Pastor, let no one rob you of Revelation 3:20!

“Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If any one hear my voice and open the door, I will come in and will sup with him and him with me” (Revelation 3:20).

That verse, with its promise and visual image, has been a mainstay in my evangelistic presentations for as long as I can remember.  But lately, it’s been under attack.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard self-appointed critics insist, “That statement was made to a church! It’s not to be used for evangelism.”  “Jesus is not talking about coming into the sinner’s heart; He’s talking about coming into a cold, complacent church!”  “You’re taking it out of context to use in soulwinning.”   “Careful scholarship would prevent you from misusing this verse.”

A professor of Greek in a well known, conservative seminary calls it scripture twisting to use Revelation 3:20 in evangelism.

And so forth.

We respond….

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How to measure the effectiveness of your ministry

“Blessed is he who endures.” — James 1:12

Often, at the start of the first service for a protracted meeting –revival, prayer conference, deacons retreat, Bible study, whatever–I’ll say, “Now, everyone wonders at the end of a meeting, what was accomplished. Did we get our money’s worth?

“It’s a good question.  And I want you to know that there’s a way to tell.”

“I want to tell you how to measure the effectiveness of this meeting.  There are several principles. Some of you may want to write this down.”

“First principle: Wait a hundred years…..  And I don’t know what the other principles are.”

It’s a light-hearted way to make a valid point.  Please read on.

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10 things Christians do not ask the world

“Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the world, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful”  (Psalm 1:1). 

“The natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him…” I Corinthians 2:14

Around Easter or Christmastime polls, surveys, and magazine articles all indicate the world has given up on Jesus, on God, on Christians, on the church, or on preachers.  But let not your heart be troubled, Christ-follower.

We may as well ask a blind man what he thinks of the sunrise I enjoyed this morning, a deaf person how they appreciated the symphony, or my unbelieving neighbor what he thought of my sermon last Sunday.

The world is lost.  Never lose sight of that, follower of Jesus Christ. So, we should not be asking it for direction or seeking its counsel. When the disciples told Jesus the Pharisees were offended by Him, he said, “Let them alone. They are blind leaders of the blind.”  (Matthew 15:12,14)

And yet, how often do we hear of people polling the neighborhood of a designated area to find out what people see as their greatest need, what they would like most from a church, or why they no longer go to church. Then, they build a church program around the results of their poll.  What’s wrong with this picture?

They are called ‘lost’ for a reason. (See Luke 15.)

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Letting others do our thinking

“My wife handles the religion in our family.  Talk to her.”  –A man in Luling, LA giving his young pastor the brushoff when I tried to introduce the matter of his relationship to Christ

Who handles the big things in your family?

The old joke goes: “When my wife and I got married, we decided I would handle the big things in life and she would take care of the little things, like where we lived, the house we would buy, the car we drive, and such.  It’s worked well. And, so far, over these 40 years, there have not been any big things.”

I told a group of Facebook friends I was reading James Comey’s book “A Higher Loyalty,” about his years in government, first as a U.S.Attorney and then Director of the F.B.I.  It’s a fascinating book and contains much worth retaining. (Although, admittedly, it can be boring in places.)

Because the man is controversial, the book has been attacked and disputed from the Trump team and his supporters.

The reaction of Facebookers was along party lines.

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Baptismal regeneration? The controversy continues on how to be saved.

“And some men came down (to Antioch) from Judea and began teaching the brethren, ‘Unless you are circumcised according tot he custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.’  And when Paul and Barnabas had great dissension and debate with them, the brethren (there) determined that Paul and Barnabas and certain others of them should go up to Jerusalem to the apostles and elders concerning this issue.”  (Acts 15:1-2)

And so we have what is called the First Church Council, convened by the early church fathers to answer the question ‘How are we saved?’  Is it by faith alone or are works of the law required?  Must a Gentile become a Jew to be saved?

The reason this is on my mind today is that I’ve been in a dialogue with a preacher in the Church of Christ denomination (although he and their leaders insist they are not a denomination!).  He gave me a packet of pamphlets written by one of their elders which he is distributing.  I took it home with me, read through them, and was answering them.  When I concluded he was more interested in defending their narrow (and erroneous) interpretation of the truth than in finding and doing the truth as taught in Scriptures, I shut the discussion down.

One of the pamphlets addresses the question “What must I do to be saved?” from Acts 16:30.  But instead of giving the answer Paul gave–“Believe on the Lord Jesus and you shall be saved, you and your household”–the writer proceeded to attack the very answer Paul gave.  In one paragraph, he writes:

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How to be all things to all people

I have become all things to all men, that I may by all means save some.  –I Corinthians 9:22

Imagine someone saying, “I’ve decided to become all things to all people.”  You would wonder if they had a) lost their minds or b) chosen a shortcut to losing same.

That’s quite an assignment Paul gave himself.  He would, he informs us, become…

–as a Jew in order to reach the Jews.

–as under the Law in order to reach those living under the Law.

–as without the Law that he might win those who are without the Law

–as weak, that he might win the weak

And finally, as though to throw the net over the entire lost population, he says, “I have become all things to all men, that I may by all means save some.”

How does he do that, we wonder.  Is the effective Christian worker to be schizophrenic, parceling himself out to this group and that group with the intention of winning them to Jesus?  And how does that work?

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The test of an honest person (when discussing religion)

“In all things, love.”  –I Corinthians 16:14

That’s one test of a believer and a mighty important one it is.  Our Lord said it is the mark of a disciple.  (John 13:34-35)

Look for the love.  Otherwise, you know this one with whom you are discussing scriptures and doctrines is no follower of Jesus.

The cultist you’re talking religion to across the table or across the continent feels no need to love you since he/she has decided you are not a follower of Jesus since you disagree with their doctrine.  I’ve sat at a table with a Jehovah’s Witness who was brutal and mean-spirited and who may as well have thought of me as a child-molester by the scoffing and belittling he was dishing out.  (I was a younger pastor, and had not learned that there comes a time when it’s all right to say, “This meeting is over,” and walk out.)

But while love is the first mark of the believer, there’s another test for determining whether the person across the table is an honest seeker.

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Seven things to understand when discussing religion

If anyone advocates a different doctrine, and does not agree with sound words, those of our Lord Jesus Christ, and with the doctrine conforming to godliness, he is conceited and understands nothing; but he has a morbid interest in controversial questions and disputes about words, out of which arise envy, strife, abusive language, evil suspicions, and constant friction between men of depraved mind and deprived of the truth…. (I Timothy 6:3ff).

Some people debating religion are this way, Paul.  Conceited and ignorant, rabble-rousers and mean-spirited.  I’ve sat across the table from them more than once.  It’s no fun, as you know.

But some are sincere and faithful brethren trying to get this right.

Help us, Lord.

If you are a Southern Baptist, as I am, you may find yourself having a problem with the theology of some people whom you happen to like and respect as brothers and sisters in Christ.  You respect them and would like to be closer friends, but this “thing” they believe and teach stands between you. So…

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Every pastor needs a plan

“As the Father hath sent me, so send I you” (John 20:21).

How are you going to grow your church, pastor?

If your church is not growing–i.e., reaching new people and discipling those God sends–your church is on the decline.  People die, people move away, some will grow lax and drop out.  No church is static. The pastor who sees his role as maintaining the status quo, keeping those who pay his salary happy and placated, is on a mission to disaster.

Every pastor needs a plan or strategy–a prayer, a personal program, a scheme or something!–for reaching outsiders and bringing them into the congregation and growing this church.

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Call it what you like, God calls it sin.

He who has little thoughts of sin never has big thoughts of God.  –Anonymous

Michigan State’s medical advisor to the nation’s champion acrobats has been sentenced to 175 years in prison for sexual transgressions.  (Update: More and more accusers keep surfacing with lurid stories of the crimes of this man, and judges keep adding years to his sentence.  He’d have to live several lifetimes to serve the complete sentence.)

Hundreds of young women have brought charges and accusations against him. They spoke through tears, telling how he ruined their lives.  To no one’s surprise, the doctor seemed unmoved by it all.  Anyone who would do such a thing has long ago hardened his heart toward God and rejected any thought of compassion toward his victims.  While the doctor did not deny touching these young girls, he explained, “I touched them medically, not sexually.”

Yeah, right.  The women–and the judge–thought otherwise.

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