Walking The Roman Road – Lenten Season 2019
“I am not ashamed of the gospel because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes; first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.” (Romans 1:16 NIV).
“But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9,10 NIV).
One of my all time favorite Pastors and authors is Rick Warren. I have read his book The Purpose Driven Life (and The Purpose Driven Church) multiple times. But I am still confused by something he says. He seems to indicate that there are different churches with different gifts and a different focus. No doubt that is true. But then he says that some churches are focused on Evangelism and others are not and that’s ok. Really? That doesn’t seem ok to me at all.
I think Jesus made himself abundantly clear that we were to go and make disciples (Matthew 28:19-20) by baptizing people and teaching them. Sounds like evangelism and discipleship go hand in hand and, even more, that the purpose of discipleship is that new believers would also learn to do evangelism.
A lot of people seem to get confused about these things.
If you tell them that they should do evangelism, they say something about it not being their gift. But Paul tells us in Ephesians 4:11-32 that God made some to be teachers, some to be evangelists and some to be pastors and so on. So people say that they were not given the gift of evangelism. But that isn’t what it says at all. The rest of the verse goes on to say that God gave these gifts to the church “for the equipping of the saints for the work of service” (vs. 12a). The reason Jesus gave these gifts to the church was not so that the gifted ones would do the work but so that they could teach the rest of us to do the work. Everybody needs to pray, but God gifted some people with intercessory prayer so that they could teach the rest of us to pray. Everybody needs to do evangelist, but God gifted some people with the ability to do evangelism so that they could teach the rest of us how to do it. And so on.
So there is no excuse. The focus of the Kingdom of God is on Evangelism. Not moral living. Not feeding the poor. Not works of service. They are all fine but they are not the focus. Kingdom Evangelism is the focus. That’s why we have been studying the book of Romans in the context of the Roman Road of Salvation. We aren’t interested in doctrine for doctrine’s sake. We want to know how to talk to modern people about things that affect all of us. Sin, Wrath, Justification, Peace with God, Sanctification, Suffering, Glory. The trick is to try and understand it well enough that we can find the right words to use when we are talking to people on the street, in the coffeeshops, online.
Let’s take another look at the Roman Road of Salvation.
It normally has five parts to it though they could be clustered together a bit. The first two belong together and summarize what the problem is. The third one is the solution. The fourth and fifth one has to do with how we become saved and what it means for us. Let’s take a look.
The Roman Road of Salvation
1. Romans 3:23 “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”
2. Romans 6:23a “for the wages of sin is death.”
3. Romans 6:23b “but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (also Romans 5:8 “But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”)
4. Romans 10:9 “That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and you believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” (also Romans 10:13 “for “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.””)
5. Romans 5:1 “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (also Romans 8:1 and 8:38-39 “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus…..for I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”)
There it is in a nutshell. The Way of Salvation using the Book of Romans. It is beautifully simple but, at the same time, deceptively deep. And it doesn’t always make much sense to the modern ear. It needs to be used more like an outline, or a skeleton, on which meat and bones are meant to be added. And that is the purpose of these blog posts.
I spent a lot of time talking about sin in these posts because I believe that it is a neglected topic and it is impossible to understand the good news without first believing the bad news. The truth is that we cannot change the human heart. If we are going to do evangelism, we had better learn how to pray for the people we are talking to. From start to finish it is the work of the Holy Spirit. As we have said, our testimony and witness is essential in the process of evangelism and building a relationship with people is necessary. But still, at some point, we have to “preach the gospel.” We have to tell them the truth about their situation before God as a godless and wicked person. Only the Holy Spirit can convince them of the truth of that perspective.
Most people would readily agree that they are godless. They might claim that they believe in God but all you have to do is point out that believing isn’t the only issue, following God is the key. Even the demons believe…..
People have a bigger problem with the concept of wickedness. You can use the Humpty Dumpty Principle on them and see if that helps. Or you can talk about the incredible evil in the world and try to explore whether or not they consider themselves evil and wicked or not. Some people have been humbled by their own sin, doing something that they themselves know was wrong or that society has condemned them for. That is why we often say that convicted criminals and prisoners are often closer to the Kingdom of God than middle class families are.
In any event, unless there is conviction of the Holy Spirit about their sin, there isn’t much more to talk about. You can tell them the good news that peace with God is possible through Christ but if they don’t believe that there is much of a problem, they won’t be motivated to search for a solution in Christ (or anywhere else).
Another reason that people often come to church that has nothing to do with their own personal battle with sin, is what is often referred to as their “felt needs.” Whether that is loneliness, or poverty, or sickness, or trauma, people come to the Lord for a lot of reasons. Some of them stay long enough to get a good dose of knowledge about what the real problem is. These people are always welcome. Jesus had people come to him for healing, for the benefits, not just because they believed in who he was. They hoped for a cure, a solution to their immediate needs and that was enough. The rest would come later.
Yes, we can help people with a variety of needs both miraculously as well as through therapy and other secondary means. I remember working with a couple who were not Christians but came to me to work on their marriage. They were about to get divorced but wanted to give it one more chance. I told them that I could help them or, more specifically, God could help them. His advice was usually dead on, since He created us and knew how we “ticked.” They always laugh politely at that. But I also told them it would be a tough road and that they would need all the help they could get. They would need help from the community of believers to work with them long term but they would, especially, need help from God through the Holy Spirit which they could only get if they commit themselves to becoming disciples of Him. If they were open to that, I would add a couple of sessions to talk specifically about the deeper issues of sin, godlessness and wickedness in both of them which was affecting their marriage.
So even if people come for other reasons, kingdom evangelism can still happen. It’s a matter of looking for evidence of the work of the Holy Spirit in their lives and asking a few pertinent questions.
Even when the sick came to Jesus and he healed them, it didn’t mean that they would necessarily be saved. He healed ten lepers but only one came back to thank him. Physical healing and temporal solutions are not the most important things in life. They are just a gateway to a deeper healing, a more important discussion, a far more powerful transformation of the human heart.
But after dealing with sin and the consequences of sin (including death), you will have to go on to the solution. Somehow you need to be able to explain why Jesus is the answer. To do so, you need to know what the question is. In other words, if you are unclear on the problem, you will be less than helpful with the solution. Think in terms of sin to start with and add a good discussion about what true justice is all about and people will start to see the hopelessness of the situation. Then introduce the concept of Jesus as our substitute. He becomes the sinner and we become the saint. The price is discipleship. It isn’t just a “get out of hell free” card. It is a new realtionship with God. If the problem is godlessness, the solution must be to become godly. Only Jesus can provide the way.
Then you can talk about the simplicity of faith and the sincerity of belief. If the whole discussion is about relationships, everyone knows that love must be sincere and that true sincerity of heart is a pre-requisite for any relationship. God is no different (other than the fact that you can’t fool him). He knows your heart. Confessing with your mouth and believing in your heart needs to be sincere.
Then you can talk about this new relationship, this new walking with God, this new creation life that the Bible is always going on about. That is a fascinating discussion full of twists and turns but the trick is to keep it real. There will be struggle. That is to be expected. The question is how to handle the struggle, how to understand the struggle, what to do about it. How to get your mind right, transforming it with the truth of the Word of God. Don’t fall into a works righteousness in sanctification now. We live with no condemnation but that does not give us license to do whatever we want. It is an invitation to love God by obeying him and trusting him with your life.
Yes, it is serious business but it is also glorious business. We get to live forever. Sickness and suffering, pain and death no longer have the final say. We are redeemed and will live an eternity with God. That is worth celebrating.
I remember a friend of mine who once told me, “Evangelism is hard.” He was a good Christian man and a wonderful husband and father. But he thought evangelism was hard. I disagreed. I think that it is the easiest thing in the world. It should be a natural discussion if it is an integral part of your life. I can talk about my wife and family with no problem. I can talk about my job or my favorite sports team. I can talk about politics until the cows come home. I’m interested in those subjects. I study them. I read up on them.
The same is true about God, my walk with Jesus and evangelism. Because I’m interested, I learn and I study and practice and I try. Because it matters.
My significance is tied up with my purpose which is an overflow of my identity in Christ. The quality of my kingdom evangelism is a direct reflection of the quality of my walk with God. Nothing less. And I know it.
But that’s not why I do it. I do it because it flows out of me. It is a necessary release to share the gospel with everyone and anyone who gives me an opening. How can it be any other way? Kingdom Evangelism is a natural way of life for those who follow Jesus. I hope this blog has helped you to formulate your answers for the hope that is within you (I Peter 3:15). I know it has helped me.
The Desert Warrior
P.S. Let’s talk to God….
Lord, I want to learn to share the greatest story ever told. I want to learn it and live it and share it with others. You have the very words of life. They can save people and transform them. Kingdom Evangelism is my purpose in life and I pray that you would teach me all of the ways that I can bring your truth into someone’s life. It takes practice but I want to learn. Teach me, O Lord. In your name I pray. Amen.