The Sinfulness of The Sin of Silence, Part 6: An Appendix and The Exclusivity of Means

I would like to add an appendix of sorts to the writings so far in this series.  I do not want to give the impression that we must be uncontrollably (and annoyingly) vocal at all times.  The Bible is quite clear that there are times to be silent.  Job certainly should have been silent concerning the intent and purpose of God insofar as he did not fully know them (Job 42:3).  God tells us in Psalm 46 that there are times that He would have us “be still, and know that (He) is God,” (46:10a), that is, our silence is sometimes the overflow of authentic worship, – when we are overwhelmed and awed at the majesty of our God.  James admonishes us to think before we speak and so to humbly and calmly seek out personal and corporate edification in the unity of God’s Word (James 1:19-20).  So we see that silence is biblical when it is practiced for the purposes of worship and counsel.

My goal, however, has been to uncover our daily shortcomings in evangelism in hopes of showing the sinfulness of the sin of silence in relation to the Great Commission.  These posts have been designed not only to level personal excuses, but to dig up some biblical texts in order to make plain the importance of our Christian duty, the underlying (un)spiritual realities that stifle me quite often, and to examine them in such a way that we might be stirred again to passionate evangelism, and partnership in the Gospel of Christ.  In short, I often need to know and feel the sinfulness of my sin and failure (in this case, evangelistically) before God can truly use the acknowledgment of my disability, and inadequacy in such a way that glorifies the omnipotent ability and sufficiency of Jesus Christ and His grace, – when I am weak, then I am strong!  I hope this is obvious for you also.  To close this appendix, I would simply like to thank God for the awareness of my absolute inadequacy for ministry and daily Christian living.  I pray that I write this with all sincerity and with the purest humility, – I honor God for His grace.  Jesus is the surpassing power for any and all ministry.  Jesus crucified must be the message, for His Word is the exclusive source of true conversion, and transformation, and if it is the exclusive source and He the exclusive Savior, then God help us to make Christ and His Gospel the supreme and centralized priority of and in the Church, and outwards towards the world.  God, and God alone, makes things grow, gives life out of the dead, recreates sinners into saints, adopts the devil’s children into His own glorious family, – Christ and His Gospel eternally reigns preeminent as the exclusive source and power of these awesome works of God in the world.

With these things in mind, I would leave you with a verse to consider (sense I have pretty much covered ‘the exclusivity of the means’), – “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ,” Romans 10:17. 

Faith is impossible apart from the effectual hearing of the word of Christ.  It is possible to hear the word of Christ and not believe.  This kind of “hearing of the word of Christ” however (if it produces faith) is of a different origin, – a divine origin.  In 1 Thessalonians 1:4-5 Paul writes, “For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you, because our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction.”   In a room of 1,000, the gospel is sounded and the invitation given, “Come to Christ and find rest from your labor.”  Fifty respond; 950 do not.  Of the fifty, five are found true over the course of a year of steadfast Gospel labor.  Why?  What is the difference?  All 1000 “heard the word of Christ”; a year later, five stand true.  Why did the word of Christ produce faith in the five, short-lived feelings in the 45, and a greater judgment in the other 950?  Out of the 1000 that heard the Gospel with the physical ear, only five heard it with the spiritual ear, that is, the gospel came to them not only in word (it came in word, but not only in word) but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction.  Paul attributes this to God’s sovereign election, – “we know that he has chosen…because our gospel came to you…(in this divine way)!”

Now why did I have to throw that in there?  So that I could come back here and say without hesitation that those five, although the elect of God before the Gospel came to them and faith was created, would never have believed without the hearing of the word of Christ.  It is not up to men or women or children to discriminate concerning whom to share the Gospel with!  And God’s sovereignty does not impede the invitation to come!  Rather it compels us!  They will not believe apart from the proclamation of the Gospel!  And thank God that a saving response is not contingent upon my eloquency of speech (or lack thereof)!  God saves sinners and He has ordained to do that through Christians who speak the word of Christ to the world, persuading them to be reconciled unto God through faith in Christ, and it will not happen any other way.  The Gospel must be shared because it is the exclusive means of creating faith in the heart of the elect sinner.

The sinfulness of the sin of our silence then is this, – no one will be saved apart from hearing the Gospel of Christ.  God uses the Gospel as it is spoken by wretches like me and you to convert sinners to Christ.  Do you profess Christ?  If that profession is authentic and validated by the witness of the Spirit in your life, then God intends to make use of you to be the vessel that carries the Gospel to any and every lost soul.  What are you doing with this means?  What are we doing with this great Gospel?  Be unbiblical if you want and continue to tell yourself that if God has elected sinners to save then it matters not whether you share the Gospel with them or not.  You’ve missed the point!  Evangelism is a command; sharing the Gospel a privilege and a joy.  God will not do it without the Gospel witness.  You, dear believer, carry that Gospel within your breast.  Why so silent?  Have you put on the shoes of readiness given by the gospel of peace (Ephesians 6:15)?  You must!  Faith comes through hearing and hearing through the word of Christ!  Let us speak exactly that, – not our own word, but the word of Jesus Christ!  And may God providentially bless your labor of grace in Jesus’ name.  Amen.

The Sinfulness of the Sin of Silence, Part 5: Tasting Christ and Telling Others

When I taste something exceedingly sweet and good, the overflow of that tasting results in the desire to tell others about it that they might taste the sweetness and the goodness of the dish for themselves.  The Bible teaches us that this passion is the result of tasting the goodness of the covenant of Christ through faith in Him.  To deny this in practice is to deny one’s confession springing from the Gospel; for how can one truly taste the sweetness of the grace of God’s Gospel and yet remain silent towards the world concerning it?

“Your words were found, and I ate them, and your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart, for I am called by your name, O Lord, God of hosts,” Jeremiah 15:16.  “And he said to me, ‘Son of man, eat whatever you find here.  Eat this scroll, and go, speak to the house of Israel.’  So I opened my mouth, and he gave me this scroll to eat.  And he said to me, ‘Son of man, feed your belly with this scroll that I give you and fill your stomach with it.’  Then I ate it, and it was in my mouth as sweet as honey.  And he said to me, ‘Son of man, go to the house of Israel and speak my words to them,'” Ezekiel 3:1-4.

We do not speak because we are spiritually starved.  We have had no spiritual food.  Many of us have taken in television shows or sporting events or concerts, and having taken them in, it is the first item up for conversation the next morning at work or school or Starbucks.  Why this phenomenon?  Because we took in its content, found it appealing, and enjoyed it such that the overflow resulted in open speech.  We are in expressive, communicative people, and generally, when we have something to talk about, we do just that.  So why not the Gospel?

Because we are not consistently tasting the sweetness and goodness and graciousness of God in and of Himself, and we are not walking in communion with Him.  Our silence concerning Him evidences our lack of awe in Him.  It proves what we believe about God, – that He is less than what He declares Himself to be in the Bible, – and this is the natural overflow of not “eating the scroll”.

The result of our God-wrought conversion is a Godwardness that goes and speaks and stays on mission for Christ.  In conversion the God-hater is made the God-lover.  In Deuteronomy 30:6 Moses would connect conversion and the resultant love of God in this way, “The Lord your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your offspring, so that you will love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live.”  In Matthew 22:37-40 Jesus would connect conversion and loving God, and loving God and loving others by quoting and adding to Deuteronomy 30:6 saying, “(Heart circumcision implied) You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.  This is the great and first commandment.  And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 

God-wrought conversion works in the heart new tastes, desires, passions, principles, and allegiances, – it makes us a people that delights in the Lord supremely because He is preeminently delightful, and when we daily delight in Jesus Christ, the overflow is a burden for our neighbor and a tongue that has tasted the sweetness of God and His Gospel in Christ such that it is loosened to speak of grace.

The sinfulness of the sin of silence is seen thus in the deadness of our spiritual taste buds, the neglect of a God-wrought conversion, and our lack of intimate fellowship with the supremely sweet God.  The encouragement then to you, and the prayer that I would have you pray for me, is that we all who by grace have been made alive to God, to delight in God, to love Christ, and to cherish His Gospel, would do exactly that, – that our speech would spring forth out of our confession of the Gospel and our total delight in God alone in Christ…such that His grace would breed in us an authentic passion to speak the Gospel to our neighbor, compelling the God-hater to eat the scroll of the Gospel, and to taste and treasure Christ for themselves.

May God grant us a harvest in Jesus’ name.  Amen.

The Sinfulness of the Sin of Silence, Part 4: Be a Watchman!

“And at the end of seven days, the word of the LORD came to me: ‘Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel. Whenever you hear a word from my mouth, you shall give them warning from me. If I say to the wicked, ‘You shall surely die,’ and you give him no warning, nor speak to warn the wicked from his wicked way, in order to save his life, that wicked person shall die for his iniquity, but his blood I will require at your hand. But if you warn the wicked, and he does not turn from his wickedness, or from his wicked way, he shall die for his iniquity, but you will have delivered your soul,'” Ezekiel 3:16-18.

Granted, God has called pastors, and evangelists, and men to teach and preach His Word, and to warn sinners of their wicked way, pleading with them to turn from their sin and to trust in Christ for righteousness and salvation. But I am convinced by Scripture that every member of the body of Christ has been saved such that they can then become a vessel of mercy to a merciless world. Every Christian is a watchman of God in the sense that we all have been commissioned to make disciples of the nations.

We know that judgment is coming and that it is not a far off reality. No, unbelievers are condemned already, and the reality of it is coming quickly and nothing can stay Christ’s hand. As Christians we ought to be intimate with the realities of sin, death, hell, and the eternality of torment, and we ought to stand on these things as essential doctrines of the faith which serve to prod unbelievers towards Christ and believers towards a more consistent movement of biblical evangelism.

The world is like the people of Israel hidden behind a wall of security ignorant of impending and sovereign judgment and terror. God likens Ezekiel to the watchman who would keep watch day and night for rival armies and onslaughts. By God’s Word, Ezekiel is privy to His judgment against sin. He knows that it is coming and that when it does the sinner will die. But whose hands will be dirty of the sinner’s blood? Will Ezekiel be silent even though he knows that God is coming in wrath against sin? If he does, he is guilty of that sinner’s blood. Do you see the sinfulness of the sin of our silence? They don’t know what is coming, we do by the grace of God; we can blow the trumpet and warn them; we can offer them the way of salvation, – a salvation designed and purposed by God to save sinners from God. And this we must do lest we commit such a grievous sin, – that we would let the sinner walk into the eternal fires unwarned, – all the while watching them and saying nothing!

Paul remembered this text in Acts 20:26. What he says has always amazed me, –

“I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God. And now, behold, I know that none of you among whom I have gone about proclaiming the kingdom will see my face again. Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all of you, (why?) for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God.

Is this our testimony today? Have you been a faithful watchman boldly declaring the whole counsel of God? This is the only means of new life in the dead heart. “Faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ,” Romans 10:17. No one will be saved without hearing the Gospel of the grace of God in Christ. And they will only hear when we, being faithful to our post, “speak to warn the wicked from his way.” Oh, that every Christian might declare, “I am innocent of the blood of all of you,” no matter if the “all of you” includes a congregation, or your co-workers, or your colleagues at school, or your family members and friends, or the unbeliever on the other side of the intercom at the fast food line. Let us speak up and not be silent. Let us fulfill the duty and the delight of the watchman of God in Christ. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

The Sinfulness of the Sin of Silence, Part 3: Whatever Happened to the Holy Spirit?

“The Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, He will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you,” John 14:26, –

“When the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, He will bear witness about Me. And you also will bear witness, because you have been with me from the beginning,” John 15:26-27, –

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth,” Acts 1:8, –

The Holy Spirit is the forgotten Person in the Trinity. Many, it seems, are afraid of Him. Others have confused the purpose and goal of His ministry. This may be an oversimplification, but the ministry of the Holy Spirit is to transform sinners into disciples of Jesus who daily pursue Christ-likeness and an identification with Christ in His resurrection ministry. By Him we are inclined towards the means of grace and personal sanctification. The Holy Spirit regenerates and quickens dead sinners, and energizes the dynamic of God’s Word. And among these and many other things, the Spirit of Jesus Christ works in us to testify of Jesus Christ, – to speak up concerning the Gospel.

It is this particular aspect of His ministry that I’m concerned with in this blog. Many of us who have been indwelt by Him have experienced that powerful tug upon our hearts to open our mouths and share the Gospel of Christ with the unbeliever nearby. Perhaps we have begun a conversation with them, – we shoot the breeze with them about sports, food, drink, and then we go deeper towards more offensive things like politics and objective morality, and then there comes the tug (will I or will I not – what will I say – how will I do this exactly – how will they respond – this is the spiritual warfare of the moment when eternal consequences hang in the balance!)

It is a worrisome thing not to feel this tug; it is a blessed reality to know it; it is more blessed to act upon it in the power of God’s Spirit. But how many of us are so full of God’s Holy Spirit that when that occasion of witness comes we will quite supernaturally overflow with the words of grace and mercy, of the Law and Gospel of Christ, and these things with all boldness?

Any amount of time spent in Acts reveals a power working within the converts that compelled them to bear witness of Christ before all men, even at the inevitable prospect of suffering persecution or death. John the Baptist prepared the way and Jesus Christ our Lord came saying, “I am the Way,” and that exclusively. Jesus sent His disciples out to preach the coming of the kingdom of heaven. But when Christ had finally been taking up into heaven and was seated at the right hand of power above all rule and authority and name, He sent the Holy Spirit, and the immediate effect was an outbreak of Christian testimony. This is the great consequence of really knowing Christ and the power of His resurrection, that we are filled with the Holy Spirit of Christ and set free to serve all in the proclamation of the Gospel at all costs.

Allow me an example to conclude with, – “deacon Stephen!” Three times the Bible says that Stephen was filled with the Holy Spirit:

1. The first mention of this fullness stands as a qualification of his being chosen as a deacon and of that example that we ought to imitate, – “they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit,” Acts 6:5.

2. The second mention of this fullness pertains to his apologetics, – “then some…rose up and disputed with Stephen. But they could not withstand the wisdom and the Spirit with which he was speaking,” Acts 6:9-10. Notice that he was speaking!

3. The third mention of this fullness comes after he has been falsely accused and seized. Standing trial the high priest asks him if the things that he had been falsely accused of were true. Being full of the Holy Spirit, Stephen took the opportunity to (you guessed it!) open up the Scriptures concerning Jesus Christ (I recommend you reading it!) They didn’t like being told that they resisted the Holy Spirit and murdered the Messiah. Because of these things they became enraged and ground their teeth at him, intending to kill him. Impending martyrdom is the context where we find the Bible saying of Stephen, “But he, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God,” Acts 7:55. And full of the Holy Spirit, Stephen proclaimed to them, – in the face of death for it, – exactly what he had seen, – Jesus at the right hand of God! Again, he spoke!

I mention these things because they prove a wonderfully biblical point and offer a penetrating challenge: The point is this, – If God has filled us with His Holy Spirit He intends for us to speak by Him, in Him, of Christ to all with every opportunity at all costs. Stephen was so full of the Holy Spirit that he delightfully succombed to that which is most natural for the Holy Spirit to do, namely, bear witness of Jesus Christ! The challenge is this, – are you so full of the Holy Spirit? For it is only by that fullness that we, like Stephen, will shun silence and herald Christ! And although it is true that God has given the Holy Spirit to believers in such a way that He could not give any more of Him, yet at the same time we need to be practically, daily, devotionally, passionately filled with Christ’s Holy Spirit. The principle is given, and the practice is on that basis commanded.

My encouragement then is to go and get so drenched with the Holy Spirit that when the opportunity arises to speak up for Christ and for the sake of the lost you will not shy away from it and keep silent but rather overflow with the testimony, wisdom, and power of nothing less than the Holy Spirit Himself which no man can withstand, – in Jesus’ name.

The Sinfulness of the Sin of Silence, Part 2: Disassociations and Disobedience

My intention in this blog is to examine the disassociations from and disobedience to the Word of God in relation to Gospel endeavor. I cannot find a text in Scripture that leads me to believe that a person born of God may disassociate themselves from the clear commands of Christ to share the Gospel on the basis of extenuating circumstance, preference, or opinion.

Our disassociations seem to come on the basis of human distinctions and personal disobedience. We will talk about Christ and have Gospel conversation with those like us. But the tattered beggar at the McDonald’s asking for change, or the tattoed trucker at the gas station; the person whose flesh is of a different color, whose ethnicity is distinctive from our own, whose political slants are insulting to us, whose bank accounts are too high or too needy; the co-worker who cusses too much, whose gluttony disturbs you, whose character is…well, they have nothing good going for them, – they are too sinful to talk to about salvation. They are different. Let us go to our own neighborhoods, our own people, our own kind. We have disassociated from some basic biblical realities, –

1. We were them, – sinners at enmity with God, – and yet God graciously saved us. We are sinners saved by grace. Have we forgotten this so quickly? We are sinners. We are in pursuit of Christ-likeness, but we are nevertheless sinners, and by that reality we ought to endeavor to share the Gospel with other sinners. And we are sinners saved by grace, that is, God was not obligated to save us apart from Christ but He set us in Christ, and that not due to anything in us (we are sinners) but due to everything in Christ and on that basis alone God freely bestowed salvation upon sinners. We didn’t earn it and we aren’t worthy of it, but for Christ’s grace. I often think, – “If God saved me, what reason do I have to doubt that He will save these, and by that reckoning, why have I persisted in withholding Christ from them?”

2. The Gospel implores us to see beyond external distinctions to the internal, spiritual need of all people without distinction. In Christ there is no Jew or Greek, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, or free; but Christ is all, and in all, Colossians 3:11. Because of the binding power of the Gospel, Euodia (a Jew) and Syntyche (a Gentile) are sisters in Christ whom Paul entreats to agree, – on what basis? – that they are in the Lord, Philippians 4:2. The cross-work of Christ knows no distinction but sinner in need of salvation, and we are all him or her. So it is our aim to evangelize the world knowing that the everyone in the world, regardless of human distinction, have at least one thing in common, – we are all sinners in need of Christ. Like Christ let us see the great need of the people we converse with tomorrow and take aim at offering the Lord to them.

3. Then there is always that Great Commission! “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age,” Matthew 28:18-20. Why then are the laborers few (Matthew 9:37-38)? A lack of prayer to the Lord of the harvest for sure, but also a disassociation from the authority of Scripture and its infallible binding upon the very life of Christ’s disciples. In so far as we move away from the Bible, we move away from our Lord Himself, and His exhortations for godly living. Christ commissioned us to be active in making disciples and teaching them to observe all that He has commanded. How are we to teach others if we are unwilling ourselves to obey the authoritative commission and rule of our Lord to advance the Gospel at all costs.

4. We have disassociated ourselves from the cost of advancing the Gospel of Christ and the gracious privilege of sharing in His sufferings. Many of us upon our conversions simply did not count the cost of following Jesus Christ. We did not count all things loss for His sake so that on the occasion of actually losing them for His sake we would not be sidelined from sharing Christ but emboldened to advance the Gospel all the more courageously knowing more intimately the Treasure that is our Lord Jesus Christ (Philippians 3:7-9; Acts 9:15-16; Luke 14:26-33). We are all too comfortable. At the slightest hint of persecution or suffering, – of which by and large we know nothing of, – do you recant and recoil or like the apostles, do you rejoice at being counted worthy of suffering for the sake of Christ and the advancement of His Gospel (Acts 5:41, 16:25).

5. We have disassociated ourselves from eternal musing or meditation. Take time to think about the worst of temporal diseases, those that have no known cure. Think about the worst possible thing that these diseases can do to a person. Answer: Take their life. And then comes judgment and an eternal verdict! What disease can ravage the soul, the mind, and the body so as to take a person to hell? What is the consequence of this disease? Answers: Sin and a second death, that is, eternal torment in hell consequent of a personal and eternal rejection of and transgression against the Eternal God. And because these things are eternal and can capture your soul into hell, this disease, and its consequences are infinitely greater than anything that ravages the body alone unto the first death. But the Eternal God has given, offered, and commanded a Gospel, a cure, – Jesus Christ stepping out of heaven, into flesh, and on a cross, becoming sin for us who knew no sin so that we, the sinner, might become in Jesus the very righteousness of God before God who demands that we are so savingly clothed. This Gospel, beloved, we carry around with us. Every person that we pass is condemned already, embodying sin. Of the deepest sinfulness, then, is this sin of silence when we withhold the only means of eternal salvation and reconciliation to God through faith in the truth as it is in Jesus alone.

These are just some thoughts concerning my personal disassociations and disobedience in Gospel endeavor. There are, undoubtedly, many more reasons for my silence. I would hope to encourage you in this, however, – that the only true failure in Gospel endeavor is to say nothing at all. Every attempt that is made God is pleased to plant. These disassociations are my attempt at getting beneath that singular failure of silence to the “why” have I neglected so great a commission, privilege, and interest in the greatest need of human beings (sinners in need of Christ for righteousness). I hope that this strikes an edifying cord with you, as it does a convicting and repentant one in me. I pray that God might challenge us all, daily, to associate with and acquaint ourselves with Christ, His Gospel, and the condition of the lost, so as to overflow our spirits with an urgent desire to speak to all men, in all places, at all times of repentance towards and faith in Jesus Christ.

Your additional comments to these things are greatly desired by this bondservant who is in such great need of daily reminders to make the main thing the main thing.

The Sinfulness of the Sin of Silence, Part 1

I want it to be known that this series will be blogged due in large part to my own evangelical apathy and the burden and conviction that I have personally felt as time and time again I continue to fail in “setting the Pearl of greatest price” before all men. Accountability is another reason for this series. It is my hope that we will be encouraged by the posts that follow. Much of what is offered is a remembrance of and a thinking upon the many times that I have clipped my lip or bit my tongue even though God’s Spirit was compelling me to speak up. I’d like to address the questions like, “What do I say?” or “How can I get it off my tongue?” or maybe even “Why don’t I have a passion to do this?” and “Where does it come from?”

My aim is to display a universal guilt in the multiplicity of Gospel shortcomings, – everyone has failed in a variety of ways and arenas, and therefore, all must repent towards a more Christ-like means of evangelism. I will attempt at rectifying biblically and logically the sinfulness of this sin of silence, and thereby, to encourage all believers practically in Gospel endeavor, – that we may know the privilege of being the Divine means, a.k.a., the role of human responsibility in God’s end of evangelizing the world for the sake of His name. Let us aspire to that triumphant sentence – “I have warned everyone; I am clean of the blood of all men.”

I have entitled the series The Sinfulness of the Sin of Silence to bring about a deep realization of the nature of that evil that becomes us when we shut up from the world that exclusive and most urgent cure which is able to alleviate the fallen nature of man, the ultimate disease of humanity, and reconcile them to God. But this is necessary, for if we do not feel this, we will not feel a burden for the lost or the great assurance that comes from walking in Christ’s command.

May God bless you – whoever you are – as you read, and me as I blog, that we might all become more passionate and intense for the salvation of sinners. Please dialogue with me on these things that God’s Spirit might be glorified in the edification of His Body. In Jesus’ name, Amen.