Thursday, November 04, 2010

Five Lessons on Evangelism & Preaching from the Puritans

The Word of God is preached too often today in a way that will not transform listeners because it fails to *discriminate and fails to apply. Such preaching is reduced to... a catering to what people want to hear, or the kind of subjectivism that is divorced from the foundation of scripture...Reformed and Puritan preachers applied their sermons to every part of life, all of Scripture to the entire man. They were unashamedly doctrinal. We can learn much from them on how to evangelize, such as:

1) Speak the truth about God. That seems obvious. But how often do we speak to others about God's majestic being, His Trinitarian personality, and His glorious attributes? How often do we tell others about His holiness, sovereignty, mercy, and love? Do we root our evangelism in a robust biblical theism, or do we take our cues from modern evangelism which approaches God as if He were a next-door neighbor, who adjusts His attributes to our needs and desires? How often do we speak to others about how God and His majestic attributes have become experientially real to us

2) Speak the truth about man. Do you talk to others about our depraved nature and our desperate need for salvation in Jesus Christ? Do you say that.. by nature; that we are all... sinners with a terrible record, which is a legal problem, as well as a bad heart, which is a moral problem? Do you talk to them about the dreadful character of sin; that sin is something that stems back to our tragic fall in Adam and affects every part of us, so dominating our mind, heart, will, and conscience that we are slaves to it? Do you describe sin as moral rebellion against God? Do you say that the wages of sin is death, now and for all eternity?

3) Speak the truth about Christ. Do we present the complete Christ to sinners, not separating His benefits from His person or offering Him as a Savior while ignoring His claims as Lord? Do we offer Christ as the grand remedy for the great malady of sin and repeatedly declare His ability, willingness to save, and preciousness as the exclusive Redeemer of lost sinners? Do you exhibit the way of salvation in Christ in your faith and repentance? Paul said, "I testified to you publicly and from house to house repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ" (Acts 20:20-21). Do you likewise evangelize your friends and neighbors when God offers that opportunity? Do you explain to them what faith and repentance are in a born-again sinner?

4) Speak the truth about sanctification. Do you tell others how a Christian must walk the King's highway of holiness in gratitude, service, obedience, love, and self-denial? Do you tell how he must learn the art of meditation, of fearing God, and of childlike prayer? How he must press on by God's grace, seeking to make his calling and election sure? Do you disciple your associates in the need for habitual, experiential faith, repentance, and godliness?

5) Speak the truth about eternal consequences. Do not be afraid to speak about the consequences of despising the blood of Jesus Christ. Do not flinch from describing damnation and hell. As one Puritan wrote, "We must go with the stick of divine truth and beat every bush behind which a sinner hides, until like Adam who hid, he stands before God in his nakedness." We must speak urgently to people around us because many are on their way to hell. We must confront sinners with the law and gospel, with death in Adam and life in Christ. Let us use every weapon we can to turn sinners from the road of destruction so they may, through grace, experience a living, experiential relationship with God in Jesus Christ. We know from Scripture and by experience that an omnipotent Christ can bless our efforts and rescue a dead sinner, divorce him from his sinful lusts, and make him willing to forsake his wicked ways and turn to God, fully resolved to make God his goal and his praise. Acts 5:31 says, "Him hath God exalted with his right hand to be a Prince and a Savior, for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins." Praise God for the experience of His amazing grace toward us in Christ.

~ Joel Beeke Puritan Reformed Spirituality

* discriminate: to make a distinction in favor of or against a person or thing on the basis of the group, class, or category to which the person or thing belongs rather than according to actual merit; show partiality.

We must remember to make the distinction that the blessed promises of God for His tender mercy and the gift of eternal life are to be distinguished as only belonging to the people of God. In other words, the mercy of God is particular. Only those who have repented and trusted in Christ find themselves in His saving grace. The one who is born-again has been covered in the Blood of the Lamb. They are a new creation. The person who is unregenerate is in an entirely different category. They are enemies of God through wicked works. His mercy, forgiveness and favor in the way of salvation have not been granted them. They remain condemned and under the just wrath of Almighty God. Unless they repent, they will perish!

The conversion of sinner is a gracious sovereign work of Divine power. Let us do God's work, God's way. Rather than promising sinners that God's mercy is theirs and that His grace is automatic, we can, and indeed MUST, trust the the process of God's effectual calling to be accomplished in and through the means of faithful gospel proclamation.

Let us avoid any manipulation of the truth as it is in Jesus. Using Rom. 8:30 as its guide the Westminster Confession explains: “All those whom God hath predestinated unto life, and those only, He is pleased, in His appointed and accepted time, effectually to call, by His Word and Spirit, out of that state of sin and death in which they are by nature, to grace and salvation by Jesus Christ.”

The Westminster Shorter Catechism explains: “Effectual calling is the work of God’s Spirit whereby, convincing us of our sin and misery, enlightening our minds in the knowledge of Christ, and renewing our wills, he doth persuade and enable us to embrace Jesus Christ, freely offered to us in the gospel.” 

The effectual calling of God has three divine components:
1) It is a work of Divine grace
2) It is a work of Divine power.
3) It is a work of Divine sovereignty.

Remember ... "Salvation is of the Lord."—Jonah 2:9

“With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God.” Mark 10:7

Together for Life & Eternity,
Patte Smith
Sanctuary Ministries

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