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Question 3:

What do I say to family members who claim to be Christian yet are clearly not living that way? What do I say to a Jehovah's Witness or Mormon, or some other religious group, if they come to my door or if I have an interaction with them?

I love this question, for several reasons, not the least of which is that this question allows us to define the gospel message clearly and distinctly.

Ok, I will admit that these 2 questions did not come from anyone specifically, but I am paraphrasing the 2 most commonly asked questions I have received over the last 3-4 weeks. This column, combined with our current sermons and bible studies, has caused many of you to ask similar versions of these questions at different times. These are good questions, and they are the questions I had hoped we would begin to ask as we have looked at Jesus' words in Matthew chapter 7.

The answer to these questions is much more simple than you might think. The problem is that we have confused some issues together in our minds, as well as looked to the world for the answers.

Let's begin the answer by establishing what these questions imply: namely, that the folks being mentioned are not believers in the one true gospel. This is an important place to start, as we have seen over the past few weeks on Sunday mornings. But the practical reason this is important is to understand that you are dealing with an unregenerate, worldly person, even if they claim to believe the bible or have a measure of morality in their life. Remember, first and foremost, that you are dealing with darkness. Paul writes in Romans 7:6 that we were once captives. This is the mindset you must have as you engage with someone who is not a true believer: You are speaking with someone who is held captive in their mind.

From there, with that understanding, we need to challenge our current thinking about how it is that someone receives the gospel message and accepts Christ. In our day and age, there is no shortage of people who want to teach you evangelism techniques, apologetic techniques (defending the faith), or people who want to tell you that our words must be contextualized in order for others to receive them. All of us have seen and heard these people, either in churches or in books or other places. But there is a problem with this type of thinking. Namely, all of these things are built upon the idea that the power to save a soul rests with us and our words.

That same Apostle Paul writes, "For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God unto salvation for all who would believe..."(Romans 1:16) It is the gospel, the one true message of salvation, that has the power to save people from their sins and bring them into eternal life. Further than that, we forget that it is the Holy Spirit who does the work in the heart of an unbeliever, just as He did His work in us when we were still far off as well. And finally, Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 3 that "I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth."

All of these passages should serve as a reminder to us that the power to change the heart and mind of anyone we encounter does not lie in our words or our ability to persuade, and it doesn't even lie in our knowledge. The power to change souls comes in two forms: The work of the Holy Spirit through the illumination and power of the word of God. The gospel is given forth in words. Those words are written for us in the pages of scripture. When those words go into the minds of unbelievers, it is the Holy Spirit that then convicts and regenerates.

While all of this is a simply explanation of a gloriously mysterious truth, and there is much else we could say regarding this topic, what I hope you see is that there is no technique, contextualization, or method that is more useful or powerful than sending forth the word of God as we encounter people in our lives who are deceived about the truth of salvation. God speaks through Isaiah in Isaiah 55:11 when he says, "so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it."

So, how do you respond, how do you speak, when you encounter people like this in your life? The answer is simple: Rely not on yourself, rely not on lofty speech or techniques of man. Instead, remember the words of scripture, remember the gospel, and speak those words of life and trust that God will do His mighty work as He sees fit.

And remember the words of Jesus, when he comforted His disciples on this very same principle, when he said, "When they bring you before the synagogues and the rulers and the authorities, do not worry about how or what you are to speak in your defense, or what you are to say; for the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say." (Luke 12)

Thank you everyone for asking such great questions. I hope this answer has helped you, especially as we head into a season where we likely will encounter many who are deceived about their salvation.

And don't forget to send in your questions for the coming weeks.

Because of Christ,
Pastor Jayson

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