May 17, 2010

Grace Abounding: A Weekend of Grace in Pittsburgh

I love visiting the Grace Laborers in Pittsburgh. They are so filled with the Word of God and with the Spirit of the Lord Jesus Christ. We spent the weekend in prayer, fellowship and the edification of one another with the Bible.

Brian and pastor Mark traveled across the state of PA Thursday, and I left from York after quitting time on Friday. As I was driving to Harrisburg the wind was strong and it began to hail. Traffic slowed to a stop as large hail stones beat against my windshield. The rest of the drive was nice, even with a rainbow in the mountain clouds.

I arrived at Bob the evangelist and Linda's house Friday night during a prayer meeting. I can't describe all the details of that time, except for the feelings of grace and joy in seeing every face of the saints there.

Saturday morning I was thinking that certainly all of Pittsburgh would be converted or at least hear the gospel of grace preached that day, because there was an army of street evangelists heading out. We were, in all, 12 brothers and sisters in Christ meeting together early at Subway on Wood Street. Each of us shared about ourselves and a Bible verse, then prayed and hit the streets.

At Point Park, I met a young woman who was willing to talk to me about the gospel from the Bible. I was explaining to her how marriage is meant to be a picture of what Christ's love for the Church is like. At that point she brought up homosexuality, since that was something she admitted to either practicing or desiring. I patiently and gently explained that the reason homosexuality is sin, is because it violates God's design for marriage between a male and a female, and how it goes against the picture of God's relationship with His people that marriage is supposed to represent. I would love to talk to more homosexuals and point them to Christ as the true answer and only satisfaction. In addition, I feel the need to study the Scriptures more specifically to correct the lies that our culture spreads concerning the sin of homosexuality. I preached Christ and Him crucified for sinners, and graciously exhorted her to read her Bible and look to Him. She admitted that what I was telling her about salvation was really good news, and also accepted some of my gospel tracts as I departed.

The rest of the afternoon was spent in fellowship with "gentle" John. We talked about Christ in the Old Testament and the gospel of John. It was such an edifying time.

Later I met with Mark "Grace" and we went to the corner at Pitt, where we met an African-American Muslim walking and exercising. I argued with him about the Qu'ran a little bit, until he asked me something like, "What do you want me to do?" I replied loudly, arms waving, "I want you to come to the Bible, I want you to come to the light!" At that moment a foreign Muslim student overheard, turned around and came back to question me. I showed him where Jesus claimed to be God in John 8:58. After that he said it must be a corruption and left.

That night was our Bible study together. Bob, Jr., pastor Mark, Bob, and I shared from the Scriptures, with the others joining in. We were rejoicing in grace, exalting our Savior as our true hope and glory, confessing the worthlessness of our works apart from His cross, and speaking of the power of the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, including much more. Bob spoke on how the self-righteous are seeking to justify themselves by their own crosses (i.e., their own self-sacrifices), while true Christians glory in the cross of Christ, where our life ends and His begins in us.

So much more I could mention, but let me leave with this verse of Scripture, where Paul comments on his calling as a preacher of the gospel:

Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ; And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ:
(Ephesians 3:8-9)

How could we ever be ashamed of the gospel, when it is just too good not to share?

But the natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolish to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.
(1 Corinthians 2:14)

May 5, 2010

Encouragement to My Fellow Christians to be more Evangelistic

(Note: This post was taken from something I wrote a few years ago in response to a question about what I would want to say to encourage others in evangelism)

Having the right understanding of the gospel and the Bible is very important (Colossians 1:9), and so I want to try to encourage others to read the Bible with a passion for understanding it.

Prayer is where it all begins.

We all need to begin by praying for a heart that loves Christ more, and seeks His glory in reaching those for whom He gave His life (Matt. 9:38; Luke 11:2; Rom. 10:1; 2 Thes. 3:1).

Timidity is not a good thing (see 2 Tim. 1:7), and it is not loving, but rather selfish and insincere. I know this, because timidity has plagued me all my life. A good way to overcome this fear is to know the Bible inside and out. It is not enough to read books and hear sermons about the Bible. We have got to read Scripture for ourselves.

We need to become familiar with the abundance of wisdom and understanding that the Scriptures provide for those who love Jesus Christ (Colossians 2:3). And we must not forget that our love comes directly as a result of His unfathomable love for us (1 John 4:10).

We need to be familiar with the cross and with the power of His resurrection (1 Cor. 2:2; Phil. 3:10). We need to have died with Christ, that we may live together with Him (Rom. 6:8; 2 Tim. 2:11). We need to live by grace and not by our own efforts (1 Cor. 15:10). It must be Christ in us moving us to will and to work according to His good pleasure (Gal. 2:20; Phil. 2:13).

I really believe 2 Corinthians 13:5 applies directly to every Christian in our day, which exhorts us to "examine" and "test" ourselves to see if Christ is really in us. There is a wonderful sense of confidence that comes with having the proper assurance of Salvation. The letter of 1 John was written so that we may know that we have eternal life (1 John 5:13), so I think we should read that New Testament letter carefully for that end.

As established believers in the faith, we need to continually return to the source and fountain of living waters. That is where we get refreshed. We must always be going before the Throne of Grace and seeking our High Priest who is able to help us in our weaknesses. It is the power of Christ, and not us that will give us the victory so that we may overcome. Christians ought to pray together for the world, because that is when God will begin to work in sending us for missions and various ministries according to our gifts.

- In His grace, Penn T.