Evangelism

Ends, Means & Evangelism (blogcast)

This article was originally posted on Joel Settecase’s pastoral blog.

My son has been in the hospital for over two weeks now. My wife posts updates on her blog, but I have not written much about him (outside of social media). However, as Lukas has been hospitalized, I have been doing a lot of thinking about God’s sovereignty, and I want to share my thoughts. Specifically, I want to talk about how I think the Lord is using my son’s health crisis to accomplish his mission for our family.

What does it mean that God is sovereign?

When believers say that God is “sovereign,” we are saying that God is completely free in his ability to act in every area over which he has authority, which is to say, over all of creation.

One of the entailments of God being sovereign is that he has not only the authority to plan and declare intended outcomes, but also the ability and power to make those outcomes happen. This is true on the cosmic scale (“He determines the number of the stars; he gives to all of them their names” (Psalm 147:4)), but it is also true at the personal level. The circumstances of each person’s life have been predestined in advance by God (Psalm 139:16 says each person’s days were written in God’s book before they ever happened).

This truth, that God exercises sovereign control over human lives, is wondrously seen in the way he brings sinful people into saving relationship with himself. The Bible teaches that, apart from a powerful work of God’s grace on an individual’s mind, no one would ever naturally turn from his sin and love God (Romans 8:6-8). Therefore everyone who is justified–forgiven and declared to be righteous before God–is done so not by his own power but by God’s (Romans 4:5).

Again, God is sovereign, and we see the beauty of his sovereignty in the way he forgives sinful people and gives us new life in Jesus.

God’s sovereignty over the ends and the means

So then, does God know whom he will justify, whom he will save? Yes, he does. In fact, he has already pre-planned ahead of time, determining in advance to save his people.

Not one sinner upon whom God has set his sovereign sights will be left out of God’s saving plan.

Because of the intricacies of God’s plan (which involves every detail of his spiritual, natural and human creation), in order to effect his desired outcomes, he must also exercise sovereign control over every detail leading up to those outcomes. As apologist James R. White and others have stated, “God ordains the ends as well as the means.

When it comes to his plan to save his chosen people God has included, as means, the prayers and proclamation of his word on the part of believers. If you have become a Christian, that probably happened through someone teaching you the Gospel at some point. Someone was also likely praying for the Gospel to take root in your heart and mind, and God heard those prayers and granted you repentance and faith. In sending that person to you and answering those prayers, God was working out what he had determined in advance to do. He was accomplishing his intended ends through the use of his intended means.

So what does God’s sovereignty have to do with Lukas’s stay in the hospital?

In September 2018, Aliza and I were commissioned by Cru as missionaries to carry out Cru’s mission of winning, building, and sending disciples of Jesus. As we have worked to develop our new ministry, we have specifically committed ourselves to the mission of equipping believers with knowledge, engaging them in conversation with non-believers, and encouraging them to share and defend their faith. We want to communicate the Gospel to non-believers ourselves, and we want to empower Christians to do the same.

We have been praying for the Lord to bless our ministry. We believe getting the Gospel out to hundreds and thousands of people is one of the ends God has intended for our life. We also prayerfully believe that he will use our work to bring many sinners to repentance and faith. What we most certainly did not expect were the means by which God was going to do this. What do I mean?

What I mean is that the Lord is using our time here in the hospital to encourage Christians and to evangelize non-Christians. Aliza and I have had opportunities to share the Gospel with nurses and parents of other patients. Aliza’s blog is getting thousands of views–and she is sharing the Gospel in every post. Literally thousands of people are reading and hearing about Jesus Christ through our family’s pain and suffering.

Does this mean we want to go through this? From a human perspective, of course not! However, this is what we take wonderful comfort in: we know that whatever happens here at the hospital (and we are of course praying hard for a complete and timely recovery of our little guy), that our sovereign God is watching over us (Psalm 121:5), walking with us (Joshua 1:9), and working out every detail of our lives for his glory and our good (Romans 8:28).

We do not have full insight into God’s plan as to why he has allowed us to enter into this trial. However, we are not afraid. Rather, we are “bold as lions”(Proverbs 28:1) because we know whom we have believed (2 Timothy 1:12). So we pray that God’s word would prove true: that “through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22), and that by the means our tribulations, our Sovereign God would accomplish his ends of saving many souls.

Pray for Superhero Lukas on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Pray-for-Superhero-Lukas-379691506187358/

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What is the Gospel?

Over the last decade or so, there's been a resurgence of robust theology in many local churches, and all kinds of exciting, Gospel-centered movements have sprung up. 

However, in the last year and a half, there has been a disturbing trend of many of those same churches turning away from making the Gospel their top priority and turning instead toward cultural and social activism. Churches chasing after societal improvement seek to address supposed social and political needs, in order to help people live better lives in the here and now. However, while these desired social outcomes are said to be "Gospel issues," there is a real danger that churches are chasing them at the expense of the Gospel.

Certainly, the Gospel has implications for how Christians will function within the broader society, and there is no shortage of social problems to address. Yet our weapon is the word of God--the Bible--and the heart of the Bible is the Gospel. 

The Gospel is the cure for sin, and this is what we must bring to the sinful world. 
With all the talk about the Gospel, it would help to know what it actually is. So, do you know what the Gospel is? Can you explain it? How well can you articulate it? 

First we will talk about the need for Christians to understand the Gospel, followed by what our attitude ought to be toward it, according to Scripture. Then we'll give a very clear and biblical definition of the Gospel and get practical by outlining five ways to communicate it. 

We pray this helps you get equipped and encouraged to communicate the best news on earth and the greatest story ever told. Welcome to the Think Podcast. We hope it makes you think.

In this episode we mentioned the Changing Face of Evangelism training. If you want to get this training for your church, contact Joel Settecase: https://thethink.institute/contact. Visit churchmovements.com for more information.

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How to Use the Bible to Witness to Muslims

By N. G. / 5-minute read

Sharing your faith with Muslims can seem very intimidating, however, by using the commonly shared prophets between the Bible and the Quran, we can easily show the authority of Christ and start having Gospel-centered conversations with our Muslim friends.

Listen to N. G. talk about how he brings the Good News to Muslim people on Episode 10 of our podcast.

An Important (but Complex) Question

“We all worship the same God. Can’t we just get along?” 

This is a question I have been asked several times, by many people. Muslims, Christians, and even observers who would say they do not really belong in either group. The answer to this question is not nearly as straightforward as some may think, mostly because there are actually two parts to it we need to address. 

The first half of the question, although it is not phrased as a question, carries many implications which need to be addressed. It is true; there are many similarities between the teachings of the Bible and the teachings of the Quran, however, there are many differences as well, which need to be explored. The approach I take to this revolves around a path of prophets whom the Bible and the Quran share. It goes a little like this:

Adam and Abraham

We see Adam in the garden, and I emphasize the promise God gave the serpent after the fall, where the seed of women will crush the serpent’s head, and the serpent will bruise His heel (Gen 3). Following that, we talk about Abraham who was promised descendants who would become a great nation, through whom the whole world would be blessed (Genesis 12). Abraham then established this covenant with God, but only God passed through, meaning that, if the covenant were ever broken, only God could be held accountable (Genesis 15). 

The Psalms help us elaborate, teaching that there would specifically be a high priest from Abraham’s line, who would be the one to bring the blessing (Psalm 110). 

Moses

Next comes Moses, a prophet who was described as carrying more authority than all the other prophets (Deut 34:10). In studying his life, I really go through the plagues and talk about how powerful the one true God showed Himself to be over all the false gods of the world, especially over such a powerful kingdom as Egypt. Then I like to bring to their attention to Deuteronomy 18:15, which states that there would be one other prophet like Moses, and to Him all the people must listen. 

King David

Next we follow Israel’s greatest king, David. He became king at a time when the nation was accepting all the idols from the surrounding nations. He ridded the nation of the idols and brought worship to the one true God. Because of this, God promised there would be an eternal King to come through David’s line (2 Samuel 7:12-16).

With all these prophets, I think it is so important to emphasize their role in proclaiming that there is only one God. Muslims believe Christians are polytheistic. When sharing our beliefs, tell them we are not. A person cannot say you believe something when you are blatantly saying you don’t believe that; it just does not work.

John the Baptist

This next prophet holds a role in paving the way for the Messiah which, I believe, is the most important. This is John the Baptist. You see, so many people had been waiting for such a long time for this Messiah to come, liberate them from their oppressors, and rule the world. They were waiting for a strong military leader. They were waiting for Muhammad (so to speak). However, Muhammad did not come, somebody else did. John the Baptist carried the most honorable role; he told the world here He is, don’t miss Him!

Jesus

Spend as much time as you possibly can with your Muslim friends studying the life of Jesus. Every story if you can. The Gospel of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John does not consist merely in the final chapters they each wrote. The Gospel is the entire life of Christ. So don’t just share Jesus’ wounds. Share Jesus’ ways, His words, His worth, and His wounds.

This is what the Gospel is composed of. It is the power of Christ to set us free from sin and restore our relationship with Him. The death and resurrection is so important, but it is not solely important. Share Jesus’ whole life. He is the one the world waited for, and we cannot miss Him.

Muhammad

I do also tend to speak of Muhammad. I will say he came about 600 years after Jesus in a time and place where many people worshipped many gods. He told them there is only one God (notice a trend?) and in his teachings (recorded in the Quran) he says to “follow the signs” several hundred times. Well, what are the signs? They are the seed of women, the priest in the order of Melchizedek, the prophet like Moses, and the eternal king in the line of David. “Well, all signs point to Jesus! Would you like to know this Jesus?”

So, Can We Just Get Along?

As for the second half of the question, “Can’t we just get along?” I think the answer is yes. We should strive to be friends with those of other faiths--in fact Jesus tells us to love our neighbors as we love ourselves.

However, the best way we can love them as we love ourselves is to always remember our duty to them, which is to share the life, teachings, death, and resurrection of Christ, which is the Gospel. 

Another Encouraging Evangelism Story: Dan the Waterproofer

This story has been slightly edited and modified for posting here. We changed the name of “Dan” to protect the potential for future fruitful conversations.

Hey Joel,
I know you’re a big prayer warrior and evangelist. You and Aliza have encouraged me to be more bold with my faith. Today a guy named Dan came to our house about some water proofing for our foundation. He ended up staying an hour and half taking with me. He shared how his parents and brothers have died and he’s alone.

We started talking politics and it actually led to sharing the entire gospel with him!! He continued to ask questions and we talked. I gave him a Bible and told him I’d be praying for him. I suggested a a church where he lives.

He left and told me it was the most interesting client conversation he’s ever had in 25 years of working for the company and wished he could stay longer. He then said he would put the Bible someplace he would see it often and “you never know when I’ll pick it up to see what it has to say.”

He mentioned twice he feels like things always happen for a purpose, and meeting me came at a time [when] he [believed he was] on a jumping off point, but didn’t know what that meant. 

Please pray with me God reveals truth to him!! I told him I would pray that for him, and when God does (because we know he will) that he would remember our conversation.

Thank you to you and Aliza for being such great examples of good news bearers. You’ve inspired me and the Holy Spirit prompted and enabled me. We are praying for your family and I hope this email has brought you both  joy during a difficult time.

Hugs to you both,

Marissa from Chicago

_____

Marissa,

Thanks so much for sharing this story. We will be praying for him to him to open that Bible and meet Jesus!

Joel & Aliza

A Couple of Encouraging Evangelism Stories

By Joel Settecase / 2-minute read

It can be very encouraging to learn that other believers are sharing their faith in Jesus, to remember that we are not alone in trying to get the Good News about him out to the people in our lives. That’s why one of our goals with the Think Institute is share those stories. Today we are featuring two from Kathy H. of Chicago.

A Well-Timed Gift

A while back the Lifeway bookstore at Moody was closing and had a huge sale so I bought a pocket New Testament with the thought of giving it to Dr. John (my Chiropractor).

I have been witnessing to him by sharing scripture and Christian music - also have invited him to church, but he lives in the NW suburbs and probably doesn't want to drive into the city.

So I went to see him yesterday and we were talking while he did ultrasound on my elbow.  I was waiting for a good opportunity to give him the NT, but God had it under control.  I'm not sure exactly what he said to me, but he mentioned the New Testament and then he said he used to have a pocket size NT, and with that I pulled the NT out of my pocket and gave it to him. I wasn't sure how he would react, but he seemed genuinely happy to receive it.  He noticed the red lettering and said that those were Jesus' words.  This is the first positive reaction I've had from him.

I don't know if he has a copy of the whole Bible, but I will find out.  I have been praying for him daily since we were encouraged [by our church] to have a "one" to pray for.  Our paths have crossed for a reason and I will continue praying for his salvation.

A Pink Slip Becomes A Golden Opportunity

I can't remember if I shared the story with you about one of my coworkers.  One day she mentioned to me that she feels this void in her heart. At that moment I had to go to the switchboard and couldn't respond immediately, but I was praising God for the opportunity to share my faith with her.  (As a side note she had a goal to get me to swear).  It turned out that the next day we both received our pink slips.  I wrote her a letter about God being the only one who can fill that void and that if she gave her life to Jesus, she would have a peace that no one could ever take from her.  I only planted a seed and may never know the outcome, but praying that the Holy Spirit will cause her life to change.  She did not share her address or phone with me.

It is amazing how God gives us opportunities to share our faith - even when we are hesitant - the circumstances are so clear you can't help but share the Good News!

These opportunities help me feel more bold to share my faith.  Joel, thanks for your encouragement and I look forward to the next Apologetics lesson.

Thanks for sharing these stories, Kathy. I will pray for your chiro and your coworker to come to faith in Jesus (and I encourage our readers to do the same). —Joel

Evangelistic Apologetics In A Nutshell: Three Principles You Should Know

By Chaseton Hahn / 8-minute read.

Christians that I have engaged with have often either never heard of, or have a misunderstanding of the discipline of apologetics. For many, the term even carries a derogatory connotation. What must be shown is that apologetics is a necessary practice that all Christians should have within their evangelistic arsenal. In this article we will look at evangelistic apologetics in a nutshell, based on three biblical principles.

What Is Apologetics And What Is It For?

The word “apologetics” is derived from the Greek apologia, which appears only 8 times in the New Testament (Acts 22:1, 25:26; 1 Cor. 9:3; 2 Cor. 7:11; Phil. 1:7, 16; 2 Tim. 4:16; 1 Pet. 3:15). Apologia literally means “a reasoned defense or argument.” Apologetics should be understood as a sort of legal verbiage – picture a lawyer giving a defense before a judge in a courtroom. Therefore, to participate in apologetics is to give a rational defense of the Christian worldview.

A mistake that is frequently made is the assumption that apologetics is reserved for debate settings – not so! The purpose of apologetics is not simply winning arguments. Instead, apologetics should be seen as a helpful tool for answering the objections that skeptics may have against Christianity, but with the ultimate intent of leading them to believe the Gospel.

Principles of Evangelistic Apologetics

The Scriptures contains the essential instructions for the Christian to properly exercise his faith in an expression that is consistent with the manner of Christlike behavior (2 Tim. 3:16-17). This is true as well for how one should engage in an apologetic conversation that is compelling and God-honoring.

Answering the skeptic requires the patience and love of Christ along with the confident delivery of the relevant information – the former qualities being sorely forgotten by many of those who participate in apologetics.

Again, the purpose of all this is not to win an argument or crush the opponent – the aim is to point the lost to Christ.

Apologetics with Peter

Peter the Apostle wrote the first epistle that bears his name, for the purpose of encouraging believers who were facing intense persecution for their faith in Jesus Christ (1 Pet. 1:6). Peter calls Christians  to rejoice in their suffering because of the great inheritance of eternal life that awaits them, even in the midst of great trials that are being used to test and refine their faith in Christ (1:4-9). In the third chapter Peter explains the importance of maintaining a holy composure even when reviled for one’s faith (3:9). It is here in chapter three that is contained what many consider the heart-cry of Christian apologetics:

but 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, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame.

Let us examine the three important principles of apologetics that Peter reveals.

1. Honor Christ the Lord as holy.

Peter, who is (specifically in the context of suffering) borrowing language from the prophet Isaiah (Is. 29:23), makes clear that at the point of contact with unbelievers, we must maintain the supremacy and holiness of Christ. The foundation of our faith is Christ (Is. 28:16-17; 1 Pet. 2:6; Eph. 2:20), his greatness being worthy of  our constant reverence and being the driving force behind our interactions with the world. Our apologetic framework is to be rooted deeply in our theology and knowledge of the person of Christ.

How is this attitude toward Christ attained? By the constant study and meditating upon the Word of God – which cultivates  our affections and renews our minds to the ways of Christ (Rom. 12:2). The esteeming of Christ is the motor by which the vehicle of apologetics must intimately conjoined, as will be addressed below.

2. Always be prepared to make a defense.

In our response to the holiness and wonders of Christ, it is from here that the apologist may properly “make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you….”

Being prepared to testify about the doctrines of Christ requires that the believer dwell upon the Scriptures, the source of our intimacy with God. The purpose of verse 15 is not so much about preparing intellectually for the interaction, but to be prepared spiritually.

When dealing with those who do not believe (especially those who persecute us), we must allow the beauty of Christ and our attitude toward him to remain central in order to determine our attitude toward one whose demands may be especially scornful of our faith. The hope we have is Christ, the Holy One of God, who humbled himself to become a servant so that our sins may be forgiven through his death and resurrection (Phil. 2:4-11). Capture this image of Christ and allow this to maintain the proper focus of your apologetic. Indeed, this leads to the third point…

3. Be gentle.

Anytime we are presented with the opportunity to share the Gospel with others, it is imperative to preserve a level of respect and gentleness for the one we are communicating with. Gentleness is a fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23).

To be gentle with others does not mean to be fragile or weak ourselves. Instead, the act in gentleness is to restrain from harshness in exchange for humility, love, and kindness – even if the person is exhibiting hostility toward us.

Christ, being God, had every opportunity and right to deal severely with us in our disobedient and unregenerate state. Thankfully, God who is rich in mercy, was patient with us in our rebellion and loved us despite our sinfulness and depravity, restoring us in Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit (Eph. 2:4-10).

This does not mean we are not to share truth with confidence (and the message of the Gospel much of the time results in aggressive opposition), but we are to share the truth with the disposition of Christ, with a desire to heal with the good news of the Gospel. If we act in accordance with the gentleness of Christ, we can have a good conscience (v. 16), no matter the result of the conversation.

Conclusion

Apologetics (apologia) is the reasoned defense of the Christian worldview. Many of us are presented with many occasions on which we can share the Gospel with others. Unfortunately, apologetics is greatly misunderstood because of its frequent abuse. If you are active on social media, it is not uncommon that you will  come across a well-meaning Christian who is discussing his faith with a skeptic. More times than not, I notice, even though the Christian is presenting good argumentation for the truthfulness of Christianity, they do not appear to be offering the arguments with the correct intentions. They are more interested in winning an argument than winning the soul of someone who is lost.

Apologetics is far more than defeating our opponents – it is to be an instrument of evangelism for the sake of the Gospel. We should hold close the words of Peter, remembering we are dealing with real, flesh and blood bearers of the Imago Dei. We should approach apologetics as a means to reach the lost, holding Christ in the highest regard. This will allow us to deliver the truth of the Gospel with gentleness and kindness that God showed us, when we too were lost.

Chaseton Hahn is a public servant and a seminarian at Liberty University, studying to complete an M.Div in Christian Apologetics.

How to Get Into Spiritual Conversations

Talking to strangers can be a scary thing. But for Christians, it can be a very rewarding endeavor. Joel Settecase introduced what spiritual conversations are and why we ought to seek them out. Then he looked at some biblical examples and two or three examples from my own life. Finally, he shared two stories of spiritual conversations I had recently, both on airplanes and discussed the benefit of having a "captive audience."