Our Favorite Books of 2020

Olivia Frost, Assistant Editor 

Cross-Cultural Servanthood: Serving the World in Christlike Humility by Duane Elmer 

If you struggle to understand the nature of servanthood and calling that Jesus beckons for His followers to adopt as kingdom citizens, then I recommend reading Cross-Cultural Servanthood: Serving the World in Christlike Humility by Duane Elmer. This book provides diagrams and analogies that further extend the breadth of servanthood from numerous angles. He addresses the challenges and the victories that come when one acts as a servant among cultures that are different than their own. Elmer outlines a seven-part process of servanthood that radically changes day-to-day interactions by combatting biases and heart conditions of the believer. He insists that the servant displays openness, acceptance, trust, a learning mindset, and understanding eyes.

This book convicted me in many ways and consistently reminded me that the crutch of Christ-like servanthood is humility, which in today’s society seems to be a forgotten character trait. Elmer identifies that to be a servant one must have a proper perspective of the holy God we serve which brings a proper perspective of self-defined by lowliness of mind, gentleness of spirit and meekness of attitude. As a servant we must adopt a mindset of grace, recognizing that each individual the Lord has in our path is made in the Image of God and deserves to experience the common grace of our loving Father Jesus Christ.

 

Gabby Bass, Senior Book Review Editor 

Garden City: Work, Rest, and the Art of Being Human by John Mark Comer

Garden City: Work, Rest, and the Art of Being Human by John Mark Comer focuses on how we can not only work but also rest biblically. In a society that is filled with hustle culture, this book was a great reminder of God’s intentionality in designing us to have a balance between work and rest, especially to see how important rest is.

While this book has great theological truths, it is also very applicable and practical. I love how Comer shows that no matter what “work” may look like for us, it can be used for God’s glory and that purpose can be found there. I also enjoyed that this book talked about the Sabbath and the importance of taking one- however it may look for us. Comer does a great job of helping the reader re-evaluate one’s priorities and find their way back to God’s original intention for us as humans. This book has helped me slow down and be more intentional with my time. I think it’s a great read for all.

 

Emily Zell, Assistant Editor 

Silence by Shūsaku Endō

Shūsaku Endō’s Silence was the first book I read in 2020, and it was easily the most powerful. This book follows priests in Japan while Christians are being horrifically martyred. It wrestles deeply with the idea of apostasy—all the Christians have to do to avoid suffering is denounce Christ. It follows a priest and a man who constantly apostatizes and betrays him. Their relationship is chronicled as they battle with the harsh realities for Christians in Japan. 

The question cried throughout the novel is, “God why are you silent?” And throughout most of the book, it feels like He really is. People are being horrifically murdered for His name and nothing is being done about it. You can’t help but ache with the characters. It is graphic and sad and at the same time such a vivid image of the fragility of our faith; but it is also such an important read. It is rich and painful and transformative. I couldn’t recommend it more. 

 

Preston Blakeley, Editorial Director 

Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky

Fyodor Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment is perhaps the greatest work of literary redemption. Dostoevsky tells of Raskolnikov, the novel’s penniless and disheveled protagonist, who commits murder to prove that his ego can transcend man’s seemingly fictitious moral constraints. With raw Russian style and psychological depth, Dostoevsky condemns the reader into the severed intellect of the murderer, telling of his desired ascension, transgression, and eventual redemption. Where Raskolnikov believes he has successfully cast off the moral burdens intended for the weak, he is met with the reality that he has violated the Law of God. 

From a literary perspective, Dostoevsky’s novel is an impressive amalgamation of the intellectual debates of his day, a microcosm of the tensions between the rise of modern relativity and traditional authority. Yet, in the throes of doubt and anguish, Crime and Punishment seemed as if it came to me from Sinai, a providential and pointed gift from the Lord to a struggling and confused college student. When I was laboring to see confirmation of God’s authority in my life, Dostoevsky revealed to me that that authority was right in front of me. 

 

Nnanna Okafor, Senior Articles Editor 

The Practical Implications of Calvinism by Albert N. Martin

I can tell you from experience that it is easy to be caught up in learning about God and His works without using that information to deepen your relationship with Him. The Practical Implications of Calvinism by Albert N. Martin assists readers to better connect the theological information in their heads with the affections in their hearts. Knowledge of doctrine should always lead to greater enjoyment of God.

In this short booklet, Martin explains the ways in which a biblical understanding of salvation teaches us the depth of our sin and the great graciousness of the Lord Almighty. We should see in ourselves humility, holiness, and submission to God when we understand salvation rightly. By abiding by the scriptural principles described in this book, we will have deeper, more joyous experiences of God Himself. It has helped me receive theology as more than mere head knowledge.

 

Jacob Patton, Assistant Editor 

Girls Like Us: Fighting for a World Where Girls are Not for Sale, an Activist Finds Her Calling and Heals Herself by Rachel Llyod

Girls Like Us is a memoir by Rachel Llyod, but it is so much more than that. She discusses not only her story of how she was caught up in the commercial sex industry, but also the stories of the countless other girls she has worked with who have been sexually exploited. Discussing often ignored social factors of abuse, dysfunctional family upbringings, and the nature of a young women’s “choice” to enter into sex work, Lloyd’s sociological considerations of sex trafficking are raw and insightful.

With the enormity of sex trafficking becoming more and more prevalent and apparent in our world today, it is important for Christians to understand the nature of the evil we are fighting. Girls Like Us explains this in heart-wrenching detail with firsthand examples. In order to bring an end to the sex trafficking tragedy facing our country, the problems and solutions Rachel Llyod puts forward ought to be listened to. As Llyod suggests, regular girls get caught up in sex trafficking, and regular people can make a difference in preventing this.

 

Blair Thornton, Operations Director 

Candide by Voltaire 

Candide, a satire by Voltaire, follows the rollercoaster of a story that is Candide’s life. Meaning optimism, Candide exhibits the arguments between absolute optimism and cynicism. Candide believes in a perfect plan, where this is the best of all possible worlds. His idealism is challenged repeatedly as his life continues to take turns for the worse without any particular reason. From a distance this book seems like a fantastical story, but deeper thought will show how the destruction of Candide’s optimism causes questions of a perfect holy plan. 

Throughout the book, Candide learns that there is no method behind the madness of his life. Due to this, Voltaire forces Christian readers to question their belief in God’s involvement and good will. With a steady head and strong faith in Jesus, a challenged faith can become a matured faith. This is just what Candide can do for Christian readers.

 

Cole Shiflet, Executive Director 

Gentle and Lowly: The Heart of Christ for Sinners and Sufferers by Dave Ortlund 

Gentle and Lowly: The Heart of Christ for Sinners and Sufferers by Dane Ortlund is by far the most beautiful and touching book that I’ve read this year. Ortlund grabs a hold of Matthew 11:29 and squeezes the meaning out of it in a way that seems more like the writings of the Puritans than a 21st century best seller. Ortlund takes the statement, “I am gentle and lowly in heart,” and presents it as good news to sinners and suffers. Not only was this book well-written, but the timeless truths of God’s Word were taught, explained, and shared in a year when many of us needed it the most.

Are We Saved by Faith Alone?

Around 500 hundred years ago at the dawn of the Reformation, the topic that was ferociously debated between Protestants and Roman Catholics was how a person was saved from their sins. Unfortunately, many Christians today see what happened at the Reformation as unimportant. “We don’t really need that kind of division today, do we? Why can’t we all love Jesus and get along?” But what they don’t understand is that how we are saved is absolutely critical to the essence of Christianity. “If righteousness were through the Law, then Christ died for no purpose.” (Galatians 2:21).

What Do We Need to Be Saved From?

We must first understand the nature of God, the demands of His Law, our sin, and God’s justice. God is holy. The holiness of God refers to His moral perfection. There is no evil in God and all that He does and commands is good. The Law refers to what God demands morally of those made in His image. Since God is holy, His image bearers must be holy. He demands that we love Him with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength and love our neighbors as ourselves if we are to have eternal life (Luke 10:25-28). Our entire being must be turned towards both God and neighbor. 

The Ten Commandments show us what exactly loving God and neighbor looks like. In order to love God, you must not have other gods before you, nor have idols, nor take His name in vain, and you must honor the Sabbath, the day God rested after he created the world. To love our neighbors means honoring our parents, not murdering one another, not committing adultery, not stealing, not lying, nor coveting others’ possessions. You don’t need to have a Bible to know these things. Everyone, regardless of their religious upbringing, knows that you shouldn’t steal, murder, or lie. That’s because God has written His Law on everybody’s heart (Romans 2:15). Even if you’re not a Christian, your conscience still convicts you when you lie to a friend or boss.

You may be thinking, “Well I believe in God and have never committed adultery, murdered, or stolen before. I’ve kept the Law, right?” But the Law goes much deeper than that. Jesus teaches that if you have even lusted over another person’s body, you’ve committed adultery with that person in your heart (Matthew 5:28). He teaches that if you have ever become angry with someone for no righteous reason, you are liable to the judgement of God (Matthew 5:22). You may have not have stolen before, but you haven’t given everybody what was due to them. And let’s face it, you haven’t always honored your parents nor have you abstained from jealousy in all circumstances. 

As it relates to God, you’ve thought or said untrue things about Him. You may not bow down to idols, but you have certainly put your trust in money, education, or a significant other. And you don’t honor and worship God as the Creator and Sustainer of life that He is.

Why do we break God’s Law? It’s because we are sinners. Sin is a condition that we inherited from Adam. He disobeyed God by eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and threw the whole earth into corruption. We are naturally born in rebellion against God. Our sinful nature desires to break the Law of God. Because we have broken God’s Law, we deserve punishment. Since God is a holy and just, he must punish sin. If He didn’t punish sin at all or let some sins slide, He wouldn’t be just and we would have no foundation for justice in society. He threatens sinners with pouring out His wrath on them for all eternity (Romans 2:6-11). There is no amount of good works we can do that can change this reality. 

Who Is Our Savior and What Has He Done?

But the good news of the Gospel is this: “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons” (Galatians 4:5-6). God the Father sent God the Son to become a human like us but without sin, to be perfectly obedient to the Law that was given to us in order that He would give His life as a ransom to buy us back from the curse of the Law (Galatians 3:13), bringing us into communion with God. 

The Father sending His Son is profound, because God would have been perfectly just in letting all of us die in our sins. But He decided to have mercy on His enemies by taking the punishment they deserved so that they would be sons and daughters of His kingdom. Jesus suffered in this fallen world in order than He may keep the Law on behalf of sinners and exhausted the wrath of God on the cross. Jesus rose again on the third day from the grave so that sinners like us might rise with Him into new life. He perfectly loved God with all of His heart, soul, mind and strength, and loved His neighbor as Himself so that God would count His obedience to those who believe and freely give the reward of eternal life (2 Corinthians 5:21). 

The righteousness that God requires of us in the Law, He freely provides in the Gospel. On the cross, God counted the sins of all who would believe to Christ Himself so that He would be condemned and exhaust the wrath of God for everyone who believes. The curse that the Law demands upon all Law-breakers, the Gospel takes away in Christ. Jesus rose from the dead so that all of these promises would be true for everyone who believes, promising to come back again to give His people glorified bodies like His and bring forth a new heavens and new earth (1 Corinthians 15:17-19, 49, Revelation 21:1).

How Do We Receive the Benefits of Christ?

There is nothing we do to receive what Christ has done for sinners. “For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law” (Romans 3:28). We don’t have to be obedient to the Law in order to be justified. In fact, Paul would go as far as to say, “And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness” (Romans 4:5). A holy and just God justifies the ungodly. God requires no moral and personal transformation for one to be declared just in the court of God. This is not a contradiction because He justifies the ungodly on the basis of Christ’s life, death, and resurrection. We do nothing, but receive and rest in Christ for the forgiveness of our sins and the accrediting of His righteousness to us. We are saved by faith alone because the object of our faith, Jesus Christ, alone accomplished salvation.

What About Works?

What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? … So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. … You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone.
-James 2:14, 17, 24

Roman Catholics and Mormons bring up this passage from James to refute the Protestant doctrine of justification by faith alone. This is foolish because they ignore the entire Pauline corpus for the sake of a few verses in James 2. They must necessarily confess that James and Paul contradict each other.

But what are we to make of these verses? For one, Reformation theology has never confessed a faith that does not work. The Second London Confession teaches:

Faith thus receiving and resting on Christ and His righteousness, is alone the instrument of justification; yet is not alone in the person justified, but is ever accompanied with all other saving graces, and is no dead faith, but works by love.

Simply put, those who believe in Jesus will love God and others. If we do no good works (i.e. we are in unrepentant rebellion against God), our faith is no faith at all. When James says we are justified by works and not by faith alone, it’s good to point out in verse 24 that he says “you see.” He is referring to the church. The way the church understands who is and isn’t a Christian is by the works they perform. Good works vindicate true faith. If a professing Christian persists in unrepentant sin, then the church can know that person is not in the faith and needs love and discipline.

The Assurance of Salvation

Though good works are necessary, we would do well to heed the words of the great French Reformer John Calvin: 

When any one strives to seek tranquility of conscience by works, (which is the case with profane and ignorant men), he labors for it in vain; for either his heart is asleep through his disregard or forgetfulness of God’s judgment, or else it is full of trembling and dread, until it reposes on Christ, who is alone our peace.

Even after we believe in Christ, we are still sinners who do wicked things. This was Paul’s internal struggle: 

For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate… Wretched man that I am!
-Romans 7:15, 24

This is a repentant sinner. Repentance does not mean “stop sinning.” The Greek word for repentance is metanoia (meta means “change” and nous means “mind”). Thus repentance means “a change of mind.” Change your mind from thinking you are good and that sin is good and believe the truth that you are a sinner and that God’s Law is good (Romans 7:22). Repentance also includes a godly sorrow and hatred for having offended our Father. But in the midst of our sorrow and frustration with our indwelling sin we ask with Paul, “Who will deliver me from this body of death?” But we can joyfully answer with Him, “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 7:25). Jesus is our great Deliverer “who is alone our peace.” We can rest in Him because our salvation is not found in our good works or our victory over sin, but in Christ’s life, death, resurrection, and ascension for us.

Confess, Repent, Repeat: How God Uses Confession and Repentance to Draw Us Closer to Him

When was the last time you confessed sin in your life? This is a question we should ask ourselves daily and answer honestly. Confession is the only path to repentance and repentance is the only path to allowing Christ to pull us away from the sin he has already freed us from.

We can never defeat sin on our own. The only one that has achieved victory and freedom over sin is Jesus Christ, by his death and resurrection. This is so important: the sin in our lives can only be defeated by the power of Christ. We must relinquish ourselves to Christ’s lordship through true confession and repentance in order to be free from sin in our lives.

True repentance is followed by change which is achieved by God in us. According to Romans 12:2, we must be transformed by the renewal of our mind, which is only by the power and grace of God. Once there is transformation, God has made us able to discern what is good and acceptable because of the Holy Spirit in us. Once we have been saved by Christ, He has forgiven us of our sins once and for all; the work is finished. When we confess, we are not asking for new forgiveness each time, but thanking God for the forgiveness He continually bestows.

In Luke 5:32, Jesus is asked by the Pharisees why he sits and eats with sinners; Jesus replies with this: “I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.” In this verse, we see that only those who confess and repent will know Christ. The lack of repentance and confession indicates we have become self-righteous and do not see the need for a Savior. To that end, unauthentic confession and repentance are the product of a hardened heart. Authentic confession and repentance are the product of a convicted heart.

Conviction Leads To True Confession

Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin! For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgment.
-Psalm 51:1-4

In this passage, David gives us the perfect example of true confession. He recognized and confessed that he had sinned against God. This is how it should be for us who are in Christ. The Holy Spirit is active within us, convicts us of our sin, and pushes us to confess our sins and seek repentance.

Homologeo, which means “confession” in Greek, is an acknowledgment of our sin, a cry out for forgiveness, and a full surrender of ourselves to God in order to maintain fellowship with Him.

True confession does not fear the judgment of man nor does it solely attack the effects of sin. True confession directly attacks sin at the source and is done in order to fully submit to Christ in order to be made into his image. Confession is not a “get out of jail free” card. If “confession” is done in order to feel better about ourselves and not to submit to Christ, then it is not an authentic confession.

True Confession Produces True Repentance

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
-1 John 1:9

In this passage, John points us to a wonderful and humbling truth: if we confess our sins, God will forgive us and cleanse us from unrighteousness, and He will transform our hearts and our minds.

This process of God transforming our hearts is due to the conviction in our heart. By this, we know that the Spirit within us is convicting us of our sin and pushes us to repentance. The Spirit pushes our hearts to want transformation and leads us to confession and full submission to Christ.

Metanoias, which means “repentance” in Greek, is a personal, absolute, ultimate, and unconditional surrender to God as sovereign King. Ben Keach once said,

Repentance unto life is a saving grace, whereby a sinner, out of a true sense of his sin and apprehension of the mercy of God in Christ, doth—with grief and hatred of his sin—turn from it unto God, with full purpose of and endeavor after new obedience.

We repent from our sins not by trying harder but by surrendering to God. Our efforts will never free us from sin, but submission to the Lord will humble us and draw us nearer to Him so that He can free us from it!

Why Should I Confess My Sins and Repent?

We are commanded to confess and repent and we should desire to do so. We cannot become more like Christ unless our desires for sin are cast out and replaced by a desire for Christ. Confession is important because when we confess, we are ultimately confessing Christ is all-satisfying to us! Romans 10:9-10 famously says that, “If we confess with our mouths that Jesus is Lord and believe in our hearts that God raised Him from the dead, we will be saved.”

To have faith in Christ and be saved, we must confess that He is Lord. That is what confession is—we confess our sins and acknowledge that Christ is our Lord and that He is all we want, but we also need to repent. Repentance comes after confession. We must confess our sins in order to be reminded of the forgiveness that God freely gives us, and we must repent in order to become more like Christ. We should desire to repent from our sins in order to submit to Christ as Lord, and God will use that desire to make us look more like Him.

How Do I Confess?

If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.
-2 Chronicles 7:14

First, we confess to God our sins. He already knows our sin, but confession is an action born out of a conviction that humbles ourselves before our Almighty God.

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.
-James 5:16

We, then, confess our sins to others. This builds accountability that allows us to encourage each other and help each other to truly repent from our sin. When we confess to one another, we are opening ourselves up and allowing others to come alongside us and encourage us through our confession of sin. Through prayer and accountability, we can confess to others, not receiving judgment, but a community.

How Do I Repent?

For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.
-2 Corinthians 7:10

Repentance is preceded by conviction and confession, not by a fear of judgment or wanting to feel better about ourselves. Greg Laurie says it well when he says,

Remorse is sorry for being caught. Repentance is being sorry enough to stop.

True repentance is not an act of ourselves, but the victorious act of Christ in us and through us. We repent by looking more like Christ (Galatians 5:22-23, 2 Chronicles 7:14, Matthew 3:8). Repentance is an act in which we are transformed to look more like Christ; our actions, desires, and thoughts all change from being self-centered to God-centered. When we repent, we no longer desire or run after the sin that we have held on to. We have had a heart transformation and are now in Christ Jesus. Instead of continuing to sin and run from God, we run to God in times when we are tempted to sin. This means that we have crucified the desires of our flesh, as Paul explains in Galatians 5:24.

What Does This Look Like?

Submit yourself to God. When God saves us, He frees us from the chains of death (Romans 5:8), and brings us into life with Him through the death and resurrection of Christ. Repentance, in turn, produces faith in Christ alone within us (Ephesians 2:8-9), which we first confess to God, (Romans 10:9-10) and then to others as a testimony of His work (Matthew 28:19-20).

Seek accountability with community. James clearly tells us in James 5:16 to confess our sins to one another, and to pray for each other. We confess to God, and then to others. This is how sin is fought in community—brothers or sisters in Christ rallying with you, bringing your sin to light, and praying for you that you might repent.

Be honest. The only way to defeat sin in Christ is by keeping nothing hidden and repeating repentance daily. Sin cannot be dealt with if part of it is hidden or altogether deflected. Be honest with your community and allow them to know your heart. A healthy community centered around Jesus will not judge your heart but will open their hearts, reveal their brokenness, and point to the victory that is in Christ alone. The struggle against sin is not something to address every once in a while—it is a battle! We must confess and repent daily in order to continually fight our sin.

Be real. When confessing, seek a few of your brothers or sisters in Christ and be real with them. Walk through joys and sorrows together. Be open and shine light on your sin. Encourage each other with God’s Word and fight sin together. Allow the Lord to transform your heart; you cannot do it on your own. Confession and repentance are not suggestions to help live a better life-they are musts for the Christian in order to fully submit to God and His glory.

Only Christ can free us from sin. Through conviction, confession, and repentance, the Lord leads us away from sin and transforms us into the image of Christ. Our desire should be to be transformed by God daily by seeking Him through the reading of His Word, prayer, confession, and repentance. It is only by the kindness of God that we should be led to confess our sins, repent from our ways, and seek first our holy God (Romans 2:4).

Why Should We Memorize Scripture?

“For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”
-Hebrews 4:12

The Battle

In Ephesians 6, Paul exhorts believers to put on the full armor of God, which includes the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, the sword of the Spirit, and shoes that bring the gospel of peace. Today, there is only one piece of the armor of God that is offensive: the sword of the Spirit. I believe that one of the primary reasons that the church in America seems to have become so helpless against our three greatest enemies, the world, the flesh, and the devil, is that we have not taken up our swords. 

Imagine a battalion of soldiers charging valiantly towards the enemy without any weapons. They could have bulletproof jackets, helmets of steel, and every intention of destroying the enemy, yet without their guns, they will be mowed down with ease. It is absurd to imagine such a sight, but we do the same thing when we try to stand against the world, the flesh, and the devil, without the word of God.

Faithful Examples

A mentor of mine, Stephen Trafton, used to perform on Broadway before deciding to use his performing arts skills to memorize and passionately proclaim entire books of the Bible in front of live audiences through a ministry called Living Letters. Stephen’s passion and love for the Word surprised me. When I saw his love for the Word of God demonstrated through memorization and delivery, I was inspired to take Scripture memorization more seriously.

John Piper recounted that he had never heard Scripture recited in Church until he was 31 years old, and when he did, it simply blew him away. He has since intentionally memorized many passages which have served him in countless ways. When we hear the Word of God recited, it lead us to a new love for the Word. 

Throughout his life, the great preacher George Whitefield spent countless hours on his knees, devouring the Word of God, which he unleashed with unprecedented force in the colonies and in Great Britain. I can imagine that Jesus Christ spent countless hours Himself before the Word, memorizing it and savoring it, meditating on it day and night. He loved it to the point that when He was in the wilderness, even after days of hunger and thirst, He was able to fight off the devil with His weapon: the Word of God. 

Throughout Paul’s letters, we see him constantly referencing and quoting, word for word, verses from the Old Testament. When I started reading Charles Spurgeon’s writings and sermons, I was shocked to see all of the verses that were simply woven into his works without any citation… it seemed like the Word of God was so ingrained in his mind that it just flowed out as he preached the Gospel.

Love the Lord with your Mind

And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.
-Mark 12:30

Our Lord proclaimed this as the greatest commandment. In many evangelical churches today, it is far too common that all of the focus is directed towards loving God with the emotion at the expense of everything else, especially the mind. It is easy to find yourself in a community that cares deeply about feeling God’s love, or a community that cares deeply about doing good things and obeying God’s law, however, it is rare to find young believers that are resolutely seeking to love God with their minds as well as their emotions and actions. God cares deeply about what we think, and our minds are a very important part of us that we must fully submit to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. A way in which we can use our minds to honor God, is to fill them with His Word. In Psalm 119:11, the Psalmist writes:

I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you. 

The Psalmist stores up the word of God in his heart for what reason? In order that he “might not sin against God.” How could the Psalmist get the written word of God into his heart any other way than through the mind? R.C. Sproul stated that “The word of God can be in the mind without being in the heart, but it cannot be in the heart without first having been in the mind.”  This verse is a perfect example of how we can love God with our minds through the memorization of His Word which, by the power of the Holy Spirit, can enter our hearts and then bear God-glorifying fruit in our lives. 

Earlier this year, I had a friend at Wheaton who spent hours locked away in his room and memorized ten chapters of First Corinthians. God used this in part to convict me of my lack of seriousness about the Word of God, and I dove into trying to memorize Romans 6 and 7. Romans 6 contains the verse “how can we who died to sin still live in it?” which God brought to my mind many times later on to keep me from sin. I would be on the verge of giving in to some temptation or other, yet this question, “how can we who died to sin still live in it?” kept popping into my head. Unable to give an answer, I turned to Christ and was protected.

In times of fearing man, which is sinful, God has brought to mind Psalm 23:4, “though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will not fear, for you are with me,” or Psalm 27:3, “Though an army encamp against me, my heart shall not fear; though war arise against me, yet I will be confident.” I would even quietly recite parts of Psalm 27 to myself to combat fear during my high school basketball games, and now God brings it to my mind to combat fear before preaching the Gospel. What was once a verse I skimmed over now is a precious diamond to me. These verses have become trusted weapons that I have used by God’s grace to fight away the lies of the devil time and time again. Therefore, memorize the Word to fight against your flesh, for

if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.
-Romans 8:13 

Scripture Memorization, Evangelism, and Discipleship

While the memorized, locked, loaded, and deadly Word of God is helpful in the fight for your own soul, it is also helpful in the fight for the souls of others. God’s Word honors Him, and He will honor the Word. In Isaiah 55:11, God states that His Word 

shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.

While I think you should bring along your physical Bible to evangelize for a variety of reasons, there will always be circumstances in which you need to have a verse locked and loaded. After I finished memorizing my favorite chapter, Romans 8, I was able to swiftly respond with Romans 8:18-23 while sharing the Gospel with a man in Chicago, who had a seemingly random question about the brokenness of the Creation. I have had many other instances on the street where the memorized Word of God has been brought to mind by the Spirit and had a powerful impact on my audience, by God’s grace. 

When you only have a couple minutes to share the Gospel with someone, you do not want to be unprepared and resort to whatever you happen to remember. Wheaton’s Chicago Evangelism Team doesn’t take the train to Chicago every Friday just to share our opinions or our thoughts with people. They don’t need our speculation. They need the truth, the truth of God’s Word. We need to give the lost the infallible word of God, not our opinions. The Apostles didn’t get slaughtered for softly sharing some of their thoughts of Jesus, they didn’t get slaughtered for earning the right to be heard, establishing a relationship, and then sneakily weaving their opinion about Jesus into a conversation, no! They were slaughtered for boldly proclaiming the word of Christ.

Refuting Today’s Lies

Now, the memorized Word will not just help with evangelism, but it will help in important debates and arguments against serious theological error, which are crucial. American society and churches have been contaminated with pretty much every heresy under the sun. I’m not talking about whether or not it’s wrong to get a tattoo or even whether or not Calvinism is true. I am talking about the majority of your youth group thinking that eternal life is a result of sincerity, no matter what you believe. I am talking about youth pastors denying Hell and students who think evangelism is wrong. I am talking about your friend who watches a few YouTube videos and concludes that Jesus was not God and that the only thing that matters in Christianity and every other religion is love. If you don’t think these heresies should be lovingly refuted, so that unity can be maintained, you need to read the New Testament. 

Heresy is like poison, and often we will not have time to google the verse we are vaguely thinking of in a conversation. We need to have God’s Word locked and loaded, in season and out of season, in order to powerfully fight against the lies of Satan which have been steadily creeping their way into the worldview of young believers across America for as long as we have been alive. 

Encouraging Believers

For a moment, forget nonbelievers, forget those in error, what about a brother or sister in Christ who just lost a family member and calls you at three in the morning in tears? What about a younger student you are mentoring at summer camp who is struggling in his faith at public school and needs hope in the face of persecution? God opens doors for precious intimacy with struggling believers where we do not want to have to waste precious time googling some verse you heard one time in a sermon or flipping through your prayer journal. There will be desperate moments where time is of the essence and you have a golden opportunity to comfort or encourage a brother or sister. May you not damage them by neglecting the memorization of the Word. 

Parting Words

Memorize Scripture, and may God give you the power to use it wisely in the battle for the souls of your friends. May He give you a deep love for the memorization of His Word, and may you arm yourself more and more for the rest of your life with weapons that will prove themselves over and over, weapons that you will be able to fend off the devil with, weapons that, by the Spirit can pierce and soften the hearts of the most angry atheists, weapons that you will defend your children and maybe even your grandchildren with, weapons that you will use to valiantly protect God’s bride until the day you die.

I pray that this article would be a spiritual call to arms for our generation to memorize the Word of God with the goal of more deeply loving our neighbors, and more devastatingly waging war against the world, the flesh, and the devil. 

The Divine Calling of a Man and Woman’s Role in Marriage

Marriage was created to be a beautiful, sacred covenant made between a man and a women, and unfortunately many believers today may not understand the biblical roles they are called to within it. The world continues to offer many opinions and perspectives on what marriage should look like. These opinions are often derived from fleshly, unbiblical desires, which can affect the Christian’s expectations of marriage. The only way to truly understand how God intended marriage is by faithfully studying and submitting to Scripture. The Bible outlines for us what marriage is, what it is signifies, and what our roles are in it as men and women.

Biblical marriage exemplifies the gospel itself. The relationship between a husband and his wife is intended to glorify Christ by symbolizing the relationship between Christ and His bride, the church. A married couple can reflect this glorious relationship by taking on the roles that they have been purposefully commanded to obey. In Scripture, the roles of a man and a woman in this covenantal relationship are outlined in quite a few passages.

Our society in America has been immersed with the ideals of the modern feminist movement, which makes us come to this issue with many biases and assumptions. While cultures never stop changing, God’s Word never changes. Since creation, wives have been under their husbands’ authority, and since the fall, women have tried to overstep that authority. After Eve coerced her husband into eating the forbidden fruit, God spoke to the her, “I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children. Your desire shall be contrary to your husband, but he shall rule over you.” (Genesis 3:16) The curse described here shows the sinful dynamic between man and woman. Because of it, in her sin she would desire all her life to step outside of her gender role to be dominant over man, while the male in his sin would desire to subdue her and rule over her in a sinful manner. The desire to exploit weaknesses in the other sex is a product of our sinful nature, that we are called to kill and turn from (Romans 8:13, Acts 3:19). A woman in her sinful flesh makes her inherently desire usurping the authority of her husband in marriage, producing quarrelsomeness, which Scripture warns against (Proverbs 21:9). In the man’s case, his sinful flesh can cause abuse of his headship or not take on the headship role at all. Before the fall, Eve lived in humility and perfect, joyful submission to her husband, and Adam lived in perfect servant leadership to his wife.

As a woman in 21st century America, this can at first easily seem unsettling and unfair. It can be painful to be called to a role of submission in a country where so many men have been conditioned to be feminine, weak, cowardly, and irresponsible. But when we look closer into the unique divine callings of men and women within marriage, we see that the way the Lord designed it is beautiful as it reflects Christ and the church. As we take a look into Ephesians chapter 5, we can truly see what marriage represents and a more descriptive role each gender is to take on.

The terms submission and headship can rattle some ears in our generation. The current political climate we live in makes it seem like the biblical roles within marriage are oppressive and unequal. The biblical meaning behind these terms couldn’t be farther from that! In Paul’s letter to the saints in Ephesus, he outlines each role. He uses the terms “submit” and “head” to describe their distinct positions. Wives are commanded:

…submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands. (21-24)

 Wives are commanded to submit because the husband is the head of the family, and, most importantly, to model the relationship between Christ and His church. As a wife, your role is not to assume authority, but to submit to the one who has been divinely called to headship over you. The rest of the passage goes on from verses 25-27 commanding husbands to

love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.

The husband is commanded to love his wife as Christ loves the Church. We know as believers that Christ has been gracious, kind, and selfless toward His Church, humbling himself to the point of dying for her. Here in Ephesians 5, husbands are commanded to do the same for their wives. As Christ died for His church, so husbands are to selflessly and joyfully lay down their own pride, ambition, and selfish desires for the sake of building up his wife and marriage. If it comes down to it, husbands are to even die to protect their wives.

Marriage is a glorious representation of the gospel. It represents the love Christ has for His church, and the church who submits to His authority. Marriage can paint a beautiful picture of the relationship between the Creator and His elect. The terms “submission” and “headship” are not used as a means of oppressive authority towards a helpless slave, but are used to describe the true roles each gender has been commanded to take on inside of marriage. We shouldn’t complain that we have to follow these rules, but we should thank God that we get to glorify Him through such a beautiful picture of our relationship with Jesus. Once again, it is not about us, but about how much glory can be brought to Christ through obeying his perfect design for the roles in marriage.

The most prominent perversion the world has given to the definition of the word ‘submission’ is seen when it is associated with having inferior value. Women are not worth less than men and men are not worth less than women. Submitting does not make someone of lesser value. Take, for example, the doctrine of the Trinity, with an emphasis on the relationship between God the Father and Jesus Christ. Both of them, fully and equally God in being, but differing in personhood and role, display a relationship of submission and leadership. In the Incarnation of Christ, Christ fully submitted to the will of the Father (Philippians 2:5-11; John 8:28, 29). Does Christ’s submission deem His lesser in value and worth to the Father? Since Christ submitted to the Father, does that make the Son any less God? No! In fact, it was because of Christ’s perfect submission to the Father that He finished His great work of atonement for the church (Romans 3:21-26; Galatians 1:3-4). The same principle applies to marriage; a wife’s submission to her husband does not mean that she is of little or no value compared to that of her husband. As Christ’s joyful and willful submission was pleasing to the Father, so a wife’s joyful and willful submission to her husband is pleasing to the Father as well.

The same way Christ is a gracious and selfless leader to his church, a husband is to be gracious and selfless. This is a high standard that leaves no room for oppression, abuse, or cowardice. Submission is not a call to be a slave, catering to every need of her husband; rather, submission is the divine calling for women to support, love, and respect the leadership the Lord willed for her husband to have. Wives submitting to their husbands in love and trust is how the Lord commanded the relationship to be, for it represents the submission of the church to Christ. It’s much bigger than how we may feel about it; it is about exalting Christ and his perfect design for marriage. Women are called to submit, for their husband is the head. The husband accepting his divine calling as the head of the family leads, protects, and loves his wife the way Christ loves the Church. It is not about how he feels or how his flesh may seemingly want to not take on this position, it is about displaying the Gospel by denying himself and taking on the role commanded of him.

A common argument frequently brought up on this subject of marital roles is that of cultural differences; marital roles outlined in the Bible are simply the product of ancient, misogynistic cultural influences. This argument is debunked in 1 Timothy 2:12-14 with Paul who states in the context of church:

I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor.

 Because Paul references the creation story, we know that the purpose of women not assuming spiritual authority over men is rooted in creation itself, not some ancient cultural norm. Wives taking on the role of submission rather than headship is not meant to demean or belittle them, and it definitely is not meant to promote husbands taking advantage of their wives’ role. It is meant to be a balance, as the two become one in marriage (Mark 10:8). As stated above, Husbands are called to love how Christ loves the church, which is never a condescending love, but a love that offers a never ending amount of grace,forgiveness, and understanding.

During a time where every movie, song, instagram post, and every media outlet can make it seem like biblical gender roles are oppressive and unfair, may we go back to the Scriptures to be reminded of Christ’s divine calling to men and women in marriage. May we remember that this is about the glory of Christ, and not the glory of ourselves, and that we are not the ones with the right to define marriage, but God is. May we honor him either nor or in the future in marriage by accepting where we have been called and what we have each been designed for. If it seems illogical or harsh to you, wrestle with those emotions and wrestle with the text. Let us keep in mind that throughout the Bible, God has called His people to do things that they find very uncomfortable and may even find irrational. Being a believer has always been countercultural and we were always meant to live in contrast to the world. Joshua had to trust God when he was told to march around Jericho. Abraham had to trust God when he was told to sacrifice his precious son. Do not avoid studying this out of fear, and definitely do not twist Scripture, but trust God’s heart and submit your beliefs and your very life to Him, knowing that His commands are for your greatest good and His glory. The Lord has graciously gifted us with earthly marriage to reflect his great work that He will bring to completion one day (Philippians 1:6). So when we struggle with the concepts associated with biblical marriage, we must look to Christ who has never let His church down and will never cease to bring us into clarification and by association, sactivication no matter how much we mess up and let him down. Grace must abound, because the Lord’s cup of grace that pours out onto His Church never runs dry.

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

Can Christians lose their salvation?

The discussion of whether or not Christians can lose their salvation is a highly controversial topic among the church today. What are we supposed to think when a believer steps away from the faith and strays completely away from following Christ? Was it possible that they lost their salvation? Were they never saved? I believe, when searching for the answer to this question, we must come to understand the Biblical doctrine of perseverance of the saints which argues that the salvation of a believer cannot be lost.

Perseverance of the saints is the belief that God’s plan for redemption will not fail. In other words, God will preserve his children and they cannot lose their salvation based on any sinful acts they may commit. It is this belief which assures that a “once saved”  believer is “always saved.” We know this because we know God does not save people on the basis of their works, but rather on the basis of Christ’s work. Throughout scripture we are assured that God’s work in our hearts is greater than the sins we will commit. By studying the doctrine of perseverance of the saints we can understand the promise that God will hold His children fast.

A grasp on the doctrine of perseverance of the saints is essential for a Biblical understanding of God’s redemption of sinners. This doctrine is important, not only because it teaches us about our sinful nature, but also because it reveals more about the immense sovereignty of our God and His story of salvation. We can have assurance about our security in Christ through understanding the doctrine of perseverance of the saints.

The passage John 10:27-29 comes to mind as Jesus says:

My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.  I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.

By this verse, we are assured in God’s promise to His children that we will not be forsaken. In other words, God’s children are completely secure in His arms and no one can ever snatch them away. For example, think of someone being rescued from drowning. As they are drowning, their rescue is not dependent on how many times they flail their arms, but is instead dependent on the one doing the rescuing. This is similar to our salvation in the sense that we contribute “nothing to our salvation except the sin that made it necessary,” as Jonathan Edwards once said. Our salvation does not rely on us keeping ourselves away from sin but instead relies solely on the keeper of our salvation. God promises that He will not leave His sheep and it is by this promise that we know that as His sheep we are kept from our own sin and kept from eternal separation from God. What a truth to rest in! For we do not have to trust ourselves, but we can rest in this beautiful assurance of our salvation.

It is important for Christians to understand perseverance of the saints because it points our focus back to God and informs us more about His character. By understanding how firm a grasp God has on us and how He will not let go of  one of His sheep, we can grow in our understanding that our salvation is not based off our works. This will lead us to live with incredible joy and confidence in Christ. I believe that understanding perseverance of the saints leads us to a deeper understanding and appreciation of God’s overall character. This deep understanding of God’s character will lead us to a love and amazement for God. I believe that there are four essential characteristics about God that are reinforced by the principle of perseverance of the saints. They are:

  • God is unchanging (Immutable): His plan for salvation never changes and is not dependent on the sinner.
  • God is all powerful (Omnipotent): He will keep His children and His salvation plan is secure.
  • God is all-knowing (Omniscient): God knows all and He knows the future of His children and is able to keep them in His hand.
  • God is faithful: In His salvation of sinners, God does not leave one of His own but is faithful to continue His work in their hearts.

Through the doctrine of perseverance of the saints, we can come to a deeper understanding of God’s faithfulness. This doctrine teaches us that our salvation is nothing of our doing and assures us our salvation by reminding us of God’s steadfast nature.

I believe scripture clearly supports the teaching of perseverance of the saints. However, if you are unsure where you stand on this topic I encourage you to take a look at the following verses and dig deeper into scripture in your searching:

  • John 6:35-51 God will not lose any of those that come to Christ.
  • Romans 8:30-38: Nothing can keep us from the love of God.
  • Philippians 1:6: & John 10:28 He will finish the work of salvation in His children.
  • 1 Peter 1:3-6 & 2 Timothy 1:12 We are guarded by God’s power in our future inheritance.
  • Hebrews 13:5b & Deuteronomy 31:8: He will never leave us.

Through these verses we can see that, as Christians, we cannot lose our salvation because it was not acquired by us in the first place. Salvation is not anything we have earned but is a sweet gift from the Lord. (Ephesians 2:8-9). However, even though our salvation is a gift, this does not give us a means to continue in our sin!  We, as believers, are to continue steadfast in the faith and press on towards the goal as Hebrews 12:1 reminds us by saying, “…let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.” Our salvation does not come by our pursuit of faith but it is instead evidence of our salvation. Yes, we are to press on in the faith in our difficulties, however, we can take comfort in knowing that the Lord will preserve His own children, even when they fail.

In the end, I’ll leave you with a quote from R.C. Sproul on the doctrine of perseverance of the saints because I believe it encapsulates the core of understanding this Biblical principle. He says:

…I prefer the term the preservation of the saints, because the process by which we are kept in a state of grace is something that is accomplished by God. My confidence in my preservation is not in my ability to persevere. My confidence rests in the power of Christ to sustain me with His grace and by the power of His intercession. He is going to bring us safely home.

The Terror of Evangelism

And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation.” Mark 16:15

The average Christian in the United States is so dreadfully afraid of sharing the Gospel that I doubt he would even click on an article like this. Let’s be honest, we tend to view the verse above far more as a suggestion than as a command, am I right? In our hearts we question whether Jesus was serious when He commanded us to actually speak about Himself to people. I mean wouldn’t that just be oppressively imposing your own religion or dogma on some poor soul? Can’t I just have my truth and you just have your truth and we don’t bother each other? Shouldn’t we only love people and live for Jesus without preaching the Gospel and let people see the gospel in our lifestyles?

We love these excuses, and pretty much all Christians have had some of these questions floating in their minds at some point. We wish that the Bible actually supported the very famous and unbiblical directive for us to “preach the Gospel, and if necessary, use words,” and we go day after day after day, interacting with the same people, using the same excuses, silent. Every single day thousands and thousands of Christians interact with non-believers and keep their mouths shut about the God who can save their souls. And what happens when this becomes the norm? People die every day in America without knowing Jesus and without an accurate understanding of the Gospel. I mean, if we actually believe in Hell, Heaven, devastating sin, dying love, and amazing grace, wouldn’t the people around us know that? If we believe God’s grace for undeserving sinners is so amazing, wouldn’t we want to talk about it and share the knowledge of it? I want our generation of young men and women to be the generation that starts caring about this, and I want us to be the generation that boldly takes a stand for Jesus Christ. Paul declares that:

…everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news! (Romans 10:13-15)

I heard a pastor once use an analogy of a fat man comfortably eating tons of food and not sharing any of it with anyone in his starving village. The fat man would be seen as appallingly selfish to any Christian in 21st century America. Imagine that the fat scoundrel shuts the blinds to his windows to avoid glimpsing the malnourished, dying bodies that he ought to rescue. Imagine that the fat man turns up his music at home so that the shrieks of starving babies do not instill feelings of guilt in him over his gluttonous atrocity. Imagine that he could easily save the village by opening his door and directing people to the food, yet he chooses to stay indoors out of laziness, cowardice, apathy, and selfishness.

How much more selfish are we, who have the legal right in the United States to share the Gospel with everyone, when we who have functioning vocal cords and leather bound Bibles, choose to be silent like the fat man in the middle of a dying world? Not only that, but Christians do not just believe that sinners are dying outside of our walls, we believe that if they die without Christ, they will spend all eternity in Hell. In our hearts we try to drown out the wails of the lost, and in our minds we try to neuter the reality that there are dying people on their way to eternal Hell who we refuse to warn. I know its awkward and embarrassing, but could we please try to make our lifestyles consistent with what we profess? Only in modern American Evangelicalism can we go to church and read the creed that warns of Christ coming back to judge the living and the dead, only here can we profess this literally every Sunday and then go on living the exact same way once we get to class on Monday.

One of the multiple reasons why Hell is rarely preached on is that it makes us uncomfortable. Every time we think of it we are filled with shame, realizing that we are sitting comfortably and apathetically while hell-bound sinners could be rescued by believing the Gospel that we have had memorized since Sunday school. May God have mercy on the apathetic Church in America. Let us please do a better job than the last generation. If we refuse to do this good work, who will? Christians believe that Hell is eternal, permanent, conscious torture, comparable to a lake of fire or a place of utter darkness and chaos where God sends all who die in their sins to be punished. Out of unfathomable love for His Church, Christ has taken the full punishment for undeserving sinners who will put their faith in Him, by dying on the cross under God’s wrath, and then rising again, defeating death, and calling all men everywhere to repent and believe the Gospel, which can redeem the foulest and darkest of souls. The reason some of you may hate this harsh paragraph may be because I am trying to rip the blinds off of your windows and force you to look at the condemned souls you ignore on a daily basis. The more you understand the reality of Hell, the urgency of the Gospel, and the joy of knowing God, the less you will be able to sit comfortably as a selfish glutton while the world starves to death. We must honestly consider whether we would act with the same apathy that we have towards evangelism if we knew the cure for cancer? Would we keep it to ourselves? Obviously not. Let’s reconsider how we want to be living our lives since we know that we are ambassadors of Jesus Christ. Charles Spurgeon once asserted in a sermon titled All At It, that:

The curses of the ages will fall upon me, and the wails of lost souls will come up into my ears as long as I exist, if I do not make known the gospel… If you do not tell the gospel, you are leaving your fellow-men to perish. Yonder is the wreck, and you are not sending out the lifeboat! Yonder are souls starving, and you give them no bread! Well, if you are resolved to be thus inhuman, at least know what you are doing. You that are taking no share in this great work of spreading the gospel are willfully allowing men to go down to hell, and their blood will be required at your hands.

I am writing this with the knowledge that I myself am a coward if there ever was one. I’ve personally sat next to people on a multi-hour plane rides, knowing in my heart that I should try and share Jesus in our conversation, yet never working up the courage to do so. I’ve neglected and cowered away from God given opportunities like this more times than I can count. In full honesty, I think that I fear sharing the Gospel simply because I don’t want to be seen as a fanatic, an idiot, or a bigot. It’s either that, or that I either don’t believe it enough or don’t love people enough, but whatever the issue is, I am certain that something is off inside of me. My pride, my fear, my apathy, my doubt, and my insecurity make this mission extremely difficult. I don’t want to hurt people’s feelings, and I want people to see me as “chill.”

But what is “chill” anyway? Folks, to put it bluntly, being seen as “chill” does not matter all that much in the long run. While we shouldn’t be unnecessarily weird, who really cares about being seen as chill when loved ones and neighbors are perishing? If a blind man was going to walk in front of a moving car would you cry out with all of your might for him to move, or would you stay silent just in case people see you as a weirdo? If you believe in the entirety of the Gospel, being seen as “chill” should not be a priority in your life. Imagine if Joshua refused to march around Jericho because he wanted to look “chill.” Bystanders probably saw Joshua’s army as a bunch of idiots.  Imagine if Noah’s pride and laziness prevented him from building the ark. I’ve heard it joked about that everyone must have thought Noah was crazy until it started raining. Imagine if Jesus decided to not enter humanity to avoid humiliation. He was laughed at, spat on, mocked, and killed by Roman Soldiers even though He lived a perfect life. What makes us sinners think we deserve treatment any better? Imagine if he chose to have worldly “chillness” and popularity instead of humbling Himself, even to the point of dying naked on a cross. Are we too prideful to humble ourselves, to even have a five minute conversation with a homeless man or to eat lunch with that kid you see bullied in the hallways? Imagine if the Good Shepherd did not care about lost sheep? God chose you, sent His Son to die for you, went after you, redeemed and adopted you, is sanctifying you, and will glorify you, and you deserve the opposite. Who do you think you are to refuse to go after the lost?

Leonard Ravenhill noted in his preaching that if you lived in Jerusalem 2,000 years ago and saw a man carrying a cross out of the city, there was only one thing you knew about him: he was never coming back. God has told you to deny yourself and to take up your cross, and He has made it totally clear that you are not your own and have been bought at an expensive price. We cannot expect the lost to come back to us and to wander into our church doors or to ever accept invitations to church. The Good Shepherd did not expect the lost sheep to find its way back to the flock on its own. Fishers of men must actually do some fishing. While it is great to invite your friends to church, simply inviting them to church or talking about Christian things is not necessarily evangelism. Arguing in support of policies that are in line with Scripture is not evangelism. We have to bring the Gospel itself to them, because the Gospel is “the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes,” (Romans 1:16). In his lecture, “Open-Air Preaching-Remarks Thereon,” Spurgeon exposes the absurdity of many churches’ view on evangelism:

The gospel command is, “Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature,” but it is so little obeyed that one would imagine that it ran thus, “Go into your own place of worship and preach the gospel to the few creatures who will come inside.” “Go ye into the highways and hedges and compel them to come in”… Sportsmen must not stop at home and wait for the birds to come and be shot at, neither must fishermen throw their nets inside their boats and hope to take many fish. Traders go to markets, they follow their customers and go out after business if it will not come to them; and so must we.

I pray that as a generation we would refuse to cower away in our churches and sit comfortably on our pews, but that we would willingly and joyfully cry out to the Lord, “Here I am! Send me.” (Isaiah 6:8) So who will you share the Gospel with? Please spend time in prayer over this challenging topic of evangelism and ask the Lord to work in your heart.