"He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything."
Colossians 1:18

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Monday, August 5, 2013

12 Evangelistic Points from an Old Pro (Part 2 of 2)

We last looked at the first six of twelve evangelistic guidelines which could be derived from Paul's words in 1 Thessalonians 2 - a knowing boldness, pure exhortation, God-honoring speech, honest speech, humble comportment, and gentle care.  Today's discussion will comprehend the final six, which we will quickly see are no less crucial or desirable in the righteous pursuit of the gospel, and of the discipleship which must be a part of every believer's life.

7.  Selfless affection.  "Having so fond an affection for you, we were well-pleased to impart to you not only the gospel of God but also our own lives, because you had become very dear to us." (v. 8) Paul and his fellow soldiers did not cloister themselves atop a tower of smug condescension:  "We will give you the gospel, and you will listen and ask polite questions, and we will then return to our own rarified company."  No; they developed a genuine love for those to whom they imparted gospel truth; they were close, personal, and real (most people are more savvy to dissembly and condescension than we care to suppose).  Especially as the Lord began to build the Thessalonian church, the evangelists invested their very lives into these dear people. 

8.  Unselfish living.  "For you recall, brethren, our labor and hardship, how working night and day so as not to be a burden to any of you, we proclaimed to you the gospel of God." (v. 9) Seeing to their own needs allowed Paul and his friends to present a very uncluttered message.  Imagine how pedestrian they would have appeared, had they on one hand presented (as they claimed) the only way of salvation and eternal life, while on the other demanding some manner of material benefit.  This harkens back to the television gospel charlatan who draws people into his church, only to leech their financial resources to the breaking point.  We must take care to avoid a two-faced appearance in our interaction with unbelievers or new believers.

9.  Purity of conduct.  "You are witnesses, and so is God, how devoutly and uprightly and blamelessly we behaved toward you believers; " (v. 10) Just as they did not seek monetary gain in their work, they were careful to avoid the sort of hypocrisy that would only have blunted the force of their discipleship work amongst these new believers:  "All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God - here; let us show you."  Or, "As Christians, righteousness is, on occasion, incredibly important to us."  They sought, as we should, to exemplify Christ's righteousness.  This does not mean that young believers look at us and see people basking in the glories of moral perfection, but they see people for whom striving after godliness is a continual priority - this constitutes a distinction from unbelievers (cf. Ps. 119:20, Rom. 7:22).

10.  Earnest exhortation.  "just as you know how we were exhorting and encouraging and imploring each one of you as a father would his own children, " (v. 11) By now, you have noticed the transition in this passage from strict evangelism toward general Christian discipleship - the natural consequence of evangelism and salvation.  New believers must be nurtured and directed in their newfound faith and zeal (or else Scripture would avail us nothing after salvation), so Paul passionately cheered and warned and pled with his Thessalonian family, bringing sanctifying biblical truth to bear with the gentleness, care, and wisdom of a father addressing his children. 

11.  A heart of discipleship.  "so that you would walk in a manner worthy of the God who calls you into His own kingdom and glory." (v. 12) The simple goal of Paul's work was godliness - to gird the infant Thessalonian believers such that they were living as children of the true, holy, and sovereign God should.  Some preach morality from a desire to cleanse the fabric of society, or to make their church look appealing to outsiders, or to salve the human conscience.  Paul's motivation was far greater than any of these things, though - the worthiness of His God to have holy partakers of His blessings.

12.  A humble heart before God.  "For this reason we also constantly thank God that when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but for what it really is, the word of God, which also performs its work in you who believe." (v. 13) These godly believers, in delivering the gospel to the Thessalonians, did not congratulate themselves in their masterful powers of persuasion or righteousness.  Rather, they recognized the active work of God as being the sole catalyst behind the spiritual life which sprang up before their very eyes in that city.  This recognition led to their thankfulness toward God, and indeed their reliance upon Him in their crucial work.  Thus God, in His sovereignty, was glorified in their hearts, and they looked to Him for the results of their labor. 

We begin to see, then, that evangelism is more than simply declaring the gospel, and its undertaking demands more than a little care and caution from us.  It is a comprehensive program of godliness, love, selflessness, boldness, and reliance upon the Lord as we declare the gospel, and it resolves itself into a lifelong work of discipleship and shepherding when a person is graciously saved by the Lord.  In short, it is a weighty undertaking.  Praise be to God alone, who blesses us with His perfect Word and His own Spirit, by which we may be fitted for this indispensable kingdom work! 


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