Author Archives: Tim Hanley

Prayer alone will NOT get it done!

Standing at the abortion mill in Augusta as I did last week and just praying will NOT get it done. Praying to end the genocide of over a million image-bearers each year in America will NOT get it done. Begging God for revival of His Church in our monthly Columbia Call to Prayer will NOT get it done. Going to church weekly and sending up prayers for a nation that has already gone over the cliff spiritually, morally, ethically, financially, educationally, and culturally will NOT get it done.

God’s Word is very clear that prayer is critical to the advancement of the Kingdom. When troops go into battle, communication with headquarters is vital. Headquarters knows what is happening on the ground and can send reinforcements, firepower, and resources to direct and empower the troops. But communication alone will not get it done. There must be warriors on the ground taking enemy territory. The same is true in this cosmic spiritual battle.

Prayer alone with not get it done! It is time for the Church to NOT just pray, but to SPEAK! Yes, our Lord has commanded us to pray, but He has also commanded us to SPEAK. And it the Gospel that we must SPEAK.

Just look at a few of our Lord’s commands and the example and words of the apostles:

  • What I tell you in the darkness, speak in the light; and what you hear whispered in your ear, proclaim upon the housetops. (Mt 10:27)
  • And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature. (Mk 16:15)
  • And He said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ would suffer and rise again from the dead the third day, and that repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in His name to all the nations. beginning from Jerusalem. (Lk 24:46-47)
  • But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth. (Acts 1:8)
  • How I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you publicly and from house to house, solemnly testifying to both Jews and Greeks of repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. (Acts 20:20-21)
  • For we are not like many peddling the Word of God, but as from sincerity, but as from God, we speak in Christ in the Presence of God. (2 Corinthians 2:17)
  • But having the same spirit of faith, according to what is written, “I believed, therefore I spoke,” we also believe, there we also speak. (2 Corinthians 3:13)

Did you catch the last one? The Apostle Paul said, we believe, therefore we speak. If we believe the Gospel, you and I are commanded to SPEAK the Gospel.

One of the great lies foisted on the Church over the last thousands years is the one by St. Francis of Assisi, “Preach the Gospel at all times. When necessary, use words.” Church, we are commanded by our Lord and His Apostles to speak the Gospel and live the Gospel. It is NOT enough just to pray. It is NOT enough just to live out the Gospel in your personal life. You must SPEAK the Gospel to the lost.

Not all of us are called to be open-air preachers, However, all of us are commanded to SPEAK the Gospel. If you are not SPEAKING the Gospel, repent and run into the arms of Jesus. Ask the Holy Spirit for boldness in SPEAKING the Gospel with your family, friends, and school/work associates.

Our culture is largely in the mess it is in because the Church lives in fear of people and their rejection. Paul’s two greatest motivations for SPEAKING the Gospel was the “fear of the Lord” and the “love of Christ” (2 Cor 5:11.14).

Church, our Lord Jesus commands us to SPEAK the Gospel using words. Yes, it is time for the Church of the Lord Jesus to “fervently agonize in prayer” (Col 4:12) crying out for the glory of the Lord to spread to more and more people. But it is also time for the Church to boldly go and SPEAK the Gospel in the face of a world that grows increasingly hostile to the Gospel. We must SPEAK the Gospel no matter the consequences.

If you are interested in getting help in this, please contact me. I would love to help you SPEAK THE GOSPEL.

Praying in the Spirit: Resting or Wrestling?

Several years ago I was making hospital visits with a friend of mine. We were to visit three elderly ladies who were located on the 4th, 5th, and 6th floors of the same hospital. One lady’s husband had recently died. We walked into her room on the 4th floor, and she was not available. We then went up one flight and into the next lady’s room. In a moment of confusion, I greeted her with, “I am so sorry your husband died.” She sat up in bed and cried out, “WHAT?! I just saw my husband earlier this morning!” My friend, standing beside me, was frantically, but quietly, trying to tell me, “Tim, this is the wrong lady!” I was confused and embarrassed, and, fortunately, the hospitalized, non-widow did not have a heart attack.

I have the same reaction as that lady to some of the commands in Scripture? WHAT?! I mean, “love your wife as Christ loves the Church.” WHAT?! “Love the LORD with all your heart, soul, and mind?” WHAT?! “Forgive your brother from the heart.” WHAT?! I do not know how to even come close to any of these. Then there is the kicker that I have struggled with for years in Ephesians 6:18 and Jude 20, “pray at all times in the Spirit.” WHAT?! Great command, but what does it mean, and how do you do it?

I have heard some teach that it means praying in tongues. Others have said it means praying Scripture promises. Still others have taught you listen for that “still small voice and pray as He directs.”

Colossians 4:12 may give us some insight. In this verse you can see the biblical tension of resting in prayer and wrestling in prayer as you follow the Spirit’s lead. The Apostle Paul describes Epaphras as a bond-slave of Jesus Christ who is “always laboring earnestly for you in his prayers . . . ” The Greek word for “laboring earnestly” means “to fervently agonize, battle, wage war.” It is a picture of intense wrestling. The Greek word for “prayer” used here is the most common word for prayer in the New Testament. The word suggests the idea of a small child crawling up into his father’s lap to make a request. It is a picture of resting. So was Epaphras always resting or wrestling in prayer?

I believe he did both. At times he wrestled with all his might as Jacob wrestled all night with the Angel of the Lord in Genesis 32:24-30. At other times he rested as David describes in Psalm 131:2, “my soul is like a weaned child within me.” There is no formula for prayer. There is no equation for prayer. There is no “right” way to pray except with three basic requirements: pray in Jesus’s name (Jn16:24), pray for His glory (Jn 14:13), and follow the lead of the Holy Spirit (Gal 5:16). The result: you will be “praying in the Spirit.”

Prayer is about an intimate relationship with your Abba Father, through His beautiful Son, in the power and leading of the Spirit. At times, He will lead you to battle in prayer. At times, He will cause you to worship in overflowing praise and, at other times, with great thanksgiving to God. At still others, you will experience the dark night of the soul in anguishing prayer. But all prayer must lead to surrender and rest. That is what our Lord did at Gethsemene (Lk 22:39-46). He wrestled in prayer. He was in anguish in prayer. He surrendered to His Father in prayer. He was set free to do His Father’s most unfathomable will: go to the Cross at Calvary.

So what? Ask the Holy Spirit to teach you to pray and lead you in prayer. He will. Remember you are free to follow Him and pour out your heart to your Abba Father knowing the Holy Spirit will conform your prayers to the Father’s will. And, as you wrestle and rest and everything-in-between in prayer, know your Heavenly Father delights in the prayers of His saints just like a new Daddy loves to hear the cooing of his newborn baby. And He never gets confused because your name is written on the palms of His hands (Is 49:16).

A Divine Desperation

Why is there no revival? Why does our nation continue its downward spiral? I believe there are more followers of Jesus praying for revival than ever before, yet revival tarries. Besides the sovereign plan of God (which is key), I believe revival tarries from the human side because God’s people do not have a divine desperation. For what? For Him! For His Presence!

To paraphrase my friend, Al Baker, a divine desperation is an intolerable burden to experience a dramatic change from the status quo. “Status quo Christianity” is how most believers live. Yet, this divine desperation for the presence of God is placed within every believer by the Holy Spirit (Ps 16:11; 42:1; James 4:5). It is why our Lord Jesus stood just east of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem in John 7:37-38 and cried out with a loud voice, “if anyone is thirsty, let him keep coming to Me and keep drinking of Me, and he who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘from his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.'”

The Old and New Testaments are filled with men and women who had this divine desperation for the Presence of the LORD.

David had this divine desperation for the presence of the LORD when he cried out in Psalm 27:4, “one thing I have asked from the LORD that I shall seek, that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD, and to mediate in His temple.” The future King of Israel thirsted “as a deer pants for the water brooks” (Ps 42:1) for the presence of the LORD. It was his deepest desire.

KIng Solomon hungered for the presence of the LORD as he fulfilled his father’s will by building the Temple and inviting the presence of the LORD into that Temple (2 Chron 6:10-11). Ezekiel wept bitterly when he saw the Presence of the LORD depart from the Temple (Ezek 9-11). Ezra was desperate for the Presence of the LORD as he cried out in deep repentance on behalf of Judah’s idolatry (Ez 9:5-15). Nehemiah had that divine desperation for the Presence of the Lord when he fasted for four months seeking the face of God and restoration of the wall of Jerusalem (Neh 1:1; 2:1). Immediately after the Ascension of the Lord Jesus, the disciples went into the upper room and “were continually devoting themselves to prayer” (Acts 1:13-14) seeking the Presence of the Lord promised by the Father.

You, too, must have this divine desperation for the presence of the LORD. How do you get it? How do you get it back if you lost it?

First, you must repent. The Lord Jesus said to the Church at Ephesus in Revelation 2:4-5, “I have this against you, that you have left your first love. Therefore remember from where you have fallen, and repent.” You must cry out to the Lord in deep, grieving repentance that you have lost your first love for Him, that you run to the world for what only He can truly give.

Second, you must run to the Cross. Cast all your idols, your compromising with the world, your passionate love for comfort, your going-through-the-motions worship and fellowship, and your lukewarm obedience onto your Suffering Savior. Cast them all on Him and believe He forgives you and cleanses you.

Third, as a marathoner runner disciples himself, so discipline yourself in the means of grace. Fast and pray weekly. Schedule a day alone with the Lord. Set your alarm an hour earlier each day and spend that hour in the Presence of the LORD. No longer settle for going-through-the-motions worship or fellowship. Worship Him for all He is worth each day. Do not settle for lukewarm obedience. Daily run to Him and cry out to Him that you long to obey Him in response to His infinite and unconditional love for you. Not out of duty, but delight.

Finally, cry out daily to the LORD for a divine desperation for His Presence.

I get so wrapped up in ministry and life that I lose a passion for His Presence. It is an ongoing battle with my flesh. I ask the Lord daily for a divine desperation of His Presence. He answers that prayer because it brings Him glory and because it is the place of greatest joy and pleasure for us (Ps 16:11).


Back to SQUARE ONE

On December 26, 2004 a 9.1 earthquake occurred off northern Sumatra. The waters around the beaches of the Indian Ocean were sucked out toward the ocean. This was an invitation for thousands of curious beach-goers to venture out onto previously water covered sands. Little did they know that tsunami waves of 50-100 feet would kill them minutes later. Over 430,000 people died that day around the Indian Ocean.

We are living in a nation where a spiritual earthquake has occurred, but much of the Church is playing on the beach looking for new and interesting shells, unaware that a tsunami of God’s wrath is coming on our nation. We seem as oblivious as the beach-goers on Boxing Day, 2004.

What spiritual earthquake has occurred in our nation?

We have murdered over 60 million babies since 1973, with some surveys reporting that one in five women who had abortions self-identify as born-again, evangelical, charismatic, or fundamentalist. Sex trafficking runs rampant in our culture while pornography and sexual abuse is ruining the Church. Homosexuality and the LBGTQ+ agenda is now widely viewed as normal, with sexual perversion and homosexual marriage accepted by 47% of evangelical Millennials. We live in a post-Christian nation, where the evangelical church looks like the world, yet believes it will escape the wrath of God. That wrath is coming (Heb 12:29).

What must we do as individuals and churches? We must go back to SQUARE ONE. What is SQUARE ONE?

Our Lord Jesus began His ministry saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the Gospel.” (Mark 1:15 ) His last word to His disciples was, “…that repentance for forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem.” (Luke 24:47) His last words to five of seven churches in Revelation 2-3 are “repent and believe.”

Colossians 2:6 says, “As you received Christ Jesus as Lord, so walk in Him.” How did you receive Christ Jesus as Lord? Repent and believe. (Square One) How are you to walk in Him? The same way you received Him: repent and believe. There is nowhere else to run in order to experience resurrection power (Rom 1:16). There is no graduation to a deeper spiritual level. Just square one.

So to what does our “compassionate, gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in loving-kindness” (Ex 34:6), but “will by no means leave the guilty unpunished” (Ex 34:7) LORD call you? SQUARE ONE. But what does that look like in the daily grind?

Cry out to Him daily to “search me, O God, and know my heart; try me and know my anxious thoughts; and see if there be any hurtful way in me, and lead me in the everlasting way.” (Ps 139:23-24) Use the two Great Commandments: Have you loved Him with all your heart, soul, and mind and have you loved others as you love yourself? (Mt 22:37-39) Ask the Spirit to deeply search your life and your relationships. Have you loved others as Jesus has loved you? (John 15:12,17) Ask Him to show you the deep idols of your heart and the deeply-entrenched strongholds in your life that grieve or quench the Holy Spirit. Ask Him to lead you to deep repentance.

Then run to Jesus and lay all these sins on the Cross. The Cross is the “everlasting way” to cleansing. Believe that the Cross of our Lord Jesus cleanses you. You are washed. You are clean before Him. Believe that in the Cross “as far as the east is from the west; so far has He removed our transgressions from us.” (Ps 103:12)

Join others in prayer. Gather with other believers in your church or home and cry out to Him in repentance and faith. That is SQUARE ONE faith.

Perhaps our LORD God will stay His hand of wrath upon this country as we cry out to Him, believing Isaiah 30:15 for ourselves and our nation: “In repentance and rest you will be saved, in quietness and trust is your strength.”

The Greater Columbia Call to Prayer meets the second Saturday of each month (9:30am – 11:30am; 819 Main Street, Columbia). We would love to have you join us as we repent and believe!

A Cross before a Crown

I want the crown NOW! I want the glory NOW! I want to be the hero NOW. I want people to notice MY ministry NOW! Later is too late. I want to be made much of NOW!

Dietrich Bonhoeffer stated in The Cost of Discipleship, “when Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.” Our Lord said in Matthew 7, the door is small and narrow and so is the path to following our Lord Jesus. The door is the Cross and the path to following Jesus is the Calvary Road. That means dying daily to MY crown here, MY glory here, MY being the hero here. There is only ONE whom we are called to follow. There is only ONE glory that counts. There is only ONE hero. It is Jesus. We are called to die daily on a cross so we may receive a crown in glory. It is all about HIM.

Later our Lord says in Matthew 7:21-23 (the scariest verses in all Scripture) to those who have great ministries in HIS name, done great miracles in HIS name, have great churches in HIS name, and done big things in HIS Name, but did it all for themselves, “I never knew you, depart from ME, you who practice lawlessness.” Oh my!

True confession: I have spent most of the last 40 years using Jesus’ Name to build my own kingdom, my own glory, my own name.

Oh, Lord Jesus, please forgive me. I have committed blasphemy and wickedness in using YOU for my glory story. I repent, Lord Jesus. Show me how to die daily to my glory, my kingdom. It is all about YOU. My soul longs to be able to say with the Apostle Paul in Romans 15:18, “For I will not presume to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me, resulting in the obedience of the Gentiles by word and deed.” I ache for You. I long for Your glory. Show me how to get out of Your way. Show me how I may bear the cross daily by dying to me so I may receive the crown in glory. Today the cross and death. In glory, a crown.

In the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing.” -2 Timothy 4:8

So what has to die in your life today so you will receive that crown in the future? It is only in dying that the life of Jesus is revealed. John 12:24 is the daily call from our Master. Dying daily bears much fruit!

Check out the 2×8 in your own eye

I am so quick to condemn New York, Vermont, and Virginia for such wicked legislation they passed into law or sought to pass into state law so child sacrifice could be practiced in their respective states up through nine months of pregnancy. The reality is we live in a culture of death where many believe they can murder their own children for convenience or for any other reason because they believe they are their own god. I am so quick to judge those politicians and the voters who put them in place, but as Jesus stated, “why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?” (Matthew 7:3).

The word for “log” in the passage is the idea of a 2×8 plank. We are called to examine the plank in our own eye before we seek to take the tiny splinter out of someone else’s. Perhaps we should look at the pre-born holocaust occurring in our fair state before we begin throwing bricks at other states.

Here are the latest statistics on child sacrifice in our state of South Carolina since Roe v Wade was passed by the Supreme Court in 1973:

That is right. Almost a half million babies have been murdered in this state since 1973. And the reality is, it is still legal in this state through the first two trimesters of pregnancy and even in the third trimester in some circumstances. You may be wondering what the statistics are for the Midlands. Almost 30 babies are brutally murdered in Columbia each week at the Planned Parenthood clinic. The reality is the Church is largely silent at this atrocity in our own state.

I wonder how the Church would respond if we knew that 30 three-year olds were to be executed at a nearby pre-school next week. In God’s eyes, what is the difference between these precious pre-born neighbors being poisoned, shredded, or crushed and these precious 3-year olds? If we say we love God, but do not love our neighbors the Lord calls us liars (1 John 4:20).

God very clearly commands us in Exodus 20:13, “You shall not murder.” Murder is taking the life of an image-bearer of God, and He says it is sin. Abortion is a sin, and God calls it murder.

We can look with contempt and disgust at our northern state neighbors. The reality is we have blood on our own hands since this holocaust has been going on for the past 46 years in our own state. We better take the log out of our own eye before we begin judging other states.

I repent before You, my Lord, for my lack of courage, love, and healthy fear of You as I am responsible for the carnage in my own state known as abortion. Forgive me, Lord, for blaming legislators and politicians, when I have done so little to protect these precious pre-born neighbors. Father, I cry out to You, to forgive us for not calling for the immediate abolition of abortion in our state and nation. Enough is enough. Oh, God, have mercy on us in the midst of your wrath. We deserve Your full wrath, but please, oh God, have mercy on us. We are a wicked people. Awaken us to Your warning in Proverbs 24:11-12, “Deliver those who are being taken away to death, and those who are staggering to slaughter, oh hold them back. If you say, ‘See we did not know this.’ Does He not consider it who weighs the hearts? And does He not know it who keeps your soul? And will He not render to man according to his work?”

Gimme, gimme, gimme!

Buck, our parrot

So almost every morning for the past 24 years I have gotten up, gone downstairs, and been greeted by our demanding, squawking parrot, Buck. Buck has not missed a meal for almost 9,000 days in a row! Yet, this morning, again, Buck started screeching like I have never fed him. Even after I feed him, he just keep demanding MORE! In parrot-squawking, Buck screeches, gimme, gimme, gimme!

I am no different than Buck with my faithful heavenly Father. Every day I cry out to Him, “gimme more of the Holy Spirit, gimme more of Your love, gimme more hope, gimme more grace, gimme more power, gimme more patience, gimme more of YOU, gimme, gimme, gimme.”

Just like me with Buck, my heavenly Father, must think, “Tim, why are you demanding what I have already given you. You already have it!”

Galatians 2:20 and Colossians 1:27 state that Christ is in every believer. Over 220 times the New Testament epistles tell us Christ is in every believer, and we are in Christ. Colossians 2:9-10 states, “For in Him [Christ] all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form, and in Him you have been made complete and He is the head over all rule and authority.” We as followers of the Lord Jesus are complete, or made full, in Him already. The same Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead dwells in us with resurrection power and the life of Jesus (Romans 8:10-11). 2 Peter 1:3-4 cannot say it any clearer, “seeing that His divine power has granted to us EVERYTHING pertaining to life and godliness . . . so that by them you may become partaker of the divine nature . . . ” I already have everything I need through the Spirit of Jesus living in me. So do you if you are a believer in Jesus.

I do not need more of Jesus. I already have Him. I do not need more of His love, I just need to allow the love of Jesus to flow through me. I do not need more hope. I already have the God of hope in me. I do not need more strength, or grace, or patience, I just need to believe I already have it and allow His life to flow through me (John 7:37-39). In Jesus Christ, He has already imparted to me everything I need for today, tomorrow, and forever!

So what should I do when I start demanding from my heavenly Father, “gimme, gimme, gimme” just like Buck? I need to repent of my unbelief, run to my Crucified and Risen Jesus, and believe He has already given me “everything for life and godliness” in Him. I end up in worship and praise, giving thanks to my incredible Father through His beautiful Son by the power of the Holy Spirit. So should you!

By the way, anyone want a 25 year old squawking, demanding, ungrateful parrot (who is just like me)?

The Ultimate Test

My grandkids tell me “The Ultimate Test” was a Pokemon television show and I thought it was about tracking down weird creatures in the real world using your phone app (I am so confused!). The Infiniti’s “Ultimate Test” would get me arrested or dead since I am legally blind. The Ironman competition is supposedly “The Ultimate Test,” but that is out with my bad back. So what is the REAL “Ultimate Test” — the one we will face at the Judgment Seat of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:10)?

In Matthew 22 the religious leaders of Jesus’ day come to Him with the “Ultimate Test.” This is their fourth and final try during Passion Week to publicly “catch” Jesus in a theological misstep so they can try Him as a blasphemer and heretic. Remember the religious leaders of the day believed there were 613 commandments in Mosaic Law plus another 5,000 oral traditions that were also to be obeyed to be right with God. So of those 5,613 commandments, one of the Pharisaical lawyers asks Jesus the ultimate question, “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” (Mt 22:35-40).

Our Lord’s immediate response (from Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18) is, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind” with the second like the first, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” He uses the same Greek verb for love in both commands. Agapao is unconditional heart, soul, and mind devotion to our Lord and our neighbor. It is love that holds absolutely nothing back.

Our Lord constantly put everyone else on trial during Passion Week. The religious leaders think they have Him on the “Ultimate Test.” He turns the tables on these leaders and shuts their mouths with these two “great and foremost commandments.” He shuts our mouths, too. You see, I believe the “Ultimate Test” of all followers of Jesus is, “Did you learn to love Me and other people?”

I believe the lie that He really will judge me on how I grew a big ministry. Or how my kids and grandchildren turn out. Or how many people did I led to the Lord. Or how many people I discipled. The reality is He does all that stuff. I just need to get out of His way. What He really cares about is, “Am I learning to love Him and people?

How do I know this is His “Ultimate Test” of my life and your life? Because every mention of the Judgment Seat of Christ in the New Testament is always in the context of loving others. Here are just a few examples:

“But you, why do you judge your brother? Or you again, why do you regard your brother with contempt? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God.” –Romans 14:10

“For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad. . . for the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died.” –2 Corinthians 5:10, 15

“And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment so that you may approve the things that are excellent, in order to be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ. –Philippians 1:9-10

The reality is none of us love Him or others as He commands. On our own, we are all spiritually bankrupt. This “Ultimate Test” leaves us in utter ruin. The only person I love is me. Not Jesus. Not others. Yet, by His sheer grace and love I get to play Captain’s Choice every day when it comes to loving the Lord and loving others. Due to His death and resurrection for my hideous record of love, I get His perfect record of love. I strike out every day in love, yet, He hits a home run. I can’t get the ball off the tee when it comes to loving Him, yet, I get Jesus’ perfect hole-in-one every day. I throw a gutter ball every day in seeking to love people, but Jesus bowls a 300 every game of love. He took my hideous record of love on that wretched Cross, and He gives me His perfect record of love by grace.

Wow, what a Savior. His extravagant and eternal love for me causes me to love Him and people more every day. It also does not freak me out as I come each day closer to that Day of Judgment. I know He is teaching me to love Him and people because of the perfect love He has for me. I can rest today knowing He has already performed the Ultimate Test for me.

Shalom in Jesus!

The Missing Ingredient in Many Gospel Messages

Therefore did that which is good become a cause of death for me? May it never be! Rather it was sin, in order that it might be shown to be sin by effecting my death through that which is good, so that through the commandment sin would become utterly sinful. –– Romans 7:13

So you go to see your family doctor and he tells you, “We are rushing you immediately to the hospital for the surgical removal of most of your digestive system including your pancreas, gall bladder, part of your bile duct and stomach. Then you will undergo intensive radiation and chemo therapy. Your chances of survival poor at best.” What would you say? Most of us sane folks would say, “Doc, you have not even run any diagnostic tests! What do you think I have?” We want the tests and diagnosis before being given the prognosis. That is the missing ingredient in many Gospel messages. Most Gospel messages invite people to come to faith in Christ without ever identifying the sin problem and giving an accurate diagnosis. We may tell people they are sinners, but God has given us the Law to show us how “utterly sinful” we are and to expose our moral depravity. The missing ingredient in most Gospel presentation is the use of the Law to show sinners they desperately need a Savior.

How did Jesus share the Gospel with religious people who thought they were good? He preached the Law to show them how utterly sinful they were (see Mt 5:17-48; 19:16-22; Luke 10:25-28). He always preached Law to the arrogant and self-righteous, but grace to the broken and sinful (Luke 18:18-20; John 3:1-17). How did the Apostle Paul preach the Gospel? He used the Law, then trumpeted the grace of the Cross.  Just look at the most comprehensive epistle on theology we have in the New Testament: the epistle to the Romans.  Paul spends the first three chapters exposing the utter depravity of man.  It is only after he repeatedly points to the Law’s purpose to expose our utter sinfulness before a holy God that he proclaims the grace and mercy and love of God through the life, Cross, and resurrection of our Savior.  The Law is like a mirror that diagnoses the problem of total depravity in our lives. Once the “patient” understands how much trouble they are in before a holy God due to their sinfulness, they will be far more eager to hear of the Cross of the Savior and their need for repentant faith, if indeed the Holy Spirit is bringing true conviction of sin in their lives. As Ray Comfort states in The Way of the Master, “Biblical evangelism always proclaims the Law to the proud but grace to the humble.  With the Law, we should break hardened hearts, and with the Gospel we should heal broken hearts” (pp. 50-51).

Just listen to what the Apostle Paul says about the use of the Law as the mirror to point us to the need for the Gospel:

Romans 2:22-24: You who say that one should not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? 23 You who boast [a]in the Law, through your breaking the Law, do you dishonor God? 24 For “the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you,” just as it is written.

Romans 3:19-20: Now we know that whatever the Law says, it speaks to those who are under the Law, so that every mouth may be closed and all the world may become accountable to God; 20 because by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight; for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin.

Romans 7:7-9: What shall we say then? Is the Law sin? May it never be! On the contrary, I would not have come to know sin except through the Law; for I would not have known about coveting if the Law had not said, “You shall not covet.” But sin, taking opportunity through the commandment, produced in me coveting of every kind; for apart from the Law sin is dead. I was once alive apart from the Law; but when the commandment came, sin became alive and I died.

The Lord Jesus and Paul both used the Law of God to expose the sinner’s depraved heart and life. God has given us the Law to show His perfect and righteous standard so that we may see our depraved hearts and lives.  Without accurate testing and diagnosis, the sinner has no idea of his desperate need of a Savior. This is the missing ingredient in so many Gospel presentations.  We must again return to using the Law of God if the grace of God is going to truly become amazing!

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