Monday, February 27, 2012

The Romans Approach to Reaching the Lost

Sitting in the living room of our home one evening, my wife handed me a storage box and said, “If you want experience some nostalgia look through this.”  Out of curiosity I began to search through the items in the box and found Father’s Day cards from my children, notes from my wife and various other things that went back over 30 years.  I also found a small envelope with a 37 cent stamp post marked in 2002.  The return address showed Hallsville, TX 75650.  I removed a  letter and it read as follows:
                Dear Jim,
                                I take great pleasure in writing to tell you of the success my wife & I have had       reaching
                the lost using the Romans Approach to salvation. 
A friend gave me a R.A. Tape in 1982.  Since then the Lord, my wife & I have converted more than 50 souls using it.
I am so thankful for the tape you recently gave me.  I promise it will be used.  I’m so greatful for brothers like you who have the knowledge of God’s salvation plan & the ability to organize it in a way that faith, the love of God, the origin of sin, God’s grace, His salvation plan & Church membership can all be taught by nearly anyone.
My prayer is, may God bless & keep you in all that you do.
In Brotherly love,
Gene Tolar
I have shared the letter just as it was written.  You can listen to the tape that Gene is referring to here:
I am delighted that God has used this study to bring hundreds to Christ.  It is the gospel that is the power of God for salvation.  The study from Romans simply presents the truth in a way that people who are away from God can understand it.  God describes us as clay jars that hold the great treasure of the gospel:  “We have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.” (2 Corinthians 4:7)
I pray that God will bless you richly as you explore this study!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Finding God

I have just finished reading a book entitled FINDING GOD by Larry Crabb for the second time. Actually the full title is "Moving Through Your Problems Toward Finding God."  This book is  challenging, encouraging and thought provoking.  We know that Paul put a very high priority on knowing God (Phil. 3:7-11).  He said, this is the "one thing I do" (3:13).  Is your #1 goal in life to "know Christ?"

Consider the following from Dr. Crabb's book:

     To believe Christ (faith), to serve Christ (love), and to wait for Christ (hope): that is what it means to find God.

     But to the degree that you haven't found him, your passions are out of control.  Trust is out.  You want to explain and control; therefore, you reduce mystery to manageable categories and attempt to run your own life without depending on Christ.

     You like to be right. You call it earnestly contending for the faith, and you persuade yourself that you are God's ally in defending truth.  But your angry spirit of smugness and condescension gives you away. Compassion and humility yield to arrogance.

     You long to heal, to relieve pain.  But when that becomes a higher priority than worship, you create a god who suits your humane purpose, and you devote your life to helping people feel better about themselves.  You end up using a false god rather than worshiping the true One.

     You long to connect with the supernatural.  You embrace mystery, fall prostrate before God in humility, and yield yourself to no higher purpose than experiencing him.  But your focus is on experience.  You demand it.  So you come up with methods to get it.  Eventually, you become more caught up with your theology of finding God and the evidence that you have done so than with God himself.

     To every cry from you passion-filled hearts, God replies, "CHRIST."

     Let your passion to explain become a passion to know Christ and all that he reveals through the book that God wrote about him.  Think hard, explore, take risks in your ideas, talk to people about their lives, but never leave the chair by the fire for very long.  Let your work of faith be always to believe he is good.

I encourage you to put Dr. Larry Crabb on your reading list. 

Thursday, February 9, 2012

There is a BIG difference beween "What" and "Who."

Are you sharing “What” or “Who”?

Jim and Tony, had both just recently became Christians.  These twin brothers both worked under the supervision of Barry Wilkins, who was the district supervisor for a national insurance company.  They often went on the road together and Jim and Tony had many occasions to discuss the gospel with Barry who had never been immersed.  They introduced me to Barry and suggested that I have a personal Bible study with Barry and his wife Nancy.  I agreed to this plan and asked Barry to give me a call when they were ready (I really didn’t expect to hear back from him!).

Barry did call and asked that I come to their home on a Saturday morning.  We sat down around their dining table and opened our Bibles.  After prayer I got their permission to ask a “personal question.”  I asked, “Have you reached a place in your spiritual life where you know for sure that if you died today that you would go to heaven?”  They both answered that they had, and we started our study of Romans.

When we reached Romans 8:1 which states, Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”  I asked, “Are you in Christ?”  They both said they were.  I asked, “How did you get into Christ?” They answered, “We invited him into our hearts.”  To which I pointed out, “They may be how Christ got into you, but this scripture states there is no condemnation for those that are IN Christ.  We need to see what the Bible says about getting into Christ.”

Earlier we had read from Romans 6, “Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4    We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.”  I asked, “Have you ever been buried with Christ in baptism?”  When Nancy started to process what this meant she left the table and went to her bedroom weeping.

After a period of silence, I asked Barry, “What are you going to do?”  He replied, “I’m just not ready to receive baptism!”  I said, “Barry, I did not come over here to get you to receive baptism. I came over to share Jesus with you.  You are not saying no to baptism, you are saying no to Christ.  Barry responded, “Boy, it’s not hard to say no to baptism, but it is difficult to say no to Christ!”

Barry and Nancy were both baptized the next Tuesday.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

My personal faith journey.

I grew up in a family of consisting of six siblings. Two were younger than me.  My dad was 65 years old when I came into the world.  He was 72 when the youngest was  born.  From my point of view dad was a very religious man.  He had served as a deacon in the Baptist Church and saw to it that we were in church every Sunday, and often led the family in devotions of prayer.  The most convenient place of worship for my family was a Methodist Church, so that’s where we attended.  At the age of ten I made a profession of faith and joined the Methodist Church along with my brother who was 12.  This was the beginning of my walk with God.  I cannot remember when I did not believe Jesus Christ was “the only begotten Son of God.”

When I was 14 my dad died leaving my Mom with four children still at home.  Two days after I turned 17 my mom signed so I could join the U.S. Navy.  After two years and four months in the Navy I re-enlisted for six more years.  While home on leave I met a beautiful young lady that I had known of most of my life.  We found that we had a lot in common and decided to get married.  She and her family were members of the Freewill Baptist Church.  With the influence of a Baptist dad and now a Freewill Baptist wife, I decided to be immersed according to the teachings of the Baptist Church. 

I had expressed to my wife that I felt God was “calling me to preach.”  My first attempt at preaching was at the Oak Grove Freewill Baptist Church in 1962.  I had been baptized in the afternoon and attempted to preach at the evening service.  Perhaps, oddly, although I was attempting to connect with God, and had made honest attempts to, there was still this emptiness.  A suspicion that I was not connected.  Even so, I continued on this path seeking to please God by attending church and telling others about my faith.

In 1963, just over a year since I had been baptized to join the Freewill Baptist Church, a friend challenged me on my faith response to God in becoming a Christian.  He was a recent convert in the Church of Christ tradition.  This friend shared with me scriptures such as, Mark 16:15-16 where Jesus told the Apostles, “Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation. 16 Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.”  He also shared Acts 2:38 where Peter was answering the question of those that had crucified Christ and wanted to know what to do to have this guilt removed.  Peter said, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”  This meant a lot to me.  It placed in concrete terms what God was calling me to do, that was, to place myself under Christ’s authority and be immersed.  The blessings promised were “forgiveness” and “the gift of the Holy Spirit.”

This also set me on a path of understanding that was not healthy. For years I interpreted the needs of others in the light of my own experience.  Rather than sharing Christ I shared steps (Hear, Believe, Repent, Confess and be Baptized) that should be followed for a person to become a Christian, the right Church with the right name and the right acts of worship.  This formula was what I saw as the answer for those who needed to be saved. (A note here: God’s plan of redemption is through Christ.  Hearing, believing, confessing and being baptized is the order but Christ is our redeemer, not the steps.)

I had graduated from College with a degree in Bible before I saw the light (John 8:12).  I had discussions with my brother-in-law, Jerry, whenever we got together.  He has a Master’s Degree in English and loves debating.  We covered the steps, the right Church, the right acts of worship and he was not moved.  My brother, John, who is a couple of years older than me got through to my brother-in-law and opened my eyes to the powerless approach I had used.  John presented Jesus to Jerry.  “What do think about Jesus,” he asked.  Jerry responded, “Oh, I believe he lived and died on a cross.” John asked, “Do you realize that he died on that cross for you!”  I could tell that Jerry was sobered by this application.  I asked, “Jerry, do you believe Jesus was buried and raised from the dead three days later?”  He said, “Yes, I do believe that!”  So I said, “Do you believe Jesus is the Son of God?”  He answered, “Yes, I do believe Jesus is the Son of God.”  Two of us saw the “light” that night.  My brother, brother-in-law and I went to the little Church where I ministered and baptized Jerry that very night. I know Jerry received the gift of forgiveness and the Holy Spirit just as those on Pentecost were promised in Acts 2:38.

I saw the power of just sharing Jesus that night.