Personal Evangelism – Colossians 4:2-6

the first of the Epistles to the Colossians

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Colossians 4:2-6 2  Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving. 3 At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison— 4  that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak.  5  Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. 6 Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.

Here in Colossians we find instructions and advise on how to approach friends, family, acquaintances and anyone else we may come across living in  the “World” yet not as the “World”.  Prior to this passage we find instructions on how we are to treat those under our authority and how we respond to those in authority.  Our response to and use of authority precedes our evangelism.  Ravi Zacharias has said, “intent precedes content”.  How we treat others, our intent, will speak louder than what we say, our content.

Bring it to The Almighty

OK, now we start talking to people… Well not quite.  It is appropriate that Chapter 3 and Chapter 4 verse 1 deal with how we approach authority.  Before we approach the world we need to approach The Throne.  We must take each day, each relationship, each interaction we expect and those we don’t expect during the day before God.  Continue resolute with conviction and confidence in prayer.  If we are confident in prayer then we will expect God to respond and we will be watchful looking for the fulfillment of prayer.  We will not just watch for it to be filled in the way we want God to work or hope He will work.  We need to look for God’s response and be thankful for what God provides because He always provides what we need.

Acts 16:14 – A woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple fabrics, a worshiper of God, was listening; and the Lord opened her heart to respond to the things spoken by Paul.

While we are praying the words “also for” tells us that we need to pray for our own opportunities and for the opportunities of other Christians.  This is a team effort.  We are asking God to open the hearts of people we talk to so that there will be an entrance point for the word of God.  As we speak that “Word” we trust in God’s word to declare or make known the mysteries of God.  Mysteries which are of greater value then freedom from prison or persecution.  Then the passage calls us to pray for a clear presentation.  Yet the passage says we are declaring a mystery.  How can something be both mysterious and clear?  There is a sense within which the words of the gospel cannot be understood rationally but must be felt. The Bible says that to the World the gospel seems foolishness and even offensive. The temptation might be to use methods of the World to convince people.  Paul would have been well aware of the Sophists of his day who trained politicians and wealthy business men how to use words to manipulate and motivate people to get what they wanted.  One example that most of us are aware of today is the prosperity gospel which tells people they will get worldly possessions, recognition, and power if they come to Jesus.  While it is true that a life lived in accordance with God’s intended order will result in benefits those are the fringe benefits of Christ, the treasure itself is Christ.  God help me to avoid the temptation to manipulate by selling benefits instead of bringing them Jesus.

Heading Out with God’s Word and Wisdom

We are then to go into the world and walk wisely particularly in the manner in which we engage with people in the world.  But how do we walk wisely in the world?  The passage doesn’t just make this statement and assume that we know specifically what it entails.  Paul follows up this statement with specific statements about what it means to walk wisely.  We are to given four instructions on how to approach people in the world.

  1. Be prudent with time and place
  2. Converse with grace
  3. Sprinkle in some salt
  4. Know how to answer

The first concern of wisdom is prudence with our time; we must be aware of where we are and the seasons and times we are in considering the time, place and limits we must deal with.  Know what you will have time for and place for.  Be aware of the situation in which you find yourself.  The word “use” here means to buy, ransom or rescue from loss.  We live in a fallen world and in our age as theirs much time is spent on leisure or  busyness but little on what is significant.  We are called to buy that time back and spend that time on that which is of real eternal value.  It’s alright to shoot the breeze but if that’s all you ever do in the end you are left grasping the wind.

Converse with Grace

Active Listening

Next, speak with grace.  We are to approach people with pleasant, winsome, empathetic words. While we say “speak” grace is not grace if it is not considerate, we do not give grace to inanimate objects, we give grace to people and though we “speak” here in this context it is part of a conversation.  We must know and acknowledge the other person.  The first thing to realize is that every person has been created by God in His image, created with the Imago Dei.  Even though we are all fallen and sinful the image of God gives us redeemable qualities, values and conscience which we must look for in others and acknowledge.  We see this when Paul was in Athens and he acknowledged that the people were religious and desired not to miss any deity in their worship to the point of having an altar to an unknown god.  Paul further acknowledged that their poets rightly saw that God truly is larger than any temple that could be built and the source of existence.  These were gracious compliments even though they had not seen clearly they knew something was beyond them because of God’s created image within them.  Secondly, you need to listen; this is a conversation after all.  Ask questions and listen to what the person has to say.  An effective method is called Active Listening.  Active listening requires time to dive into what the person is saying.  The basic steps are to

  1. listen and seek to understand what the person is saying.
  2. Then remember what they said and respond.
  3. The response should acknowledge difficulties and feelings and either restate what was said using similar words or reflect on what they said by rephrasing it possibly with some speculation on how they might be feeling.

The result will be that the person you are talking to feels appreciated and you will have a better understanding of their concerns and how they approach the world.

Sprinkle Some Salt

Thirdly, what we say needs to have some salt in it.  As I thought about that statement and what it means to be salty I realized that the statement itself stands out.  Up to this point the bible verses have used words with meanings relative to the topic being addressed.  Here, Paul switches to a metaphor.  It stands out as must salty words.  They aren’t same old, same old words.  These aren’t bland, unremembered words with little emotion or conviction behind them.  But then neither are these compliments that feel good for the moment and then slowly fade away.  In our gracious speech of course we should have some compliments as said previously but this call to season with salt isn’t a restatement of saying words with grace.  As disciples of Christ we are to stand out, apart from the world in what we value and how we approach life.  So what does salt mean.  To borrow from John Piper’s message on this same passage our saltiness is our radicalness for Jesus as seen in Luke 14:33-34.  The stuff of this world that in leisure and busyness the world spends its time on is what we renounce and hold so loosely as if it weren’t ours because we belong to Jesus.  It is also our irrational hope in the promises of the gospel and confidence in its warnings.  To be salt, to season what is said with salt as John Piper’s son put it, “your own mouth has to water for the gospel”.

Luke 14:33-34  33 “So then, none of you can be My disciple who does not give up all his own possessions.  34 “Therefore, salt is good; but if even salt has become tasteless, with what will it be seasoned?

We are a people who believe in the resurrection of the dead.  We believe that once we have passed away and our body has been decomposed back into the dust of the earth that God will pull it all back together and in our flesh we will see God.  We believe that in Christ this is already beginning as our fallen nature is regenerated into the likeness of Christ.  We are an irrational people by the world’s estimation even so we are confident and bold in our hope.  Possessions no longer possess us but we hold them so loosely that if someone is in need we release what we have.  But not like the world which calls on people to release so that a better society might be built.  We release it because nothing of this earth has a hold on us but we are held by a longing to be with Jesus in eternity, regenerated and risen from the dust in fellowship with The King and desire to see others have the same opportunity.

Further salt as a spice is challenging because we bring God’s perspective to the situations of life.  But the world desires to make its own way and have its own view of things.  At times we may need to be upfront but if that is our only approach then we may be antagonistic and quench their thirst. Another way to approach the person you are talking to is to try and understand how they approach the world; how do they think the world works, who is in control, where does purpose come from and then see where their line of thinking may lead.  Francis Schaeffer called this finding the point of tension.  Schaeffer said that a perspective on actions or circumstances has underlying presuppositions that this or that is true, valuable or ethical.  To find the point of tension look for the potentially untenable perspectives that these presuppositions justify and bring them into the light.  Throw some salt on these presuppositions.  For example if someone doesn’t believe in God then seek to find their source of purpose and ethics.  Has a naturalist ever received a flower from another soul expressing anything of transcendent value  or is each flower merely an expression of the right chemical composition and each gift the right combination of hormones?  The Word of God and the Gospel are real and the only perspectives that align with reality.  Any other perspective has points of tension which are more convenient to ignore.

Finally, know how to answer each person.  As you express your hope in Christ and resurrection from the dead and loose hold on the stuff of the world expect that people will ask you; why?  If this truly is your hope then you will know why and be able to talk about the circumstances that overwhelmed you and lead to such a faith and break with the world.  Some other questions may be more difficult but have faith and prayer for the Spirit’s guidance.  You must look at the world and know that God is and see in the Bible that God is not silent and that he has spoken.  If they ask for other proofs for God’s existence or explanations of the Cross and how Jesus could be a substitution you can research and have a bunch of answers in your back pocket but it may be more effective to say “hey why don’t we look into it together”  that shows a concern and a willingness to spend time and further talk with them and may in the end bring them to Jesus.

1 Peter 3:5 but in your hearts regard Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you;

Luke 12:11-12 11″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; 12for the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say.”

What is Faith? One Question to Get Right

Bullying on IRFE in March 5, 2007, the first c...

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My eight year old son, Nolan, had to complete some optional activities for cub scouts.  One that we picked was Faith and Religion.  The book asked him to name some great people of faith.  Nolan asked me, “What do they mean by faith?”  I paused and thought to myself about the best way to explain it to an eight year old.  Here is the definition I came up with.

Faith is what you believe to be right and true and you are willing to stand up for it

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Inclusivity May end up being Exclusive

Jesus is considered by scholars such as Weber ...

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The church practices and supports the work of evangelism to reconcile people to God through Jesus.  In the past several decades growth movements have done much to focus the church on evangelism.  Many churches have restructured their weekly services to focus on those that have not accepted Christ.  Many organizations have also put effort into reviewing language, presentations and their image to find ways to avoid placing stumbling blocks in front of those that haven’t accepted Christ.  It is a good idea to identify what might constitute a stumbling block and remove them (1 Cor 14:16) because the Church is not to be of the World but it is still in the world and is called to communicate to those in the World.  This scope has been extended by many to include looking for ways to build bridges to various groups.  Many times these methods attempt to identify doctrines and understandings of the bible that may be thought of as non-essential and that are objectionable to the world and then either down play, repackage, obscure, or list as one of several alternatives interpretations.  All this to hopefully bring the world to the realization that “God gave us salvation through His Son, Jesus Christ”.  But, what does it mean “God gave us salvation through his Son”.   I believe this entails a submission or yielding to Christ as Lord not just an acceptance of Him as savior.

Romans 10:9-10
9 If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.

Keeping this in mind; as we attempt to build bridges how do we decide what is essential and what isn’t?  This goes beyond the question of what we present as being essential but within the church itself what we believe and teach as truth.   Scripture tells us to make our calling and election sure (2 Peter 1:10)  but how sure are we if we keep questioning what scripture says or keep saying its unclear?  This is why I feel the church has to take a stronger stance on biblical creationism along with other issues and not back down for fear that it might turn some people off.  If the creation story were merely a story of beginnings and men’s rejection of God occurred later then it wouldn’t be of such concern.  But the fall which is pivotal to the need for the Cross takes place in the story of creation.  Coming to unbelievers while we have the fall of man now placed on the shaky uncertain ground of the allegorical leaves us with a calling which becomes shaky.   If faith is our certainty but we say we are uncertain about how it all began and yes God has a story but we think God’s version of the beginning might be inaccurate then what else in scripture is inaccurate?  Are we yielded to Christ if we keep looking for ways to deal with what we find objectionable in scripture?

The other aspect of accepting Christ as Lord and making our election sure is that we shouldn’t just assume that a confession of faith means a person is saved.  The growth movements focuses on getting people in and believes that once we get their signature, their buy in we don’t have much to worry about, if they are in they are in, once saved always saved.  But what is interesting is that Matthew 7 it says “Enter through the narrow gate; for the way is wide that leads to destruction..”  Many assume that Jesus is talking to the world but in the context v21 it says “Not everyone who says to Me, “Lord Lord” will enter the kingdom..”  So this passages is talking to the church.  Of those who accept Christ and are part of the Church few of those will enter the kingdom.  Our evangelism and methods in the church of just getting people in is too small and eventually may leave many out because we didn’t want to ruffle feathers by standing upon the Word and having faith inexorably in the Word and what the Word says and holding those in the church to believing the Word.  The church should consider this as it structures itself or it will risk too much.

Come in His Name!

John 5:43-44
43 I have come in my Father’s name, and you do not receive me. If another comes in his own name, you will receive him. 44 How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the only God?

Acts 4:12
And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”

The World may find it easier to accept another name or another identity or a partial identity, but Jesus still came from the Father in His Father’s name; the name His father had given him. Any other identity is not the same nor is it of any use for salvation.

Colossians 3:17
And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

If we are in Christ we are a new creation and we are commanded to speak and live in His Name. The name must be central, it must be pivotal, it must be foundational, it must be … all. If financial freedom, social activity, motivational methodologies, etc… are what is central so that we can gain the world’s interest then we run into a problem. “If you draw people by carnal means you will have to keep people by carnal means.” -Paul Washer.

WHY – why must Jesus name and Identity be so central?

John 12:28-32
28 Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven: “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.” 29 The crowd that stood there and heard it said that it had thundered. Others said, “An angel has spoken to him.” 30 Jesus answered, “This voice has come for your sake, not mine. 31 Now is the judgment of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out. 32 And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.”

Because it is Jesus name and its identity with what He accomplished on the cross that will draw people to Christ and bring them to salvation. When we exalt and lift up Christ the World will perceive the value and significance we place in Him. They will ask who is this and what is this about…

World : So what do you have to offer?

Christian: Jesus

World: What else you got?

Christian: Jesus

That’s It!

Rethink Evangelism

Last year a good friend of mine, Paul, sent me a link to a video entitled “Regeneration vs the Idolotry of Decisional Evangelism”. I found this video most thought provoking. It seems that in the last century the gospel in America has become something different from what it originally was in church history. I feel that Paul Washer makes his case and shows good reason to be concerned. I would commend this video to all Christians for prayerful consideration. I have also taken some notes from the video on an alternative method for sharing the gospel

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Mysterious Words and Deep Roots

Commissioned to bring God’s Word

In the great commission Jesus called us as Christians to continue what He started. He called us to go into the world and make disciples. Notice Jesus didn’t call us to make adherents to a code nor individuals that ascent to Christ’s existence or even His purpose for that matter. Being a disciple is a much deeper, drop everything, don’t look back, take up the cross and yield to Me calling. Yet so many Christians struggle to find a deeper, life altering faith. Further, when we go into the world and explain the gospel to unbelievers we either struggle to make head-way or the person makes a decision, maybe gets fired up for a little while and then goes back to life as usual. Several churches have analyzed the effectiveness of their outreach and ministries only to find this lack of depth pervasive and this has befuddled many church leaders.

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Confession of Faith

I accept as true that God has created man in His own image for a relationship with Himself. Even while knowing that man would rebel against His rightful authority God gave us the choice to obey and find life in Him or to disobey and be separated from God and as a result fall into bondage to sin and death. I have inherited a nature prone to sin and rebellion; I am responsible for what I have received and what I do with what I have inherited. I believe that this sin nature extended to all aspects of my being and as an extensive property (not intensive) constituted total depravity.

I believe that God transcends anything imaginable in the universe He created and that God is wholly self-aware and aware of His right to exaltation. God being perfectly whole in every aspect of His being both loved us and established that His own glory would be served by providing the means of redemption and justification. Therefore, Jesus, being the first born and exact representation of God and His Glory in time and space; the Word, authority, and righteous standard in the cosmos alone could fulfill the requirement of holiness on our behalf. Our efforts and choices are not able to achieve the righteousness of God; so God in His providence established a people, Israel, to be custodians of His Word, law and the promise of His coming. Time and time again we prove that regardless of prosperity, culture, organization, education … that failure is inevitable. Then in the fullness of time the first born of creation emptied Himself into the body of man and choosing the foolish, weak, the outcast to show us that it is His glory, not ours. Rejecting the King of Glory I desired His death and yet it was the will of God the Father to crush Him (Isa 53:5,10) , but He became the sacrifice for my sins and overcame death so that I might have life and enter into a new promise.

I believe that we are deficient to understand or seek God of our own accord. We may seek the benefits that can only be found in God but are at the same time trying to avoid God having in our depravity become enemies of God. (Romans 3:9-12, Romans 5:10) I believe that only through the power of the Holy Spirit mediated in and through the Word of God and the testimony of faith (Luke 12:12, John 14:26, Romans 10:17) that the eyes of our heart are then opened to understand the significance of the truth of God’s Glory, our lostness and His promise and provision to which we have a choice to respond (John 6:44, Acts 16:14). Our response is one of submission through repentance and faith. Repentance is the revision of my judgment and a change in my plan of action. (Luke 24:45-47, 2 Co 7:10, 2 Pe 3:9) Repentance, though necessary, is not meritorious but a condition for receiving the gracious gift of pardon which God gives of His goodness. It is a choice I have made not to clean up my act, but a change of mind about my principles, perspectives and practices and a purpose for change. In faith I am convinced that Jesus is the son of the living God who took on human flesh, was tempted in every way that I am and yet without sin was crucified and died for my sins. I trust that through his death I am redeemed and that through His resurrection I receive His justification for the purpose of an eternal inheritance; eternal life. I am under the conviction that eternal life means that my greatest most expectant hope is that God will be more then I can ever imagine and to glorify Him and enjoy an ever advancing relationship with Him starting now and into eternity is the greatest aspiration in all creation (John 3:17, Romans 8:18-19) . I believe that through repentance and faith, trusting in the cross, banking on His sufficiency, I am forgiven and through profession of Jesus Christ as my Lord I am saved (Romans 10:9-10). Profession is recognition and the intentionality of commitment which entails the accomplishment of commitment (James 2:18) but does not require it and is therefore not meritorious for the power to achieve it not my own but from the Holy Spirit (Philippians 2:12-13). This commitment is ultimately to be a child of God under the Lordship of Christ.

I consider neither suffering nor success worth comparing to the glory which is to be revealed (Philippians 3:8, Romans 8:18). I count all loss for the sake of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. I do not desire at any time to so much as breath apart from Christ. For He is my hope, my portion, my never failing riches; all that binds me to eternity, all that binds me inexorably to the Father!


R. C Sproul,  “Contending for the Truth – Questions and Answers” , Disc 5 of 5, Ligonier Ministries 2007 National Conference.

“Packer, J. I. Knowing God. Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 1973. 80-80. Print.

Tozer, A. W. Knowledge of the holy the attributes of God : their meaning in the Christian life. New York: HarperSanFrancisco, 1992. 129. Print.

“The Westminster Shorter Catechism”,  Grand Rapids, MI: Christian Classics Ethereal Library, 2004, http://www.ccel.org/ccel/anonymous/westminster1.html

Schaff, Philip (1819-1893), “The Epistle of Ignatius to the Ephesians”, The Apostolic Fathers with Justin Martyr and Irenaeus, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, reprint 2001, http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/anf01.v.ii.html

Recapture the Compelling Message

Retracing Our Steps

Peter Proclaims the Good News

The good news of what Jesus Christ has done on the cross has gone out. The message of repentance, redemption and reconciliation has transformed the world and continues to do so. Yet in some places and settings the impact of the gospel appears to have become stalled, aged, maybe even dull. Nations that have been labeled “post-Christian” come to mind. Our own country’s adoption of progressive ideas that have marked the path of many “post-Christian” nations press upon my thoughts.  Maybe at times even in our own life the message does not feel fresh.

If you ask my wife she will tell you that I am prone to misplace things. I tend to feel that others move them around on me but that’s an argument…er, ah discussion for another time. When it occurs that I misplace something sometimes I find it effective to retrace my steps. When I make a wrong turn and get lost I have had to back track. When I loose myself I reflect upon where I’ve been and where I was going. Whether we personally feel that our faith and hope is week or less effective or corporately find ourselves ineffective, out-of-touch, warren… it can be helpful to back track.  If the message doesn’t seem fresh or compelling to the world around us then why not back track to when the message truly was fresh, new, vibrant, irresistible. Being a little peculiar myself I went a step further and read a passage of Scripture backwards, while hanging upside down. Ok, no, not really but I did start with a verse in the middle of chapter and back tracked from paragraph to paragraph asking why before each step back. I have been a christian for a while but what I found was none the less moving and I hope that it might help others and the Church refocus. Read more of this post