Posted on July 23rd, 2014 by J.D. Payne
In my previous post, I shared that when witnessing, there is nothing wrong with saying that you don’t have an answer to someone’s tough question. It is better to say, “I don’t know,” than to be hasty in your own words (Prov 29:20). Now, I want to share with you the value of such a reply. Whenever you respond to someone’s difficult question in a manner such as this, you communicate four matters that are important to sharing your faith.
Honesty. By saying, “I don’t know,” you communicate that you are not a know-it-all. You communicate to the person that they have a good and legitimate question and one that you take seriously. A made-up answer betrays your integrity.
I was once sharing the gospel with a man who asked me, “Why doesn’t the Bible talk about life on other planets?” Now, that is not the typical question you normally get from someone after talking about Jesus! However, I could tell that he was asking this question in all sincerity and legitimately wanted to know the answer.
I recall my response to him: “You know, that is a very good question, simply because you are asking it. I don’t know why the Bible does not talk about life on other planets. I don’t have an answer for you. I do know that the Bible says that God created everything, and if there is life on other planets, He created that life as well. Also, while I don’t know why the Bible is silent on this topic, I do know what the Bible has to say about life on this planet. . . .” and then I was able to return the conversation to Jesus.
Humility. By telling someone you don’t know the answer to their question, you reveal a humility that is a witness to the power of the gospel. Your humility communicates that you don’t have to know everything to follow Jesus. Your humility communicates to the person that you are secure in your faith, even if you don’t know all the mysteries of the universe and everything about the Bible. You communicate that followers of Jesus are still learning and have open minds in the search for truth. A humble response shows that you do not have to revile others when they back you into an intellectual corner. Your answer communicates that Jesus is bigger than the conundrums of life.
Sincerity. When you tell someone that you don’t know the answer to their question, it allows you to share with them that you are willing to find out an answer to their question. Rather than simply dismissing the question as nonsense or foolishness, you are able to share with the person that you will attempt to find an answer to their question.
Relationally. By offering to find out the answer to a person’s question, you are able to set up another time when you can meet again to speak on such matters and share the gospel. Your willingness to confess your lack of knowledge, but willingness to search it out and meet again, reveals that you are more interested in the person than simply making your point and moving on to the next person.
Always be prepared to give a reason for the hope that you have (1 Pet 3:15). Don’t let the fear of your ignorance hinder you from being intentional in making disciples of all nations. Study, learn, grow, and as you go, don’t be afraid to say, “I don’t know, but let’s get together again to talk about your question.”
J. D. Payne is the pastor of church multiplication with The Church at Brook Hills. He is the author of several books including Evangelism: A Biblical Response to Today’s Questions. He blog frequently at jdpayne.org and may be found on Twitter @jd_payne.
Posted on July 22nd, 2014 by Jonathan
In his a recent article titled, ”The Great Commission Means Sharing Christ’s Story, Not Yours,” Trevin Wax cautions us against the popular tendency to emphasize what Christ has done in our lives at the expense of sharing what Christ has done in history, namely, his death and resurrection. While this notion that evangelism cannot be equated with sharing your personal testimony is not popular with many, it seems to us that Wax’s article is appropriate and timely. Here’s why:
- The gospel we are to preach is not essentially the good news of how you have been changed. Rather, it is the good news of how God saves. If we are to proclaim the gospel throughout the world (which we are), then we ought to be clear on what the gospel is … and it is not ultimately about you. Jesus is the object of our faith, and thus, the focal point of the gospel. As the article pointed out, the apostles’ witness primarily dealt with who they saw Christ was and what they saw Christ do. That’s why when Paul wrote about delivering what was “of first importance,” he centered on Jesus’ death and resurrection (1 Corinthians 15: 3-5), not his Damascus Road experience.
- Only the gospel call confronts someone with their need to repent and trust in Jesus for salvation. Good stories may make people feel good. Accounts of personal change can inspire others to be more moral. Sharing how Jesus has saved you may even show someone a good example of repentance and faith. But we must also call people to it. J.I. Packer says that “evangelism is the issuing of a call to turn, as well as to trust; it is the delivering, not merely of a divine invitation to receive a Savior, but of a divine command to repent of sin. And there is no evangelism where this specific application is not made” (Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God, 43-44).
If we are clear on what evangelism is (and isn’t), it is easy to see that Wax was dead on when he said sharing your story must not be confused with sharing Christ’s. Don’t mistake this for an academic exercise in semantics, though. This article needed to be written. It shows many of us that we may not have had as good an understanding of evangelism as we may have thought, or else hits at the heart of our own sinful tendencies to shy away from proclaiming the whole gospel.
Isn’t it easy, when it comes down to it, to share your story as a mere alternative to someone else’s? “Thanks for sharing your experience and resulting worldview; now let me share mine” … the Great Commission is not a call swap ideas. It isn’t fun to confront people with a message that says: “You’re wrong and headed to eternal punishment because of it. You need so stop what you’re doing and start trusting in Jesus.” But at the end of the day, ignorant non-swimmers headed to the deep end of the pool won’t care care if you embarrass or offend them when you stop them from diving to their death … and for that matter neither will you. Yet in evangelism, it’s all too easy, whether through a story or some other approach, to fall short of warning people of the danger they’re in because it would be uncomfortable to do so.
You may use your story to give some handles to what repentance and faith looks like. You may use your story to segue into Christ’s. But your story in and of itself is definitively not evangelism. So to close, here are some good summary statements of what evangelism is:
“Evangelism is teaching the gospel with the aim to persuade.” J. Mack Stiles, Evangelism, 26
“According to the New Testament, evangelism is just preaching the gospel, the evangel. It is a work of communication in which Christians make themselves mouthpieces for God’s message of mercy to sinners.” J.I. Packer, Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God, 45
“Evangelism is telling people the wonderful truth about God, the great news about Jesus Christ.” Mark Dever, The Gospel and Personal Evangelism, 82
To sum it all up . . .
“The content of our message is Christ and God, not our journey to faith. Our personal testimony may be included, but witnessing is more than reciting our spiritual autobiography. Specific truths about a specific person are the subject of our proclamation. A message has been committed to us–a word of reconciliation to the world (2 Cor 5:19).” Will Metzger, Tell the Truth, 55
Posted on July 21st, 2014 by Jonathan
Every once in a while, it’s good to get a refresher on concepts we generally think we understand. When’s the last time you’ve heard a good explanation of persecution?
Below, you can listen to a good overview of what persecution is, how it may look, and why it occurs from Jonathan, the (well-traveled) Pastor of Global Disciple-Making at The Church at Brook Hills.
~ The goal of persecution is to silence witness. ~
Posted on July 18th, 2014 by Cory Varden
What’s All This ‘Gospel-Centered’ Talk About?, Dane Ortlund: “Gospel-centered preaching.” “Gospel-centered parenting.” “Gospel-centered discipleship.” The back of my business card says “gospel-centered publishing.” This descriptive mantra is tagged on to just about anything and everything in the Christian world these days. What’s it all about?
5 Insights Into Idolatry, J.D. Greear: There are certain themes in Scripture that tend to beat you over the head with their persistence. Idolatry is one of those. It’s such a prominent theme in Scripture that some have said it is the central theme of the entire Bible. And when it comes to idolatry, we humans are endlessly creative. As John Calvin said, “The heart of man is a perpetual factory of idols.” Give us the chance, and we’ll replace God with any and every object, person, ideal, or dream.
The Missional Church is Pointed in 5 Directions, Trevin Wax: The unhealthy church is too inward-focused, some will say. Unless a church looks outside itself to its kingdom mission, it will shrink and die. Wise counsel, of course. Just as Christians are to put others before themselves, churches are to put their mission ahead of their own comfort. But missional churches are not called to only look outward. The biblical position is more robust (and beautiful) than the inward / outward dichotomy. In fact, one of the directions a missional church should look is inward, as long as it is being pointed in the other directions as well.
Posted on July 17th, 2014 by J.D. Payne
One of the reasons some Christians offer for not being more intentional in sharing their faith is that they fear being asked a question they cannot answer. While this is not a legitimate excuse for refraining from witnessing, this reality exists among many churches. Today’s post is the first of two in which I wish to address this matter.
I recall early in my walk with the Lord that I believed that I had to have an answer to every question an unbeliever asked. While I was not afraid of being asked a question I could not answer, I believed that I had to give an answer immediately, even when asked a question that I did not know the answer to. I felt that showing my ignorance would embarrass the Lord. I believed that a lack of knowledge would reveal weakness.
While there is no excuse for remaining ignorant and not growing in our knowledge of the Scriptures and how to better respond to people’s tough questions, we must understand that no one knows everything. This is a different matter than “always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for the reason for the hope that is in you” (1 Pet 3:15, ESV). All believers should be able to give witness to the gospel and call others to repentance and faith. All believers should be in the process of “being prepared” to better defend the truth. However, difficult questions will come. And we should study the Scriptures to know the truth of God’s word, and to know how to respond appropriately to the tough questions.
But, if you are asked a question that you can’t answer at the moment, be honest. Simply say, I don’t know. Consider the following truths regarding the importance of speaking out of knowledge and not ignorance:
- “In everything the prudent acts with knowledge, but a fool flaunts his folly” (Prov 13:16, ESV).
- “Do you see a man who is hasty in his words? There is more hope for a fool than for him” (Prov 29:20, ESV).
- “Desire without knowledge is not good, and whoever makes haste with his feet misses his way” (Prov 19:2, ESV).
Here is a liberating fact when it comes to personal evangelism: God does not need you or me to be his bodyguard. He does not need us to be His defense. He is big enough to take care of Himself. When someone challenges you with a question, don’t freak out. Simply say something such as, “You know, that is a very good question. I have not thought about that. And I don’t have an answer for you right now. But, I want to find out the answer to your question. Let’s get back together and talk about it.”
In my next post, I will share the value of such a response to the Christian’s witness and gospel proclamation among the nations.
J. D. Payne is the pastor of church multiplication with The Church at Brook Hills. He is the author of several books including Evangelism: A Biblical Response to Today’s Questions. He blog frequently at jdpayne.org and may be found on Twitter @jd_payne.
For the good of our souls, every believer in Christ needs to be held accountable by other believers. This is just one reason why committing to and serving in a local church is so important. But even as a member of a local church, it can be easy to drift along without anyone knowing your struggles, temptations, blind spots, and potential spiritual disasters waiting right around the corner. That’s why it’s important to be proactive in this area of our sanctification. We need others who will help us persevere in the faith.
Not everyone does accountability the exact same way, though for obvious reasons you should meet with persons of the same gender. Some prefer to meet with only one other person, while others find it more helpful and balanced to meet with two people. Regardless, it’s good to have some structure and specificity when we’re addressing sin. With that in mind, we’d like to share some examples of personal accountability forms.
The downloadable forms below are adapted from a form that the elders of Bethlehem Baptist Church created and which Desiring God has shared in the past. You may want to adapt these forms depending on your life situation, martial status, etc.. These are just samples, but however you choose to tackle this aspect of Christian growth, make sure that you’re being intentional about dealing with sin. Be accountable to someone and graciously seek to serve them in this same way.
Personal Accountability (For anyone)
Pastoral Accountability (Slightly adapted for pastors or others in vocational ministry)
Singles Accountability (Slightly adapted for singles)
–Here’s a sample of the Personal Accountability Report . . .
Personal Accountability Report Name: Date:
1. How are you doing in the following Life & Ministry areas?
- Assess your overall energy in life and ministry . . . (Unstable) 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 (Stable)
- Assess your feelings of effectiveness in your pastoral role . . . (Unstable) 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 (Stable)
2. How are you doing in the following Marriage & Family areas?
- How is your family joy and harmony? (Unstable) 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 (Stable)
- How well have you loved your wife this past week? (NotWell) 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 (Well)
- How well have you loved your children this past week? (NotWell) 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 (Well)
3. How are you doing in the following Integrity & Character areas?
- Assess your battle against ungodly thoughts (unbelief, bitterness, resentment, lust, pride, self-righteousness, cynicism, jealousy, covetousness, racism, etc.) . . . (Unstable) 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 (Stable)
- Have you been with a man or woman in the past week in a way that could be viewed as compromising? (Yes / No)
- Have you viewed sexually explicit material? (Yes / No)
- Have you had any financial dealings that failed to be filled with integrity? (Yes / No)
4. How are you doing in the following Health & Wellness areas?
- Assess your eating and exercise this past week . . . (Unhealthy) 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 (Healthy)
- Did you take a day off this past week (3 consecutive R & R modules)? (Yes / No) If not, how do you plan to compensate for it in the near future?
5. How are you doing in the following Discipleship & Growth areas?
6. Is there anything in particular that you would like us to pray with you about or hold you accountable for or rejoice over (significant stresses, temptations, or joys)?
- Assess your consistency with satisfying personal devotions . . . (Unstable) 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 (Stable)
- Are you implementing your Personal Disciple-making Plan? (Yes / No / Somewhat) If not, in which areas are you struggling and how do you plan to adjust?
- What Scripture have you memorized this week?
- Who have you shared the gospel with this week and how did it go?
- What other ways this week have you worked to make disciples?
- Outside of the Bible, what are you currently reading and what are you currently learning?
Do you ever have doubts about whether or not the Word of God is true? You might not share them with your Christian friends, but deep down, do you ever sit and wonder if what you’re living your life for is, well, actually real?
If you’ve been a Christian for any length of time, it’s likely you’ve had some doubts about what you believe. That’s a part of what it means to still be imperfect. But sometimes these occasional doubts come to a head. The brief moments of wondering, “Is this all true?” get some traction. We begin to worry, and a heaviness comes over us. The confidence and joy we used to have in God’s loving care seem naive or out of reach.
If that kind of doubt sounds familiar, I’d like to point you to a (former) fellow doubter. He’s actually an unlikely doubter. According to Jesus, this man had been given the most privileged calling in history up until his time (Matthew 11:11). Yet, in the confines of a prison cell, this man who once thundered the arrival of King Jesus in his preaching now agonized over whether it had all been a big mistake. He wondered, “Is Jesus really the One?” I’m speaking, of course, of John the Baptist.
The account of John the Baptist’s doubt is recorded in Matthew 11:1-19 and Luke 7:18-35. One of the reasons John’s example is so helpful is because it keeps us from thinking that doubt and uncertainty are only the experience of immature or wishy-washy Christians. This fiery prophet from the wilderness was no half-hearted disciple: John the Baptist was fearless, telling everyone in no uncertain terms that they needed to repent of their sins and flee God’s wrath. We’re talking about a guy who called the religious elite of his day a “brood of vipers.” Who does that? John was the one predicted by the Old Testament who would prepare the way of the Lord (Isaiah 40:3). He was uniquely called by God and filled with the Spirit from birth. This guy baptized Jesus, for crying out loud. Yet, as John’s ministry was coming to a close, he began to wonder about whether he had correctly identified the Lamb of God. Had he made a colossal mistake?
John the Baptist’s doubt seems a little puzzling at first. Could the man who saw the Holy Spirit descend on Jesus really be perplexed about Christ’s identity? This is where we need to be reminded that doubt is not simply an intellectual hurdle. In his commentary on Matthew, David Platt points out three factors in this passage–what he calls the “anatomy of doubt”–that help explain John’s questioning (Exalting Jesus in Matthew, 145-146):
1) Difficult situations: John likely experienced hunger, physical torment, and emotional struggles as he sat alone in a filthy prison.
2) Unmet expectations: The Messiah had not brought about the change that John expected. No judgment had fallen on the wicked, and the Messiah was still largely unknown.
3) Limited perception: John couldn’t see exactly how his imprisonment and the events of his day were all part of what God was doing in Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection.
These aren’t the only sources of doubt, but could it be that you’re wrestling with uncertainty about the gospel because of a difficult situation at work? Or because a close friend has cancer? Or maybe you were expecting to be at a better place in life, and despite trying to serve the Lord faithfully, you can’t seem to find a job or a husband or close Christian fellowship? These are the kinds of things that often feed our doubts. Trials wear us down emotionally or they make us feel like this Christianity thing can’t be true. And like John, we don’t consider that our perception is limited, and that God might be working through our suffering and disappointments for his own good purposes.
So how do you respond to this kind of doubt? Platt mentions two ways (147):
1) Biblical revelation: Regardless of how things look or how we feel, Scripture provides us with a firm footing for our faith. Doubt must be countered with the truth. Just as Jesus answered John’s question by pointing him to Old Testament prophecies about the Messiah (Matthew 11:4-5), so we must look to God’s Word to interpret our own, sometimes confusing, experiences.
2) Joyful submission: Jesus told the disciples of John the Baptist ” . . . blessed is the one who is not offended by me” (Matthew 11:6). This is a call to trust Christ, even when all around us is giving way. We rely on what our eyes can’t see–that God is sovereign, that God is wise, and that he is working all things for our good (Romans 8:28).
There are many kinds of doubt and many causes of doubt, including a person’s own physical and emotional wiring. There are also many ways to attack doubt, not least of which is through fellowship with other believers who can counsel and encourage us. So whatever you do, don’t withdraw from the church as you wrestle with doubts. But in every case, whether you’re John the Baptist or a brand new Christian, at least part of the response to your doubt should be to listen to God’s Word and to trust in what you hear. Submit joyfully to the One who gave his own Son for you. Your circumstances don’t have the final word.
Confess your doubt, believer, and then let Jesus talk you out of it, just as he did for John.
– For more on battling doubt:
“When Faith is Hard and the Burden is Heavy” (sermon)
Posted on July 14th, 2014 by Radical
If you use Amazon.com to make purchases, we wanted to make you aware of their new initiative called AmazonSmile. AmazonSmile allows you to give 0.5% of every AmazonSmile eligible purchase to the charity of your choice, and Radical is included as one of those charities.
Once you go to AmazonSmile, simply click on the Search button and type Radical, Inc.–that’s us. You don’t have to be an Amazon Prime member to participate. Go here to get answers to FAQ’s about AmazonSmile.
To be clear, we are not hereby endorsing Amazon or any of its policies or positions, but if you’re already using the site to make purchases, we’d be grateful if you would consider including Radical as a way to partner with us in providing biblical resources at little to no cost.
Posted on July 11th, 2014 by Cory Varden
The Next Wave of Missions, J.D. Greear: I am convinced that the next wave of missions (at least coming from the Western World) is going to happen on the wings of business. This has a strong biblical and historical precedent. Luke seems to go out of his way to show that the gospel got to some places in the ancient world faster via the hands of Christian merchants than even Apostles. He notes that the first time the church “went everywhere preaching the word,” the Apostles were not engaged (Acts 8:1).
Evangelicals and Cities: A Discussion in Need of Clarity, Kevin Deyoung: I love cities. I’ve spent time in Washington D.C., Philadelphia, and Chicago this summer. I love the energy, the opportunities, and the history of our nation’s big cities. I have no desire to discourage any Christian from moving to the city for ministry. Our cities have lots of people, and so they need lots of Christians, lots of churches, and lots of evangelical institutions. I’m all for evangelicals and cities coming together. But what does that mean?
How Churches Became Cruise Ships, Skye Jethani: Why am I talking about the history of the shipping industry? Well, I think it’s a helpful parallel for what’s happened in the American church over the last 40 years. Around the same time that jetliners were causing waves for the shipping industry, cultural changes were also rocking the church. Prior to the 1960s most churches in America were small with a very utilitarian function–they transported people into communion with God by providing the basic necessities for living a Christian life.
“His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.“
2 Peter 1:3-4
We live in a day of rampant sexual immorality. We are inundated at every turn through magazines, books, music, TV, movies, and a hundred other avenues that we are seemingly blind to. It’s no wonder, then, that many in the church are struggling to fight lust on a daily basis. John Piper attempts to help us with his comments on 2 Peter 1:3-4 . . .
“How do we escape from the corruption that comes from lust? The answer is that God has given us a revelation of his ‘glory and excellence’ expressed in ‘precious and magnificent promises.’ These have been given to us for this very purpose: that ‘by them’ we might share God’s character and be freed from the corruption of lust. The key is the power of promises. When we are entranced by the preciousness of them and the magnificence of them, the effect is liberation from the lusts, which are, in fact, not precious and not magnificent. Paul calls these enslaving lusts, ‘lusts of deceit‘ (Ephsesians 4:22), and he says that the ‘lustful passion’ of the Gentiles stems from the fact that they ‘do not know God’ (1 Thessalonians 4:5). Similarly, Peter calls these lusts, ‘lusts which were yours in ignorance’–that is, ignorance of God’s glory and his precious and magnificent promises (1 Peter 1:14). They claim to offer precious pleasures and magnificent experiences. What can free us from them? Compelling, inspiring, enthralling Truth. The truth of God’s precious and magnificent promises that expose the lie of lust in the light of God’s all-surpassing glory.”
John Piper, Future Grace, 336-337
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