Wednesday, April 6, 2011

What is the Gospel Message Part 2

2. The gospel is a message about sin. It tells us how we have fallen short of God's standard; how we have become guilty, filthy and helpless in sin, and now stand under the wrath of God. It tells us that the reason why we sin continually is that we are sinners by nature, and that nothing we do, or try to do, for ourselves can put us right or bring us back into God's favor. It shows us ourselves as God sees us, and teaches us to think of ourselves as God thinks of us. Thus it leads us to self-despair. And this also is a necessary step. Not till we have learned our need to get right with God, and our inability to do so by any effort of our own, can we come to know the Christ who saves from sin.
There is a pitfall here. Everybody's life included things which cause dissatisfaction and shame. Everyone has a bad conscience about some things in his past, matters in which he has fallen short of the standard which he set for himself, or which was expected of him by others. The danger is that in our evangelsim we should content ourselves with evoking thoughts of these things and making people feel uncomfortable about them, and then depicting Christ as the One who saves us from these elements of ourselves, without even raising the question of our relationship with God. But this is just the question that has to be raised when we speak about sin. For the very idea of sin in the Bible is of an offense against God, which disrupts a man's relationship with God. Unless we see our shortcomings in the light of the law and holiness of God, we do not see them as sin at all. For sin is not a social concept; it is a theological concept. Though sin is committed by man, and many sins are against society, sin cannot be defined in terms either man or society. We never know what sin really is till we have learned to think of it in terms of God, and to measure it, not by human standards, but by the yardstick of his total demand on our lives. -Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God
-J I Packer Pgs 67,68

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

What is the Gospel Message Part 1

1. The gospel is a message about God. It tells us who he is , what his character is, what his standards are and what he requires of us, his creatures. It tells us that we owe our very existence to him, that for good or ill we are always in his hands and under his eye, and that he made us to worship and serve him, to show forth his praise and to live for his glory. These truths are the foundation of theistic religion, and until they are grasped the rest of the gospel message will seem neither cogent nor relevant. It is here, with the assertion of man's complete and constant dependence on his Creator, that the Christian story starts.
The gospel starts by teaching us that we, as creatures, are absolutely dependent on God, and that he, as Creator, has an absolute claim on us. Only when we have learned this can we see what sin is, and only when we see what sin is can we understand that good news of salvation from sin. We must know what it means to call God Creator before we can grasp what it means to speak of him as Redeemer. Nothing can be achieved by talking about sin and salvation where this preliminary lesson has not in some measure been learned. J I Packer (Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God Pgs 66,67)

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Evangelism: God's Part and Mine Part 7

{So we see there are two opposite pitfalls...Failure to overemphasize my part or God's part in evangelism can be a pitfall...} Each is the result of partial vision, which means partial blindness; each reveals a failure to face squarely the biblical antinomy of the responsibility of man and the sovereignty of God. Both unite to warn us not to pit these truths against each other, nor to allow either to obscure or overshadow the other in our minds. Both unite to warn us also against reacting from the one extreme of error into the other.
We shall proceed now according to this maxim. In what follows, we shall try to take both doctrines perfectly seriously, as the Bible does, and to view them in their positive biblical relationship. We shall not oppose them to each other, for the Bible does not oppose them to each other. Not shall we qualify or modify, or water down, either of them in terms of the other, for this is not what the Bible does either. What the Bible does is to assert both truths side by side in the strongest and most unambiguous terms as two ultimate facts; this, therefore, is the position that we must take in our own thinking. C. H. Spurgeon was once asked if he could reconcile these two truths each other. "I wouldn't try," he replied; "I never reconcile friends." Friends?- Yes, friends. This is the point that we have to grasp. In the Bible, divine sovereignty and human responsibility are not enemies. They are not uneasy neighbors; they are not in an endless state of cold war with each other. They are friends, and they work together. -J. I. Packer (Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God Pgs. 42,43)

Friday, February 4, 2011

Evangelism: God's part and Mine Part 6

Christ's command means that we all should be devoting all our resources of ingenuity and enterprise to the task of making the gospel known in every possible way to every possible person. Unconcern and inaction with regard to evangelism are always, therefore, inexcusable. And the doctrine of divine sovereignty would be grossly misapplied if we should invoke it in such a way as to lessen the urgency, and immediacy, and priority, and binding constraint, of the evangelistic imperative. No revealed truth may be invoked to extenuate sin. God did not teach us the reality of his rule in order to give us an excuse for neglecting his orders.
In our Lord's parable of the talents (Mt 25:14-30), the 'good and faithful' servants were those who furthered their master's interests by making the most enterprising lawful use that they could of what was entrusted to them. The servant who buried his talent, and did nothing with it beyond keeping it intact, no doubt imagined that he was being extremely good and faithful, but his master judged him to be "wicked". "slothful", and "unprofitable". For what Christ has given us to use must be put to use; it is not enough simply to hide it away. We may apply this to our stewardship of the gospel. The truth about salvation has been made known to us, not for us simply to preserve (though we must certainly do that), but also, and primarily, for us to spread. The light is not meant to be hidden under the bushel. It is meant to shine; and it is our business to see that it shines. "You are the light of the world," says our Lord (Mt 5:14-16). He who does not devote himself to evangelism in every way that he can is not, therefore, playing the part of a good and faithful servant of Jesus Christ. -J. I. Packer (Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God Pgs. 41,42)

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Evangelism: God's Part and Mine Part 5

There is the temptation for some to minimize our part in evangelism. In their zeal to glorify God by acknowledging his sovereignty in grace, and by refusing to imagine that their own services are indispensable to him, they are tempted to lose sight of the church's responsibility to evangelize...
Perhaps the classic instance of this way of thinking was provided two centuries ago by the chairman of the ministers' fraternal at which William Carey mooted the founding of a missionary society. "Sit down, young man," said the old warrior; "when God is pleased to convert the heathen, He will do it without your aid, or mine!" The idea of taking the initiative in going out to find men of all nations for Christ struck him as improper and, indeed, presumptuous.
Now think twice before you condemn that old man. He was not entirely without understanding. He had at least grasped that it is God who saves, and that he saves according to his own purpose, and does not take orders from man in the matter. He had grasped too that we must never suppose that without our help God would be helpless. He had, in other words, learned to take the sovereignty of God perfectly seriously. His mistake was that he was not taking the church's evangelistic responsibility with equal seriousness. He was forgetting that God's way of saving men is to send out his servants to tell them the gospel, and that the church has been charged to go into all the world for that very purpose. But this is something that we must not forget. -J.I. Packer (Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God Pgs. 40-41)

Friday, January 28, 2011

Evangelism: God's Part and Mine Part 4

But there is an opposite temptation that threatens us also: namely, the temptation to an exclusive concern with divine sovereignty...thought
God uses men as means for achieving his purposes, in the last analysis nothing depends on man; everything depends, rather, on the God who raises men up to do his will. They see, too, that God is handling every situation before his servants come on the scene, and that he continues to handle it and work out his will in it through each thing that they do- through their mistakes and failures, no less than through their personal successes...
They see that, since God is always in control, they need never fear that they will expose him to loss and damage if they limit themselves to serving him in the way that he has appointed. They see that any other supposition would in effect be a denial of his wisdom, or his sovereignty, or both. They see, also, that the Christian must never for one moment imagine himself to be indispensable to God, or allow himself to behave as if he were. The God who sent him, and is pleased to work with him, can do without him. He must be ready to spend and be spent in the tasks that God sets him; but he must never suppose that the loss to the church would be irreparable if God should lay him aside and use someone else.
He must not at any point say to himself, "God's cause would collapse without me and the work I am doing" -for there is never any reason to think this is so. It is never true that God would be at a loss without you and me. Those who have begun to understand the sovereignty of God see all this, and so they seek to efface themselves in all their work for God. They thus bear a practical witness to their belief that God is great, and reigns, by trying to make themselves small, and to act in a way which is itself and acknowledges that the fruitfulness of their Christian service depends wholly on God, and not on themselves. And up to this point they are right.-J I Packer (Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God Pgs.38-40)

Evangelism: God's Part and Mine Part 3

It is right to recognize our responsibility to engage in aggressive evangelism. It is right to desire the conversion of unbelievers. It is right to want one's presentation of the gospel to be as clear and forcible as possible. If we preferred that converts should be few and far between, and did not care whether our proclaiming of Christ went home or not, there would be something wrong with us. But it is not right when we take it on us to do more than God has given us to do. It is not right when we regard ourselves as responsible for securing converts, and look to our own enterprise and techniques to accomplish what only God can accomplish. To do that is to intrude ourselves into the office of the Holy Spirit, and to exalt ourselves as the agents of the new birth. And the point that we must see it this: only by letting our knowledge of God's sovereignty control the way in which we plan, and pray, and work in his service, can we avoid becoming guilty of this fault. For where we are not consciously relying on God, there we shall inevitably be found relying on ourselves. And the spirit of self-reliance is a blight on evangelism. Such, however, is the inevitable consequence of forgetting God's sovereignty in the conversion of souls.-J I Packer (Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God Pgs.36-37)