Walking in Accountability

For much of my time as a believer, I made a conscious effort to pursue after the Lord by myself. This doesn’t mean that I wasn’t attending church or Bible studies, but it does mean that there were aspects of my walk with Jesus that I was dangerously attempting in isolation. During my senior year of high school, God blessed me with a group of friends that not only studied the Word together, but kept each another accountable to daily Scripture reading. Throughout this time, God gave this community a desire to expand that accountability. It began to grow in other areas such as personal holiness. By loving each other despite our sin, we reflected God’s love for his people. Tim Keller writes in The Meaning of Marriage: Facing the Complexities of Commitment with the Wisdom of God,

To be loved but not known is comforting but superficial. To be known and not loved is our greatest fear. But to be fully known and truly loved is, well, a lot like being loved by God. It is what we need more than anything. It liberates us from pretense, humbles us out of our self-righteousness, and fortifies us for any difficulty life can throw at us.

As believers, we have been designed for community. Without it, we are far more susceptible to the desires of the flesh, and far less encouraged in our pursuit of a deeper relationship with the Lord. This is what makes accountability so important.

If you do not have a community of friends around you that act as an accountability group, reach out to your church. If you do not have a church, please contact us for resources on finding gospel-preaching churches in your area.

Once you have a small group of friends, begin meeting together for Bible study and prayer while you consider how you might commit yourselves to one another and to the Lord. Since arriving to college, the Lord has opened up so many doors for deeper accountability with fellow brothers in Christ. Shortly after arriving on campus, the Lord allowed me to meet a group of other freshmen who were passionate about the gospel and had a similar desire to see the Lord change and mold us through accountability. A few weeks into college, my friends and I began meeting in dorm rooms as we studied the Scriptures, prayed for one another, and encouraged each other. As time went on and we grew comfortable with one another, and each person committed to walking in accountability in both Scripture reading and personal holiness. I watched this community develop and see the Lord move as nineteen year-old men confessed their sins to one another, prayed for one another, and encouraged one another with the truths of the gospel.

The first night that this happened was one of my favorite nights of college thus far, because I remember leaving with a zeal for the Lord and a heart full of gratitude. As time has gone on, we have begun to keep one another accountable in other areas as well. In this concise article, I will address a few of the ways that you can walk in accountability with one another.

Scripture Reading (2 Timothy 3:16)

Charles Spurgeon once said, “Nobody ever outgrows Scripture; the book widens and deepens with our years.” Daily Scripture reading is one of the most important spiritual disciplines for Christians. At first, it can be difficult and even scary to approach Scripture, but the benefits that come as a result of faithful devotion to the Word each day are innumerable.

There are many places within the Scriptures that command the reading of Scripture. In Psalm 1, the Psalmist describes a stark contrast between the man who seeks counsel from the world and the man whose “delight is in the law of the Lord.” The latter is known by his meditation on the law day and night while the former is known by his destruction. In Matthew 4:4, Jesus quotes Deuteronomy 8:3 saying, that “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” As Christians, it is clear that we have been called to commit ourselves to reading and delighting in the scriptures.

Prayer (1 Thessalonians 5:17)

There are many similarities between our commitment to prayer and Scripture reading. In the same way that Scripture reading is foundational to our Christian walk, prayer fosters spiritual growth and fuels our desire for personal holiness and evangelism. Both of these spiritual disciplines are ways in which we interact and grow in our knowledge of the Father. In fact, Scripture reading and prayer are dependent on one another. Scripture reading informs our understanding of the God to whom we pray to and prayer illuminates and helps us understand the Word that we read. Committing to seek God in daily prayer can seem difficult, but the rewards of growth and joy that come as a result remind us why we pray.

I would encourage you to consider praying each day for specific people in your life, for your school or workplace, non-believers in your community and for believers across the world. Prayer is powerful, not because of the person praying but because the God who we are praying to. In the words of The Valley of Vision, “Let me know that the work of prayer is to bring my will to thine, and that without this it is folly to pray.” The purpose of prayer is not that God’s will would be conformed to ours, but that our will would be conformed to God’s.

Personal Holiness (1 Peter 1:16)

As we approach, perhaps, the most stereotypical spiritual discipline, we must be reminded that personal holiness is not limited to merely avoiding lustful actions. Personal holiness is putting our joy in the Creator rather than in created things, including ourselves. I believe that at the root of all of our sin is unbelief. When we sin, we are displaying a lack of belief that Jesus is better. Austin Stone Church put it well in their song, “Jesus is Better” when they wrote:

In all my sorrows, Jesus is better – make my heart believe
In all my victories, Jesus is better – make my heart believe
Than any comfort, Jesus is better – make my heart believe
More than all riches, Jesus is better – make my heart believe
Our souls declaring, Jesus is better – make my heart believe
Our song eternal, Jesus is better – make my heart believe

James 5:16 says, “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.” As Christians living in accountability, we must confess our sins to one another when we fall short and meet each other with grace as the Father greets us. Admitting that you have fallen short and praying that the Lord would lead you to kill this sin is an essential part of walking in personal holiness accountability.

We kill sin because we believe that Jesus is better. We kill sin because we want to place our joy in the finished work of Christ. We kill sin because we know if we don’t it will kill us, as John Owen famously argued. All of this is done not out of a desire to earn the approval of God, but out of an understanding that while we could never earn His approval, in his grace God provided a substitutionary atonement for us. Our understanding of God, as revealed by the Scriptures and strengthened through our faithfulness to prayer, leads us to kill sin.

Evangelism (Matthew 28:19)

In light of all of this, we should be passionate about seeing others “glorify God and enjoy him forever.” This means that we must share what the Lord has done in our lives and declare his atoning work. Psalm 107:2 says, “Let the redeemed of the Lord say so, whom he has redeemed from trouble.” God, through his Scriptures, has commanded the people of God to make known the work of God. As believers, we can wrongly assert that the call to fulfill the Great Commission is only for mission trips and only applies to one week out of the year, but in fact, God has called us to live on mission. He has called us to share the gospel with the homeless man on the street, the co-worker in the office, the student in the dorms, and the non-believing family member in the home.

God has called his people to declare the gospel. The easiest way to do this is by fulfilling Psalm 107 and declaring what the Lord has done in your life. We should regularly practice articulating and sharing the gospel through our testimony. This is something that could be implemented into your Bible studies or could be practiced in another time. Maybe even consider going out to evangelize with your small group. We have been redeemed by this gospel and it would be foolish to keep it to ourselves. We need accountability to aid us as we fight both the fear and laziness that is so prevalent among us.

All of these spiritual disciplines are connected. Scripture reading and prayer are the fuel that propels us to fight sin and to share the gospel with others. May God lead us and give us the desire to walk in accountability with one another so that we might love him even more and may he remind us of his great love for us. We will stumble and we will fall, but his grace is sufficient in our weakness. In the words of Matt Chandler, “You can’t out sin the cross of Christ.” May we rejoice in that truth as we reflect upon the love of God displayed through the cross.

Did God choose whom he would save?

If God did not act first, no one would be saved. -RC Sproul

A year and a half ago I would have opposed a belief that I now hold dear to my heart, and that is this: God chooses whom He saves. Today, I agree with AW Pink who argued that, “reduced to its simplest terms, election means that God chose me before I chose Him.” As Pink argues, the reason why this doctrine is so detested by mankind is that the doctrine of election “makes nothing of the creature and everything of the Creator; yea, at no other point is the enmity of the carnal mind so blatantly and hotly evident.”

God chose exactly whom He would save before the foundation of the world. The gut reaction of many modern-day evangelicals would is, “What! Why would a good God not save everyone?” The question we should really be asking in light of our radical sinfulness is, “Why would a good God save anyone at all?” We should never for a moment imagine that anyone on earth is entitled to grace in the first place. No one deserves, merits, or is entitled to any grace at all. If they did, it would not be grace, (Romans 11:6). God is not obligated to pardon a single sinner, yet His glorious grace has already caused countless sinners to not only be forgiven, but adopted as His precious sons and daughters for all eternity. The cost of saving them was high; He purchased His elect by the precious blood of Jesus Christ. Paul describes the great love that God has shown His elect in Romans 8: “Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect?… Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?” (8:33, 35).  Let us then approach this issue with humility and gratitude knowing that we are recipients of unfathomable mercy and grace and that we are not in the position to question or criticize God, let alone ever claim that He is unjust.

Paul wrote in Ephesians that God “chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace…” (Ephesians 1:4-5). In Revelation, John writes that the names of the elect were “written down before the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who was slain” (Revelation 13:7-8). Those whose names are “written in the book” will be saved. As believers, we can conclude from these two passages that God has loved us since eternity past and knew our names even before creation. Christina Perri’s famous song, “I’ve loved you for a thousand years,” is pathetic and soft in comparison to the love God has shown His children. Your name was so precious to Him that He decided to save you by the blood of “the Lamb who was slain” even before man had fallen or had even been created. But what about the obvious fact that not everybody’s name was written down on that list? Has God truly not chosen to save some people on this earth? Let’s discuss this.

I was afraid to study this issue, probably because I was scared where it would lead me. I knew that believing in predestination would result in believing God had chosen to save some and not others. I think I was so resistant because in my heart to some extent I believed we all deserve grace or that we all had to make a choice to “allow” God to convert us. I didn’t realize that God sovereignty is not limited by man’s free will. I believed my salvation rested on my decision to choose Jesus or something like that. But could it have been true that all along I never had autonomy over my life and destiny? Yep, pretty much. And thank God I did not. If God did not intervene and it was up to me, I would never have come to Christ and I would not be typing this right now. We are incapable of following Christ until God works in our heart. The Lord Jesus declares in John chapter 6 that, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day” (John 6:44), and, “All that the Father gives me will come to me and whoever comes to me I will never cast out” (6:37). He also declares that “And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he is giving me, but raise it up on the last day.” (6:39) When Christ here preached the sovereignty of God in salvation, “The Jews grumbled about him,” (6:41) and “many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him” (6:66), leaving only Him and twelve disciples. These verses make it clear that:

  1. The doctrine of God’s sovereignty in salvation would be important even if Christ didn’t talk about it in the Gospels, but obviously because Christ Himself preached it, and was willing to lose followers over it, we can know that it matters to Him, and therefore, it should matter to us. This glorious truth was not concocted by John Calvin or R.C. Sproul, but preached by our Savior Himself, and written of throughout the whole Bible, (if you don’t agree with me, read Dr. Steven Lawson’s book Foundations of Grace where he goes from Genesis to Revelation showing how the entire Bible defends the sovereignty of God).
  2. We are hopeless and cannot “come to [Jesus] unless the Father” draws us to Him (verse 44).
  3. “All that the Father gives [Him]” will end up coming to Him, (37, 39). God’s call of sinners to faith in Christ is effectual. He is truly mighty to save.
  4. 100% of the people God chose before He created the world come to Jesus and He will lose none of them (37, 39). “No one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.” (John 10:29)
  5.  This will offend some, indeed, “When many of the disciples heard it, they said, “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?” (6:60) This topic is divisive, (66). It’s offensive and controversial; it always has been (41).

While it offended some and will offend more, this doesn’t make what Christ said any less true, and may we never apologize for the sovereignty of God. Paul celebrates how God is the one who saves us from start to finish: “For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.” (Romans 8:29-30) Theologians call this passage “The Golden Chain.” It is unbreakable and none of the predestined and foreknown elect of God are lost. Foreknown here does not mean God had knowledge of what people were going to do and then acted accordingly, but that God chose these individuals out of mercy and set His love on them. All of those foreknown by God are regenerated, justified, sanctified, and glorified, and God is the one who carries out each step. 100% of the people God foreknew and predestined end up in glory.

Our Savior makes the truth of election more undeniably clear in John 15, when He states that, “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide…” (John 15:16). Therefore, if you are a believer you cannot take credit for it. You ought to thank God that your eyes were opened. Now, did God choose us because we are better than other people? Absolutely not, for

God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.
1 Corinthians 1:27-30

Not only is it God who chooses who will be saved, but it is God who performs the act of salvation, leaving no room for anyone to boast; “So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy” (Romans 9:16). Our good works are like filthy rags, (Isaiah 64:6). Therefore we cannot earn our way to God or do anything to appease His just wrath. Indeed, “For by the works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight…” (Romans 3:20), again, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9), and again “But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise grace would no longer be grace.” (Romans 11:6) When a group of men were shocked by some of Jesus’ teachings on salvation, they asked Him “Who then can be saved?” (Matthew 19:25). Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26). Our salvation depends on God, not on who we are or what we do.

Our salvation not only does not, but cannot hinge on anything anything we do, even a decision of the will. It must rest on God alone and His will. We can’t do anything good without God’s grace:  “those who are in the flesh cannot please God” (Romans 8:8). We are unable to please God until we have been born again, and therefore we cannot believe in or follow Jesus until we have been born again; “But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God (John 1:12-13). The ones who “receive him” must be born of God, and that does not happen by the “will of man, but of God.” We therefore do not choose to be born again. Lazarus obviously cannot follow Jesus until Jesus raises his dead corpse back to life. We do not choose to believe in Jesus and then are born again, but rather we are born again and then we will choose to believe in Jesus. Any person who has not been born again has no will to receive Christ until he is born again. How can you argue that a spiritually dead slave to sin is free to accept the Gospel when “those who are in the flesh cannot please God” (Romans 8:8)? It is impossible! The Bible makes it clear that a sinner who has not been born again cannot accept or understand the things of God: The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.” (1 Corinthians 2:14) Therefore, those who receive Christ have already been born “of God.” Jesus makes this clear to Nicodemus:

Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God… unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” –John 3:3,5-6

When we understand the incredibly liberating truth that God is sovereign in salvation, it ought to make us the most humble creatures on the planet and give us rest. There is nothing we did to earn God’s love, and there is nothing we can do to lose it. As God’s adopted children, we are absolutely safe in His arms forever.  Perhaps, you are unconvinced and reluctant to believe something that appears so unloving to you, or maybe you think it would be immoral or unjust for God to chose to save some and choose to damn others. In Romans 9, Paul boldly asserts that God, “has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills” (Romans 9:16). God is God, and He is free to save whomever he chooses. Every single person in Hell deserves to be there, and especially because Hell is where we all deserve to be, we are in no place to question Him, or blasphemously accuse Him of being unjust. Yet still, our twisted and prideful hearts are inclined to do that exact wretched thing. Paul even writes that, “You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?” (Romans 9:19) Here is his response:

But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory— even us whom he has called. –Romans 9:20-24

God is God, and we are not. Our chief end is to glorify Him and enjoy Him forever. This passage makes it clear that God will either be glorified in our salvation by His mercy towards sinners, or in our damnation by His justice towards sinners, and that it is up to Him, “the potter”, to do what he pleases. May God forbid us from blasphemously accusing Him of being unjust. No one deserves grace, the elect get mercy, the damned receive justice, and God gives no one injustice. Unless everyone deserves to be in Heaven, we have no ground to call election unjust. May we neither arrogantly use this glorious topic for foolish debates nor avoid believing and studying this truth out of anger or fear, but may we all praise and thank our God in tears for choosing vile sinners like us to be redeemed by the blood of Jesus as we get to know our amazing God more and more.

How Should I Share the Gospel?

I tend to fear offending man more than I fear offending God. I tend to want to please man more than I want to please God. In my mind, my reputation and my personal comfort are precious treasures that evangelism probably will rip away. I often feel too embarrassed to talk about Jesus in public. I often find myself questioning why I should make such a costly sacrifice to myself in order to obey Jesus. So why should we evangelize when the cost appears so high and the fear is so intense?

I believe that the first and primary  reason we should evangelize is to glorify the God who commanded us to do so. Whether it is by starting a conversation with the person next to you on a bus, building a relationship with a coworker or classmate, engaging with people on the street, standing up and preaching in public, or posting about the Gospel on instagram, we must stand up and obey Christ’s command to share the Gospel as Christians have been doing for two thousand years. He has commanded it, we must obey it, and delayed obedience is a form of disobedience. Christ says that “anyone of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:33) I am confident that the command to “renounce all that he has” includes renouncing his reputation, his comfort, and even his life if that is what is required of him. In the end, that is worth it to obey Jesus, and it is also worth it if sinners are saved. And as Christians, we do believe that unless they repent and believe the Gospel they will be damned. So how can we withhold the Gospel of grace from them with a clear conscience?

Out of the abundance of a heart that loves God and unsaved sinners, we ought to enter into evangelism with joy. In Philemon 1:6, Paul tells Philemon that he prays “that the sharing of your faith may become effective for the full knowledge of every good thing that is in us for the sake of Christ.” Here we see that God can use sharing the faith to help us grow in our faith. Almost everyone that practices evangelism knows that it helps us grow in many valuable ways. When it is done biblically it aids us in our battle to kill our pride as we take our stand next to Moses, who, “when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin,” (Hebrews 11:24-25). So let me ask, when will we grow up and take our stand with him? This means stepping forward as an unashamed ambassador of Christ and trying to glorify Him regardless of the consequences. Evangelism will not always be comfortable, people will not always repent, and both persecution and rejection will come in a variety of forms, “Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted,” (2 Timothy 3:12). As Christians, the amazing joy of bringing glory to our God and seeing sinners come to Christ is incomparable and worth every ounce of discomfort and rejection.

We know that we are not responsible for the results of evangelism, but rather we are called to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ, biblically, gracefully, blamelessly, honestly, and in love. The Bible teaches us that the results of evangelism lie solely in the Spirit’s hands. Their conversion doesn’t lie in our hands, and it should comfort us to know that it doesn’t lie in their hands either. God is the one who gives His people ears to hear and eyes to see. God is the one who softens hearts and illuminates minds. God is the one who draws people to His Son Jesus. Not us. Indeed, “the salvation of the righteous is from the LORD” (Psalm 37:39), and “to God, the Lord, belong deliverances from death.” (Psalm 68:20) The results of evangelism and the process of salvation lie in His hands alone. Therefore, no redeemed sinner or evangelist can ever boast in anything except our amazing God. We have no choice but to “ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name” (Psalm 29:2), and because ALL the glory is due to his name, we must ascribe it all to Him. May God forbid it that we ascribe it to ourselves, to a prayer we prayed to “invite Jesus into our heart”, to our evangelistic skill (which is from God if we have any), to their ability to believe the Gospel (which is from God if they have any), or to literally anything accept God. We therefore evangelize out of love for God and neighbor: for God’s glory and not for our own glory. I know that evangelism is hard and uncomfortable and I have so many days where I am overcome with fear when I want to share the Gospel with someone, and even days when I don’t want to share the Gospel at all. I think we all do and it’s hard. Even so, I plead with you, that out of love for Jesus and for your neighbors, that you would share the Gospel and pray for God to change your heart. Share it with your classmates, share it with the lunch-lady, share it with your teachers and coaches, share it with your family, share it with your city or town, and share it with all the people that need it, (that is, all the people). Here are some verses and practical tips that I hope will help you evangelize.

1. Prayer

Always pray before, during, and after evangelism, if possible. It is very easy to forget this step, but in reality it is so important to the entire process. We must know that it is God who is fully capable of saving sinners at any given moment, and we must remember to bow before Him and pray for Him to use us, to open doors, to give us boldness, and to transform hearts. Remember that the results are up to Him. God encouraged Paul in a vision one night while he was in Corinth, telling him: “Do not be afraid, but go on speaking and do not be silent, for I am with you, and no one will attack you to harm you, for I have many in this city who are my people.” (Acts 18:9-10) God’s elect are His people, and we must not fear because the Shepherd has countless sheep in this world whom He laid down His life for. (John 10:11) We must also remember that all of God’s sheep will hear His voice and follow him, (John 10:4), and also that all of God’s sheep will end up believing the Gospel:

“And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed.” (Acts 13:48)

2. Lifestyle: Holiness, Love, Reason, Courage.

Be blameless and show love. While walking in vulnerability and humility, make it clear that you yourself are a sinner. We must do this in part so that people are not given an excuse such as unrepentant sin in us or self-righteousness in us to avoid our urgent message. Paul says “I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.” (1 Corinthians 9:26-27)Paul wants to “win the race.” Let us too exercise discipline and self-control so that we are not disqualified. Let us make sure we know what we are talking about. Have key verses about the Gospel memorized, study theology (this is not just for pastors), and “Let your reasonableness be known to everyone.” (Philippians 4:5) Every Christian is called to be both a missionary and a theologian, and that includes you and me. In all this, be fearless and courageous.

“…but the righteous are bold as a lion.” (Proverbs 28:1) 

“Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel, and not frightened in anything by your opponents.” (Philippians 1:27-28)

“In your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience…” (1 Peter 3:15-16)

While “speaking the truth in love,” (Ephesians 4:15) make every effort to show Jesus’ love through your tone, words, and actions, without compromising the truths of the Gospel. I would encourage you to memorize 1 Corinthians 13 and constantly ask yourself if your interactions are reflecting this kind of ‘agape’ love. The late Nabeel Qureshi, a Christian apologist, often spoke of how failing to show people love is failing to show people Christ. Let’s show people our Christ through our lifestyle and our words, not compromising either.

3. Overcoming the Terror of Evangelism

As you prepare to do any kind of evangelism, especially if you are new to it, it is more than likely that fear and anxiety will be in your heart, and it is likely that Satan himself will try to deter you. Fight this with prayer and love. Perfect love casts out fear, and I believe that if you have God-given love for the lost, love for God and His glory, submissiveness to Christ, and faith in the Gospel, you will be able to overcome fear and proclaim Jesus Christ to the world. If fear and laziness is hindering us, let’s examine our hearts and pray God would help us believe in the Gospel, love him, and love our neighbors enough to tell them the truth that has the power to set them free. What exactly are you so afraid of?

4. Do Not Forget to Actually Share the Gospel

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes…” (Romans 1:16) When you evangelize, don’t forget to actually evangelize. That means the Gospel must be shared, and it is ridiculous how often the conversation may veer off course or how tempting it is to just chat about religion or politics without actually sharing the Gospel. Even sharing one’s testimony, while usually important, is not necessarily sharing the Gospel (even though there are ways to weave it into a testimony). It will also almost always be tempting to either compromise on the truth of the Gospel or on the love we must have in presenting the Gospel, so keep an eye on yourself in that regard. It’s always easier to just say “Jesus loves you” and leave it at that. During conversations be patient and pray God opens doors for you to share, because a lot of people will try to avoid hearing it even though it is what they most definitely need to hear. I paid a guy in New York five dollars just to let me share the Gospel without him cutting me off. For some people, especially those who are trying to hide from God like Adam and Eve in the Garden, it will be incredibly hard for them to hear the truth. Do not forget or be surprised that the cross is offensive. (Galatians 5:11)

5. Having a Loving Conversation

An easy and non-confrontational method I love is to walk up to people and talk with them. Ask them if you can get their opinion on something, or ask them if you can ask them a few questions, and then, after getting their names or asking them where they are from or something, maybe say something like, ‘I’m a Christian, and I am not here to judge you or anything, but I was wondering if I could hear your thoughts on the Christianity.’ I will sometimes ask, ‘do you know what the Gospel is?’ If they don’t know what it is, I will ask if I can share it with them briefly. Even if they have already said they are atheist, instead of debating with them about that, (which is often a great thing to do), why not just tell them the amazing Gospel of devastating sin and glorious grace? When you speak about the Gospel, speak about it as if it is real… because it is. Sometimes it’s helpful to preface that question with, “do you have any religious or philosophical views.” When people realize that there is a loving person in front of them that genuinely cares about their thoughts, based on my experience they almost always will share their stance. If they look like they are about to walk away, ask “would mind if I just really quickly shared the Gospel with you?” and hopefully they will stay to hear you. If it is going well, or even if they seem pretty opposed, why not ask them if there is anything stopping them from trusting in Jesus right now? We must call for a responseI sometimes will even finish sharing the Gospel and then ask, ‘so when are you going to repent and believe the Gospel?’ Some have said “right now.” others have said “never.” You can’t know until you ask. If they reject Christ then and there, say, “will you think about these things?”

6. The Homeless

Buy homeless people lunch or snacks and stop to listen to their stories, share the Gospel with them, share your money with them, and pray for them. Remember their names and keep praying for them and loving them. Show them the love Jesus showed you. Give them a bible or a gospel tract, and invite them to church. Find out information for local missions, shelters, soup kitchens, and ministries that could help them out. Also, imagine if a homeless person were to come to your church service. Do you think they would feel warmly welcomed?

7. Gospel Tracts, Outreach New Testaments, Gospel of John

Cheap, easy, and while not as effective per person, you never know how God could use each

People have read them right before they were about to commit suicide and were saved. One man had one in his glove compartment and was looking for something to write a suicide note on and ended up a Christian. The great missionary Hudson Taylor was originally saved after receiving a Gospel tract. I have a friend at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago whose family came to Christ after her father immigrated from Cambodia and was converted through a Gospel tract someone gave him. Consider leaving one along with a big tip when you pay for your food, and don’t tip 10% and expect them to read it. Consider also writing something on the receipt. After a good conversation with a stranger, it is great to leave them with something to read, so have one handy. Maybe even write your phone number on it so that they can contact you with questions. Consider writing your own Gospel tract, perhaps one contextualized to your neighborhood, and print it out.  Be extremely polite when handing them out and when people reject it rudely, that is a God given opportunity to show grace, so show it. Your love in the face of their nastiness may speak more loudly to them than if they had read the tract. I recommend ordering “The Only Solution to the Greatest Problem” by John MacArthur.

8. Open-Air Preaching

Stand up and preach the Gospel in a graceful, hearable, and biblical way. Tell stories and make clear analogies while showing you love the people you are talking to. Your tone of voice matters. Just like the Gospel tract method, it’s a shotgun approach, but it’s also a time tested way that Christians have shared the Gospel throughout History. Jeremiah, Isaiah, Amos, Nehemiah, Noah, Jonah, Jesus, Paul, Stephen, and many more people in Scripture, and countless more throughout church history, who have stood up in public and preached boldly, and you may be called to do so as well. Great men like Spurgeon, Whitefield, and Knox preached in the streets and saw men converted, men who may never have entered a church and heard the Gospel if it weren’t for street preachers. God loves calling timid men to preach Christ and giving them supernatural boldness. Read of John Knox who ran away in tears when someone asked him to preach for his first time, and ended up preaching with such force that a hearer said it was more powerful and moving than “500 trumpets.” I started doing this and have five brothers at Wheaton who started doing it for the first time this year, and other brothers who have been doing it for years. Check out Paul Washer, Leonard Ravenhill, Jeff Durbin, Ray Comfort, and Jeff Rose on YouTube, they all have some great tips to draw from. This and tracts are like fishing with a large net, hoping to catch as many fish as possible or any fish if possible, whereas having individual conversations is like fishing with a rod with your eyes on the exact fish you want to catch and using the correct bait. You would be surprised as to how God uses this method, even if it is just through you sowing seeds. A.W. Tozer came to Christ after hearing a street preacher. George Whitefield preached to an estimated 10 million hearers, primarily through the open-air. When Paul went to a city, there were either riots or revival, so toughen up, expect resistance, and give it a try if you are called to this.

9. Conversation Starter

Pastor Voddie Baucham will often answer people’s ‘how are you’ with, ‘I’m better than I deserve.’ Which can spark curiosity in the person and open a door for the Gospel to be presented. Pastor Paul Washer recounted in a sermon how he has a friend who would answer every, ‘how are you,’ with, ‘I’m blessed,” and that the answer to why he is blessed is because Jesus was cursed. If you are going to just share about Christ like this make sure it is genuine and sincere.

10. Non Believers at the Table

When you pray for the food at a dinner with unbelievers, just share the Gospel in prayer. Ask if you can pray for the meal. Thank God for sending His only Son Jesus to die for all who will put their trust in Him. This can be good for those family members who are not open to talking about Christ but just happen to be at the dinner table. It can also start conversations following.

11. Going up to Your Crush

No matter what method you choose on this list or not on this list, just remember that this is just like going up to your middle school crush and talking to her. It’s really scary, but once you get the first word out you are committed and the fear subsides. Also a wingman could help, so bring a friend, especially if you are going to be sharing in a potentially physically dangerous environment.

12. Follow Up

This one is the most difficult for me. While we need to preach the Gospel to every person, it is ideal that we get them plugged into a Gospel-preaching church. It is important that this isn’t a one-and-done type interaction where believing in Jesus is like checking a box and then living the exact same way. Believing in Jesus is not like getting a flu shot or pressing a button a single time. While it must start with repentance and faith, true faith in Jesus should result in a lifetime of obedience and sacrificial love. I would encourage you to get their number and try to meet up for coffee if they are interested in learning more, have a series of Bible studies with them, or invite them to church, give them your number. When we make disciples, we should desire strongly for them to become disciple-making disciples themselves.

Can God override your unbelief?

Steven Furtick, a pastor from Elevation Church in Charlotte, North Carolina, preached a sermon titled “The One Thing Jesus Can’t Do.” The sermon was based upon Mark 6:5, and focused around the idea that Jesus is not able to overpower your unbelief in Him. But is that true? Is the Son of Man truly powerless against the stubbornness of man? To get some understanding as to where Furtick got this idea, let’s look at Mark 6:5: “He could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them.” He could not do any miracles there. Furtick, in his sermon, highlighted this portion of the verse as meaning that Jesus was not able to do anything in that context.

In truth, this verse means that it was not the proper time for Jesus to act. Jesus, surrounded by great unbelief, but not overcome, made the decision not to do more even though it was completely within His power to do so. The miracles that Jesus performed were not to show His power as man, but rather His identity as the Son of Man. The people in Nazareth were made aware of Jesus, yet their hearts were hardened to His true identity.

Hebrews 13:8 says that “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” The truth of this statement allows us to see that Jesus who performed miracles time and time again was still able to do so throughout his life without exception, for if He was limited, the verse wouldn’t be true and Christ wouldn’t be God. Although He chose not to heal the people of Nazareth in Mark 6:5, He was still able to heal before, after, and during this encounter. The reasons He didn’t was probably because it would fulfill His purpose of judging those who were unwilling to believe, and/or His Father in Heaven, to whom Jesus was perfectly obedient through his entire life, directed Him not to do so. Even if He performed miracles, those in his presence would remain unchanged in their beliefs of His power. No matter what miracles the people of Nazareth could have seen, their heart posture would not have changed, and they would have remained in unbelief.

But for the purpose of examining Furtick’s argument, what would it mean if Jesus could not do anything to help the people of Mark 6:5 and thus “cannot override your unbelief?” Could this mean that Hebrews 13:8 is untrue?

Interpreting Mark 6:5 to mean that Jesus was literally incapable of performing a miracle at this point in His life would render Hebrews 13:8 untrue, due to the fact that Jesus performed miracles before this moment and after this moment. If He did not have the power to perform a miracle here, yet had the power to perform miracles at points in the past and in the future, then this would mean He is not actually “the same yesterday and today and forever,” but that His power and sovereignty changes. This is obviously not the case, and therefore we cannot interpret Mark 6:5 to mean that. If it is interpreted this way, then many promises of God’s immutability, power, and presence in our lives would be deemed errant. From Scripture, we see that God is established as the unchanging Creator of all. Jeremiah is led by the Lord to a potter’s house, in which the Lord alludes that our lives are much like the clay in the hands of a potter: being shaped as He sees fit. In Romans, the allusion of the potter is again noted, with Romans 9:20-21 posing the rhetorical question,

But who are you, a human being, to talk back to God? Shall what is formed say to the one who formed it, ‘Why did you make me like this?’ Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for special purposes and some for common use?

The potter illustration illuminates the sovereign role of God in our lives and our salvation while minimizing our impact. As clay in the hand of a potter, we bend, twist, and shape according to God’s sovereign decretal will. We do not have the power to choose what becomes of us, or by what means we become that. To say otherwise, or to suppose that we have the final word in our salvation, is to say that clay can choose to mold itself into a bowl rather than a cup. Our salvation does not depend on our will or our exertion, our decision to invite Jesus into our hearts or our good works, but on God who has mercy. We cannot prevent God from converting us if He chooses to do so.

To illustrate this better, there are passages in the Bible that point to instances of salvation beyond the will of the one saved. In Acts 9, we see the conversion of Saul. The passage begins by saying, “But Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord…” Saul was arresting Christians and putting them to death. He sought not only to drive Christianity out of Jerusalem but rather the entire world, and was actively seeking out Christians to punish right before his salvation. He in no way desired to become what he was persecuting, yet God, through His power and will alone, struck him blind and spoke to him. God called him a “chosen instrument,” and asserted that the conversion of Saul was purposeful.

If God cannot override our unbelief, and our salvation is contingent upon us, how did Saul come to such a point of salvation? There was no long period of repentance, self-established realization of the need for a savior, consideration of evidence, or changing of his ways between his acts of treachery against the church and his salvation. No, God in his grace radically changed the heart of Saul on the road to Damascus. Even still, it is common for people to have the mindset that they have enough power to overcome God’s plan for them- which is a toxic and dangerous way to think.

This concept undermines the concept of salvation as well as the idea that we need to be saved by a savior while in the midst of sin. There are striking similarities between this and the Pelagian view (as opposed to an Augustinian view), which highlights that grace is not necessary for moral obedience. In recent years, a form of middle ground, sometimes referred to as “semi-pelagianism” has arisen. This teaching focuses on the idea that grace is necessary for righteousness, but it is not given sovereignly. It teaches that one must first complete certain “steps” or initiate the relationship to receive grace. This teaching is a dangerous mix of both salvation by works and an inflated sense of man. It claims that grace is necessary but not given outright, and therefore requires an action by the receiver. This view is not backed up by scripture. In Ephesians 2:8-9, it clearly states that “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.” So that no one can boast. The Bible clearly lays out for us that our salvation has nothing to do with what we have done, but rather what has been given and accomplished by almighty God for His elect. If there is something we do to earn it or deserve it then it wouldn’t be grace. Paul expresses this clearly in Romans 11:5-6:

So too at the present time there is a remnant, chosen by grace. But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise grace would no longer be grace.

In order for Steven Furtick’s ridiculous idea to be true, it would require Jesus to be all-powerful sometimes, true sometimes, honest sometimes, dependable sometimes. Even further, it would require the Bible, which highlights the unchanging and all-powerful nature of God, as inerrant sometimes. It would mean that we, as man, are more powerful than God. The mindset of needing to take steps on your own or complete certain works to become saved incorrectly represents the nature of a savior-and-saved relationship. The beautiful reality is that God, completely out of His abundant grace and mercy to undeserving sinners, plucked us from our sin without any boast of our own.

Photo by Careah Turvin