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"The day of authority in the church is passed by; it is to be hoped, that the day of sound reason and of argument is to follow." ― Moses Stuart from "the Preface" in his Hebrew commentary...3rd edition 1854.

 
 

EVANGELISM
EXPLOSION

 

Chapter – SEVEN

Pages 87 – 95 4th edition ©1996
D. James Kennedy

ANALYZING THE GOSPEL PRESENTATION

 

In the introduction you found out what the person is trusting in for salvation. Equally important, he has found out. Until you helped him clarify it, he probably wasn’t aware of what he was trusting in for eternal life. We begin now to tear down this inadequate foundation. Now we are about to show the “product” and show the prospect that he needs it. Remember, you put the value on your product by the way you speak about it. It will seem as valuable to your prospect as it does to you. Think about what you are saying. Talk about God’s Good News in a manner befitting the greater story ever told! The expression on your face may be far more important than the words on your lips. Start thinking about heaven before talking about it!

    Beware of your attitude at this point lest you convey: “Would you like me (wise guy) to tell you (stupid) how you can get smart (like I am)?” In other words, avoid talking down to people. People who have been going to Sunday school classes and worship services know a lot of facts that form a spiritual jigsaw puzzle. Each Sunday they get another piece or two to put in the box. This week they got a sermon about the Good Samaritan. That was nice. Into te box it goes. Occasionally they shake all the pieces around, but the pieces don’t seem to fall together. Christianity seems to be just a large number of pieces floating through the air—Noah, David and Goliath, the Tower of Babel, Jesus healing a blind man, and a little man up in a tree—isolated stories without much meaning and with no interrelationship. A few pieces are missing. There we supply as we present the Gospel. These key pieces enable everything else to fall into place. The things in this presentation that most people don’t know are:

 

  1. Man cannot save himself
  2. God is holy and just and must punish sin
  3. Christ is God
  4. His death on the cross was for our sins
  5. He offers heaven as a gift
  6. The meaning of grace
  7. The meaning of faith

 

I. GRACE

 

It seems that everyone has heard of grace. Perhaps it is the most frequently used concept in Christian circles. Tragically, however, few can tell you what grace means. The non-Christian adage, “God helps those who help themselves,” is deeply embedded in the American mind. Because our ancestors dug and clawed a nation out of the wilderness, the American traditionally wants to stand on his own two feet. He feels he must carry his share of the load. All of this is commendable. However, if this spirit carries over into an understanding of grace, it can be eternally fatal.

    God has revealed Himself as “the help of the helpless.” As long as a person thinks he must contribute his own effort to the work of God, he does not understand his true condition or the work of Christ. He does not realize that sin has incapacitated him so that he cannot do anything meritorious in God’s sight. Neither does he know the sufficiency of Christ’s sacrifice. By adding his supposed goodness to the work of our Lord, he is saying he believes Christ’s work was insufficient.

    Paul’s teaching in Romans 11:6 is that grace and works are mutually exclusive: “If  by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then it is no more grace: otherwise work is no more work.” This must be communicated to your prospect if there is to be a good profession. For salvation your prospect may be trusting wholly in Christ, wholly in self, or partially in Christ and partially in self, many unsaved people who are related to a church fall into the latter category. However, that position is essentially the same as trusting fully in self. “Assuming that Christ has done His part sufficiently, if I am to be saved I must do my part acceptable. If, on the other hand, I am lost, it must be because I did not do enough to win God’s favor.” This is the logic of partial trust in Christ and partial trust in self. As one has said, “Grace is not the thread of gold decorating the garment; rather, like the ancient mercy seat, it is gold, pure gold, through and through.”

 

A. HEAVEN IS A FREE GIFT

 

Making this statement just once does not deal with the point. Every religion in the world teaches that man must earn the favor of God by doing something. He must qualify himself. He must make himself worthy of God’s gifts. In Contrast, Christianity proclaims that God’s favor, His blessings, and heaven itself can be had only as free gifts. You cannot obliterate the non-Christian concept of making yourself worthy of God’s favor by saying the contrary statement only once. Say it numerous times in different ways! “Heaven is free!” “Eternal life is God’s gift to you.” “His favor is given graciously.” “You do not—you cannot—earn your way to heaven.” “Never can you deserve to dwell with the holy, sin-hating one.” After all this, maybe he will understanbd—maybe he won’t. Pray that God will graciously open the ears of your prospect and give him understanding.

 

B. IT IS NOT EARNED OR DESERVED

 

Here you contrast man’s way with God’s way. Man’s way is to try to earn, to deserve, to pay for, or to work for everything. From birth he is programmed to work for everything: grades, rewards, wages, etc. With man, nothing is free. Contrariwise, God’s way is grace—receive freely what we don’t deserve (Ephesians 2:8-9). Ask, “How much do you pay for the air you breathe, intelligence, physical life?” If they are free gifts from God, how much mire are eternal life and heaven.

    Master and use the illustration about a friend’s gift that illustrates that no amount of human effort can earn the free gift of eternal life. Use questions to focus attention, to draw the prospect into the conversation, and to heighten interest; “How good do you suppose I’d have to be to earn my way to heaven?”

    Most people don’t realize that man cannot save himself; therefore, this truth must be repeated and emphasized many times and in many different ways.

    Transitional sentences made the presentation flow smoothly. They point back to what has been said, then point forward to what is going to be discussed next: “This can be seen more clearly when we understand what the Bible says about man.”

 

II. MAN

 

A. IS A SINNER

 

Most people know they are sinners, even they may not realize the seriousness of that accusation. Many times they have heard, “All have sinned.” They conclude that sin is something everyone is doing; therefore, it cannot be so bad. “Oh, yes, I’m a sinner. But not so bad a sinner that I can’t go to heaven by being reasonably good.”

    The best way to tell people they are sinner without unnecessary offense is to state the general principle: “all have sinned.” Quote Romans 3:23. Define sin. Then see the three-sins-a-day illustration to reveal that though a person may appear to be in pretty good shape with only a few sins a day, by the end of a lifetime that will add up to many sins.

    They don’t know that because they are sinners and God’s standard is perfection, they cannot qualify for heaven.

    We must clear the deck. The Scripture says to tear down and to build up. We have to tear away, clear away, the old foundation on which they have built their hope of eternal life before we can build a new one.

 

B. CANNOT SAVE HIMSELF

 

In Telling a man he is a sinner and cannot save himself, you simply show him that what he has told you will not work, By showing him that God’s standard is perfection (Matthew 5:48) and by illustrating with reference to the omelet and the bad egg, you are showing him that a little sin will contaminate the whole life, that he has fallen short of God’s standard and is therefore unacceptable to God. Hence, you convey the idea that he needs to hear more of what you are offering him.

    It is good at the end of “Grace” to show that what he is trusting in is inadequate—that no one could get to heaven on that basis. You might say, “You understand now that because God’s standard is perfection and none of us have come up to it, it is impossible for anyone to get to heaven by doing enough good things?”

    His reply would be, “Yes, I do.”

    Now your prospect has reaffirmed that you not only understand him correctly and knew what he means wen he answered the question as to why God should let him into heaven, but now he sees that what he meant is impossibility.

    The reason this is a good place to do this is that you have not given him anything to substitute for it yet. After you have given him the right answer, he might say, :Oh no! I didn’t mean that! I meant this—what you just said.” But by the end of point one you haven’t given the right answer. All you have done is taken away what he was trusting in formerly.

    Occasionally one will disagree with you and say, “No, that’s now what I meant.” He realizes he may have shown that what he’s trusting in is wrong. He may not want to admit this. Your reply in such a situation is, “Wonderful! I’m glad that I found this out now, for I thought that’s what you meant. Tell me, what did you mean?” Thus you can get another commitment from him at this point. All he is going to do is point to some other part of himself—that is, to something else in himself that he is trusting in. Then you can continue with the Gospel.

 

III. GOD

 

A. IS MERCIFUL; THEREFORE, HE DOESN’T WANT TO PUNISH US

 

This deals, in the first place, with the good news that God is merciful. He loves us in spite of what we are because of who He is. Use 1st John 4:8 here to underscore that “God is love.” You may want to add that He has loved us with an everlasting love (Jeremiah 31:3).

    The nature of God is an element left out of many presentations of the Gospel. To leave it out, especially in the present day, deprives the Gospel of much of its meaning. Perhaps two hundred years ago most people had a valid conception of God. This is not true today. Ultimately, most theological heresy is caused by a misconception of the nature of God. When we fail to understand His nature, we cannot understand His Gospel. Many church people hold a Christian Science concept of God as merely love. If this is a person’s view of God, he will fit all you say as you present the Gospel into that mold, and it will be meaningless to him. God is love—so what if man is a sinner? God is love—so what if Christ died? God is love—so why worry whether everyone believes in Him since everyone will be saved anyway?

    A good response could be to point out that the second commandment is the one most frequently broken today: “Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven images.” You may have heard the story of two servicemen who returned to base on Saturday night after a week’s leave. They had lived it up wildly during the week and had done everything a serviceman could do on leave. On Sunday morning they went to  chapel to find the chaplain preaching on the Ten Commandments. As they were slinking out the door after service, one was heard to say to the other, “Well, at least I ain’t made no graven images lately!” But the problem with all he had done, basically, was the fact that he had started with a graven image—not made of wood or stone, but conjured up in the factory of his mind. Men create gods in their own image.

    One time I was reading to a lady what God said he would do to the guilty. She said, “Oh, my God would never do that!” After much effort to persuade her otherwise, I finally said, “Madam, you are right. Your god would never do that. The problem is, your god doesn’t exist except in your own mind. You have created a god in your own image, according to your own liking, and now you have fallen down and worshiped him. This is idolatry.”

    This is one of the most prevalent sins of our day. How often have you heard someone say, “God would never do that!” What god wouldn’t do it? The God of the Bible? He says a thousand times exactly what He will do. If one says God wouldn’t so these things, he is speaking of the god he has made up—a false god.

    Therefore, in a time when this heresy is so prevalent, we need to stress the true nature of God—not only that He is loving and kind and merciful, but also that he is holy and cannot condone sin. He is also righteous and has promised to punish sin and visit our iniquity with stripes. It is the name of God that makes the whole concept of Christ’s person and work meaningful.

    We have found that we can avoid many arguments on the justice and righteousness of God if we will first deal clearly with the great biblical truth that God is love. And after expounding on His mercy, grace, and love, we can then introduce the subject of His justice by saying that the same Bible that tells us God is merciful and loving also tells us that God…

 

B. IT JUST; THEREFORE, HE MUST PUNISH SIN

 

Here you deal with the bad news that sinful men must stand before a holy God at the judgment. Most people don’t know this, so you may want to use one or all of the following Scriptures:

    Exodus 34:7—“[He] will by no means clear the guilty.”

    Ezekiel 18:4—“The soul that sinneth, it shall die.”

    Habakkuk 1:3—“Thou art of purer eyes than to behold evil.”

    Romans 6:23—“The wages of sin is death.”

    The transitional sentence used here is: “God solved this problem in the person of Jesus Christ.” The word problem used here does not mean some impossible-to-solve difficulty that caught God off guard, but an apparent dilemma in the mind of man that must be resolved.

 

IV. JESUS CHRIST

 

A. WHO HE IS: THE INFINITE GOD-MAN

 

In our society, people know many facts about jesus of Nazareth, but many do not know that he is divine. When they hear “Jesus is the Son of God,” they have some faulty understanding. Perhaps they believe that He is only different in degree from every human being. “Are we not all the sons of God?” they ask. They do not see anything unique about Jesus except that He was more successful than we in keeping God’s law and He was a brilliant teacher. For others, the claim that Jesus was the Son of God means that He was more than a man, but they believe He was less than God. In other words, He was God and man mingled in own nature, so he is seen as a superhuman being but not as a fully divine being. We must underscore the truth that the babe of Bethlehem’s manger was none other than the Word of creation, the infinitely mighty God who created and sustain heaven and earth and all things. By infinite, we mean limitless and measureless in His attributes.

    You may want to lead into this point by asking the prospect who he understands Jesus Christ to be. The use of questions such as this will keep you from a monologue. But if the prospect is already very talkative, such questions might not be necessary.

    If the prospect’s comments are true but incomplete, such as, “Jesus was a great teacher,” avoid telling him he’s wrong. Rather, say, “Yes, and he was also the Son of God,” etc. Thus you will build upon the prospect’s reply with a positive response.

 

B. WHAT HE DID: HE DIED ON THE CROSS AND ROSE FROM THE DEAD TO PAY THE OPENTALTY FOR OUR SINS AND TO PURCHASE A PLACE IN HEAVEN FOR US

 

Nearly everyone we meet knows that Jesus died on the cross of Calvary. Relatively few are aware of the significance of that death according to the teaching of the Scriptures. The death of Christ has no meaning for a man until the concept of imputation grasps his soul as it did Luther’s. One must see that his sins were laid to Christ. He must realize that Christ assumed his guilt. As Paul put it, God made Christ to be sin for us that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him. The cross has meaning for a man when he knows that his guilt was imputed to the Son by the Father, and when he knows, further, that the Father laid upon the Son the hell that every sinner deserves. Let a man see his sin laid on Christ on the cross and then that cross has meaning for him.

    A word about visual illustrations is in order here. It is very helpful if we enable the person to whom we are speaking not only to hear the Gospel but to see it, as well. This can be accomplished with illustrations, that is, the employment of concrete objects in action situations. Examples of such illustrations are the fallowing:

    1. The record book illustration. The transference of the “recent book” from the hand representing self to the hand representing Christ, and the subsequent falling of the wrath of God upon that sin . This is used to illustrate what Christ has done for us.

    2. Tetelestai. The primary meaning of the Greek word is “it is finished.” But according to papyri commercial documents found  in Egypt the word tetlestai was printed across an item that had been paid in full. Hence, it can be said that when Jesus said, “It is finished,” He was also declaring that by His death he paid the penalty for our sins.

    3. The chair illustration. This illustrates the transference of our trust from what we have done (indicated by the chair in which we are then sitting) to what Christ has done for us (visualized by another chair in the room, to which we transfer our weight). This is an illustration of saving faith.

    4. The motive for living a godly life. In this illustration a pen pr small vase or other object from the person’s table may be used to represent the gift of eternal life. This illustrates that one’s effort to do good works are done out of gratitude for the gift received rather than in an effort to obtain it. This illustration is placed at the very end of the presentation in order to fit good works into their proper place since everyone knows that good works have something to do with Christianity. It is important that we put them in their proper place, or else the person may put them in an improper place.

    In using a visual illustration , it is important for the witness to fix his own eyes on the object he is using rather than looking at the person to whom he is speaking. This will call the listener’s attention to the illustration and enable him to properly understand it.

 

V. FAITH

 

The subject of faith is crucial, for this is the point of personal appropriation of eternal life. John Calvin said that the Roman Catholic Church taught him the deity of Christ, the Trinity, the Atonement; but the one thing the church did not teach him was how to appropriate the Atonement for himself. Even today there are those who know all of the doctrines of the faith, but they don’t know how to get eternal life for themselves. Their problem: an inadequate or false concept of saving faith.

    Theologians have rightly pointed out that there are three elements to saving faith: knowledge, assent, and trust. We may know about something without giving assent to it. For example, one cult teaches that Christ is incarnate today in a man in India. I know about this, but I do not assent to it. Similarly, one may have knowledge that the Bible teaches that man is a sinner who cannot save himself without assenting to the truth of this statement. Thus, to knowledge must be added assent to the facts of our historic faith. However, one can know about Alexander the great and assent to the historical record concerning his conquests, Further, we assent to the fact that he was a military genius. However, I hope no one is trusting Alexander to do anything for him! That would be rather ludicrous. Added to knowledge and assent is what Luther termed fiducia: trust.

 

A. WHAT SAVING FAITH IS NOT

 

Before you share what saving faith is, it is important to deal with what it is not. It is not mere intellectual assent. Many people believe in God’s existence in much the same way as people believe in George Washington or Napoleon. The devil believes in God’s existence (James 2:19), but simply assenting to the fact will not take him to heaven.

    Furthermore, saving faith is not mere temporal faith. Temporal faith is trusting Christ for temporary emergencies or needs of this life, such as for sickness, financial pressures, traveling dangers, or major decisions. Such faith is good, as far as it goes, but it can save no one.

 

B. WHAT IT IS—TRUSTING JESUS CHRIST ALONE FOR OUR SALVATION

 

It is important to define saving faith clearly as trusting Christ alone for eternal life. You can effectively illustrate the meaning of saving faith with the use of an empty chair. Let that chair represent the Lord Jesus. Your prospect knows it is a chair. He believes (assents) that the chair will hold him off the floor, provide comfort to his body, and relax his weary spirit. But it’s not doing any of these things for one obvious reason: He’s not sitting in it. Neither is the chair of any benefit to you for the same reason. Now the chair in which you are sitting can  represent all you once trusted for eternal life. Point out that this is inadequate for your needs, and when God shakes the world in the final judgment, it will drop you into hell.

    By actually moving from the “chair of your own good works” to the “chair of Jesus Christ,” you visually and verbally illustrate the meaning of trusting Christ alone for salvation. Just as you are no longer in the “chair of your good works” but in the “chair of Jesus Christ,” so you have transferred your trust for eternal life from yourself to the Lord.

    As we said above, a more subtle substitute for saving faith is trusting the Lord for temporal well-being while trusting self for eternal life. Some have difficulty making tis distinction, but the distinction is necessary. It spells the difference between weal and woe eternally.

    Let us consider Martin Luther. Before his conversion, he was not an agnostic skeptic or atheist. He believed in God. While in the monastery, he undoubtedly trusted God for many things. When he made the pilgrimage to Rome, did he not trust the Lord for safety, lodging and meals, and health? Certainly! Similarly, John Wesley trusted the Lord  to take him safely from England to his mission post in the New World. All the while, these men were trusting themselves for a successful journey from earth to heaven! They knew about and trusted in “transportation by faith” long before they knew and trusted “justification by faith.”

    You can use the “chair of Jesus Christ” to illustrate the concept of trusting Him for temporal matters. As you restate that your prospect was trusting God for health, you can place glasses or a pen on the “chair of Jesus Christ.” Trusting Him for travel mercies can be represented by a key ring. A blindfold will indicate trust in God  for financial needs. All the while, the prospect is still sitting in the “chair of his own good works.” He is still trusting in himself for the eternal well-being of his soul.

    Before leaving the point of faith, it is important to explain the role of good works and the motive for godly living. You may want to explain that, as the president of Princeton once said, we do not do good works to gain eternal life, we do them out of gratitude for eternal life. I think this is an excellent illustration for several reasons. First, it recapitulates the essence of the Gospel, which is good. You tell them what you’re going to tell them, as well as what you have already told them. Because they know good works has to be in there somewhere, when ou finally put good works in the right place, they grasp it. Second, using this illustration is good because it is visual and easy to understand. Third, it comes from a very authoritative figure. It is not just my opinion—it is that if the president of Princeton. Fourth, it is expressed in what I think is a memorable statement: “All the rest of my life was simply a P.S. to that day.”

 

 

 

 

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