By Mike Gendron
Does The Christian Church Need To Be Evangelized?
The visible Christian church is no longer a sanctuary for the people of God. Instead, it has become a huge mission field that needs to be evangelized. Churches are now filled with professing Christians who say they have faith but have never been born of God. This should not surprise us because of the parable Jesus gave describing the last days in Matthew 13:25-43. He spoke of a landowner who sowed good seed [sons of the kingdom] in his field, but while his men were sleeping, the enemy came and sowed tares [sons of the devil]. Jesus said the landowner is the Son of Man and the enemy is the devil.
Today we have many tares in our churches because church leaders are not protecting the fields. Many have been growing their churches man's way instead of God's way. This self-serving strategy has produced some tragic consequences - the most serious of which is the false hope it gives to the unconverted tares. Some of the tares are victims of unbiblical methods of evangelism; others are victims of counterfeit gospels. These victims cannot tell you the essential elements of the Gospel or what God requires for entrance into heaven. Some know their eternal sin debt must be forgiven, but very few know they also need the righteousness of Jesus and to be born again of the Spirit.
The Necessity of the New Birth
Jesus told Nicodemus "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God." Only the triune God can bring forth life. Jesus said: "just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son also gives life to whom He wishes" (John 5:21). "It is the Spirit that gives life" (John 6:63). God calls the spiritually dead to life through His Word. "In the exercise of His will He brought us forth by the word of truth" (James 1: 18). God's children are "born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and abiding word of God" (1 Pet. 1:23).
Saving faith comes from hearing the word of Christ. From it we learn the essential doctrines of salvation: the attributes of God, the Gospel of grace and the redemptive work of Jesus Christ. When people hear the Word of God, enabled by the Spirit of God, to trust the Son of God, they become a child of God, all for the glory of God.
Just as man could not initiate his physical birth, he is unable to cause his spiritual birth. Before any of us were born, we could not have pleaded with our parents to conceive us. We did not exist! The same is true in the spiritual realm (John 1: 12-13). Children of God are not born of blood (spiritual life is not inherited genetically), nor of the will of the flesh (physical life cannot produce spiritual life, flesh can only produce flesh), nor of the will of man (spiritual life cannot be initiated by the desires of men).
So, how do we help the unconverted tares see they have been misled or deceived? As believers, we should encourage everyone to test their faith for their own good as well as for the glory of Christ. Paul wrote: "Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you - unless, of course, you fail the test" (2 Cor 13:5). Peter exhorted us: "Be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure" (2 Pet. 1:10).
I always love to hear testimonies of how our Sovereign Lord calls lost sinners to Himself. So, whenever I meet Christians, I often ask them to describe the events surrounding their conversion. A red flag goes up if they say they became a Christian at the moment they were: baptized, came forward in an altar call, repeated a prayer, signed a commitment card, joined a local church, or were born to Christian parents. Speaking the truth in love, I explain to them that no one can become a Christian without repentance and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 20:21).
Many Believe A Counterfeit Gospel
What about those who say they have faith in Jesus but show no evidence of a changed life. All of them may believe in the historical Jesus who lived 2000 years ago, but few believe what He taught, what he promises, what He commands, what He accomplished and what He is doing now. They may be victims of a counterfeit gospel, a watered down version that is offered by a generic god of love. This gospel offers "fire insurance" with no call to repentance (Luke 24:47). It is a gospel of cheap grace which fails to instruct people to say "no" to ungodliness and worldly passions (Titus 2:12).
The other counterfeit gospel which deceives people is the grace-killing gospel of works. First introduced by the Judaizers, this gospel nullifies God's grace by adding requirements for salvation such as circumcision, baptism, sacraments, good works, law keeping, penance or indulgences (Gal. 1:6-9).
If we do not lovingly confront victims of unbiblical evangelism and counterfeit gospels, they may one day hear the most terrifying words anyone could ever hear when Jesus says: "I never knew you; depart from Me." These horrifying words will be heard by many professing Christians on the last day (Mat. 7:22-23).
Two Ways To Test Faith
Those who want to test their faith now, before it is too late, can do it two ways - objectively and subjectively. The objective test is this: Have you believed the objective truths of God's word? Paul wrote: "after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation, having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit" (Eph. 1:13). The word of God is our supreme authority for knowing objective truth. We must believe the eternal Gospel as it is revealed in Scripture. It is the same Gospel today as it was 6000 years ago.
The subjective test asks the question: Is there evidence of saving faith? Genuine faith results in good works but a faith without works is dead (Eph. 2:10; James 2:17). This second test is subjective because there are different levels of maturity and growth as believers walk with Christ. New babes in Christ may not show as much evidence as those who have walked with Him for many years. When we are first born into God's family we look nothing like His Son. But as we grow in the grace and knowledge of God, through the power of the Holy Spirit, we are conformed into the image of Christ. We see this in the physical realm also. When a baby is born, he may look nothing like his parents. But as he grows, he begins to take on the physical characteristics of his parents.
The Apostle John gives us a portrait of what God's children look like in his first epistle. They who are born of God are adopted into His eternal family to walk in the light (_L6-7); keep His commandments (2:3-5); love not the world system (2:15); yearn for the return of Christ so they can be like Him (3:2-3); live to please Him and avoid sin (3:7-8); love His other children (3:14) and use apostolic doctrine for discernment (4_6). Each of us must determine if this is a picture of how we look.
Two Kinds of Faith
The test of one's faith is vital because the Bible speaks of two kinds of faith - a "Godgiven, supernatural, saving faith" and a "dead" faith that is found in the unconverted natural man. Paul wrote of people who believed in vain because they did not hold to apostolic teaching (I Cor. 15:2). Jesus spoke of others who believed for the wrong reasons (John 2:23).
Dead faith is limited to what the natural man can comprehend without divine help because he has been blinded by Satan and cannot see the light of the Gospel (2 Cor. 4:4). That is why Paul wrote: "your faith should not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God" (I Cor. 2:5).
God-given faith is initiated in the will of God and is a gift granted from the Father above (Phil. 1:29: James 1:17). It will be perfected by the Son of God as the recipient conforms it to the Word of God. Jesus is the Author and Perfecter of this faith which is the assurance of things hoped for and the conviction of things not seen (Heb. 11:1: 12:2).
Those with God-given faith enter the narrow gate bringing nothing but their sins to the cross (Mat. 7:13). Those with dead faith enter through the wide gate bringing their filthy rags of righteousness (Mat. 7:14).
Those with God-given faith prove it by bearing much fruit to the glory of God (John 15:8). Those with dead faith prove it by bearing bad fruit for the glory of self (Mat. 7:15-17).
Those with God-given faith desire to test and prove their faith with Scripture alone (2 Cor. 13:5). Those with dead faith prove their faith by denominational teachings and man's traditions (John 12:42-43: Acts 15:5-10).
Those with God-given faith will not habitually hear or follow a false teacher (John 10:5.8). Those with dead faith will not habitually follow a true teacher (John 10:19).
Those with God-given faith trust God's power to protect and keep them (1 Peter 1:5). Those with dead faith trust their own power to keep them from falling away.
Dead faith touches only the intellect. Godgiven faith involves the whole person. The mind understands, the heart desires and the will acts upon the Word of God.
In closing, there are several probing questions we can ask those who desire to test their faith. Have you renounced every false way that opposes the Gospel of grace? Do you live in thanksgiving and praise for being chosen and adopted into God's eternal family? Do you prove to be Christ's disciple by abiding in His word? Do you discipline yourself for godliness? Do your friends, neighbors and co-workers know that Jesus Christ is your Lord and Savior? Do you have a desire to share Jesus Christ with others or are you ashamed of His Gospel?
God's children will know they belong to Him because "The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God" (Rom. 8:16). The Spirit does this through the Scriptures that He inspired. All of God's children take Him at his Word!