Monthly Archives: January 2014

So where did all the converts go?

It made me cringe when he said it. Tony was teaching a class on evangelism a couple weeks ago that I was attending, and he said, “Yeah, we rarely can follow-up a new convert because we can’t find them.” The problem was not lack of contact information on the new convert. The problem was that the person made a decision but did not want to be contacted again. It happened to me about a month ago with a couple that seemed to make a sincere decision to trust Christ for the first time. However, when I sought to contact them: no response back. So frustrating!

According to most reports from denominations, the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, and the Luis Palau Association, less than 20% of those who make decisions for Christ end up getting followed-up and in churches (Hell’s Best Kept Secret, Ray Comfort, p 9). Where is the power of the Gospel to transform peoples’ lives? Why is there little brokenness when we share the Gospel? Why can’t we find those who have prayed to trust Christ for the first time? It is like they tried Jesus on for a few days the same way they decided to drink Pepsi or Coke, then thought they would try something else. It it a problem with the Gospel or how we are sharing it?

I am convinced it is the way we share the Gospel. The Gospel I have preached in the past has been far more man-centered than God-centered. I told people that Jesus would make their lives go better. Really? Tell that to the millions of martyrs through the centuries who lost their lives because they “tried” Jesus.

I preached and shared much on the grace and love of God in Christ, but not much on the utter helplessness and depravity of man. Rarely did I mention the holiness of God and the absolute hatred He has for sin. Apart from Christ, God calls the natural man desperately sick (Jer 17:9), a deaf cobra (Ps 58:4), helpless (Rom 5:6), enemies (Rom 5:10), dead sinners (Eph 2:1), disobedient (Eph 2:2), children of wrath (Eph 2:3), blinded by satan (2 Cor 4:4), condemned criminals (Romans 3:8-18) to be cast in the lake of fire forever (Revelation 21:8).

Paul Washer, in his excellent book, The Gospel’s Power and Message, states, “The book of Romans is the closest thing we have to a systematic theology in the Scriptures . . . it is extremely important to note that the first three chapters of this letter, with the exception of a brief introduction, are dedicated to hamartiology, or the doctrine of sin” (p 75).

I am convinced that many decisions for Christ are false conversions because there is no conviction of sin. Too many are just trying Jesus to see if He makes their lives better.  That is why I have changed the way I share the Gospel.

The problem today is NOT with the Gospel. The problem is that we have not properly prepared the soil for the Gospel in the hearts of men and women. People need to hear and be overwhelmed with the holiness and purity of God, the absolute, utter depravity of their own souls, and His coming righteous judgement on sin.

How can we do that? How did Jesus do it? How did the Apostles Peter and Paul do it? How did preachers and evangelists of the past do it? They all used the same weapon to expose the utter sinfulness of man. God has given us ONE powerful weapon to get the job done. This weapon has been neglected for too long in the evangelical gospel presentation. That is what next week’s blog is all about!

Recommended reading:
Ray Comfort, Hell’s Best Kept Secret
Ray Comfort, God Has a Wonderful Plan for Your Life; The Myth of the Modern Message
Paul Washer, The Gospel’s Power and Message

A Lesson on Walking in Step with the Spirit

I wonder sometimes why it takes me so long to walk in step with the Spirit instead of doing what I want to do. Though we, as followers of Jesus, are repeatedly commanded to be filled with the Spirit, be surrendered to the Spirit, be led by the Spirit, and to not put out the fire of the Spirit (Rom 8:14; Eph 4:30; 5:18; Gal 5:16-17; 1 Thess 5:19), I just think my agenda is better than His. I think I know the next best step better than the Holy Spirit. I would rather lead than follow in the dance called today. Yesterday was a case in point.

For several days I wanted to walk across the street to share the Gospel with my neighbors.  They desperately need Jesus. The entire family was home yesterday and that was MY plan. I had about a two hour block of time and it seemed the perfect time. But the Holy Spirit told me to go for a jog. “But I want to go share the Gospel with my neighbors,” I pleaded. I tested the Spirit to make sure it was the Holy Spirit and not my fears (1 John 4:1-3). So I went for a jog. Now time to muster the courage to go share with my neighbors. Nope. The Holy Spirit said to go for a prayer walk. What about my neighbors???  I tested the Spirit again, and He confirmed to go for a prayer walk through our large neighborhood.

During the prayer walk I cried out to God for the salvation of many neighbors. Toward the very end of the prayer walk I also asked Him to please give me an opportunity to share the Gospel with whom He wanted to share instead of with whom I wanted to share.  As I prayed that prayer, a man, who had been jogging, stopped 20 yards before me. I had never seen him before in our neighborhood. He walked toward me and we began an amazing conversation which led to him inviting me into his home to share the Gospel with his entire family.  There was no prayer of repentance with them yesterday, but a huge cry of repentance for me.

“Lord, forgive me for telling You how to run Your universe and my world. I have grieved your Holy Spirit and put out of the fire of the Holy Spirit too often. I have believed my agenda and my will are better than Yours. Forgive me for my stinking pride, agenda, and self-will. Jesus bore it all on Calvary. Thank You for cleansing me and picking me up again seeking full-surrender to the Sovereign Holy Spirit today. You lead today in this dance called today. May the Lord Jesus be glorified in it. Oh, by the way, Lord, my across the street neighbors still desperately need You! In the Name of Jesus and for His glory. Amen.”

God prevails over us that we may prevail in prayer

For the follower of Jesus, every circumstance in life is a God-ordained moment when God seeks to prevail over us so that we may prevail in prayer. This truth is beautifully illustrated in Genesis 32:24-32 where Jacob prevails in prayer with the angel of the Lord. Jacob had left home over two decades earlier after buying his brother Esau’s birthright and deceiving his father, Isaac, stealing the blessing that rightfully belonged to Esau. Now, over twenty years later, God had blessed him, and he was heading back home fearing the annihilation of his family by his brother Esau. In the this climactic moment of Jacob’s life, he spends the night wrestling with God. And it is here that the LORD takes Jacob back to his place of greatest failure in order to prevail over Jacob.

Incredibly, as the dawn is breaking and the angel of the Lord “saw that he had not prevailed against [Jacob], he touched the socket of his thigh; so the socket of Jacob’s thigh was dislocated while he wrestled with him” (Gen 32:25). The angel of the Lord then demands that Jacob let go of him, but Jacob would not let go until the angel of the Lord blessed him. At that moment, the angel of the Lord asks Jacob the same question his father, Isaac, asked twenty years earlier, “What is your name?” (Gen 27:18). Why would the angel of the Lord do that? He was taking Jacob back to the place of his greatest failure–his greatest sin–not to hurt Jacob, but to expose his hard heart.

As Wesley Duewel states in Mighty Prevailing Prayer, “God was doing a transforming work in [Jacob’s] nature. He was being brought to the end of himself, but this position made him bold in faith.  A new Jacob prevails with God because God has prevailed over him.” The LORD prevailed over Jacob so that Jacob might prevail in prayer and gain the blessing to him, his entire family, and to you. For in Christ Jesus, the blessing and promises of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob are all yours (Gal 3:29).

So what can we learn from this amazing event? No matter our circumstances, the LORD is seeking to prevail over you to expose your sin and take you to the the Cross of Jesus. That is the place He prevails over us. He will use our present circumstances to take us back to a place of failure to show us our need for brokenness and repentance. God spent over twenty years of Jacob’s life sovereignly setting up the circumstances for Jacob to come to the end of himself and see what a sinner he was in order to see the greatness of God’s grace. What circumstances are you now dealing with that God’s grace might prevail over you?

Jacob prevailed in prayer with the LORD because the LORD had prevailed over him. God calls us to prevail in prayer to gain answers to what is sought. God commands you and me to “draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Heb 4:16). God invites us to a wrestling match. We have a Great High Priest, Jesus, who is prevailing in prayer right now at the right hand of the Father (Heb 7:25). For what is your Advocate before the Father praying and calling you to pray into reality on earth as it in heaven? Don’t quit praying! The Son of God has prevailed over you through His death and resurrection in order that you might daily prevail in prayer before the Throne of Grace! He reigns by intercession. So do we (Rom 5:2, 17).