When is a Christian not a Christian?
Do you want to live forever?
What does God’s Word say about the stated goal of reflecting Jesus?
For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. (Romans 8:29)
And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. (2 Corinthians 3:18)
My dear children, for whom I am again in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you. (Galatians 4:19)
… until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. (Ephesians 4:13)
Paul is consistent in his message to these four churches. Our goal is to become like Christ. If that is true and I’m not just manipulating Scripture to prove my point, then something has gone awry in our evangelism, in our “evangelistic methodologies”. It is true that discipleship programmes are geared to help the convert in their transition to becoming a disciple, through the transformation process outlined in the Scriptures above. But, at the initial point of contact, a very different approach is taken.
Do you want to live forever? Do you think you are going to heaven or hell? What hope do you have?
What we have here is the marketing approach to evangelism. Decide where the itch is and then scratch it. In a society that is becoming increasingly individualistic and selfish, the best results are always going to be through pandering to our personal desires rather than any altruistic impulses. This is why those chuggers (charity muggers) are generally unsuccessful. They are not providing a product that can benefit us personally. This is the sad outcome of historical processes, largely fuelled by Greek thinking, but fed by our natural selfishness, that drives us inwards towards our own bodily needs, rather than anything than can benefit the community at large. And our evangelism often takes this as a starting point.
Do you want to live forever?
What this should be is an ending point. A reward that should be accepted as a consequence of a holy life following God’s will, rather than the primary incentive.
And this is the promise that He has promised us—eternal life. (1 John 2:25)
We are promised this if we abide in the Son and in the Father (verse 24).
But it’s not easy. Approaching people in a park, street or marketplace and asking them whether they would want to be more like Jesus is not going to get many takers, as most haven’t a clue who the real Jesus is and, even if they did, what’s in it for them!? What’s the deal here?
Rather than dwelling on rewards, our evangelism ought to follow the model of the great evangelists of yesteryear. Showing us up as the wretches we are and how we need help to live a life of purpose and worth.
“Give me one hundred preachers who fear nothing but sin, and desire nothing but God, and I care not a straw whether they be clergymen or laymen; such alone will shake the gates of hell and set up the kingdom of heaven on Earth.” (John Wesley)
After many years of great mercy, after tasting of the powers of the world to come, we still are so weak, so foolish; but, oh! when we get away from self to God, there all is truth and purity and holiness, and our heart finds peace, wisdom, completeness, delight, joy, victory. (Charles Spurgeon)
“A truly humble man is sensible of his natural distance from God; of his dependence on Him; of the insufficiency of his own power and wisdom; and that it is by God's power that he is upheld and provided for, and that he needs God's wisdom to lead and guide him, and His might to enable him to do what he ought to do for Him.” (Jonathan Edwards)
This is an extract from the book, Livin’ the Life, available for £10 at https://www.sppublishing.com/livin-the-life-151-p.asp