In spite of growing persecution against Christians and major challenges converts face, there is a growing movement of Muslims turning to Christ. Missionary David Garrison stated, “We are living in the midst of the greatest turning of Muslims to Christ in history.” ...
Slowly you will discover God's love in your suffering. Your heart will begin to approve the whole thing. You will learn from yourself what all the schools in the world could not teach you--the healing action of faith without supporting pleasure. You will feel and understand the ministry of the night; its power to purify, to detach, to humble, to destroy the fear of death and, what is more important to you at the moment, the fear of life. And you will learn that sometimes pain can do what even joy cannot, such as exposing the vanity of earth's trifles and filling your heart with longing for the peace of heaven. What I write here is in no way original. This has been discovered anew by each generation of Christian seekers and is almost a clich of the deeper life. Yet it needs to be said to this generation of believers often and with emphasis, for the type of Christianity now in vogue does not include anything as serious and as difficult as this. The quest of the modern Christian is likely to be for peace of mind and spiritual joy, with a good degree of material prosperity thrown in as an external proof of the divine favor. Some will understand this, however, even if the number is relatively small, and they will constitute the hard core of practicing saints so badly needed at this serious hour if New Testament Christianity is to survive to the next generation.
A. W. Tozer Sermon: Refiner's Fire
Today I want to cover two questions that I've been asked. Some of you know that Barb and I go to jail to share the Good News and in this ministry many inmates have come to ask the Lord to be their own personal Savior. So, people have asked:
Question 1: How do you bring an atheist to Christ?
Bringing an atheist to Christ is just like bringing anyone to Christ. I love the book “I Once Was Lost” by Everts and Schaupp. It is a helpful work based on a lot of experience in evangelism on college campuses. Let me sum up what they say:
Everyone must cross 5 thresholds to become a Christian.
First, they must come to trust a Christian. If the non-Christian is only a star to put on your cap, you will not be trustworthy. But if you love that person no matter what decision they make about Christ then they can trust you.
Second, they must be curious about Jesus. Many non-Christians have some knowledge of Jesus and would like some questions about Him answered. Lately, I've been covering the 10 commandments and telling people that they show us how much God cares about us living a successful life.
Third, they must be open to radical life change. Embracing the message of Jesus will require a complete alteration of one’s life. When a non-Christian begins to understand the meaning of the gospel, they will see that Christ came to give them a totally new life.
Fourth, they must become genuine seekers of God. They must really want to know the truth and how it affects them.
Fifth, they must believe. Since faith comes by hearing and understanding God's Word, I like to use a lot of Bible verses. The entrance of God's Word gives light.
An atheist claims there is no God. Some people like to engage in debate on this point. My desire is not to argue with anyone, but, to love them and to let God speak for Himself. I tell inmates in jail that, even though I may never have never met them, I have taken this day to come and visit them because God has given me a love for people I have never met. I cannot answer all their questions, but, I want them to see my genuine love for them so that there will be a curiosity developed about why I have this radical love for them and what role Jesus plays in that. If the atheist is able to see that his or her view does not answer life’s most basic questions, he or she might be open to the radical life change that a personal faith in Christ can bring. If they become genuine seekers we might be instrumental in helping them through this process of seeking and finding Christ, the real answer. The goal is that we might challenge them to get off the fence and believe. I give an invitation for them to become a Christian.**
We’re talking about a life commitment to a person with genuine love and a readiness to engage in difficult discussions. And yes, it will require prayer for the right words and the right heart toward this person.
Question 2: Why are there so many different religions? (A follow-up to last week's topic)
I suppose the simple answer is that people are sinners. And because people are sinners they will try to find something to soothe their conscience. The many religions of the world are man's way of trying to find God. Christianity is unlike any other religion in that, instead of man trying to find God, God reaches down by sending His Son, Jesus Christ to find man and forgive him and give him eternal life. All false religions come about by man inventing ways to find relief from guilt and get hope.
In Romans 1:18-26 Paul asserts that the truth about who God is, His eternal power and “godhead”, is known to everyone. It is made clear through creation so that no one has an excuse to say, “I couldn’t find God.” However, as Paul points out, we suppress that truth. We want to live our lives the way we want to, not at the dictation of our Creator, so we bend the truth in order to make religion palatable to us. We can’t escape that there is a God, but we often suppress His urging to trust in Him and to submit to Him.
Consequently we shape God in our own image, and when we do that, we have to conjure up a different form in which to pour that image and, thus you have a new religion. It also becomes a pathway for some to get power as these people define what the religion looks like and what its doctrines are and then dictate the practice of it. Religion without Christ at the center is really the ultimate power trip. Eventually, as your family and maybe your whole society embraces this new religion, it becomes a tradition that you cannot deny and still be viewed as part of your community. Sadly, even some who claim to be Christians use religion as a power trip.
Now, to be fair, we need to distinguish between different religions and different expressions within the same religion. If you compare Christianity, Islam and Hinduism, for example, you will find that each is mutually exclusive of the other. You cannot consistently hold to one and hold to the others as well. But within Christianity there are varieties of expression of the same basic doctrines, and the same is true for Hinduism and Islam. Within the broad scope of Christianity, there is Catholicism, Protestantism and Orthodoxy, but they hold many of the same basic beliefs. Some of this is tied to differences in personality or culture, some to variations as to which doctrinal beliefs are most important. (See last week's topic).
The possibility always exists, however, that some version of worship that was compatible within the larger religion can move toward “heresy” and become incompatible with the beliefs and practices of the major religion. Sometimes they will acknowledge that and declare they are no longer a part of that religion, but sometimes they want to stay in the fold even though they have contradicted its major tenets.
All this to say, there are different religions, religions that depart from the revealed truth about God, because people are sinful and they yet cannot refrain from being religious and salving their conscience by having some form of worship.
In looking at these major belief systems and their views of God, we find tremendous diversity:
Hindus acknowledge multitudes of gods and goddesses. Buddhists say there is no deity. New Age Spirituality followers believe they are God. Muslims believe in a powerful but unknowable God. Christians believe in a loving God who created us to know him and provides a way to have eternal life with Him. It is my prayer that those who wish to know the God of the Bible would examine the fact that Jesus Christ claims to be the only way to God. The prayer below can bring you into a personal relationship with the living God.
.**Footnote: How do you lead someone to the Lord?
First of all, you tell them about a God who created them and loves them, but because of our sin, He sent Jesus to die on the cross and take our penalty for our sin if we place our faith in Him. If this person is touched by God's Word, you say...
"Do you understand what I've been telling you?" "Yes." "Do you want to receive Jesus as your Savior?" "Yes. Yes I do." "Good. But first, I need to tell you something. Being a Christian means living for Christ. It means that you must deny yourself, take up your cross daily, and follow Him (Luke 9:23). That is what Jesus wants you to do -- to follow Him always -- even when others don't want you to. "Now, If you still want Jesus as your Savior and Lord, I would be glad to pray with you." "Yes, I do. I understand and I still want Jesus." "Then let's pray." You tell them to repeat what you say, maybe bow their head and close their eyes.
An example of what to say is "Dear Jesus, I know I have sinned against you. I confess that I am a sinner. I accept the sacrifice you made on the cross on my behalf. I ask you to come into my heart. Please cleanse me of my sin. And give me eternal life. I repent from my sins and put my trust in You. Thank you for coming into my life and being my Savior. Thank you that I now have eternal life. In Jesus' name. Amen."
The preceding paragraph is only an example of how to lead someone to Christ. As I've said before, there is no formula, but only a recognition of one's sinfulness before God, confession and repentance of sin, and trusting in Jesus' sacrifice for sin.
Speak the truth about Jesus, confess sin, ask Jesus for forgiveness, speak slowly, and use short sentences. This way, there will be no confusion.
Now, these new believers need to continue to walk with God every day by reading the Bible and finding Christians who can help them grow. A Bible teaching church and a loving Christian family will go a long way in helping them grow in their faith.
This Sunday at Solid Rock Fellowship in New Richmond, Pastor Jason will be speaking on Mark 4 at 9 AM. At Faith Fellowship in Luck, I will be sharing a message on the 9th Commandment (Ex. 20:16) titled "Tell The Whole Truth" at 11 AM. Please pray the the Holy Spirit would prepare all of our hearts for these times of worship.
Lord, thank you for working in the hearts of people all over the world. Thank you for revival fires that are spreading in so many places. But, Lord, please revive your people this Sunday at our own local houses of worship. "Revive us again, fill each heart with Thy love, may each soul be rekindled with fire from above. Hallelujah, Thine the glory, Hallelujah, Amen, Hallelujah, Thine the glory, Revive us again."