Category Archives: Evangelism

Michael Horton on the Reformer’s Understanding of Justification

The key question of the Reformation was not, “How can I be a better person?” but “How can I, an evil person, be accepted by a holy and righteous God?” Do I have to get better before I can be well? The Reformation answered, with the New Testament, that we would always be “ill,” spiritually and morally, in this world; that we were, even as Christians, still sinners. Nevertheless, God declared us righteous while we were still unrighteous. Grace, then, is not first a power infused to help us become good, but God’s acceptance of us as good even while we are still evil. This did not eliminate the moral renewal of sinners (new birth and sanctification). In fact, the Reformation argued that in our union with Christ we receive both justification and sanctification. They are inseparable. However, they are not the same.
The medieval church had collapsed the verdict of justification into the process of sanctification: by cooperating with grace, you are actually made just (righteous) and merit a final justification at the last judgment. Because most of us remain imperfect at death, some time in purgatory is necessary before we can be received as fully justified in heaven. The Reformers rediscovered the Good News that justification is not something that we aim for in life but something that we already have completely and perfectly in Christ through faith alone. Therefore, we are to live in gratitude. Justification is the basis, not the goal, of our growth in grace.

Horton, M. (2011). Putting Amazing Back into Grace: Embracing the Heart of the Gospel (pp. 143–144). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

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Posted by on November 14, 2013 in Evangelism


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Politics Is Hell- Kevin DeYoung

It’s a scary thought to think that your whole life could be an open book. With defenses that do not hold, and sorry’s that do not stick, and excuses which only make things worse…
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Posted by on November 5, 2012 in Evangelism


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Five Key Concepts in the Reformation Understanding of Justification

Believe in Christ with all your heart, but don’t put your faith in your faith. Your experience of trusting Christ will ebb and flow. So be sure to
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Posted by on November 2, 2012 in Evangelism


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Are We Justified By Faith Alone? – What Still Divides Us: A Protestant and Roman Catholic Debate by Michael S. Horton

Are We Justified By Faith Alone? – What Still Divides Us: A Protestant and Roman Catholic Debate by Michael S. Horton

 Referring to the schism of the 14th and 15th centuries, one scholar observes,

‘For nearly half a century, the Church was split into two or three obediences that excommunicated one another, so that every Catholic lived under excommunication by one pope or another, and, in the last analysis, no one could say with certainty which of the contenders had right on his side. The Church no longer offered certainty of salvation; she had become questionable in her whole objective form–the true Church, the true pledge of salvation, had to be sought outside the institution. It is against this background of a profoundly shaken ecclesial consciousness that we are to understand that Luther, in the conflict between his search for salvation and the tradition of the Church, ultimately came to experience the Church, not as the guarantor, but as the adversary of salvation.’

I hope that the credibility of this historical assessment will not be called into question, as it comes to us from the pen of Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, current head of the Sacred Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith for the Church of Rome. (Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, Principles of Catholic Theology, trans. by Sister Mary Frances McCarthy, S.N.D. (San Francisco: Ignatius, 1989) p.196).

As the gavel came down to close the final session of the Council of Trent in 1563, Rome had officially and, according to her own commitment down to the present moment, irreversably, declared that the Gospel announced by the prophets, revealed in and by Christ, and proclaimed by the apostles, was actually heretical. The most relevant Canons are the following:

Canon 9. If anyone says that the sinner is justified by faith alone…, let him be anathema.

Canon 11. If anyone says that men are justified either by the sole imputation of the justice of Christ or by the sole remission of sins,… let him be anathema.

Canon 12. If anyone says that justifying faith is nothing else than confidence in divine mercy (supra, chapter 9), which remits sins for Christ’s sake, or that it is this confidence alone that justifies us, let him be anathema.

Canon 24. If anyone says that the justice received is not preserved and also not increased before God through good works but that those works are merely the fruits and signs of justification obtained, but not the cause of the increase, let him be anathema.

Canon 30. If anyone says that after the reception of the grace of justification the guilt is so remitted and the debt of eternal punishment so blotted out to every repentant sinner, that no debt of temporal punishment remains to be discharged either in this world or in purgatory before the gates of heaven can be opened, let him be anathema.

Canon 32. If anyone says that the good works of the one justified are in such manner the gifts of God that they are not also the good merits of him justified; or that the one justified by the good works that he performs by the grace of God and the merit of Jesus Christ…does not truly merit an increase of grac and eternal life… let him be anathema.

It was, therefore, not the evangelicals who were condemned in 1564, but the evangel itself. The ‘good news,’ which alone is ‘the power of God unto salvation’ was judged by Rome to be so erroneous that anyone who embraced it was to be regarded as condemned. Let us now consider the key questions and passages relating to this doctrine.

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Posted by on September 25, 2012 in Evangelism


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Evangelizing the Christianized Culture: Have I been careful not to manipulate emotions?

Evangelizing the Christianized Culture: Have I been careful not to manipulate emotions?

“Follow your heart?” Is that Biblical advice?  Consider God’s view of the human heart. Genesis 8:21 “man’s heart is evil from his youth;” Jeremiah 17:9 “[It] is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked.” How does this understanding of the heart affect evangelism?

Our heart is what reasons, feels, and chooses.  Unfortunately, our depravity infects all three aspects of our heart.  Romans 3 says that there is none who understands or seeks after God; 1 Corinthians 2 says that the natural man cannot understand the things of God, Ephesians 2, says that the unconverted walk after the course of this world, and Romans 6 says that unbelievers are slaves to sinful passions.  James 1 says that, our compulsion under temptation is from our own hearts.  It is impossible for men to think, feel, and choose rightly apart from the grace of God extended through the gospel and received at conversion through glorification.  Of these three faculties, arguably the most susceptible to manipulation is the emotions.  Consider some passages that speak about the negative susceptibility of our emotions: In 1 Thessalonians 4 we are commanded not to walk in passionate lusts.  Colossians 3 commands us to put to death unclean passions and evil desire.  2 Peter 2 says that false teacher’s, whose hearts are trained in covetous practices, entice unstable souls.  2 Timothy 2 tells us to flee youthful lusts, and 2 Timothy 3 tells us that false teachers capture gullible women who are led away by various lusts.  Human passions are a gift from God, yet the fall has left our passions susceptible to manipulation and self deception.  Our passions glorify God when our hearts are led by God’s word and changed by the indwelling Spirit, thus truth must penetrate our mind so it can move our heart as it converts our walk.  Our emotions must be led by a mind that is progressively renewed by God’s word.

How does this impact evangelism?  Several examples of apparent reception followed by falling away come to mind.  Matthew 13 speaks of a group who received the word with joy yet later fell away.  John 2 says that Christ did not commit himself to certain disciples, because He knew their motives were not genuine.  John 6 says that Jesus compelled a group of seeking disciples to labor for food that endures to everlasting life, rather than physical bread.  And Acts 8 says that a disciple named Simon was rebuked for asking the apostles to prostitize their apostolic gifts.  These men followed Christ and the apostles with duplicitous motives, and while we cannot absolutely prevent these responses, we must be careful not to insight them.

My ministry is in a culture were emotionalism is the standard.  Many view Christianity as an entertaining means to an end, not new life in Christ in the Biblical sense.  They attend church for the emotional high not genuine worship.  This twisting of genuine Christianity is a drug-like emotional fix, where “faith” becomes an addiction. Sloppy evangelism or emotional appeals through manipulative means, serve as the catalysts to inflame this twisting of truth.

No one is immune to pragmatism.  I once read a book with a chapter on improving offerings, by using lighting and music to create an environment for giving.  I have seen youth leaders “help” young people pray a sinner’s prayer, seen a pastor argue someone into the baptistery, and counseled people whose profession of faith in a high pressure appeal was only an empty prayer going along with friends or pleasing someone.   Sadly, I too have been guilty manipulative evangelism.  Preaching must go beyond the mind to affect the will.  We have not preached if we have not compelled men to repentance; however, why do we need music and a conversation with the preacher while the music is softly playing?  Why do we need to raise our hands before the music starts, and then go forward after it has begun?  Why do we need the high pressure?  Do I need you to hold my hand to place my faith in Christ?  Do I really need the lights and the music to be just right to give?  Is the invitation really the most important part of the service?  Why do we give a gospel invitation if there was no gospel given? Is this what Christ and the apostles did?  We must give cheerfully from the heart, evangelize with passion, and call men to repentance.  But are we doing it honestly?

  •  Have we manipulated emotions, or has the Spirit drawn?
  • Are we using artificial means to manipulate response?
  • Are we calling for a decision we have not addressed?

May we strive to keep the apparent tensions of God’s sovereignty and our responsibilities in evangelism and preaching in perfect balance!

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Posted by on August 28, 2012 in Evangelism


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The Gospel is What?

Why do we need to be clear when we present the gospel? Check out this flier, and you will understand just a little better how someone’s view of the gospel can be be filtered through a twisted grid. Do not be fooled into thinking it only happens in Ghana!

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Posted by on August 27, 2012 in Evangelism


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Evangelizing the Christianized Culture: What is repentance and how is it evidenced?

Evangelizing the Christianized Culture: What is repentance and how is it evidenced?

Repentance is a willful turning of the heart and the mind to God in light of specific truths.  When we discuss repentance, we must consider context as we consider its nature.  Repentance may or may not involve sin.  God’s repentance obviously is not a turning from sin.  Ironically, twenty one out of the twenty five AV examples of “repent” or its cognate in the Old Testament are referring to God.  Repentance for an unbeliever and a believer is different, depending on context, though this repentance will always result in a changed direction, since it is impossible from one’s heart, thinking, and will to change without a significant change of direction.  Consider these Old Testament text that reveal the nature of repentance. In each passage, notice how various English translations express metonoeo the Greek word for repent, from the LXX.   Proverbs 20:25 “It is a snare for a man to devote rashly something as holy, and afterward to reconsider his vows.” “Reconsider” is the English translation of metanoeo.  Proverbs 24:32 “When I saw it, I considered it well; I looked on it and received instruction.”  “Considered it well” is the English translation of metanoeo.  1 Samuel 15:29 NAS “And also the Glory of Israel will not lie or change His mind; for He is not a man that He should change His mind.”  “Change His mind” is the English translation of metanoeo.  And Amos 7:3 NAS “The LORD changed His mind about this. ‘It shall not be,’ said the LORD.” “The LORD changed his mind about this” is the English translation of metanoeo.  The remaining Old Testament text referring to repentance, reveal the same.  Repentance is a willful turning of the heart and mind in light of specific truths.  It involves deliberation in the heart through processing information.  Ultimately one repents, when he turns from one contextually understood view to another.  Response to the gospel is a unique context, with the following truths at stake.  How does one view himself, his sin, his righteousness, the person of Christ, and the work of Christ.

Unconverted men generally view themselves as good, their sins as occasional shortcomings, their righteousness as pleasing to God, Christ as simply a man, and his work as a martyr’s death.  For every sinner, the sticking point may be different.  For the Muslim, it is impossible to embrace Christ’s deity.  For the Moralist, it is impossible to embrace his self-righteous attempts to merit eternal life us unacceptable, arrogant means of rebellion against God’s gracious salvation through Christ alone.  To the Hedonist, there is no desire to embrace the light; it exposes him as a miserable rebel reveling in lawless rebellion.  To the atheist, it is impossible to embrace a risen Savior and the grotesque figure of Christ on a cross.  Apart from the grace of God, no man can turn from these various rebellions, but praise God for His grace in the gospel.  Saving repentance is a willful turning of the heart and mind to God in light of the specific truths of the gospel in order to depend upon the person, work, and righteousness of Christ alone.  Repentance means you cannot add Christ to what you already believe.  You must see yourself as spiritually bankrupt, having no acceptable righteousness before God, condemned and under God’s wrath, without hope apart from the Jesus of the Bible, the Lord God.  You must embrace the redemptive work of God in its entirety, including the horrors of the cross and the triumph of the resurrection.  There is no true faith, without true repentance.  So here are a few questions that help us to discern if there has been a genuine repentance toward God:

  • Have they sensed the seriousness and implications of their rebellion against a holy God?
  • Do they view their current situation as grave?
  • Do they view their current belief system as wrong?
  • Do they embrace a Biblical Jesus?
  • Do they embrace a resurrected Jesus?
  • Do they recognize this is the only way?
  • Do they desire deliverance from their sin?

One final word of caution, the way we read people is not infallible.  The longer we work with people, the more we will misjudge.  Some people seem to understand and actually do not.  Others appear mildly moved by the truth, yet time reveals the miracle of a radically changed life by the power of the gospel in conversion.  Let us not answer the matter in our minds before we see the whole picture.  May God grant us grace as we labor to clearly present the precious gospel of Christ!


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