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Regeneration vs The Idolatry of Decisional Evangelism

By: Paul Washer

We have no right to water-down the Gospel’s offense or civilize its radical demands in order to make it more appealing to a fallen world or carnal church members. Our churches are filled with strategies to make them more seeker-friendly, by repackaging the Gospel, removing the stumbling block and taking the edge off the blade so it might be more acceptable to carnal men. We ought to be seeker-friendly but we ought to realize that there is only one seeker and He is God. If we are striving to make our church and our message accommodation, let us make them accommodating to Him. If we are striving to build a church or ministry, let us build it on a passion to glorify God and a desire not to offend His Majesty. To the wind with what the world thinks about us. We are not to seek the honors of earth, but the honors of heaven.

Another thing I want to point out before we go to the preaching; our message is not only scandalous, it’s unbelievable. I want you to know that. It is an unbelievable message. As we have argued, Paul’s flesh had every reason to be ashamed of the Gospel he preached, yet there is still another reason for fleshly shame; the Gospel is an absolutely unbelievable message, a ludicrous word to the wise of the world. As Christians we sometimes fail to realize how utterly astounding it is when anyone believes our message. In a sense, the Gospel is so far-fetched; that it spread throughout the Roman Empire is proof of its supernatural nature. What could ever bring a Gentile – completely unaware of Old Testament Scriptures and rooted in either Greek philosophy or pagan superstition – to believe a message, such a message about a man named Jesus.

He ware born under questionable circumstances, to a poor family in one of the most despised regions of the Roman Empire, and yet the Gospel claimed that He was the eternal Son of God, conceived of the Holy Spirit, in the womb of a virgin. He was a carpenter by trade, an itinerant religious teacher with no official training, and yet the Gospel claims that He surpassed the combined wisdom of the Greek philosopher and the Roman sages of antiquity. He was poor and had no place to lay His head and yet the Gospel claims that for three years He fed thousands by word, healed every manner of illness among men, and even raised the dead! He was crucified outside of Jerusalem as a blasphemer and an enemy of the state, and yet the Gospel claims that His death was the pivotal event in all of human history and the only means of salvation from sin and reconciliation to God. He was placed in a burial tomb yet the Gospel claims that on the third day He arose from the dead and presented Himself to many of His followers, and forty days later ascended up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of Majesty on high. Thus the Gospel claims that a poor Jewish carpenter, who was rejected as a lunatic and a blasphemer by His own people, and crucified by the state, is now the Savior of the world, the LORD of lords and the King of kings, and at His name every knee shall bow including Caesar’s. Do you have any idea how impossible it is for anyone in Paul’s time to believe this message. It is impossible!

Who could ever believe such a message except by the power of God? There is no other explanation. The Gospel would have never made its way out of Jerusalem, let alone the Roman Empire, and into every nation of the world, except that God had ordained to work through it. The message would have died at its birth had it depended on the organizational abilities, eloquence, or apologetic powers of its preachers. All the missionary strategies of the world and all the clever marketing schemes borrowed from Wall Street could have never advanced the Gospel, the foolish stumbling block of the Gospel.

Martin Hengel writes on the ancient scandal of the cross: “To believe that the one pre-existent Son of the one true God, the mediator at creation and the redeemer of the world, had appeared in very recent times in out-of-the-way Galilee, as a member of the obscure people of the Jews, and even worse, had died the death of a common criminal on the cross, could only be regarded as a sheer sign of madness!

Now this truth brings both encouragement and warning to those of us who preach the Gospel. First, it is an encouragement to know that the simple faithful proclamation of the Gospel will ensure its continued advance in the world. Secondly, it is a warning to us that we not succumb to the lie that we can advance the Gospel through brilliance, eloquence, or clever church-growth strategies. Such things have no power to bring about the impossible conversion of men. We must cast ourselves with hopeful desperation upon the only Biblical means of advancing the Gospel. The bold and clear proclamation of a message, that we are not only unashamed, but that we believe in, and glory in, because it is the power of God unto salvation for everyone who believes.

I want to finish by saying this: we live in an unbelieving and skeptical age. Our faith is ridiculed as a hopeless myth, and we are portrayed as either narrow-minded bigots or weak-minded victims of a religious ruse. Such an attack often puts us on the defensive and we attempt to fight back and prove our position and relevancy with apologetics.

I agree with apologetics. Although some forms of this discipline are quite helpful and necessary, we must realize that the power still lies in the proclamation of the Gospel. We cannot convince a man to believe any more than we can raise the dead. Such things are the work of God’s Spirit. Men are brought to faith only through the supernatural working of God and His promise to work not through human wisdom or intellectual expertise, but the preaching of Christ crucified and resurrected from the dead.

We must come to grips with the fact that our Gospel is an unbelievable message. We should not expect anyone to give us a hearing, let alone believe, apart from a gracious and powerful working of God’s Spirit. How very hopeless is all our preaching apart from God’s power. How very dependent is the preacher upon God. All our evangelism is nothing more than a fool’s errand unless God moves on the hearts of men. However, he has promised to do just that, if we faithfully preach the Gospel.

Let us go to Ezekiel 37:1-10.

“The hand of the LORD was upon me, and He brought me out by the Spirit of the LORD and set me down in the middle of the valley; and it was full of bones. He caused me to pass among them round about, and behold, {there were} very many on the surface of the valley; and lo, {they were} very dry. He said to me, “Son of man, can these bones live?” And I answered, “O Lord GOD, You know.” Again He said to me, “Prophesy over these bones and say to them, ‘O dry bones, hear the word of the LORD.’ “Thus says the Lord GOD to these bones, ‘Behold, I will cause breath to enter you that you may come to life. I will put sinews on you, make flesh grow back on you, cover you with skin and put breath in you that you may come alive; and you will know that I am the LORD.’ ” So I prophesied as I was commanded; and as I prophesied, there was a noise, and behold, a rattling; and the bones came together, bone to its bone. And I looked, and behold, sinews were on them, and flesh grew and skin covered them; but there was no breath in them. Then He said to me, “Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, son of man, and say to the breath, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD, “Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe on these slain, that they come to life.'”” So I prophesied as He commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they came to life and stood on their feet, an exceedingly great army”.

I have just described the conversion of men. When you go out to preach you are always an Ezekiel. You are always standing in a valley of dead bones, and behold they are very dry. In the time of Ezekiel there was no technique to bring life into lifeless bone. The marrow had completely dried out of these skeletons, they were nothing but dust. There was no technique, there was no persuasion, there was no power, there was nothing humanly-speaking that could be done to bring these bones to life. That is evangelism. And you do well to learn it now. That is evangelism.

Men are dead in their trespasses in sins. They are not only dead, they are in bondage to sin. What life they have, is only life to follow the prince of this air. They are haters of God. They are enemies of God. They are blind. They do everything in their power to restrict and restrain every bit of knowledge that they already possess about God. They work with all their might to close down their conscience so it will no longer speak to them. They would rather suffer in a devil’s hell throughout all eternity, than bow the knee and repent and believe in your God.

Now, go try and learn an evangelism technique to bring them to life. Give long, drawn-out alter calls, tell all sorts of soupy stories, manipulate their passions, their emotions, and the only thing you will have is a group of two-fold sons of hell. For men to be saved, there is only one way, and that is for one man like Ezekiel, to step out in the midst of that valley and preach the only message God has promised to bless: the Gospel of Jesus Christ!

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