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    Aug 17, 2014

    Class 6: Response

    Series: Two Ways to Live

    Category: Core Seminars, Faith, Perseverance of the Saints, Repentance, The Gospel, Evangelism


    Welcome to the sixth and final class in the Two Ways to Live Core Seminar.  We’re almost through!  As we’ve been saying each week, the goal of this class is to solidify the content of the gospel in our own minds so that it would help us better share it with others.


    We’ve spent the last five weeks focusing on a different stage of the gospel presentation, and we’re planning to do the same thing today.  Has anyone used this gospel outline to explain the gospel this past week?  How’d it go?


    Before we begin the final piece of Two Ways to Live, let’s take a moment to review where we’ve come from.


    I.          Review


    So to review, let’s go through each Cell and 1) explain what we’ve learned; 2) repeat the corresponding verse; and 3) draw the picture that went with it.  [Repeat these questions for Cells 1-5 as shown below.]


    Cell 1

    Summary: God created everything and is the loving ruler of His creation.  He made us in His image to be rulers of the world under Him.

    Verse: Revelation 4:11 – “You are worthy our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things and by your will they were created and have their being.”



    Cell 2

    Summary: Man sinned by rebelling against God, and we try to run life our own way and not God’s.  By doing so, we live in misery and have made a mess of everything.

    Verse:Romans 3:10-12 – “There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God.  All have turned away.”



    Cell 3

    Summary: God won’t let us rebel forever and will punish us through death and judgment for eternity.   

    Verse:Hebrews 9:27 – “Man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment.”



    Cell 4

    Summary:God loved the world and sent His Son Jesus Christ into world to be the sinless and perfectly righteous man who died in our place, took our punishment, and brought forgiveness.

    Verse:1 Peter 3:18 – “Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God.”



    Cell 5

    Summary: Although Jesus died, he didn’t stay dead.  God raised Jesus to life again as the ruler of the world.  Jesus’ resurrection shows that God accepted Jesus’ death as payment for sin, and it means that all of those in Jesus no longer have to fear hell and judgment for sin.  When Jesus returns to judge each person, his people will be declared justified and forgiven and will live with him forever.

    Verse:1 Peter 1:3 – “In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.”




    Questions or Comments?


    II.         Two Ways to Live


    Okay, over the last five weeks we’ve learned how to present the good news of Jesus Christ, which was the goal of this class.  So we’re finished, right?  God made us, we sinned, we get judged, Jesus died, and was raised to life forgiving us.  Why are we meeting on this subject again? 


    Well we’re meeting again because, while we want to know the gospel, we also want to present it faithfully.  And any gospel presentation will fall short if it’s not followed by a call to respond. 


    So what do I mean by a “call to respond” and why is it important?  [We mean that all of these truths of the gospel that we plan on telling someone aren’t only for information purposes.  A “call to respond” is important because it applies these truths to the lives of those we’re telling the gospel to personally.  The gospel calls for a response in the hearer.  For example, we wouldn’t give a piano lesson only so others might know what the black and white keys do.  No, we would give a piano lesson so that others might learn how to play the piano.  In the same way, we tell the gospel so that others might be saved from their sins and know Jesus as their Lord and Savior giving glory to God.]


    Where does all of this leave us?  It leaves us with a choice of only…Two Ways to Live (ta-da!).


    We say “two ways to live” because those are only two options that we see in God’s word.  In Cell 6, the verse we want to commit to memory is John 3:36, which says, “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on him.” 


    We’re either accepting or rejecting Jesus.  We’re either for or against.  We’re either Christians or unbelievers.  We’re either saved or condemned.  There are only two choices we can make, only two alternatives in responding to the gospel.


    We can demonstrate this, as shown in Cell 6, with the following picture:




    III.        Five Scenarios


    So what does a call to respond look like?  Well, in part, it looks like asking the person, whom you’re telling the gospel to, what they think about it.  Is this new to them?  Is there anything that they had questions about?  What do they think about Jesus?  But what’s even more, we need to ask them if they believe it?


    When you ask this specific question, you’re likely to get a range of reactions.  Remember, you’re telling them that there are only two ways they can respond.  But they’ll likely react to that assertion in a number of different ways.  So let’s walk through different likely scenarios to think through how you can best help your friend you’ve just shared the gospel with.


    A.         “No” – Outright Rejection


    The most extreme negative response is an answer of, “No, I don’t believe this gospel.”  So what do we do with such an outright rejection of the gospel?  How should we respond? 


    The reasons given by the person for rejecting the gospel may be many.  Perhaps the person is a practicing Muslim and doesn’t want to be ostracized by their family and friends.  Or the person could be a staunch atheist.  Maybe they don’t believe in miracles.  Suppose the person had a bad experience with Christians and want nothing to do with their gospel.  While the reasons given for rejecting the gospel can be many, the answer God attributes to rejecting his gospel is man’s love for sin.  The apostle Paul says, “The sinful mind is hostile to God” (Rom. 8:7).


    While there is tremendous joy is telling another the gospel, there also can be sadness felt when they give a negative response.  We can often feel attacked ourselves, as though they are disapproving of us, and in some sense they are.  But it’s not us who they are finally rejecting – it’s the Lord Jesus himself.  This is what makes the response sad. 


    Rejection of the only way to salvation is perilous.  What will they do about their sin and guilt?  Jesus says in John 3:18, “Whoever believes in [me] is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.” 


    The way we should address an outright rejection of the gospel is to do the only thing that we can do.  We should warn them that if what Jesus says is true, there are very serious consequences for rejecting him.  It goes back to what we learned about in Cells 2 and 3 about man’s rebellion against God and consequent judgment.  Although the person might feel like they’re free when they choose to rule their own lives, they’re actually enslaved.  In John 8 when Jesus told the Jews that the truth would set them free, they responded by saying, “We have never been slaves to anyone.”  But Jesus replied that, “everyone who sins is a slave to sin” (John 8:32-34).


    B.         “Maybe” – Indecisive Rejection


    Another type of response that we may get is an indecisive “maybe.”  Why do you think a person might respond this way?


    It’s polite in our postmodern culture to be tolerant towards what someone believes.  People don’t want to offend, but they also don’t want to agree wholeheartedly, particularly when it comes to religion.  Instead, it’s much more politically correct to keep one’s cards close to their chest and try to be agreeable without being dogmatic.


    And at the same time, some people are genuinely unsure of what they think about the gospel.  The gospel may very well be new to them, and they want to research this a little bit more before deciding.  So what should we say to people who are indecisive?


    Well, we probably need to begin by asking why the person is hesitant?  If they truly want to research the gospel some more, then we should make ourselves available to read through part of the bible with them, such as the gospel of Mark (plug Christianity Explained Core Seminar).  If they’re not wanting to pursue the gospel further, then once again we need to warn them of their dangerous position before God.  We need to urge them to investigate the claims of Jesus, particularly when such matters are of the utmost importance in life.  It’s really a matter of life and death – eternal life and eternal death.


    We should also warn them that a state of indecisiveness is actually an action of rejecting the gospel.  There is no middle ground when it comes to God.  There are only two ways to live, not three.  Jesus said, “He who is not with me is against me” (Matt. 12:30).


    C.         “Later” – Passive Rejection


    A third type of reply that we sometimes hear is “later.”  The person doesn’t really want to deal with the gospel now.  Why might a person respond in this way?


    A person may not want to engage with the gospel because they don’t want to make any changes in their lives.  Maybe they are having a lot of fun, or perhaps things are too difficult or hard and they just don’t have time.  So what might we say to a person who gives this kind of response?


    Well, once again, we are dealing with someone who is still rejecting the gospel, even if they didn’t explicitly say so.  And once again, we need to warn them that no one is promised another day in this world.  Just because we’re not experiencing God’s wrath now, it doesn’t mean that it won’t be coming.  Jesus tells us to keep watch and be ready for when he returns because no one will know that day or hour (Matt. 25:1-13).


    For all of the last three responses that reject the gospel in one way or another, we need to make sure that we’ve made the gospel clear and stress the urgency of the person’s decision.  In addition, we need to continue to love them, as opportunity arises.  If you’re a Christian, then you know that even in your rebellion and rejection of God, He loved you.  But remember, you can’t make someone accept the gospel – that’s God’s work (1 Cor. 3:6).  As for evangelizing, you’ve been successful despite the response.  We cannot and should not badger the person into believing; our job is to treat them with respect.  You never know when God will convict someone of their need for Him.


    Questions or Comments?


    D.         “Yes” – Acceptance


    A fourth type of reply to the gospel is an affirmative “yes.”  This person believes the gospel and wants to become a Christian.  So what do you tell someone who tells you that they want to become a Christian? 


    In Mark 1:15 we see Jesus calling out to people in Galilee to “repent and believe the good news!”  We see elsewhere in scripture that belief and repentance are the proper response to becoming a Christian, a follower of Jesus Christ.  In Acts 17:30, after revealing the truth of God to the Areopagus in Athens, Paul says that God now “commands all people everywhere to repent.”  And in John 5:24, Jesus says, “I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes in him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life.”


    There’s a lot packed into these two words – repentance and belief – so we’re going to look at each separately and explore a little more thoroughly of what we mean by each.  But it’s a great summary of what it means to be a Christian.  A Christian is one who has repented and believed—and who continues to repent and believe.  Want to become a Christian?  Repent and believe!


    1.         Belief


    The first word that we want to look at is “belief.”  What do you think we mean when we tell someone that they must believe?


    a.         Trust


    While belief means agreeing that the gospel is true, it also means more than that.  James makes this point vividly when he says that even demons believe that there is one God (James 2:19).  Yet, this doesn’t make demons Christian.  We can give an assenting head-nod to something without putting our trust in it.  So I can believe that social security will be around when I retire, but still save for retirement. 


    So we see that belief is not merely agreeing to the facts of the gospel, it means personal reliance on those facts.  Belief is trusting, or having faith, that God did create the world and rules over it.  It agrees with his statement that we rebelled against his rule and deserve his punishment.  It has faith in his promise that Jesus Christ died for our sin and was raised to life for our justification. 


    Such a belief will transform the way we think and the way we live.  Our actions will line up with the gospel and God’s Word.  We’ll begin to trust in God’s promises of salvation.  We’ll begin offering prayers in faith to an unseen God.  We’ll begin changing every area of our lives – where we spend our money, what we do with our time, where we focus our energy – to glorify God.  We’ll begin reading his Word because we trust that what God says is true, and we’ll start obeying his Word for the same reason.  We’ll begin hoping in the new heaven and the new earth, and we’ll even begin telling others the gospel using Two Ways to Live! J


    b.         Object of Trust


    And notice that it’s not just belief that matters, but also what we’re believing in.  There is an object to our belief, and that object says everything about whether our belief is grounded firmly or not.  A Christian is not someone who “just believes.”  A Christian is someone who believes in Jesus Christ and his gospel because “salvation is found nowhere else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:10-12).


    John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”  Notice it’s not “believe him” but “believe in him.”  “Saving faith is trust in Jesus Christ as a living person for forgiveness of sins and for eternal life with God.”[1]


    c.         Continual Belief


    The last thing we want to mention about belief is that it’s not a once-and-done thing.  This should already be obvious from what we’ve already said, but we need to be clear on this point. 


    In John 3:36, Jesus says, “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life.”  It’s not “whoever believed” (past tense), but “whoever believes” (present tense).  A Christian is one that continues in this belief.


    While merely walking down an aisle once in response to an altar call may be an expression of this belief that we’ve been talking about, it’s certainly not the full picture of what belief is.  In the same way, just because someone prayed a prayer once asking Jesus into their heart, it doesn’t mean that they’re a Christian.  Belief in scripture is understood to be continual trust in Christ, and not just momentary assent.


    The biblical formula for responding to the gospel is repentance and belief.  This is all that is required.  There’s no magic words to say, it’s not about raising your hand to accept Christ as your Savior, and it’s not about walking down an aisle.  It’s about living day-in and day-out in repentance and belief.  1 John 3:6 says, “No one who lives in [Jesus] keeps on sinning.”


    As evangelists, we’re not here to seal the deal and give our personal affirmation that someone is a Christian.  Rather, we should point them to God’s promises of forgiveness for those who repent and believe in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins.  Our assurance is ultimately based on Christ and his saving work on the cross.  Are we trusting in that?


    Questions or Comments?


    2.         Repentance


    The second word that we want to look at is “repentance.”  And like belief, it’s also a loaded word. 


    a.         Turning from Sin


    Repentance is primarily turning from our sin whether in thought, word, or deed.  Peter tells the people in Acts 3:19 to “Repent…and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out.”  If we’re on a road, sin is what we’re doing when we drive on that road away from God.  So what does repentance look like?  Repentance then would be slamming on our brakes and begin making a U-turn.  It’s not dwelling on shameful thoughts.  It’s putting to death our deceitfulness in speech.  It’s not getting drunk on alcohol.  It’s resisting our pride and self-centeredness.  Repentance is a heart adjustment. 


    When we repent, we’re showing that we’re not following that which is opposed to God.  We’re no longer rooting for the other team.  We stop sinning, and we begin to take God’s side against our sin.  We don’t indulge our sinful natures and desires, and we stop defending our evil actions.  To put it more strongly, repentance means hating our sin and resisting it.  We’ve taken up arms and have begun fighting with it for the sole purpose of putting it to death because of the love we have for our God.


    Repenting doesn’t mean that we never stop sinning.  As long as we’re living in this world, we’ll continue to sin.  The difference, though, between a Christian and a non-Christian is that the Christian will struggle with their sin and make war against it.


    b.         Godly Sorrow


    In addition, repentance isn’t just feeling sorry that we’ve sinned.  It’s not merely emotions.  We can’t say we’ve repented because we feel bad about our sin.  There are unfortunate consequences to sin.  If I lie to my boss and get fired, I’m going to wish I didn’t lie and feel bad about it.  But while everyone feels sorry because of the consequence for making a bad choice, a Christian’s sorrow will show the fruit of repentance.  They will renounce their sin, commit to forsaking it, and walk in obedience to Christ.  Paul says that, “Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death” (2 Cor. 7:10).


    Belief is not without action.  There was a reason why Jesus called people to both repent and believe the good news.  Belief and repentance are not mutually exclusive.  They’re two sides of the same coin.  If we turn from sin in repentance, we turn to God in trust.  “Conversion is a single action of turning from sin in repentance and turning to Christ in faith.”[2]  James 2:17 says, “faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.” 


    Questions or Comments?


    E.         “I’m Already a Christian”


    The fifth and final response that we might get when speaking to someone about the gospel is that they tell you that they’re already a Christian.  So how do we respond to this person? 


    In this day of age, being a Christian might mean a lot of things to a lot of people so it’s good to be clear whether or not they believe the gospel message.  If they do, then we should look for fruit in their life.  For example, are they members of an evangelical church?  How has God been growing them spiritually?  In what areas do they struggle with sin? 


    IV.        Conclusion


    Well, we need to conclude.  In the first class, we defined what evangelism is.  We said that evangelism is presenting a specific message (the Gospel of Jesus Christ) to a specific people (lost men and women), in the power of the Holy Spirit, with a specific purpose (the aim that they would repent and believe).  By God’s grace, I hope that you’ve been helped to do this over these past six weeks.


    Before we close in prayer, is there anyone who would like to encourage everyone with how they applied what they learned in this class in an effort to evangelize?
























    How do we respond if the person who we told the gospel to becomes hostile to the gospel, such as in a Muslim country?  This is what happened in Acts 13 when Paul and Barnabas proclaimed the gospel in Pisidian Antioch.  Upon such persecution, they “shook the dust from their feet in protest against them” and went to declare the gospel elsewhere.  It seems to follow what Jesus said in Matthew 7:6, “Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs.  If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and then turn and tear you to pieces.”  God’s gifts are not to be left open to mockery or abuse.


    [1] Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology, p. 710.

    [2] Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology, p. 714.