January 31, 2012 12 Comments
It has become a sad reality in evangelicalism today that the power of the Word of God is denied. Oh, hardly anyone will deny it in what they say, but examine their actions. Their actions tell all. Consider the modern state of evangelism. What do we do in order to reach people with the Gospel of Jesus Christ? Is it the biblical method? Or is it something else?
Let’s examine evangelism and how the modern, evangelical church has misunderstood the whole concept. Let’s start in 2 Samuel…
David again gathered all the chosen men of Israel, thirty thousand. And David arose and went with all the people who were with him from Baale-judah to bring up from there the ark of God, which is called by the name of the LORD of hosts who sits enthroned on the cherubim. And they carried the ark of God on a new cart and brought it out of the house of Abinadab, which was on the hill. And Uzzah and Ahio, the sons of Abinadab, were driving the new cart, with the ark of God, and Ahio went before the ark.
And David and all the house of Israel were celebrating before the LORD, with songs and lyres and harps and tambourines and castanets and cymbals. And when they came to the threshing floor of Nacon, Uzzah put out his hand to the ark of God and took hold of it, for the oxen stumbled. And the anger of the LORD was kindled against Uzzah, and God struck him down there because of his error, and he died there beside the ark of God. — 2 Samuel 6:1-7
You may be wondering, what does this Old Testament account have to do with evangelism in the modern church?
But first let’s examine this passage and see what has happened and why.
The first thing many people will notice about this passage is that God killed Uzzah for touching the Ark — and they think this was a bit harsh on the part of God.
Why kill him for something like that?
Well, for starters God said don’t touch it. That should be enough.
And when Aaron and his sons have finished covering the sanctuary and all the furnishings of the sanctuary, as the camp sets out, after that the sons of Kohath shall come to carry these, but they must not touch the holy things, lest they die. These are the things of the tent of meeting that the sons of Kohath are to carry. — Numbers 4:15
In fact, God would be justified if he were to do to each one of us what he did with Uzzah. At the moment we commit our very first sin He would be completely justified in killing us — giving us the rightful wage for our transgression. It is an INDESCRIBABLE testimony of the grace of God that he allows any of us our next breath. Uzzah got exactly what he deserved.
But, many will object, he was just trying to steady the Ark. He was helping God out. Why would God punish Uzzah for just trying to help out?
I’m glad you asked.
Notice in the text in 2 Samuel that Israel was transporting the Ark on a “new cart” pulled by oxen? This is a very significant part of the text. Why?
Because God had already given Israel specific instructions on how the Ark was to be carried…
And you shall put the poles into the rings on the sides of the ark to carry the ark by them. The poles shall remain in the rings of the ark; they shall not be taken from it. — Exodus 25:14-15
At that time the LORD set apart the tribe of Levi to carry the ark of the covenant of the LORD to stand before the LORD to minister to him and to bless in his name, to this day. — Deuteronomy 10:8
They had specific instructions on how it was to be carried and who was to carry it. And, by the way, no one was to touch it.
So even before Uzzah reached his hand toward the Ark of God Israel was already sinning before God. They weren’t doing it the way God had told them to do it.
Some people will still object and say that Israel was just improving on God’s design.
Sure, some will insist — A wheeled cart? Pulled by oxen? That’s so much more efficient.
Do you honestly think God needs our improvements on His designs? Do you think He was unaware of the whole oxen and wheeled cart technology? Do you really think from His place in the heavens God looked upon their ox cart “improvement” and said, “Well done lads. Wish I’d thought of that.”
Let me ask you a question? What was the Ark of the Covenant? Beyond the box and the gold and the design — what was it?
It was the focal point for God’s interaction with His people. It was the place where God dwelled among them. This is a key point — DO NOT MISS THIS: God, and God alone, dictates the terms by which we will have fellowship with Him. We come to Him on His terms or not at all.
We contribute NOTHING.
That was true then — it’s true now.
Since the time of Uzzah, God has revealed so much more of His plan of redemption. We have a much more complete picture. But, He still dictates to us the terms by which we may have fellowship with him — there is only one way…
Jesus Christ, who is God in the flesh, came to earth to fully identify with man, yet he remained fully God. Jesus never sinned — he lived a perfect life, faithful to every law God ever gave and yet God punished Jesus AS IF he had sinned. Jesus was crucified on a Roman cross. While he was there God the Father poured out on Christ the wrath that we rightfully deserve and treated him AS IF he were a sinner. Christ satisfied God’s wrath toward us and, because he did, God can now treat us AS IF we had never sinned. This is the substitutionary atonement. This is the Gospel.
Salvation is a supernatural work of the Holy Spirit of God. It cannot be manipulated by the methods of man.
For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. — Romans 1:16
If you want to carry the Ark of God you do it God’s way.
If you want to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ you use God’s words.
We contribute NOTHING. We can’t convince and we can’t convict. This is where Uzzah messed up. This is where we mess up, too. You see, while we may say with our words that we believe the Gospel is God’s power for salvation and that He, and He alone, can bring sinners to Himself, our actions betray us. We don’t behave as though we believe it.
Look at what we do in modern evangelism…
- We think if we can just get a “high profile” Christian to share his or her testimony people will be more inclined to “accept” Christ — the influence of a personality being the key.
- We think if we can organize our thought and words in just the right order people will be more likely to believe — our presentation being the key.
- We think if we just “take the edge” off of the Gospel by opening with “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life” instead of warning them of the wrath to come and inviting them to repent then they will be more receptive — our sensitivity to their feelings being the key. You know, because all that talk of hell and wrath is a real turn off. People don’t respond to that.
All of these things indicate we don’t believe God’s word will do what God’s word says it will do. We still think we can improve on God’s design. But just think about this for a moment — think…
God could have chosen any nation as His people. He chose Israel — this puny, worthless group of people who had no military power. They had no political influence. They weren’t wealthy. If God had wanted to get His message out to the world surely He could have selected a more influential group than this. Right? I mean, that’s exactly what we are advocating when we say “If only a star athlete or a famous singer or an Oscar-winning actor would profess Christ then people would really get saved.”
But God doesn’t need our influence. In fact, He deliberately chose the weak. In Israel’s day the most influential nation was Egypt. Not only did God not choose Egypt to carry His message, He chose Egypt to oppose it. And why? So that HIS power could be demonstrated…
But for this purpose I have raised you up, to show you my power, so that my name may be proclaimed in all the earth. — Exodus 9:16
Then, when Christ came, God did not choose the influential people of the day — governors, Pharisees, Scribes, and kings — he deliberately chose the weak. Christ’s disciples were fishermen — nobodies. He even chose a tax collector, which was far worse than just being a nobody, tax collectors were hated.
He does not need our influence.
According to Jesus, even the testimony of someone who has experienced heaven or hell would not be enough to cause people to repent…
“There was a rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. And at his gate was laid a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who desired to be fed with what fell from the rich man’s table. Moreover, even the dogs came and licked his sores. The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried, and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side. And he called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in anguish in this flame.’ But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner bad things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish. And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who would pass from here to you may not be able, and none may cross from there to us.’ And he said, ‘Then I beg you, father, to send him to my father’s house—for I have five brothers—so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment.’ But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’ And he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ He said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.’” — Luke 16:19-31
The apostle Paul was careful not to speak with eloquent or persuasive language because he didn’t want people to come to Christ on the strength of his argument but on the strength of the Gospel.
For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power. — 1 Corinthians 1:17
But, many will contend, the people group I’m trying to reach is a particularly difficult to reach. They say, “You can’t just preach the Gospel to a — Muslim, atheist, Catholic, Hindu, Jehovah’s Witness, Mormon, etc. — you have to…”
What? Make His Gospel more palatable? Take the edge off? Improve on God’s design?
The fact is this: EVERY place and people is difficult to evangelize — for US. That is the whole point of the parable of the rich young ruler…
And as he was setting out on his journey, a man ran up and knelt before him and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. You know the commandments: ‘Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.’” And he said to him, “Teacher, all these I have kept from my youth.” And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.
And Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How difficult it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” And the disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said to them again, “Children, how difficult it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” And they were exceedingly astonished, and said to him, “Then who can be saved?” Jesus looked at them and said, “With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God.” — Mark 10:17-27
Notice the disciples are amazed and asked, “Then who can be saved?” Christ’s answer is clear — salvation is impossible… for men. In our own power it is IMPOSSIBLE to save men. But with God’s power all things are possible. The power of salvation is contained in the Gospel — it is God’s ALONE.
Do not try to improve on it.
Do not touch the Ark of God.