What I have to say today will be very controversial and may offend a number of you. I ask you to listen through to the end, and to study it out for yourselves. We claim to be Bible believers, yet we are more likely to follow the precepts of men in the area I will be dealing with, than we are to follow the precepts and examples of God’s Word.
I doubt seriously that any would argue that all is well in modern Christianity. You don’t have to look very far to see that things are not as they should be. We have a tendency to say; “We are living in the last days, and we should expect what we see happening.” The following passage is used as the basis for this idea:
Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables. (2 Timothy 4:2-4)
The Bible does tell us that what we see today is what we should expect in the last days; but have you ever asked why it is this way. It is not simply that God wants things to go south. It is because God’s people have departed from the teachings found in His Word. Listen carefully to this next verse;
But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God. (Matthew 4:4)
I want you to notice that it says that man shall live “by EVERY WORD that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.” We don’t have the right to pick and choose which parts of God’s Word we are going to live by. Every part is important, and every part is to be applied.
I realize that there are parts that don’t apply to every person in every situation, but even those parts are there for our instruction. We, for example, don’t stone people for adultery anymore because Jesus set the example by showing mercy on the woman caught in adultery. He did not justify her sin, nor should we. Remember, He told her to sin no more. From this incident we learn about mercy, but we also learn not to condone the sin when we show mercy.
Let me get back on subject. I believe that the reason we see so much compromise in modern Christianity is, we have stopped following God’s precepts. There is one major area I will get to later that I believe is the main cause for compromise among Bible believing people. Before I get to it I want to look at what God expects from His people.
Let a man so account of us, as of the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful. (1 Corinthians 4:1-2)
We, as God’s children, are also His stewards. This means we are responsible for caring for His work on earth. We decide how we are to use and dispense the mysteries of God. We are to do so according to the pattern established by God. We are not to come up with our own way to do His work. A faithful steward follows the instructions of his master.
God set up a pattern that says His work is to be done through, and under the authority of a local New Testament church. We have many “Christian ministries” that have no connection with a local church.
They are parasites, living off the money that should be used by the local church.
1 Thessalonians 5:22 tells us we are to avoid the appearance of evil; yet many “Christians” cannot be distinguished from the lost world. They look like the world, do what the world does, and go where the world goes. There is little preaching against this conduct in any specific manner. We may hear preaching that says we are not to be like the world, but seldom do we hear what it means. Those who do not abstain from the appearance of evil are accepted as members in good standing in our churches.
I said I would deal with a major area where we have departed from God’s precepts. It will upset a lot of you, but if you pay attention and study it out for yourselves, I am sure you will see that I am right. When I look at the examples of how people were brought to salvation in the Scriptures I don’t see anything that resembles the way we do it today. What we do today is patterned after the sales pitches of door to door salesmen.
We are taught that the first thing we are to do is ask a lost person is something like; “Do you know for sure that if you died today you would go to Heaven?” I ask you, where to you find this in the Scriptures?
If the person does not convince the “soul-winner” that he does know for sure, the next question is something like; “Would you like me to take five minutes of your time and show you from the Bible how you can know for sure?” Again, show me where you find this in the Scriptures.
We really need to stop coming up with new pitches to use in our soul-winning efforts. Instead, we need to go to the Scriptures and find out how it is done correctly.
The Great commission tells us to go, so we should go. We are told what we are to do when we go, and it is not to sell something.
And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen. (Matthew 28:18-20)
Notice first of all that it is not our power that brings the results, it is the power of God. The first thing we are to do is “teach all nations.” What are we to teach them? Of course we are to teach them the Gospel. Remember, gospel means “good news.” Teaching the Gospel without first teaching why it is good news is not what this is talking about. The Gospel is only good news to those who understand their standing before a holy God. Until they understand God’s holiness and their sinfulness they will not understand why they are condemned in the first place. It is not enough to get them to admit they are sinners, there must be true conviction of sin that causes godly sorrow in their hearts.
Now I rejoice, not that ye were made sorry, but that ye sorrowed to repentance: for ye were made sorry after a godly manner, that ye might receive damage by us in nothing. For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death. (2 Corinthians 7:9-10)
Notice that godly sorrow works or causes repentance that will never be repented of. That means that no one who has this kind of sorrow will ever turn back from God. It doesn’t mean he will never get off track, but he will never repent of his coming to God for salvation.
We are to go to all nations, that is why we send missionaries throughout the world and why go to our neighborhoods. As we go, we are to persuade those we teach.
Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men; … (2 Corinthians 5:11)
You can’t persuade people who know nothing of the God of the Bible in a five minute Gospel presentation. Sometimes, when there has been some sowing and watering in the person’s life, you can pick the fruit in that short a time; but to take someone from knowing nothing about Jehovah God to the understanding of their need for salvation will take a lot more effort than that. It says “knowing therefore the terror of the Lord.” This indicates that our goal is to instill the fear of God in them.
Since the Bible uses a harvest of wheat as an example of harvesting souls, let me share with you something about bringing wheat to harvest. There is a lot of work that goes into bringing any crop to harvest, and most of it is before there is any attempt to harvest the crop.
When a wheat farmer decides to plant a crop of wheat he first surveys the land to see what must be done before he can sow the seed. Are their trees or rocks that need to be removed? There are certainly weeds that have to be taken care of. The next thing he does is bring in a bottom plow and turn the ground over. This loosens the ground to the seeds and put down roots. Next he breaks up the clods with a harrow plow. He will then rake the ground so there are groves for the seed to lie in while germinating. He then sows the seed. The next part of the process is the longest. The seed must be watered and allowed to mature. Once the crop is ready for harvest, the farmer brings in a combine to harvest the wheat and separate it from the chaff. This is the shortest part of the process. It requires more laborers because it must be done quickly.
In modern soul-winning we try to accomplish all of this with a combine. A combine is not a plow, and it does not sow or water, it only harvests. If there is no plowing, sowing, and watering, the combine is useless.
As we try to bring people to Christ, we must first understand where they are and what they need. If you look and Peter’s message on the day of Pentecost and Paul’s message on Mars Hill, you will see that the process was different because the soil of the hearts of the people was different.
Let’s take a look at the two sermons we find in the Bible that brought the most people to Christ. The first one you are familiar with, it is Peter’s sermon on the day of Pentecost. For time’s sake I will only look at those parts of this sermon that had the most to do with people getting saved.
Ye men of Israel, hear these words; Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by him in the midst of you, as ye yourselves also know: Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain: Whom God hath raised up, having loosed the pains of death: because it was not possible that he should be holden of it. (Acts 2:22-24)
Remember, Peter is talking to Jews who knew about the holiness and righteousness of God. He didn’t need to say anything about that. He did, however, remind them that God had put His hand of approval on Jesus of Nazareth, and that they had crucified Him. He also reminded them that He had risen from the dead, and that they were well aware of it.
Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ. (Acts 2:36)
He ended the message by telling them that God had made “that same Jesus” both Lord and Christ (Messiah).
You can read the whole sermon yourselves and you will see that there is no mention of the love of God or the benefits of salvation for the sinner. There is no invitation. There is only condemnation for their evil deeds. They were not even asked if they wanted to be saved.
Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do? Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. (Acts 2:37-38)
The result was that the Holy Spirit brought conviction to their hearts and they asked what they needed to do to be saved. It was only after this conviction that Peter told them how to be saved. He told them that they needed to repent, that is turn from their dead works and trust in Christ, and then as a sign that they had done that, they were to be baptized. The baptism was not necessary for salvation, it is the fruit of obedience because of (for) their salvation.
You know the rest of the story. Three thousand souls were saved and added to the church in Jerusalem.
Most people think this is the sermon in the Bible that brought the most people to salvation. It is not. There is another, which was much shorter and more to the point, that brought many more to salvation. It is found in the Book of Jonah.
And Jonah began to enter into the city a day’s journey, and he cried, and said, Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown. So the people of Nineveh believed God, and proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them even to the least of them. (Jonah 3:4-5)
This sermon is only eight words long; “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown.” The whole city believed. Nineveh was a great city that took about three days to cross. It is estimated that the population of the city at that time was about one million people. I am sure that not every single person believed, but I am also certain that the vast majority, from the King down, did.
There was no mention of God’s love or of His mercy and forgiveness. There was no mention of the benefits of salvation. There was only a stern message of condemnation. Like on the day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit used this message to bring conviction in the hearts of the people. They repented and believed God.
I might add that this is not what the preacher, Jonah, had in mind when he preached the message. All he wanted was for the city to be destroyed. God had to deal with him about this later.
The point I want to make with these two examples is that it is the deep plowing of hard preaching that prepares the soil of the hearts of men for the seed. These two sermons had nearly instantaneous results. This was only because the people already understood who the God that was confronting them was.
Most of the compromise we see in churches, especially Baptist churches, comes from the deviation from God’s principles in soul-winning. Those who are using the modern methods have their heart in the right place, but they are using man’s methods rather than God’s.
Why is this so? These people love God and His word. They really want to do what is right and they want to see souls saved. They are good people with good motives.
Here is what happened. It all started before most of them were born. It was a slow process that came to maturity by about 1970. Church size became the most important thing to most preachers. To have a big church you had to win a lot of souls. We need to understand that the Gospel is offensive to the lost world.
As it is written, Behold, I lay in Sion a stumblingstone and rock of offence: and whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed. (Romans 9:33)
And I, brethren, if I yet preach circumcision, why do I yet suffer persecution? then is the offence of the cross ceased. (Galatians 5:11)
The rock of offense is Jesus Christ and the message of the cross is offensive. Preachers, not wanting to offend, started preaching positive messages. They reworded their presentations of the message we are to take to the lost world so that it would not offend. Some have gone farther than others, but I know few who follow the Bible example for reaching the lost. Almost everyone starts with; “Do you want to go to Heaven when you die.” The Bible message is; “You stand condemned before a holy God.”
The cry became; “Win the lost at any cost.” While this might sound good, it is totally against what the Bible teaches. We cannot pay the price of compromise of God’s principles in winning the lost.
Present methods are designed to get professions of faith or to get the sinner to pray a prayer. Many of those we get today are just empty professions. People pray a prayer, profess to believe in Christ, and then within a short time are no longer to be found in church. I might remind you that on the day of Pentecost all three thousand continued steadfastly in the Apostle’s doctrine and the other church functions.
Another result of this desire to have big churches is the departure from the real purpose of the church.
And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; (Ephesians 4:11-14)
The main purpose of the church is not soul-winning, it is the perfection of the saints for the work of the ministry. Obviously, the work of the ministry includes reaching the lost for Christ, but that is not all of it. The work of the ministry, according to the Great Commission, includes getting the saved into church through baptism and teaching them to observe all that Christ has commended us. The preacher’s job is more than just preaching the Gospel and encouraging people to come out to the soul-winning activities of the church.
But speak thou the things which become sound doctrine: (Titus 2:1)
Sound doctrine includes teaching them how they are to live there lives before a lost world so they can be the witnesses they are called to be. Remember they are called to BE witnesses. This means that we are something different, and as a result have a testimony to share with the world.
It includes, not only teaching them what we believe, but why be believe it. Pastors, can your people defend the doctrine of the deity of Christ when confronted by a Jehovah’s Witness? Can they show a Mormon why there is only one true and living God, and that man cannot become a god? Can they show a Pentecostal why we cannot lose our salvation, and why speaking in tongues is not for today? When the Calvinist tries to convince them that not everyone can be saved, can they show him why he is wrong?
We see those in our Baptist churches being blown around by every wind of doctrine because they really don’t know what sound doctrine is. We can stop the compromise by realizing that the most important job of the church is to prepare the saved to do the work of the ministry. When this is made the “main thing” we will see changed lives among Christians. There may be fewer professions of faith, but souls will be truly saved from the Lake of Fire and they will continue steadfastly.