romans. They both imply a conviction, based in hope, which moves you to follow the one who gave his life and then rose from the dead so that you could live with Him. I do not have to concern myself over the judgment that is to come upon the earth against those that have rejected Christ, for that does not apply to me (We mistakenly call this period of judgment or wrath, the great tribulation. While there is great tribulation associated with the judgment, that time of tribulation is specific to the last half of that judgmental period, and is so great that Jesus stated, that no one would survive if God did not stop it.) What does apply to the life of every believer, is tribulation; for it is the thing, that Jesus said you would have plenty of. For many Mid Eastern Christians recently, it has been deadly.

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