Advertisements

Book Review: Bringing the Gospel Home, by Randy Newman

Recommended. A book on household evangelism that will leave you not only equipped, but encouraged.

By God’s grace, Randy Newman has written a book on evangelism for real, everyday people. He recognizes the hurdles that trip up those of us who aren’t gifted at evangelism, while also acknowledging that, as Christians, we still have the incredible, full-of-potential-joy responsibility of sharing the gospel with those around us who don’t believe. What are some of those hurdles? How about the flow of bottomless guilt we struggle with when we remember witnessing opportunities to our families we’ve missed or botched? How about the heart-breaking fruitlessness or strife that has come from some of our attempts to share the gospel with family? How about the individualistic culture that tells us at every turn: “Your faith, your business–keep it to yourself!” In a voice that assuages the fears that accompany the thought of sharing the gospel with family, Newman naturally addresses these fears and more.

One of my favorite aspects of this book is its thematic organization. Newman initially thought of doing it by relationships–witnessing to parents, to children, to cousins, etc–but the problem here, he jokes, would be that readers could simply flip through, find the passage they needed, and then not buy the book. But he then puts joking aside, explaining that the real problem with relationship-based organization would be that issues of bringing the Gospel to our family members are not so cut and dried. God gave Newman great wisdom here, and, thankfully, the book is far from the recipe/technique/how-to book genre that it might have been had it been organized differently. Instead, Newman wrote a book that, as he puts it, “is far more about God and the gospel than it is about you and your family.” Wow–that’s pretty bold introductory material for a book on household evangelism!

So how is the book organized? Newman examines factors involved in all evangelism: grace, truth, love, humility, time, eternity, and hope. And the last chapter encapsulates the purpose of the book: to offer hope to those of us with family members who seem so very far from the gospel. In each chapter, Newman engages in theological reflection (looking at the Scriptures for treatments of each theme), but then he gets very practical by looking at the real, messy stories of real, flesh-and-blood people. Each chapter ends with a handful of steps to take.

This is a book that I’d recommend to every Christian I know, whether they have family members who aren’t believers or not. It will encourage and amaze believers as it reveals the power of God to save sinners like us. It will remind us of why we call it a gospel–because what God came and saved us from is big, good, life-giving news. If you have even one family member who is far from God, you’ll find the book incredibly helpful. Do be encouraged. I pray that God will use Newman’s book to help many of us get over the hurdles that trip us up when it comes to sharing Christ with family members.

Advertisements

Book Review: Homosexuality — Speaking the Truth in Love

Recommended. A loving, biblical look at an issue that is often treated with blind bigotry.

Edward Welch begins this installment of the Resources for Changing Lives booklets at an appropriate spot: he calls for the Christian’s repentance of both personal and corporate sins pertaining to self-righteousness and homosexuality. “Many Christians can admit that they are sinners, but they don’t see their sin in the same category as homosexuality” (p. 2). I was thankful that Welch addressed this common misunderstanding from the outset.

From the position of humility that comes from repenting of both personal and corporate sin, Welch leads readers through the biblical data pertaining to homosexuality; next, he answers some of the common arguments people make for the acceptability of homosexuality before God.

After this, Welch examines arguments about the causes of homosexuality. Though he has no problem acknowledging that factors such as genetics, peers, deficient relationships with same-sex parents, sexual violation by an older person, and so on can all be secondary influences in leading a person to homosexuality, he shows how, biblically, all sin begins not with secondary influences, but with the sinful nature of the fallen human heart. “With some [the expression of our hearts] is greed or jealousy, with others it is sinful anger, and with others it can be expressed in homosexual desire” (p. 30).

The remainder of the book compassionately outlines the process of change. “Like all sin,” Welch says, “homosexuality at the heart level does not relent easily or quickly” (p. 30). His advice is specific to change for those expressing homosexual desire. Because of Welch’s robust grasp of the counsel of Scriptures, this book quickly and gently walks readers through a major hot-button issue of our day.

Tim Keller Sermon Notes — Series: Arguing with Jesus — Sermon #1: Arguing about the Afterlife

Teaching is based on Matthew 22:23-33 Sadducees questioning Jesus about the afterlife

Please note that these sermon notes are provided only to encourage, and that any or all parts of the notes may contain errors or omissions, due entirely to the note-taker. Full audio of the sermon may be found at the Redeemer Sermon Store.

Jesus responds to the Sadducees (educated, liberal, upper class) with
I. A rebuke
The gospel is not a derivative or form of conservatism or liberalism, nor is it the perfect middle.

  • Conservatives like the idea of a God of justice and morality
    • Yet the God of the gospel isn’t satisfied with anyone but Jesus’ moral life and the sacrifice of Jesus alone satisfies this God’s justice
      • God is more conservative than the conservatives
  • Liberals like the idea of a God of love, compassion, and social justice
    • Yet the God of the gospel is more loving than that, offering His Son’s life as a sacrifice
      • God is more liberal than the liberals
  • In sum, Jesus rebukes everyone with this: the gospel is not like anything else.

Practical implications of this:

  • For Christians: Get used to people misunderstanding you and thinking you’re an idiot, because the Gospel is unlike anything else. People will have no grid for understanding what you’re marinating in.
  • For Seekers: Take your time. If you hear something about the gospel and really like it, it’s probably because of something you like, not the gospel. And if you hear something about the gospel and really hate it, it’s probably because of something you hate, not the gospel. It’s unlike anything else.
  • For Christians trying to show friends Christianity: Be patient. This takes time.

II. An argument
The Sadducees don’t understand the love of God or the Scriptures.

  • The scriptures: Jesus uses Scripture that the Sadducees will accept (okay, you want to talk about Moses? Let’s talk about Moses). He speaks on their terms to contend for the gospel. He points out that God speaks of Abraham and Isaac to Moses in the present tense, though they’ve been dead for centuries. This means that the relationship cannot stop.
  • The love of God: When God enters into a loving relationship with us it cannot stop. God won’t lose anything that’s precious to Him.
    • Hellfire preaching: There is an afterlife, it’s heaven or hell, so you better know God.
    • Jesus’ preaching: Know God and then you’ll know there’s an afterlife.
      • Once you start tasting the love of God, you’ll start to realize instinctually and logically that it can’t end.

III. A Promise

  • This lack of marriage in heaven doesn’t sound fun to us. We envision a bunch of platonic relationship. We envision us not being us anymore, no longer remembering our spouses.
    • We will be us. Remember, God is the God of Abraham, a person, an individual.
    • The afterlife will make the most intoxicating, intensely pleasurable moment of the best marriage in the history of the Earth look like a dew drop next to an atomic bomb.
    • St Teresa of Avila: “The first moment in the arms of Jesus is gonna make a thousand years of misery on Earth look like one night in a bad hotel.”

Memorizing Scripture

About a year ago, I went through a time where I memorized the Topical Memory System (produced by the Navigators) with my Bible study group. Here are some reasons I see to memorize scripture, and some not to:

Reasons to memorize Scripture:

  • Jesus did it and quoted it in the desert, in sermons, with His friends, and from the cross. When we’re in times of death, times of crisis, what we are bleeds out of us. Jesus bled the Word of God.
  • The Psalmist of Psalm 119 did it as a measure to keep Himself from backsliding (Ps 119:9, 11).
  • Repeating the verse in your mind over the course of a day or two can do a lot to our hearts (plus, Scripture says to “meditate on it day and night,” Joshua 1:8). Pastor Tim Keller was once assigned to go out and spend 30 minutes with a single verse, listing 50 things that that verse taught. After fifteen minutes, he was frustrated and annoyed. By the end of 30 minutes, he was excited, having seen and learned things he’d never before considered. The rest of the people in his class had similar experiences with the same assignment.
    • This listening through meditation is akin to sitting at Jesus’ feet, as Mary did. Mary alone understood Jesus, because she sat at Jesus’ feet.

Reasons not to memorize Scripture:

  • So you can quote verses (with references) to friends and loved ones when you see them acting wrongly.
    • This is akin to beating someone over the head with the Bible;
    • Though it’s a necessary (and, from what I see, largely avoided) task to confront wayward believers in their sin, this is something that should be done with the care and preparation of a surgeon, not a machine gunner. Don’t who I was, a Scripture machine gunner.
  • So you can win Bible jeopardy.
    • I’ve never played Bible jeopardy but I’d like to, it sounds like a blast, but only because I like the Bible. Winning Bible jeopardy doesn’t make you more or less pleasing to God (but it can inflate your pride, which dishonors Him).
  • To gain God’s favor.
    • In light of the gospel (Christ has done everything necessary to win us God’s unlimited favor; now alive in Christ, God is “well pleased” in us, His children), this idea of gaining God’s favor is absurd, and even more it is a lie from the pit of hell. The devil’s main attack on you is not the temptations you face–those are rear guard actions, as my pastor once put it. The frontal assaults of evil are the lies in our hearts that we must do something to earn God’s favor, that we are not, in Christ, the well-pleasing children to God, that our pleasingness to God is based on our actions, not on Christ’s.
  • So you can witness to all people well: Salvation comes from God; natural witnessing comes from joy in Christ, which comes from the Holy Spirit. Many memorize verses of the Bible and attempt to force a logical progression of verses onto others to win them over. Some (especially those who know the Bible and intellectually accept it’s authority) may be reconciled to God through such a parade of verses, but many are the maladies of the lost and so are their cures. In all of His interactions, Christ acted as He did for the sake of His audience. Paul became “all things to all people” for the sake of the gospel. Simply, we cannot expect to memorize verses and then see droves of the lost fall on their knees. Salvation comes from God alone, not memorized verses.

That last point is completely my opinion, and so is this: memorizing Scripture needs to be for me–my relationship with God through Jesus by the Holy Spirit–not others. I am desiring it more and more lately, not to become pleasing to God or to stay caught up with my Bible study group, but to have His Word available to chew on, to have its marinade present to soak in, wherever I am.

Particularly in the shower.