Gospel

The Gospel in 5 Words and 5 Verses

Creation

“Then God said, Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” – Genesis 1:26

Sin

“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” -Romans 6:23

Love 

“But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.”- Isaiah 53:5

Grace

“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God; not by works, so that no one can boast.” -Ephesians 2:8

Life

“Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” – Acts 2:38

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Does Mark 16:16 Teach Baptism is an Essential Condition for Salvation?

opened-bibleAnd Jesus said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned.” (Mark 16:15-16). -New American Standard Bible 

The Scripture plainly states, “He who believes and is baptized shall be saved.” Easy enough? Case Solved? Nope. Theologians like to complicate the perspicuity or clarity of Scripture by telling common folk this was not the author’s intent. They may explain this passage away with theological jargon, reject Mark 16 as canonical, or tell you the original language Greek denies it.

Since theologians assume you aren’t likely to open up a Greek-English Lexicon to prove them wrong, the conversation usually ends there. In fact, whoever told you baptism is not necessary for salvation was probably told the same thing by a pastor, mentor, or professor he or she trusted.

For these reasons, it’s crucial to mimic the Bereans by examining what you are told in light of God’s word (Acts 17:11). In this essay, I want to lay out arguments from both sides so you can discern truth from error.

Theologians who argue against baptism as a necessary component for salvation usually start out by saying,”While Scripture seems to indicate belief and baptism are necessary for salvation, this is not what Mark meant.” Their reasoning lies in the difference between the first clause and the second clause of the sentence.

E. Calvin Beisner, professor at Knox Theological Seminary, made this statement: “While the first clause says that all who both believe and are baptized will be saved, it does not say that all who neither believe nor are baptized will not be saved. In other words, the clause does not exclude any group, while it does tell of a group of people who will be saved, namely, those who both believe and are baptized. But the second clause negates one group: those who do not believe will not be saved. There is no negation of the group of those who believe but are not baptized. Thus, while the verse as a whole does teach that belief is essential to salvation, it does not teach that baptism is.”

To summarize, professor Beisner is arguing that baptism is not an essential condition since it’s omitted from the latter part of this passage. But think about it for a moment. If one doesn’t believe, do you think they will get baptized? For example, if I say, “He who turns on his TV and tunes in to channel 5 will see the program; he who refuses to turn on his TV will miss the program.” If the person doesn’t turn on the TV, do I need to also tell him not to tune into channel 5? No, because not turning on the TV will prevent the person from going to the channel in the first place. Therefore, arguing the omission of baptism in the second clause proves it’s not necessary is a weak argument.

The second most common argument against baptism is to suggest Mark 16:9-20 did not appear in the best of the manuscripts of the New Testament. Because it appears in late manuscripts, it should not be used as proof of doctrine. While it is true that Codex Sinaiticus and Vaticanus do not have this passage, Codex Alexandrius and Bezae do, and both are early manuscripts from about AD 350. Also, I side with Metzger’s third view: the Gospel accidentally lost its last leaf before it was multiplied by transcription.

The third argument against baptism as being part of the gospel is the fear its adding works to the gospel, which would violate justification by faith alone in Christ alone. First, baptism is not a work of man, but a work of God (Col. 2:11-13). Jesus applies his atoning blood to us personally and raises us from spiritual death (Rom. 6:3). There is nothing we can do to earn God’s favor. Second, it’s not a command, but rather a promise. When we call upon the name of the Lord during baptism, He is the one saving us (Acts 22:16) and rescuing us from the flood of judgment (1 Pet. 3:21), not ourselves. Third, Mark 16 reveals that baptism and faith are synonymous since both are linked together so closely in this context.

In conclusion, I would encourage you to research the subject of baptism. There are many views out there, but Scripture must be the authority. Other passages to consider are Acts 2:38-42, Acts 22:16, Rom. 6:4-6, Gal. 3:27, Col. 2:11-13, and 1 Pet. 3:21. Read each passage in its context and I would encourage you to read the Greek. The original language actually strengthens the argument for baptism being necessary for salvation. I believe once people view baptism as a visualization of faith rather than an act of obedience, they will begin to see it more clearly. Please feel free to disagree in the comments below. Have a blessed day!

How to Share the Gospel with Muslims

 

I just finished reading Thabiti Anyabwile’s book The Gospel for Muslims.  The author has a first-hand experience of what it’s like interacting with Muslims and sharing Christ’s love to them. This book will help equip the average Christian who wants to share his or her faith, but isn’t sure how.

Thabiti gives a concise overview of what Muslims believe in part 1. He focuses on the key topics of God, such as mankind, the deity of Christ, repentance, and faith. In part 2, he shares practical ways to witness, such as being filled with the spirit, trusting the Bible, practicing hospitality, using your local church, and suffering for the name of Christ.

I have written an outline for each chapter, which covers the basic points the author makes in his book. It is my hope that this outline will provide the tool you need for sharing Jesus with confidence and precision.

Part 1: The Gospel

God by any other name?

  • “There is only one God, and Muhammed is his messenger.”
  • This is the act of Conversion for a Muslim.
  • Shirk – Most blasphemous to have any partners or parts – Polytheism.
  • Explaining the Trinity is an important component to conversing with Muslims.
  • Sura 5:47 –“Ask those who have been reading the book from before thee: the truth hath indeed come from thy Lord: so be in no wise of those in doubt.”

Man’s sin

  • Christians believe God created man in His image. Muslims reject the idea that man is made in the image and likeness of God. Nothing shares Allah’s glory.
  • The Bible teaches that Adam committed the first sin and spread to all people. Islam teaches that Adam just made an ethical mistake. Muslims consider unjust the idea that one person’s sins should be accounted to another person. Sura 6:164 teaches: “no liability of one soul can be transferred to another.”
  • The Scripture teaches that sin offends God. “Only you have I sinned against.” To Muslims, the Quran maintains that the person who sins “does evil to himself.” Surah 65:1.
  • Christians have a stronger view of sin than Muslims. Muslims view sin as weakness not wickedness. Demonstrating the seriousness of sin good strategy.

Jesus Christ: Fully God and Fully Man

  • Who do people say Jesus is today?
  • Muslim apologists like to argue that Jesus is the son of God just like Adam was called that in Luke 3:38 and Psalm 82 says we are god’s children. However, they skip John 3:16 that says “only begotten Son of God” and John 1:14 “Word became flesh.” Point them back to Old Testament since they are skeptical about New Testament. Isaiah 9:6 talks about “Immanuel”, “God among us.”
  • Emphasize to Muslims that it was necessary for God to become fully man in order to satisfy the justice of God. But first make sure you stress sin so they realize there is no righteousness they have apart from God.

Jesus Christ: Lamb Slain and Resurrected

  • Dhul-Hijah, a day to celebrate how the prophet Ibrahim sacrificed his son. They say it was Ishmael, but we say it was Isaac. Sacrifice is a motivation for the practice of hajj, pilgrimage to Mecca, Ramadan, giving of alms to the poor.
  • Muslims do not believe that sacrifice can take away our sins. In Sura 22:37 it states, “It is not their meat nor their blood, that reaches Allah: it is your piety that reaches Him: He has thus made them subject to you, that ye may glorify Allah for His Guidance to you and proclaim the good news.”
  • Emphasize the “Great Exchange.” He who knew no sin became sin for us.

Repentance and Faith

  • What does repentance mean for Christians?
  • Muslims use the term repentance to refer to conversion (Sura 5:36) to Islam or practicing Muslims turning to God (Sura 24:31). Problem is they don’t know what is acceptable and not acceptable to Allah. Assurance of salvation is a struggle.
  • Stress salvation by grace through faith in Christ (Eph. 2:8-9). Also Rom. 8:39.

Part 2: As you Witness

Be filled with the Spirit

  • Being filled means controlled by the spirit the way a boat’s sails are filled with the wind and blown on its course. The Spirit gives power (Acts. 1:8; 2:4; 6; 13:8).
  • Yes, fear and boldness can coexist. We must be willing to get out of our comfort zones and trust that the Holy Spirit will lead our conversations with Muslims.

Trust the Bible

  • Defending the Scriptures and assuming its reliability and truthfulness becomes essential to effective conversations since Muslims have a high view of the Quran.
  • Muslims believe the Bible is full of all kinds of contradictions even though the Quran teaches that the Torah, Gospels, and Psalms of David are revelations from God. Reading these supposed contradictions in context is key.
  • Christians fear that defending the Scriptures will offend their Muslim friends, but Muslims respect Christians more deeply when we stand firm in our beliefs.

Be Hospitable

  • It is painful to not be included in the lives of others, whether you are the one extending or hoping to receive hospitality.
  • Four factors that contribute to the decline among Christians of hosting others are privatization, fear of man, passivity, and Xenophobia.
  • Four reason to show hospitality: The Bible commands Christians to be hospitable (Rom. 12:13). It allows us to care for the strangers among us (Ex. 22:21). The Bible teaches that our caring for strangers renders service to Jesus (Matt. 25:34-40). Lastly, hospitality in one mark of Christian maturity and godliness (1 Tim. 3:2; 5:10).

Use your Local Church

  • Muslims have the belief that Christians are immoral like everyone else.
  • Muslims need to see unity in our churches (Eph. 2:14-18) because they boast about Islam being a universal faith for all.
  • Love within the local church clarifies what true discipleship looks like.

Suffer for the Name

  • Muslims suffer for Jihad. They try to advance individual piety through prayer and fasting or to promote and defend Islam. They die because they think it guarantees them paradise. We are to suffer too, not by physical violence, but sacrificial love.

How to Share the Gospel with Confidence and Ease

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Last summer, Time to Revive, an evangelical non-profit organization led by Kyle Lance Martin, marched through the city of Kokomo, Indiana. They helped revive and equip our churches to share the gospel effectively with our neighbors and loved ones.

It was an exhilarating experience. The churches, who were normally divided by subtle differences in church government, politics, and end-times eschatology, came together with the most important common ground shared: Jesus, the God-Man, died on the cross for the sins of the world (John 3:16).

Instead of arguing over secondary issues, the churches imitated what Paul said in 1 Corinthians 2:2: “I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.”

This strategy worked. The churches were united. And they were not united by liberal ecumenicism telling them to forsake their core beliefs of Christendom to get along. Instead, the churches realized their differences were only preferences, not biblical requirements. Thus, unity came as a result of obedience for God to be glorified (Eph. 4:4).

In fact, one of the pastors belonging to the Wesleyan Holiness Movement was surprised he was praying with a Pentecostal. Baptists and Presbyterians were evangelizing together. Even predominately white churches were serving the community with black churches. This doesn’t happen that often in America. And that’s why I believe it was a move of God.

When God moves, he is not concerned with denominational preferences. He is not weighing the pros and cons of traditional versus contemporary service. And he surely is not involved in racial segregation–He died for that. Racial Reconciliation is not a social issue; it is a Gospel issue!

How was the gospel preached? 

Each individual involved with Time to Revive received a couple of Bibles and wristbands. The Bibles and wristbands are color-coded by themes: Yellow represents sin, black symbolizes death, red stands for God’s love, blue shows faith, and green corresponds to life.

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The first step is to walk up to someone and ask, “How are you? Is there anything I can pray for you about?” Nine out of ten times, the person says, “Of course.” After they inform you what’s on their heart, you actually pray for them…right there.

Next, you give them a color-coded wristband as a reminder you prayed. Usually the person looks at it. “What is this?” they may inquire. You tell them each color represents a theme of the Bible. Would you like for me to share these themes with you? Once they agree to this, you have your Bible ready to flip to each verse. The nice thing about it is these verses are already marked for you in the Bible. Because there are thumb-tabs that directly flip to your page, there is no need to panic. It’s all there for you to adequately explain the gospel.

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Once you go through the gospel, on the back of the Bible there is this question: “Is there anything or anyone keeping you from accepting the free gift of life in Jesus today?” If they confess there is nothing holding them back, you simply pray for them. There is a paragraph on the back that shares God’s message.

“Lord, I know I am a sinner, but I thank you for Your Son, Jesus, who died on the cross for my sins and rose on the third day so that my sins could be forgiven and I can be with you forever. Thank you for loving me. I am ready to follow You and give my life to You. Please help me along the way and allow me to know You better each day. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.”

If you have any further questions, you can learn more on their website http://www.timetorevive.com. I hope this was an encouragement to you. Have a great day!

7 Traits of a Healthy Christian Disciple

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What does a healthy disciple of Christ look like? How do we fulfill the great commission? Are we called to evangelism, discipleship, or both? These are good questions that each of us should be asking ourselves. It was made clearer to me today when our Senior Pastor, Keith Treadway, preached on this topic: 7 Traits of a Healthy Disciple. I think you will find it to be a valuable resource for your Christian walk.

1. A healthy Christian disciple has a passion to know Christ (Ps. 42:1; Phil. 3:7-11). A disciple should have a lifelong desire to get to know Jesus better. This is the whole reason we exist: To glorify God and enjoy Him forever. Moreover, a healthy disciple should have a lifelong striving to become more like Jesus. Reading the Bible, prayer, and growing in our understanding of theology is good, but unless we share this information with others, we are not becoming more like Jesus because He constantly shared this good news with unbelievers!

2. A healthy Christian disciple displays authentic transformation (Rom. 12:1-2). If it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck, and walks like a duck, then it probably is a duck. Same is true for the Christian lifestyle. Someone who has been born again and regenerated by the spirit of God will produce fruit of joy, love, peace, patience, etc. You will know a true Christian from a false convert by the way they live. Genuine Christians have a desire to choose the right thing and not allow the culture, but rather the Bible, to influence their minds.

3. A healthy Christian disciple is a seeker of biblical truth (Ps. 119:9-11; John 3). We are in a spiritual battle. God calls us to put on the armor of God, to carry our sword, which is the word of God. It’s vital for us to meditate on what is good, true, and noble. It’s also imperative that we memorize Scripture. Why? Let’s say an individual asks you, “How can I get saved?” You should be familiar with particular verses: “All have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory” or “You are saved by grace through faith, it’s a free gift.” A healthy Christian is prepared to give an answer to the hope that is in them.

4. A healthy Christian disciple is a disciple-maker (Mt. 28:19-20; 2 Tim. 2:2; Dt. 6:4-9). What an important trait. When I was a swim coach, there were times when I would get in the water and show them how to do a proper flip turn or a jump start off the blocks. As Christians, we need to be coaching or discipling another individual how to live the Christian life. Jesus told us to be “fishers of men.” If you know anything about Fishermen, it doesn’t do any good for them to go to fishing conferences, buy bait at Bass Pro Shop, or talk strategies on how to fish, without ever fishing. In the same way, we need to be growing in our understanding of Christ while teaching others to do the same!

5. A healthy Christian disciple is connected, accountable, and involved in the body of Christ (Eph. 4:11-13). The local church is the nucleus for a healthy cell. It’s a necessity. Jesus said that He built the church, and not even the gates of Hell shall prevail against it. Why then, do you suppose, are there so many individuals today who aren’t involved in their local church? I think it’s a misunderstanding of what Jesus taught. People today think Jesus was an anti-religious, do-it-yourself kind of guy, when in reality, this is the opposite: Jesus went to the synagogue every Sabbath (Lk. 4:16). Yes, he spoke out against the hypocrites of His day, yes he radically transformed the law by interacting with the Gentile people, but nevertheless, Jesus was deeply connected to the body of Christ. He developed godly relationships, encouraged accountability, and exercises His spiritual gift. The best way Christians can use their talents and grow spiritually is in the confines of a local church. End of story.

6. A healthy Christian disciple has compassion for others (Isa. 1:17; Matt 9:35-38). Jesus never turned a blind eye towards the needs of others. He was always an active part of the solution. We ought to mimic his lifestyle. As Christians, it’s a pure and undefiled religion to visit the widows and orphans in distress. To have compassion for the needy and love on the unlovable. Pray that God’s holy spirit will stir in you the compassion for the lost. British missionary C.T Studd once said: “Some want to live within the sound of church or chapel bell; I want to run a rescue shop within a yard of hell.” That’s compassion!

7. A healthy Christian disciple is a generous, joyful giver to God’s work (Prov. 11:24-25; 2 Cor. 8:1-15; 2 Cor. 9:6-7). A healthy disciple of Jesus Christ will give their time, talents, and treasures back to God. They will understand the verse that says, “Do not store up your treasures on Earth, where moth and rust can destroy it, but store up your treasures in Heaven.” When we invest in people and eternity, there will always be a return. Jesus said that His Word will never return void. If we invest in the stock market or in earthly treasures, there is no guarantee. Many people lost half of their savings during the stock market crash of 2008. We are only certain of one thing: No one can separate us from the love that is in Christ Jesus. Invest in that!

The Power of Christianity is Found in a Person

Photo Credit: WikiArt

Photo Credit: WikiArt

“And because of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption, so that, as it is written, Let the one who boats, boast in the Lord ( 1 Cor. 1:30).”

I lived in the beautiful city of Louisville, Kentucky for three years of my life, studying at Southern Seminary. A group of us friends had an apologetics outreach to the University of Louisville, engaging philosophical debate with Atheists about the meaning of the universe.

After deep reflection and argumentation from the Theist position, the smartest Atheist in the group stood up and said, “I have heard enough. I don’t care about all your arguments. I care about your Christ. Why don’t you Christians act like Him by demonstrating love towards other?” I was shocked. I thought he wanted concrete, empirical evidence to validate God. Instead, he wanted a subjective, meaningful experience of truth.

Billy Graham once stated, “The secret of the power of Christianity is not in its ethics. It is not in Christian ideas or philosophy, although Christianity has a philosophical set of ideas. The secret of Christianity is found in a person, and that person is the Lord Jesus Christ.

That’s exactly what my Atheist friend was looking for. An interpersonal, vibrant worldview filled with meaning, beauty, and purpose. If you are looking for a worldview like this, it’s found in the God-Man, Jesus Christ, who stepped into His own creation, died for the sins of the world, and rescued us from the enemy. He is greater than any superhero man has envisioned. What’s better; He is alive and real.

If you don’t know Him, simply pray: “Dear Jesus, I know I am a sinner who deserves Hell. I also realize you are a loving God who doesn’t desire for people to perish, but to be saved. You died on the cross for my sins and I am eternally grateful for that. I accept your free gift of salvation. With your help, I am willing to forsake my sin and put my trust and faith solely in you. Thanks for your marvelous grace. I believe all these words are true and declare them in the name of the Father, the Son Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

If you honestly prayed, your name is written in heaven and you are saved! I encourage you to read your Bible daily, attend a Bible-believing Church (evangelical), develop relationships with believers who will keep you accountable, and start witnessing the good news that Jesus saves sinners today!

Water: The Most Abundant Resource?

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Did you know there is approximately 326 million trillion gallons of water on Earth? 97% comes from the ocean, 2% is frozen in the polar ice caps, and less than 1% of water is found in fresh lakes, rivers, and springs underground. Although most of this water is salted from the ocean, there is still plenty of water to satisfy the thirst of 7 billion people on Earth.

Isn’t it sad that there are still people who struggle with getting access to clean water? I heard a story about a missionary who visited an underdeveloped country in Africa. Every day, kids from different indigenous tribes would travel about 10 miles to find clean water to drink.

During the missionary’s stay, he met a young boy who was in charge of bringing fresh water back to his family. The boy told the missionary, “Once you get to the water source, that is the beginning of the battle. There are at least 100 thirsty people hovering around the well and filling up their buckets too. Most of them are bigger, stronger, and older than me.” The missionary asked how long it takes to get water. The boy said, “It depends on the day. If I make it earlier than normal, I can fill my buckets up before getting kicked or thrown out of the way by the rest of the crowd. If I get there late, it may take the whole day.”

This story informs us that the problem is not the total supply of water on the Earth. In providing the Earth with water, God gave us an abundant amount of resources. In many cases, local water shortages are due to the lack of economic development of the nation as a whole to be able to transport, purify, deliver, and pay for clean water. There is also political hindrance and war. For example, it’s tough to get into East African countries like Sudan and Somalia because of all the violence.

Fortunately, there are more developing countries with access to clean water. Drinking water has increased from 30% in 1970 to 80% in 2000. There is definite progress, but its still not enough for countries along the eastern border of Africa. The statistics have remained relatively the same for the last 40 years. This needs to change!

In John 4:14, Jesus asked a Samaritan woman for water. He tells her: “Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again; but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.” 

As Christians, we are called to love both God and our neighbor. The best way to love our neighbor is first to share the good news of Jesus Christ. They need to know that salvation is a free gift from God. It is free water, and everyone has access to it. More importantly, this water is permanent. It doesn’t leave you thirsty for more. Instead, it satisfies the soul and gives eternal life to all who believe. If we confess our wrongdoing (lying, stealing, jealously, anger, lust, etc)  God is faithful and just to forgive us and renew our relationship.

Because of this good news, we should be motivated to love our neighbor. How can we love them? For some of us, it’s going to Africa, helping them drill for more wells, using our agricultural gifts to assist with irrigation, and making sure to provide all of them with freshwater. By doing this, we can show God’s love in a practical way.

If you are not able to travel, then I suggest praying that God would send people to help or donate to a legitimate non-profit organization that helps countries get access to clean water. As Edmund Burke once said, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men and women to do nothing.” So then, go and do something!