Expositional commentary on Scripture using an inductive exegetical methodology intent upon confronting the lives of Christians with the dogmatic Truths of God's inspired Words opposing Calvinism and Arminianism, Biblical commentary, doctrine of grace enablement, understanding holiness and wisdom and selfishness, in-depth Bible studies, adult Bible Study books and Sunday School materials Dr. Lance T. Ketchum Line Upon Line: Christ’s Method of Dealing with Seekers

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Christ’s Method of Dealing with Seekers

His Message to the Mixed-multitudes

And there went great multitudes with him: and he turned, and said unto them, If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple. And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple. For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it? Lest haply, after he hath laid the foundation, and is not able to finish it, all that behold it begin to mock him, Saying, This man began to build, and was not able to finish. Or what king, going to make war against another king, sitteth not down first, and consulteth whether he be able with ten thousand to meet him that cometh against him with twenty thousand? Or else, while the other is yet a great way off, he sendeth an ambassage, and desireth conditions of peace. So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple. Salt is good: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be seasoned? It is neither fit for the land, nor yet for the dunghill; but men cast it out. He that hath ears to hear, let him hear” (Luke 14:25-35).

Very often, when I get together with a group of pastors, right after the handshake and the “how are you doing” question, the next question is, “how many are you running now.” They are asking how many people attend your church services. Although they may not realize it, they are keeping score and trying to see who is ahead. According to Christ’s statements Luke 14:25-35, He does not keep score the same way many pastors and most local churches keep score. In fact, we can readily say that His way of keeping score is radically different from what goes on it most of evangelical Christianity. We might go as far as saying that what Christ says in Luke 14:25-35 is a condemnation against the score keeping of most of evangelical Christianity. Sadly, the vast majority of modern day evangelical Christianity is savorless salt “neither fit for the land, nor yet for the dunghill.” “He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.”

I would imagine that just about every Bible believer would agree that, if we are going to adopt a purely Christian methodology for evangelizing the masses, we must adopt Christ’s methodology wherever we can. There are certain aspects of Christ’s ministry we are not able to adopt (although the Charismatics would disagree). For instance, we cannot go around healing diseases and doing miracles like Christ did, or even like the Apostles did (although God still answers prayer, heals diseases, and is working miracles). If healing were part of the ministry of the Church today, every local church would be a very small hospital with just a waiting room to see the Healer (there would be no need of any hospital rooms, surgeries, medical treatments, or Pharmacies).

What we are seeing in most of modern day evangelicalism is nothing at all like Christ’s example of dealing with the multitudes of Seekers. There are no definitive truths being preached regarding sin by most of modern day evangelicalism. In fact, much of what God calls sin is merely rationalized away or seldom spoken of lest someone be offended. This is what many evangelicals call Positivism. Even the prepositional truths that define the gospel message (the objective facts regarding Who Christ is and what He has accomplished in His death, burial, and resurrection that a sinner must understand, believe, and trust in) are no longer necessary to one’s faith. This is known as Inclusivism.

We can also see in Luke 14:25-35 that Christ had a definitive message to those professing to believe He was Messiah and now wanted to become His disciples. Within most of modern day evangelicalism, we never see anything close to resembling this kind of preaching/teaching to professing believers. In fact, because polls tell us that most professing Christians do not want to be preached at, Church services are set up to resembled large social gatherings where people from all lifestyles and religious beliefs can get together for discussion or conversation. The assembly is set up to be more of a group counseling center intent upon helping people feel good about themselves, regardless of how they might be living before God. Everything about these services is structured to take away the feeling of structure and to avoid the attendees’ memories of their bad feelings about Church from their childhood or since. There is certainly no direct confrontation of professing believers with Christ’s expectation of disciples like we find in Luke 14:25-35.

Most of modern day evangelicalism has seriously distorted evangelism as a whole. Today, unbelievers are invited to attend religious gatherings and participate in religious conversation (dialogue). These gatherings are where professionals deal with Seekers in non-confrontational unobtrusive ways. Conversion is more about accepting the group’s philosophy of religious beliefs and practices than it is about repentance of sin, false religious beliefs, and understanding what Christ has accomplished to save people, trusting Him and calling on Him to save. The acceptance of the group and faith in what the group is doing is more important than accepting certain religious dogmas. This is really the purpose of group assemblies; i.e. acclimating Seekers to the group through relationships.

What we want to see from Luke 14:25-35 is the general way in which Christ dealt with the multitudes or Seekers and is the general way He expects His Church to function. I think we will see that He does so in a way that is remarkably different from what has become the accepted norm within modern day Christianity. There are no psychological manipulations going on in Christ’s methodology. There is no masking of intent hidden behind some covert agenda. Jesus is obvious, direct, confrontational, and gives definitive statements that are ultimatums without exception clauses. It seems obvious that Luke 14:25-35 is a directive in the way He wants His local churches to function.

It seems obvious to me that there are some governing principles and methodologies in Luke 14:25-35 that should govern the way local churches do ministry. It also seems obvious to me that the vast majority of evangelical churches have seriously distorted the way Christ qualifies true disciples and, therefore, defines what constitutes membership within a local church congregation of disciples. Instead of a Sola Scriptura methodology for ministry, modern Evangelicalism has adopted methods determined mostly through philosophical rationalism, not Biblical exegesis. The central criterion for this rationalism is based upon the false premise that if the method produces numbers (multitudes), God must be blessing it and, therefore, God must approve the method.

It is difficult for modern day evangelicals to escape the pragmatic thinking that encapsulates it, captivates its thinking, and has led it down a road with a focus upon results (numbers of people). We would like to blame this all on New Evangelicalism, Post-modernism, Bill Hybelsism/Rick Warrenism (Purpose Driven Church), or the Emerging Church philosophies. The fact is, all of these philosophies of ministry evolved from the practices of mass evangelism that came out of the Billy Sunday/D.L. Moody (and their successors) types of campaigns or Bible conferences outside of the definitive Scriptural perimeters of the local church.

Under this methodology, the masses were invited through city-wide evangelistic campaigns to come to large tent meetings with benches and cedar saw dust scattered on the ground (to keep the mud from caking and to keep the smell of thousands of sweating bodies from becoming unbearable). In this environment, soul stirring hymns were sung, soul stirring messages from world renowned speakers were preached, invitations to repent of sin and receive Christ were given and thousands of people made professions. However, seldom were these messages accompanied with personal instruction regarding ecclesiastical and personal separation responsibilities (like found in Luke 14:25-35) once a person accepted Christ. Seldom were professions of faith followed up by giving new believers instructions regarding Christ’s expectations for putting off the old life and putting on the new. Evangelists believed their job was to persuade people to believe. However, because this was done outside of local churches, these individuals’ decisions were seldom followed up with solid discipleship.

Often many of these people returned to their apostate churches. Seldom was there any in depth discipleship of those making professions. Out of all of this, local congregations did grow in numbers and church attendance increased. However, there was also a shallowness of theological depth within many of these local churches as mass evangelism was emphasized and discipleship was superficial. This generation became known as the Christianity that was a mile wide and an inch deep.

Within certain circles, mass evangelism took a more Scriptural methodology in the bus ministry philosophies of Elmer Towns and Jack Hyles and what came to be known as Door to Door Evangelism. However, even this methodology began to degenerate with some serious aberrations. Soon, every service in these types of local churches became mini-evangelistic meetings. Soul-stirring hymns were sung and soul-stirring messages were preached with the emphasis on getting lost people to come to church services to hear great preachers preach and to get lost people to walk the isles to be pray the Sinners Prayer. Every message in every service was a salvation message.

Needless to say, even though many of these local churches had huge numbers of professions of faith and large numbers of baptisms, most of the people in these churches were never really discipled in “the faith.” There were often as many going out the back doors of these churches as were coming in the front doors. The philosophy of evangelism was merely to get more coming in than were going out. The large numbers of professions and baptisms merely added to the breadth of the numbers within professing Christianity, but the spiritual depth did not increase in any real substantial way. The River was growing wider, but the depth was not increasing much.

Discipleship in most of these Soul Winning churches involved teaching people to memorize the Romans’ Road and teaching them a methodology of witnessing that would produce the greatest numbers of professions. Sadly, even though the leaders in these churches denied it, this methodology was more about accounting (numbers) than it was about souls. It led to an unhealthy method of Score Keeping and the merchandizing of people in what might really be described as Empire Building (Pastoral Empires). Out of these types of Church Growth models evolved the various and diverse pragmatic extensions we see in modern evangelicalism of today; New Evangelicalism, Easy Believism, Only Believism, Positivism, the mega-pragmatism of the Carnival Churches and their message of Cultural Relevancy (Hybalsism/Warrenism), and the Easy Prayerism of Hylesism.

It has been said that when a person chooses the beginning of a way, he also chooses the end of that way. If I get on a road that ends with a hundred foot drop off into a ravine, unless I get off that road (repent and change direction), I will undoubtedly end up at the bottom of that ravine. The present Trinity of Pragmatism (Hybalsism/Warrenism/Hylesism) is the ravine. The reason the ravine does not appear as dangerous to the majority of professing evangelicals is that it has been created over the last hundred years by the river that is a mile wide and an inch deep. The vast majority of professing evangelicals do not have enough theological depth even to recognize the problem. They do not even know they are already in the ravine and part of the problem. They, in fact, have become defenders and propagators of the very philosophies that have put them in the abomination in which they exist. They may be in the Shallows, but they are stuck there nonetheless.

As we begin to address the philosophical failures, and establish and define a Biblical methodology from Luke 14:25-35, let me say I appreciate soul stirring hymns and soul stirring preaching. However, we must begin by Scripturally defining what soul stirring means regarding both worship music and preaching. There are two critical texts in the epistles that define what soul stirring music should be about.

17 Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is. 18 And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit; 19 Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord; 20 Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ; 21 Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God” (Ephesians 5:17-21).

16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. 17 And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him” (Colossians 3:16-17).

In Ephesians 5:19-21 and Colossians 3:16-17, God instructs us that “psalms and hymns and spiritual songs” are to result in introspection and reflection. Introspection means that true “spiritual songs” will cause us to speak to ourselves in a way that leads us to consider our own internal spiritual condition as compared to God’s revealed will. Introspection turns our hearts to compare our spiritual reality with God’s Word.

Reflection means that “psalms and hymns and spiritual songs” are to cause us to fix our thinking upon Scriptural Truths (Theological proclamations) that lead us to worship God in grateful admiration and praise for His goodness and grace in our lives. Introspection and reflection are the two main things that a true Christian should be involved with in singing “psalms and hymns and spiritual songs.” “Psalms and hymns and spiritual songs” are not for our enjoyment or entertainment. If that is all they do, they are not “spiritual.”

Truly “spiritual songs” are intent upon stirring our thinking towards the things of God and stirring our actions and emotions towards worshiping God through joyful obedience to His commands and loving (self-sacrificial) ministry to the world. Using worldly music to make Christianity culturally relevant is an oxymoron because that is not the purpose of worship music. Spiritual music is not intended to make the church relevant to the cultures of the world. Spiritual music is intended to communicate the truths about God and the commands of God relevant to Christians.

I assure you, the communication of God’s truths and God’s commands is a purely spiritual endeavor that must be separated from worldly methods. The purpose of spiritual music in the discipleship process is not to make Christianity culturally relevant by integrating worldly aspects of the cultures into worship. This kind of integration thinking is what Roman Catholicism has done with pagan cultures for centuries. They merely incorporated aspects of pagan cultures and aspects of their pagan worship practices with Roman Catholic rituals and thereby absorbed those cultures and false religious practices. This argument for cultural relevancy is nothing more than an ancient Roman Catholic methodology integrationism (spelled COMPROMISE). It is a contradiction against spirituality in that the intent of discipleship is to eradicate worldliness from a believer’s life, not incorporate worldliness into the believer’s life.

Producing worship that results in joyful obedience to God’s commands and loving (self-sacrificing) ministry to the world should also be the objective of soul stirring preaching. Soul stirring preaching is predominantly about proclaiming what God says and what God wants in dogmatic terms intent upon persuading sinners to yield their wills to God’s will. Soul stirring preaching is predominantly theological and doctrinal. Soul stirring preaching is preoccupied with what God has said (His Word). Soul stirring preaching is about leading souls to spiritual maturity through incremental decisions of yieldedness. Soul stirring preaching is confrontational, uncompromising, to the point, and specific.

The predominant theme and purpose of soul stirring preaching is complete, absolute, total surrender to Jesus Christ and loving Him to the self-sacrificial degree that, by comparison, you “hate” your “father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and” your “own life also.” In fact, Christ says you cannot legitimately consider yourself one of His disciples until you BEGIN with that kind of commitment. He also says that before you begin, you better stop and count the cost of this expectation. The person understanding the purpose of preaching understands the commitment necessary to God’s intended benefit from that preaching. Without the initial commitment, the professing disciple will never realize the intended benefit.

We are not talking about salvation in Luke 14:25-35. We are talking about discipleship. Christ is telling us that when we accept the beginning of the way of discipleship, we are accepting the end of the way of discipleship. To declare one’s self a disciple of Jesus Christ is to accept the Cross as a reality in our lives (Gal. 2:20). Discipleship is death to selfishness. Discipleship is death to personal ambitions and worldly pursuits. Discipleship is a declaration of determination to “study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly diving the Word of truth” (II Timothy 2:15). Discipleship is the declaration to be a “living sacrifice” intent upon living or dying to the glory of God (Romans 12:1-2). If that is not the reality of your Christian testimony, your Christian testimony is a lie and you are a hypocrite.

There is another critical aspect to Christ’s methodology that few ever seem to see. This aspect of His methodology is a total contradiction to what we see as acceptable Christianity within the river a mile wide and an inch deep. WITH EVERY INCREMENTAL DECISION THAT CHRIST LED HIS DISCIPLES THROUGH, HE INCREASED HIS EXPECTATIONS OF THEM AND THEREBY LESSENED THE NUMBERS THAT FOLLOWED HIM. This is the normal progression in true discipleship and spiritual growth (progressive sanctification).

True discipleship refines the multitudes of professing believers and naturally purges out those failing the constant tests of faith by their own pathetic indecisiveness. It is through this refining fire that God determines those individuals He can trust with His glory and through whose lives He can produce fruit. God is exalted and glorified through His miraculous workings through the lives of the few, not in the lives of the masses. God is repeating the story of Gideon in every true Church of Jesus Christ. If we miss that truth, we have missed the message of Luke 14:25-35.

In the establishment of any local church, after the laying of a solid foundation of disciples of Jesus Christ, if those disciples end up raising up a banner to glorify some man instead of glorifying God, that man’s ministry has been a failure. If the ministry of any man does not result in disciples becoming a “city set on a hill” with all their “light” directing the world to look upon Jesus Christ, that man’s ministry has been a failure. Discipleship is not about building monuments to men. If that is the case, what is being called discipleship is not discipleship at all. Every local church is to be a monument to glorify God. Those of us intent upon making disciples better insure that we maintain that focus in our everyday ministries. We should never forget that there is a “great gulf fixed” between Empire Building and Kingdom Building and, we all had better regularly evaluate with which of the two we have involved ourselves.

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