Thursday, July 15, 2010

Evangelism Myth #7: By Grace Alone, not "By Grace, alone through you"

As per Pastor Sullivan's request, let's address the "wondrous" myth in Evangelism circles that completely blows out of the water the doctrine of election. The Myth is this - that yes, of course we all know God uses means, but YOU ARE that means for THAT person, and if you don't get out there and beat the bushes, they will BURN FOREVER.

Now, if you want a full, thorough beat down on this approach, I'd recommend Rev. Heath Curtis' excellent paper - it's a fantastic, fantastic paper. Take some time and read it when you can.

But, in brief, let's think about this. I am told that people are going to go to hell unless I tell them about Jesus. Isn't that sort of Egotistical? I mean, has God elected, chosen little Billy for salvation, but because I'm a lazy slob, Billy ends up in hell? Really? That sort of makes me rather important - it makes me and my actions the hinge, dare I say it makes my speaking the article upon which Billy stands or falls.

Hmmm, Scripture tells us that God chose us before the foundations of the world (Ephesians 1:4). We are told that nothing can separate, can pull us from the love of God that is ours in Christ (Romans 8:38-39). But if I become a lazy slob, oops, guess that no longer counts for Billy.

See, here is the thing. God works through means - people are called and brought to faith through the proclamation of the Word. But here's the thing - if you drop the ball, if you SIN and do bear witness. . . why do you think that God won't use someone else. When people want the crowds to be silent on Palm Sunday, we are told that the rocks themselves would cry out.

We are saved by Grace alone - only for the sake of Christ. That means God doesn't need you. Oh, He will use you - He wants to - you are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for Good Works (including the speaking of the Gospel to those in your life) that you might walk in them. Go - do this. It's good.

But God's grace to people does not come only through you. This is just crass egoism with either leads to a brash self-righteousness (look at all I, Me, what I have done for Jesus) or horrible despair (I didn't talk to _____ enough, and now he's dead. If only I had told him one more time, then God could have saved him. . .).

It's not about you - it's never about you, never, never, never about you. It's about Christ. Proclaim what Christ has done for you. . . just know that if you fail to, God will use someone else to accomplish what He wills.

There's actually a great scene from Babylon 5 that teaches this - the Inquisitor has come to see if Delenn, the leader is "worthy" of leading, if she can fulfill her "destiny" - and is basically putting her to the question, over and over and over. And Captain Sheridan comes to rescue her, gets caught, and is about ready to killed - would you trade your life for his. . . "if I fall, another will take my place, and another, and another." (Now, there is some other wonky theology, but if you are a Bab 5 nerd like me, you can see the clip here)

This is what we should remember - evangelism is never about our glory. We are always utterly replaceable in our service - if we fail, if we fall, God will raise up another in our place. There's a line of pictures on the wall here of the pastors who were here before me - if Christ tarries in His return, there will probably a line of pictures after me (God grant it for the sake of this Congregation!). His will shall be done - His elect shall be called and brought to faith - may God simply grant us humility so that we neither take the glory for this, or in our sinful stubbornness refuse to be the workmanship which accomplishes this.


Rev. Josh Sullivan said...

Bravo! I especially like the line you wrote about "such and such a person being dead, if only I had one more conversation with him." Pr. Curtis' paper on this was a good read as well.

And since it seems I have a certain amount of sway over the blog author's posts now (how did THAT happen?)I'll ask what you do for an evangelism committee. I have my thoughts but would love to hear yours.

As always, keep up the good writing.

scott said...

Aww, Josh, you have that kind of effect on a lot of people. [sigh]

On the post, recognizing that God is going to save His sheep no matter what is a truly freeing revelation. This is, of course, not saying that we can't sin by not speaking up when it is our duty, but even then God will save through some other way.

As Mordecai told Queen Esther, "For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?" Mordecai had no worries. He believed the promises. Likewise, as you point out, there are plenty of passages that talk of the earth itself calling out praises to the Creator.