"Consider thy ways ..." -
Win The Lost At Any Cost?
In the last issue we began a discussion of what is known as "easy-believism." It is not our intention to offend people, or to condemn everyone who has been, or is now associated with this type of ministry and teaching. We would like to say from the start that certainly a lot of people have went down this road with the best of intentions. The desire to see people saved and brought into the church is not wicked by any means. To the contrary, it is a wicked thing NOT to be concerned about the lost and do whatever possible to bring them to Christ. However, the MOST important thing is to honor and obey God and his Word FIRST. That is MORE IMPORTANT than winning souls. It is our contention that easy-believism has simply cast aside many clear teachings of the Bible and justified it by putting all of the emphasis on the winning of souls.
"WIN THE LOST AT ANY COST." That sounds good and noble, but maybe it is time to stop and look at what it has cost us. For one thing, it has cost us the reverence for the house of God that people in our country used to have. Now, instead of a sacred place, the Sanctuary of God has been transformed into a circus tent. It is quite hard for people to feel anything special about the church house with all the escapades that are going on there these days. Karate choppers, wrestlers, clowns, dogs, pigs, chickens, and special appearances by the worlds heroes, such as professional football players, politicians, etc. Then you have the skits, the contests, the goldfish swallowing, and the special days where the atmosphere in the church is anything but reverent. Many mock at this objection and say the church house is just a building. While it is true that the church house is just a building, it is a special place. It is the place where we meet God together. It is the place that you dedicated to the Lord and now you allow it to be used for a bunch of irreverent nonsense. Moses was instructed by God himself to "put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground." It was holy ground because it was the place where he met God. God just wont come in and join the clowns, the animals, and the circus atmosphere and save sinners. It just doesnt happen that way. "Win the lost at ANY cost?" The cost has been too great and fewer sinners are being saved.
"Win the lost at ANY cost" has cost us some more things. Have you noticed that the zeal and the fire has gone out of the churches? It seems that the desire for the things of God has been stifled and people arent hungering and thirsting after righteousness any more. The church, in general, is not hot, but lukewarm. If this easy-believism way of winning souls at ANY cost is right, and works as they say it does, then the church should be red hot after souls. But the reality is that the church as a whole could care less about souls, and in their own minds, is rich, increased in goods, and stands in need of NOTHING. They are satisfied in a state of deadness, having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof. This is a direct result of turning salvation into a mere profession of faith. Take away the conviction of the Holy Ghost and make salvation just a matter of "accepting Jesus" while making the sinners sin an irrelevant issue, and you have a dead religion without the accompanying drastic change in lifestyle and affections. "Win the lost at any cost?" This cost is too great. Weve paid this price, and ended up unable to win the lost. "Win the lost at any cost" is a noble attitude as long as we are talking about our own personal sacrifice of worldly possessions, family, job, money, or whatever, but we cannot include in that the loss of holiness in Gods people and the Truth of his Word.
Jesus said an evil tree produces evil fruit. Simple! Well, lets do a little fruit inspecting. For over twenty years I have listened to men boast of winning souls. Some claim to win many each week on a regular basis, and say they have won hundreds and even thousands over the years. Where are these many converts? I can show you church after church where there is not one soul who is in church regularly that was won on soul-winning visitation! Surely someone will write and say they know of some that were. But what about all those that were "won" by these "soul-winners" but never came to church? Is there the possibility that they were deceived about their soul? You better believe they were deceived! And while those on soul-winning visitation are being deceived at home, others are coming to church and "making a profession" and the church is being filled with unconverted sinners who think they are saved. What kind of fruit is that?
That Easy-believism has distorted the teaching of soul-winning is very obvious. It is common to hear their preachers making statements questioning the salvation of anyone who doesnt go soul-winning. At the same time they will defend the salvation of some young person who grew up in the church, but lived a wicked life and died in a drunken car crash, saying he died because of the chastisement of God. So we have faithful people in the church, who have lived holy lives for God for many years, and been faithful to the church and the man of God, but dont go out and squeeze professions of faith out of sinners, so they are headed for hell. Then we have what they call the "carnal Christians" who live their lives without any evidence of Gods influence at all and we are supposed to believe they are saved because of a puny profession they made at some point in their lives. It doesnt take a degree in theology to see that something is wrong with that kind of teaching.
Another thing that makes it very obvious that the easy-believism teaching of soul-winning is wrong is the fact that it cannot be practiced everywhere. If you were a Christian in Saudi Arabia, or just about any Arab country, you would not be able to go "knocking on doors" and "soul-winning." If you tried it you would lose your head before sundown. What we are saying is that the manner of soul-winning that is being taught cannot be right, and it cannot be the tenet of the faith they make it to be, because it cannot be practiced everywhere. Tell the church in China that if they dont go knocking doors they just arent saved! Lock a Christian up in the dungeon and put him in stocks. How will he go "soul-winning" then? How do we explain the fact that throughout the history of the church the greatest times of growth have been accomplished under just such circumstances as these? John Bunyan wasnt out soul-winning all the years he rotted in jail but he was busy writing "Pilgrims Progress." Adoniram Judson was not going soul-winning in Burma all the years he was burying his wives and children, and hanging by his arms and legs in a prison. How many souls did John win on the isle of Patmos every week while he was banished there? No matter what they try to make people believe, the Church has not survived the past 2000 years on the modern practice of "soul-winning." Our spiritual ancestors did not practice evangelism the way the modern independent Baptists are doing it today. And they won souls! They won more souls than the church is winning today! And they left a church for their descendents, which is more than can be said for our generation. This pressure that is being put on the people in the churches to "go soul-winning" is not of God, but of men who want to extend their little kingdoms and increase their empires. It is done to put the people on a guilt trip and keep them under control, just as the cults do with their commands to celibacy and abstaining from meats, etc. It is being promoted by men who have worldly philosophies of success and no idea of what God considers successful.
It is so very simple. We are not commanded in the Bible to go "soul-winning." We are not even saddled with the responsibility to "win souls." That is Gods work! What we are commanded to do is to PREACH THE GOSPEL TO EVERY CREATURE. We are to sow and water it is GOD that gives the increase! That is a joy and a strength to every Christian. It isnt something you have to shamed and beaten and pushed into doing. It is the natural fruit of a heart that has realized the wonder of the Gospel. There is nothing wrong when the preacher reminds us that we should be witnessing for the Lord and of the things He has done in our lives, surely that is part of his duty as a preacher. But when he starts putting the pressure on because you dont have so many down the isle and in the water every Sunday, he has went beyond and out of bounds. He is NOT in the Bible now! His job is this: "Feed my sheep." There is life after salvation! There is a life to be lived and more about Jesus to learn. When that fact is ignored in order to press soul-winning the whole thing simply dies. Souls arent saved and those that are already in the church simply wither away in the pews. The church that builds good Christians sees souls saved REALLY saved and brought into the church, where they CONTINUE and ABIDE in Christ.
Should we have visitation programs? OF COURSE! Should we witness every chance we get? YES! Should we give everything weve got to try to win souls? YES! But we must keep in mind what our part is and what Gods part is. We should do our part, and then let God do his part. God is not pleased when men push Him aside and try to take over his work. Salvation is a work of God, not of men. The Bible says it is "not of works?" Well, not of works means not of works. A soul is not saved by his own works, or by the works of some soul-winner. A soul is saved by God. A soul is awakened and caused to look to God by what he sees and hears from the life of someone who knows and walks with God. Assurance of Salvation is the work of God, and not of men. No man has the right or authority to try to assure someone that they are saved based upon a profession of faith. The Holy Ghost bears witness with their spirit that they are the sons of God, upon their obedience to the Gospel. Yet all the soul-winning courses teach that the next step after leading someone to the Lord is to give them assurance of salvation or in other words, to do our best to convince them that they are going to heaven no matter what they do from now on. We must do our part to win souls, but at the same time we must let God do His part. It is time for those who are REALLY concerned about souls to "consider their ways" and make the changes necessary.
So many things are so obvious in the Word of God, yet many times we will go for years with a misunderstanding, or a wrong idea of some passage of Scripture because of what we have heard others say it means. Such is the case with John 21:15-17 where the Lord says to Peter, " lovest thou me?" and Peters answer to him. Someone provoked us to think recently about this Scripture, so we took a little closer look and got a surprise, and quite a blessing.
The words used here for love are agapao and phileo. Of course, we have heard all the through the years that agapao means divine love and phileo means human love. That agapao is a much higher and nobler love while phileo is much less. Agapao is what Jesus was looking for but phileo is what Peter gave him. If that be the case, then Jesus settled for the lesser love because the third time He asked Peter He said phileo and Peter answered with the same.
Just a look at Strongs definitions for these two words will shed much light on the conversation between Peter and Jesus in John 21. Agapao, according to Strongs, means to love in a social or moral sense, embracing the deliberate assent of the will as a matter of principle, duty and propriety. Phileo means to be a friend, to be fond of, to have affection for (denoting personal attachment, as a matter of sentiment or feeling; to kiss (as a mark of tenderness). Phileo is chiefly of the heart, while agapao is of the head. We love our neighbor with agapao love because it is commanded us of God, and it is our duty to do so. We believe God and know that it is right to love our neighbor, but we dont feel toward our neighbor the kind of love we feel toward our spouse, or our children that is phileo love. Emotional love of the heart cannot be commanded it is something that grows with time and experience. Peters answer to Jesuss question "agapao me?" was "no Lord, phileo thee." "Peter do you even love me with agapao love because of who you know I am?" Peter answered, "Lord, I love you with phileo love because you have my heart."
A simple search of the New Testament for both of these words and a look at the context in which they are used will give a clear understanding that what we have always heard about them is exactly opposite of the truth. Phileo is translated at least eleven times in the New Testament as "kiss," meaning a sign of deep affection. Judas betrayed the Son of Man with a kiss that is with phileo love. All the other disciples thought he really cared for Jesus. It was a much more hurtful thing to them than the fact that Judas simply disobeyed the commandment of God, or didnt fulfill his duty.
Try this one: (John 5:20) "For the Father loveth (phileo) the Son, and showeth him all things that himself doeth:" The Father loves the Son with phileo love? Human love, huh?
Heres another illustration of phileo love: (John 11:36) "Then said the Jews, Behold how he loved him!" They said this because Jesus wept. While Jesus was weeping because of their unbelief, and not because of sadness over Lazarus, the point is how this word is used. It was obvious to them that his heart was broken and they thought it was because of how much He loved him. Love that is commanded, or love that exists because of duty, doesnt affect your heart this way.
(John 12:25) "He that loveth (phileo) his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal." Understanding the words is really important here. If you love your life with phileo love you will lose your life. That is to say that if your life and the things you fill your life with have your heart, then you will lose your life. Who doesnt love life? But we better not love our life with phileo love!
(John 16:27) "For the Father himself loveth (phileo) you, because ye have loved (phileo) me, and have believed that I came out from God." I am glad to know that the Father loves me with phileo love and not with agapao love. God loves me with his heart! I really mean something to God!
(1 Cor 16:22) "If any man love (phileo) not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be Anathema Maranatha." Now, honestly, do you think Jesus was trying to get Peter to say that he loved Him with agapao love?
Allow us to do a little paraphrasing here to illustrate what was really going on in the converstaion in John 21 between Peter and the Lord. Jesus said, "Peter, you said once that I was the Christ, the Son of the Living God, but now do you even care about me at all?" Peter said, "Lord, I love you with all my heart." Jesus said again, "Peter, you were with me on the mount of transfiguration and saw my glory, but now do think anything of me at all?" Peter answered again, "Lord, you had my attention then because of your power, but now you have my heart." Jesus then said, "Peter, do you mean it? Do I really have your heart?" Peter said, "Yes, Lord, I love you with my heart now, its not because of the loaves, or the miracles, or the power Ive seen you display, but because of the love youve shown you have toward me."
Now make up your own mind. Look up some verses on your own. There are many more that illustrate what we are saying. Of the two, phileo is to be preferred. It is the stronger, heartfelt, emotional love that people will die for in a heartbeat, while agapao is a much lesser decision of the mind based upon right and wrong and duty.
Bro. Owen has been preaching since June on Romans 8. These are good Bible messages dealing with the issues of walking after the Spirit and walking after the flesh. A lot of commentary on Romans 6 and 7 also, that will provoke some serious thought.
We also have a series of tapes on the Atonement by Bro. Miller that will help to understand what the Gospel is all about, and what Jesus really done for us when He gave himself for our sin.
There are some 20+ tapes in each series. If you are interested in all of them, or just a sample, please contact us. (See page 11) We will send you the tapes for $1.00 each and well pay the shipping.
Coming is repentance. It is the response of the will. Repentance is the response of the enlightened, redeemed man to the call of God, the "I will" of the soul. It is putting your hand on your heart and getting hold of what has been your curse, the thing that has chained you. It is getting hold of the thing that has made hell of earth for you, the sin of your heart--for I have discovered that there may be a dozen sins in a man's life, but there are not a dozen that predominate; there is one overmastering, predominating, all-prevailing sin that enslaves and damns, and if that sin goes everything goes. It is putting your hand in your heart and plucking that out by the hair of its head and saying to God, "That is it, and I will die before I will sin again." Have you repented in that fashion? Don't talk about Church membership, don't insult God by talking about the Communion until you have done this: this is the first thing and the others will not be expected until you have done this.
"Repent ye," make a full surrender to God.
Brother, listen to me once more. Repentance, when it is done, is such a beautiful thing that Jesus Himself said, "There is joy in heaven over one sinner that repenteth." Have you repented along that line? There are some of you who do not understand how it is you have no peace and no joy in your profession. I know just as well as if I lived with you, I know if you have no joy and no peace in your professed faith it is because you have never turned to God wholly. Some of you say, "I want peace." Never mind peace; do as you are told and peace will come. There are some people more concerned about nice feelings, happy feelings, ecstasies and joys, and all the rest of it, than they are about putting God in His place. You put God in His place, and you will have peace; you honor God, and you will have peace.
A dear fellow came to me when I was in South Africa, and he said, "Sir, I want to get relief from a guilty conscience," and he had an awful story to tell, a story that made me shudder. He unfolded a page in his history that I dare not tell you. Then he said, "Sir, I want God's pardon." I said, "Brother, how do you expect to get it?" He said, "By an honest attempt to undo the past." "Then," I said, "turn your face that way and wait for peace." "But," he said, "that will mean prison, and it may mean a lifetime in prison." I said, "Turn your face that way. It is no good to talk about peace while there is wrong to be righted, while there are stripes that need to be washed; it is no use to talk about peace till you get right with God. The kingdom of God is not meat and drink, but righteousness and peace." Righteousness, that means rightness, wholeness, harmony-and then the music. There will be no music until the instrument is put in tune. You know where you have to yield; you know the point of controversy between you and God; you know the thing that has hindered you, you know the thing that robbed you, you know the thing that has darkened your sky, you know the thing that has come in between you and God, you know the thing about which you have persisted in having your own way and not God's. When you yield on that thing, you will repent.
Will you do it now? "But," you say, "I am a Church member." Never mind. You say there is someone near that knows you. Never mind. You say people expect better things of you. Never mind. Be honest. Put God in His right place. Turn from sin to God, from darkness to light- and you can do the turning. The Spirit enlightens, the Spirit breeds tenderness, the Spirit coaxes, woos, tries to win. God the Holy Ghost is doing His work in your heart, but, brother, you must submit. When you submit wholly, that is repentance. God help you to do it!
Midway Bible Baptist Church
(an Anabaptist Church)