Wednesday, May 20, 2015

If Just One Person is Saved...

In recent years there have been an abundance of television and movie programs centered around biblical stories and people. Noah, the Exodus, the Cross, the Disciples and even one about the whole Bible. Many folk were excited about these shows and movies. "Isn't it great that Hollywood is making these types of things?"

No. It's a terrible thing.

"But Tim, what if these programs lead someone to Christ?"

This is the question we'll examine today. It's a tough question. It's one we all will encounter in one way or another. What are the limitations to how we evangelize?

First of all I am joyful and thrilled when anyone comes to genuine saving faith in Christ. I'm not particularly concerned what type of church a person was saved in. There are more than a few churches that preach a genuine saving Gospel and even some of the churches that don't can't restrict the saving power of the Gospel. For instance, a person might be at a Benny Hinn show and get saved. Not because of anything Benny Hinn said or because of a clear Gospel presentation but because there might be a Bible there and the person might read it and have his eyes opened to see Jesus is Lord and Savior and that he needs to repent of His sins. That person would then be saved in a Benny Hinn church but not because of the Benny Hinn church. So I would rejoice even though he was saved in the church of a false teacher.

Does that justify the entire ministry of Benny Hinn? What do you think? Can we say Benny Hinn's ministry of scamming people out of money and leading people into hell is worth it because one hypothetical man was saved? That's a tough question and one that a person who denies election would have trouble answering with any consistency.

The answer is a resounding 'no.' We can't justify sin because someone might get saved. God is not going to force people into sinning so that they might save someone else. Think about how many things you can justify if you use the "what if one person is saved?" Rationalization:

  • Sure robbing a bank is wrong, but what if I leave a Gospel tract and someone gets saved reading it?
  • Yea I know murder is wrong but what if at my trial I preach the Gospel and people get saved?
  • Okay I know I shouldn't go to a strip club, but what if I witness to the exotic dancers?
I don't think I need to go on. Those are obviously some extreme examples. Can we do this in more subtle ways? Can people all across the spectrum of evangelism be guilty of this? Let's go back to the question about Hollywood making "Christian" movies. 

We so easily get sucked into this trap. We capitulate to the belief that any publicity is good publicity. So we see all kinds of "Christian" movies and shows being made by people who most likely hate Christ and we perceive that to be a good thing. I'm not saying these horribly inaccurate and gross misrepresentations can't be used by God in His divine providence for His glory; I am saying these movies and shows are horribly inaccurate and gross misrepresentations of God and His word. We can't rejoice in blasphemy. We can't cheer on false teaching. It's really not an option. 

"But Tim! What if one person gets saved???"

That person was getting saved regardless. The doctrine of unconditional election is why I believe so strongly that we don't need to lease out our right to evangelize to scoffers (Psalm 1). 

One of the only, and I mean only, good things to come out of the Elephant Room 1 & 2 was an interaction between Perry Noble and some of the other guys. Perry Noble was trying to defend his church using "Highway to Hell" by AC/DC as a worship song because one man was allegedly saved after hearing it. Perhaps he meant to say that the song got him thinking and the sermon included a Gospel presentation? I doubt the authenticity of the story because Perry Noble is a delusional narcissist parading around as a pastor but also because people are only saved in response to the Gospel. Regardless, Matt Chandler retorted and said something to the effect of men being saved after their mother's die in an accident but none of them (the pastors) are suggesting they begin a mom-killing ministry. 

Even some of the more conservative and theologically sound men (men I believe to be solid believers) I've followed online can seemingly succumb to this mentality. I don't question their salvation and I can't judge their motives. I feel comfortable assuming their motives are pure but I can question the wisdom behind saying Coptic Christians are in hell right after 21 of them had their heads cut off. We should ALL be open to counsel on how to better evangelize. I confess I am imperfect in how I do it. I agree that flawed evangelism is better than no evangelism. A man yelling the Gospel in people's ears is better than no one saying it at all. That does not mean that we can't all seek to be better evangelists. We can't be content to just evangelize. We need to evangelize as best as we possibly can.
They've adopted, at times, what I perceive to be an unnecessarily combative and incendiary platform in order to defend the truth and win people to Christ (I truly believe those are their motives). I love the truth. I love it. I love seeing people won to Christ but doesn't mean I'm going to not weep with those who weep just because they aren't believers or they might not agree with me 100% theologically. Maybe they are weeping and are saddened but the perception is that they're not. We can't change to suit everyone's desires and make everyone happy but I think we can step back and make sure we're doing things as lovingly as we can so as to not be an unnecessary stumbling block in people's ways. Speak the truth? Absolutely. Speak the truth in love. That love part should cause us to reconsider what we are saying and when and how we are saying it. 

"But Tim! Jesus told people to repent lest they likewise perish! Ha! Gotcha! You lose! That means we show zero sympathy for people who are mourning and we just pound them with the Gospel! You're a false teacher who hates the Gospel and truth, Tim! Admit it! Repent!"

He did say that. He did indeed. But He was responding to a question. He wasn't going to the sites of disasters and causing a scene. He wasn't drawing attention to Himself. He wasn't promoting a method of evangelism. He was simply answering a question about the cause of someone's death being a sign that they were a worse sinner. His reply was to remind them that all people die and some people die suddenly. You don't know when you'll die so you better repent of your sins now. 

What about when Lazarus died. How did Jesus respond? Did He mourn with Mary and Martha? Or did He point out flaws in Lazarus' life? What did He do?

John 11:35 Jesus wept.
It's like Jesus was fully human. It's like He was also fully God. It's like He understands the need to sympathize with people. It's like there's a time to laugh and a time to cry and a time to boldly call out errors and sins. 

I think we've all done this at one point. We've all made a wrong choice, a sinful choice, and then rationalized it in our minds by saying this thing could, in a roundabout way, lead someone to Christ. I can't even tell you the cockamamie hypotheticals I've concocted in my birdbrain to justify some of the things I've done.  I've been needlessly cruel and cold when famous people have died. Why did I have to bring such and such a person down one hour after he died? Yea it bothered me big time when Steve McNair and Michael Jackson were portrayed as angels but did I really have to remind people of their shortcomings the same day they died??? Maybe that was right. I'm not real convinced it was. I'm not going to lie about someone being in heaven when I don't believe they are but I don't think someone dying is the right time for me to go on the offensive. Gently offer Biblical rebuttals when people say Michael Jackson is in heaven? Sure. That's not what I did though. 

Here's the plan:
Go into all the world and preach the Gospel.
And do it without sinning. 


  1. Lots of good points here. Although here is some food for thought.

    1. I'm not convinced Jesus wept in sadness for Lazarus or even to mourn with the people. I think there is room in the text to perceive his weeping was out of his sorrow for the lack of faith the people had in the resurrection.

    2. You ARE right about not using sinful means to dispense the Gospel. And you may be right that there are times when you can act more wisely than others, but Phil 1 would cause me to think that you ought to rejoice that the Gospel was preached even if you don't like your perceived motives of the person preaching it.

    To me, it comes down to a question of when is the right time to preach the Word? My guess is IN season and NOT IN season is the best answer. There will always be something pulling us away and telling is this isn't a good time.

    As you put it at the end, attempting to have the requisite compassion for a certain circumstance while sharing the gospel is important. But I would lump that in a different category from hanging at strip clubs, attending Benny Hinn crusades or murdering so your trial can make Christ famous.

    1. Food for thought indeed. Perhaps I should have said "sympathize" rather than "empathize."
      Nor do I think He was sad for Lazarus. I think He was sad for the reason you stated, and that the wages of sin is death and He was moved by the sadness of the group (motives for His being moved not entirely clear).
      I guess I'm looking at it the way we would look at the cross. We aren't sad because Christ died we are sad because He had to die. I don't know if that distinction is clear. That's troubling to us and it moves us.
      Either way, He wept with those who were weeping. If I were at a funeral of someone I knew wasn't a Christian, I would weep for different reasons than others were, right? I'd also be weeping because I was sad for the other people who will no longer have a husband/wife/friend on Earth. I weep for friends when people I know are saved die even though they know they'll see their loved one again but I also might weep for unsaved people who don't understand the resurrection and think they'll never see their loved one again.

      I contemplated Philippians 1 and I agree with you but I tried not to judge motives and rather just judged what people said or did. It is definitely a wisdom issue. I don't doubt the motives of Pulpit and Pen and Tony Miano. I think they are seeking to glorify God and uphold His word. I just question the wisdom of the timing and medium they use to do so.

      Of course in season and out of season. I think you know that's not an issue with me.

      Perhaps they could be in different categories. I'll give that to ya if you wish. I'll go back and change that to being a wisdom issue because I can't say that's sinful because I don't know their motives and me being a charitable Christian should grant their motives to be pure until proven otherwise.