Our third installment of Evangelism via J C Ryle
(3) Faith is not properly explained. In some cases people are taught that mere feeling is faith. In others they are taught that if they believe that Christ died for sinners they have faith! At this rate the very devils are believers!
Just last night my eight year old daughter came to faith in Christ. I am trilled that the quiver of arrows God has entrusted me with is now complete in Christ. As she was sharing her decision with me I wanted to restrict my emotions for the very reason Dr. Ryle addresses above. I do not want her thinking that Christianity is an emotion state of being.
Ryle is spot on. Too often methods of sharing your faith are too simplistic. What we are saying her is that faith is often reduced to a feeling. It is also legalistically explained as blunt thoughtless confession as a magical mantra that qualifies as good enough to gain you an inheritance in Christ’s blood. This simply is not true. As Jesus said it is like the Pharisees making someone twice as much a child of hell. It give a false assurance. Better the Christian who doubts his/her salvation than the lost sinner who has false assurance. But better still is that complete Christian who strives for an authentic living of the faith.
Ryle mentions as James does that the devils believe, and they shudder. The demons believe with greater faith that Christ is the savior, that He is Lord. But He is not their love. The problem I often see in Christianity lite is the lumping of God in with all our other delights. We do not revere Him not have His in holy sanctified regard. We see Him as serving us, rather than our sinfulness atoned for by who He is. Great and costly value is attributed unto God by the truly redeemed. No one should be led to "pray a prayer" without this. This is what differentiates us from demons.
As I listened to my daughter last night I had her explain to me what she meant. We often talk of Savior, Lord, and Love being three concrete identifiable factors of being a truly converted sinner. I have written on these before in this blog. A search within its contents will find it. To be a Christian requites an acknowledgment of sin, the need of Christ as Lord, and we must love Him. We cannot love Jesus “and”. It is to be Jesus alone.
My great problem with sales stylized evangelistic programs is that too little is either spent on the conviction and repentance of sin and also the place of love for God that is at the heart of Christianity. They also often play to the emotional fear of burning in Hell. This is an aspect that should not be ignored, but what you save them with is what you save them to. Remember, my theology was skewed by thinking this was all there is. So last night I needed to apply a proper dialog and counsel for the salvation questions needed for my daughter. Mind you an eight year old girl is not going to have a theology degree. But what we can look for is the workings of the holy Spirit. The majority of evangelistic methods I have seen are mere sales pitches. Everybody basically desires a “get out of Hell free” card much like life caricatures a Monopoly game. We simply must not do this.
God can save someone in an instant. Often He puts the right person with the right other person and one of these methods does work. However, I can drive a nail with a rock, but a hammer is much better. One reason I base my conclusions upon is how few people remain in discipleship within a year later making such a decision. Many fall away just as Christ shared in the seed and the sewer example. Yes they receive the word, but being rootless they wither quickly.
So what should proper evangelism contain? Check the following entries as we continue to learn from Dr. Ryle.
Jonathan Edwards wrote a great book The Religious Affections. In it he debates and clarifies the need and purposes of emotions in worship and faith. Though it is a higher level read it is one of those books that every Christian ought to read and apply. If you have ever “not felt like a Christian” or had an emotional experience where a great commitment that now has gone by the wayside this book will give profitable insight. In short, it also condemns the fanatical means of “prosperity gospel”.