Preaching In A Graveyard
Those who proclaim the gospel preach in a graveyard. Lazarus cannot obey Christ’s command until he is given new life, and this is something only God can do (John 11:1-44). When Lazarus is given new life, he immediately responds and exits the tomb. In the same way, the spiritually dead sinner cannot respond to the gospel until he is given new life through the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit. –Keith Mathison
I love the spirited exchange of ideas with intelligent men. It can be educational, edifying, refreshing and sometimes, downright infuriating. I especially appreciate men who can engage in discussion with individuals of disparate points of view without feeling threatened or disrespected. I am a pretty simple guy, but I like to be around really smart people who can stimulate my thinking and who are not unwilling to challenge my thinking or the process by which I may have arrived at a particular position. What I don’t like is discussion with a person who interprets “I don’t agree with your premise” as, “you’re a bad person.”
I have a few, albeit very few, friends who are able to disagree without being disagreeable, or who can confront without be combative and who can walk away from a discussion free of bile of bitterness; ready to engage yet again when it seems profitable to do so. I think it is to this type of person the Scriptures refer to when they declare in Proverbs 27:17, “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.”
Consider the founding fathers who put granite hard foreheads together to forge a nation. Men like Jefferson, Adams, Hancock and others were principled men of deep and unshakable conviction. They debated, they argued, pounded their fists into their desks, they yelled and shouted at one another but they didn’t walk away and they didn’t quit. Rather than to dismiss those who disagreed with them, they embraced contrary ideas and assigned value to those with whom they disagreed. Out of their imperturbable spirits came some of the greatest documents ever conceived by carnal men. It would seem that few, if any, such men exist in Washington today; or anywhere else for that matter.
While debate and discussion are a vital part of a healthy intellectual and spiritual life, it is possible that we misunderstand our responsibility with regard to the work of evangelism – or reaching lost men with the gospel Christ. It would seem to me that the Scriptures are weighted more toward proclamation than explanation. It is the preaching (proclamation) of the gospel that causes men to believe as the Holy Spirit bears the message to their hearts and pricks them with holy conviction of sin.
“For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.” (1 Corinthians 1:21)
God provides, as a gift, a measure of faith that a man might believe to be true what he has heard, and in that small measure of faith – trust in the work of Christ. The believer is then taught the principles of the faith and as he matures, comes to greater and greater understanding of the gospel.
There are those who say, “Explain to me the gospel that I might believe it.” This is an impossibility. The gospel cannot be explained so that a man might believe it. The gospel is first believed before it is understood. “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.” (1 Corinthians 2:14)
A man cannot comprehend the gospel while he is dead in his sin. His spirit is dead to God and to the things of God. He must first be made alive by the Spirit of God so that he can receive the things of God. When Peter preached on the day of Pentecost, he made a simple, spirit empowered proclamation of the gospel which drove a knife of conviction into the hearts of those who listened. They cried out, “What must we do?” They believed (about 3000 of them) and in subsequent days as they met together under the teaching of the apostles, fellowship, breaking of bread and praying together they grew in faith as it was taught (explained) to them.
Evangelism is an exercise in trusting in the powerful Word of God to pierce a man to his core; to regenerate him, raising him from spiritual death. The only other alternative is to depend upon the effectiveness of my own skills to adequately explain to a dead man the truth of the gospel in order that he might believe. Lazarus had to be awakened from death before he could respond to Christ’s command to “Come forth!” One can explain the intricacies of the gospel over and over again to men who might understand your words, without ever coming to faith.
We will not win a man to Christ by convincing him of the Biblical view of abortion or homosexuality because it is not the understanding of moral issues that transform a life. Our goal is not to convert our friend to a particular morality or behavior set; our goal is to win him to Christ. Men are not intellectually stimulated into the family of God.
No, men come to faith in Christ when they are broken upon the rocks of conviction at the foot of the cross. Men are overpowered by the love of Christ, and the reality of the Living God is driven into their hearts through the supernatural agency of the Holy Spirit – and they believe.
Evangelism cannot be reduced to a mere intellectual interchange of ideas when in reality, it is a head on collision between world-views initiated by the proclamation of the gospel and empowered by the Holy Spirit.
The power of the Gospel is not in its explanation, but in its transformation. It was Tozer who proclaimed, “It is the Word that does the work.”