A Short Theology of Evangelism
Course: A Short Course on Evangelism
Lecture: A Short Theology of Evangelism
Welcome to session six. We’re calling this “Short Theology of Evangelism”. I have a text, always need to have a text. John Wesley preached more from this chapter than any other chapter in the Bible. He preached more on one verse in this chapter than any other verse in the Bible. It is Romans 8. Let me just give you the first four verses. “Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do, in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. So he condemns sin and sinful man in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature, but according to the Spirit.”
That captures all of what we’ve been saying the first five sessions, starting in the garden. The fact that sin cannot bear the light. God withdrawing beyond the veil and providing opportunity for a covenant renewal and relationship. God loves us and wants to be in fellowship with God’s creation. But yet we merely survive to perfect our own evil and destroy ourselves; and so God preserves a remnant with the flood and with the tower of Babel. That is the last paragraph, by the way, of primeval history - we don’t have an approximate date - all in Genesis 11. This introduces the first paragraph of what we call patriarchal history. There was already a religion in place a thousand years before Abraham. Abraham apparently had evolved to the place where he could understand the concept of one God. God is a jealous God. Why? Because God is the only God that is God. If you’re worshiping a god that is less than God, you are worshiping a god that makes horrible demands and gives precious little in return. You worship the God that is God, you worship a God that makes horrible demands, but gives back, pressed down, shaken together, running over.
Stanley Jones, great Methodist missionary, spent half his life in India, used to say, “That which has your attention has you.” What is the most basic common denominator that supplies the ruling force for your life? What do you think about before you go to bed at night? What do you dream about? What do you think about first thing in the morning? What’s the most basic common denominator that supplies the ruling force for your life? That’s your god. And Stanley Jones said that if your god is less than God, you need to realize that your god makes horrible demands, but gives precious little in return. But if your God is the God who is God, you’re worshiping a God who makes horrible demands, but gives back pressed down, shaken together, running over.
Then we talked about Jesus coming just at the right time, fulfilling Jeremiah 31:31-34, a new covenant, where “I will forgive their iniquity” – get this – “and remember their sins no more.” I love that stuff.
Then we talked about the early church. Jesus Christ had fulfilled all of those Old Testament prophesies and Peter, a lot of Peter’s preaching reminds us how Jesus Christ fulfills all of those Old Testament prophesies. The whole Book of Matthew is written to remind us that Jesus Christ fulfills all of those Old Testament prophecies. Peter’s preaching.
Then of course Paul takes the Word to the Gentiles and low and behold, when he gets to the land of the Gentiles, what does he find? The Spirit of God is already there, preparing people for his ministry.
The theology of evangelism simply reminds us what God has done for us in Jesus Christ. Theology is not a bad word. Bad theology puts people in bondage, folks, I’m telling you. Good theology can set the captive free. We need to understand. Bart used to say, “Theology is the mind worshiping God.” How do we relate to the living God? Who is God? I have already said God is a God of love, mercy, faithfulness, justice and longsuffering.
Here in Romans 8 I find a key. “Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” What is condemnation? Condemnation is guilt, unresolved guilt. Guilt is a good thing, by the way. It is like pain. When you break your leg, it hurts, so you favor it until you can get it set and repaired. If it doesn’t hurt, you ruin it, you run it into the ground. It is like leprosy. Leprosy is the devil’s masterpiece. I worked for three weeks in Mother Teresa’s leprosarium in Calcutta. I had never met the woman. She was in the next room, just too busy. I had been there five minutes, she had us dressing the wounds of the lepers. With leprosy your nerve endings die, so that you no longer hurt, you no longer have pain when you hurt yourself and you don’t favor the injury. Gangrene sets in in your body parts. It’s the devil’s masterpiece, brewed in some malevolent cauldron deep within the bowels of hell.
Guilt is a good thing. You start to die spiritually when you rationalize sin. Guilt prevents us from rationalizing sin. With leprosy, you no longer feel the pain. If you don’t have guilt, you no longer feel the pain of your sin. Your body parts, gangrene sets in. Your body parts drop off, and the last thing to go is usually your eyes. You get to watch it all. That’s what leprosy is all about. Guilt is a good thing. It reminds us that someone has to pay a penalty for sin. Condemnation is a bad thing, it is unresolved guilt.
So how do you resolve guilt? Those of you who know me at all know that I use an analogy which is one of my favorites, of high pressure, low pressure. I live in Florida half the year and have for the last 15 years. Don’t talk to me about low pressure, folks. I have had low pressure come across my house 200 miles per hour, three times in one year. Wind moves from high pressure to low pressure, point of least resistance, just like the Spirit moves. By the way, the word for wind is “ruah,” translated in the Septuagint, the great translation of the Hebrew Bible with the word “pneuma,” Spirit. Spirit translates when, why? That is no accidental metaphor. Spirit moves from high pressure to low pressure, the point of least resistance. So how do you create low pressure so that we no longer have condemnation? It says, “Therefore there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, for the law of the Spirit of life has set me free from the law of sin and death.” What’s the law of sin and death? It is the law without the Spirit, without the power nor the inclination to measure up.
I have several times bought a one-way ticket around the world; and as long as you keep going in the same direction, you can make as many stops as you like. I have done it a half-dozen times on sabbatical, usually writing a book, doing research. One of these trips I was researching trans cultural common denominators, concepts and ideologies that communicate with equal effectiveness in every culture. Not just cross cultural, not just from one culture to another; but trans cultural, in every culture. I came back and wrote a book on it. But the key that comes to light, listen to this: Everyone the world over has the need to measure up to some form of law. Not the same law, necessarily. But everyone the world over, unless they are psychotic - if the windows are open, but the house is empty - if you’re home at all, you have a need to measure up to some form of law. The law of sin and death is the law without the Spirit, without the power nor the inclination to measure up. It is requiring you to jump tall buildings like Superman in a single bound.
What is the law of the Spirit of life? It’s the same law, folks. Jesus didn’t come to destroy the law. Jesus came to fulfill the law. Sin has never done anything for you except separate you from God, yourself and those around you. I defined that in the last session. Sin is that which separates us from God, ourselves and those around us. If it does not separate you from God, yourself and those around you, stop worrying about it. There is enough real guilt here. Every one of us needs a savior. We don’t need to go make it up. The law of the Spirit of life is the law empowered by the Spirit, so that now by virtue of our faith and trust in Jesus Christ, repentance and faith creates low pressure. The power of the Holy Spirit comes into our lives and enables us to measure up.
I was preaching at a church some years ago and just before I walked into the pulpit, I was introduced to a man as the most spiritual man in the church. I have to tell you, the man looked pretty spiritual to me. So I got up and preached my sermon, gave an invitation, which you understand I assume, for Christian discipleship, to accept Jesus or to be filled with the Holy Spirit or whatever, and he and his wife – the most spiritual man in the church – and his wife were the first ones at the communion rail. She leaned across the communion rail and whispered to me, “You’ve got to pray for me, I’m carrying a horrible secret.” And since I did not know what her secret was, I just prayed for her the best I knew how. AfterI had finished praying for her, she left, went back to her pew and her husband, the most spiritual man in the church, remained at the communion rail. He leaned across the communion rail and said, “You’ve got to pray for me, I’m her secret. I’m an alcoholic and you have to pray that I get will power.” You know what I said to him? Like that, I said to him: “Dear brother, you don’t need will power, you need the Holy Spirit. You’ve been wallowing under the law of sin and death long enough. You need to get the law of the Spirit of life.” Then I explained to him about repentance and faith.
In seminary I have taught students that there are two Greek words for repentance, “metanoia,” and “epistrepho.” Metanoia means to turn around, as if you can turn your back on sin. You wish you could turn your back on sin. Just try to turn your back on sin by trying to turn your back on sin. It will eat your lunch! The split second your mind goes rogue, you’ll have thoughts in the middle of the Lord’s Prayer. I’m the only one that is like that, I’ll imagine. Suddenly I’m feeling lonely here. Tell me you understand what I’m saying. Do you understand what I’m saying, Matt? Thank you very much, Sir. I want you folks to know I’m talking to you.
Repentance is not turning your back on sin. Repentance is praying this prayer. Listen carefully. “Lord God, as far as I know my own heart, I’m willing for you to take this from me. I can’t give it to you, Lord. If I could give it to you, I wouldn’t need you. But as far as I know in my own heart, I’m willing for you to take this from me; and I want to renew my faith and trust in your Son, Jesus Christ, so that the power of the Holy Spirit comes into my life, so that I can measure up to the Gospel. Fulfill the law by virtue of my repentance and faith and trust in Jesus Christ.” That is the theology of evangelism. I’ll say it again. Wind moves from high pressure to low pressure. Holy Spirit translates when it moves from high pressure to low pressure, point of least resistance. Everyone the world over has the need to measure up to some point of law. No condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, for in Christ the law of the Spirit of life has set me free from the law of sin and death. The law of sin and death is the law without the Spirit, like that poor man wanting to measure up by will power. That’s the law of sin and death. There is no way you can measure up. The law of the Spirit of life is the same law empowered by the Spirit, who by virtue of our repentance, is grieving over the separation our sin has cost. Lord, I grieve over this. Read it in the Bible. I grieve over the separation my sin has caused. So, as far as I know in my own heart, - I can’t give it to you – if I could give it to you, I wouldn’t need you; but I’m willing for you to take it from me. And I want to renew my faith and trust in your son, Jesus Christ. What’s up with that?
Sitting in an airport a couple of years ago, in the next row was a woman who had an inordinate fear of flying. She could not bring herself to get on the airplane. She understood all the dynamics of flight. She knew if she got on the airplane, the plane would take her where she needed to go. But she could not bring herself to get on the airplane. I had to go change my ticket and took her by the arm onto the airplane and sat next to her. And the plane, guess what? Took her exactly where she needed to go. You see, faith is getting on the airplane. It’s a silly analogy, I’m almost embarrassed to speak it to you. But you understand. The devil believes the Gospel works. The devil is just not going to commit to it. The woman knew the plane would take her where she needed to go, she simply could not commit to it. But the minute she got on the plane, the plane took her where she needed to go. Repentance and faith. Repentance grieves over the separation our sin has caused. So we need to be willing to pray this prayer: “God, as far as I know in my own heart, I’m willing for you to take this from me. God, I can’t give it to you. If I could give it to you, I wouldn’t need you. But as far as I know in my own heart, I’m willing for you to take it from me and I want to renew my faith and trust in your Son, Jesus.”
Let me close with a story. I said in the first session that I started my teaching career at Fuller Seminary. I loved it. I had colleagues like Jeff Bromley and Elton Ladd and Jewett and Martin and Bob Munger and Bill Pennell, wonderful sweet times with Pennell and Munger. I was just a kid, a 28-year-old kid, didn’t know what I was doing. We only had 17 on the faculty and all 17 interviewed me for the job. It was a wonderful experience. I loved my years at Fuller. I came home one day. This is her testimony, she won’t mind me telling you. I found my wife in bed with a woman. She was doing a Ph.D in clinical psychology at Fuller School of Psychology. She was no more a lesbian than I am. She just got confused. But she asked me to move out. So my son and I moved out. Two years later she said, “We’ll be reconciled if you move to Tulsa.” She lived in Tulsa, Oklahoma. I didn’t want to leave Pasadena. I loved Fuller Seminary. I loved teaching there. I loved it. But I wanted to be reconciled. I said, “Okay, I’ll see if I can get a job in Tulsa.” Called up Oral [Roberts] and a man named Jim Buskirk and they said, “Sure, we’ll hire you.” So I went there as professor of historical theology or something. I sold my house, packed up my car, drove it across the desert, bought a house in Tulsa. The first one hundred days there, one hundred consecutive days over 100-degree temperature. I thought I was going to die. I bought a house, decorated it, went to the airport to greet my wife and my son. He was on the plane and she wasn’t. She used that as a ruse to get me out of southern California because I was invading her space. She was all so caught up in the radical feminist movement. I’m a feminist, for crying out loud, I hope you are. But that radical kind of feminism was spouting off some things that just didn’t make much sense.
Anyway, one hundred consecutive days of over 100 degrees. My wife wasn’t with me. Suddenly I was a single parent again. One hundred degree temperature. I can’t stand the heat. My office was so air conditioned that my books mildewed and I caught pneumonia. Okay?
My students would come up to me and say, “I’m praying for you.” But the more they prayed, the worse I felt because I knew they were praying right, I must be receiving wrong. So the more they prayed, the worse I felt. Finally, – everyone here will understand this - one night I prayed this prayer: “God, it really wouldn’t take a whole lot of time out of your busy schedule to do a healing number on me. If there is anything standing between me and healing, you show it to me. It is yours. I am sick and tired of being sick and tired.” I fussed at God all night. Guess what happened? Nothing. Hacked, wheezed and coughed all night long. Two nights later I had a dream, just a 50-minute dream. I know it was 50 minutes because when I woke up, the dryer was still going. In this dream, suddenly on the foot of my bed there was a white light shaped like I think Jesus ought to be shaped. I’m telling you, I’m going after the white light because I want to get the white light on the outside, on the inside. I’m flailing away with my arms, trying to get the white light on the outside, on the inside. Then I become so frustrated, I woke up screaming. After I got my son back to bed, God spoke to me and said: “Tuttle, Bob, shut up!” Imagine, that, sweet as I am. “Shut up! I’m tired of you fussing at me, just so much high pressure. I want you to lie back on your pillow and in the silence that is you, allow my Spirit to plumb some new depth of your experience to reveal some area of life not yet yielded to me.” Get this. “With your willingness for me to take it from you, renew your faith and trust in my son, Jesus, go to sleep.” That sounds easy enough. I’m telling you, it took me 30 minutes to get the volume on the history tape low enough so I could even hear the voice of God. That is why I’ve been to therapy. You suspected that, I would imagine. I’ve probably had more therapy than any of you. After 30 minutes, I got the volume on the history tapes low enough so I could hear the voice of God.
The Spirit of God began to reveal things; began to reveal one area I had given to God and taken it back. Areas of resistance. Some things that might have been sin for me, but not for you. There are absolutes in sin, but there are things which might be sinful for some people, but not for others. The Spirit of God began to reveal things to me and I prayed this prayer: “God, as far as I know in my own heart, I grieve over the separation these things have caused and I’m willing for you to take them from me. I can’t give them to you. If I could give them to you, I wouldn’t need you. But I’m willing for you to take them from me; and I want to renew my faith and trust in your Son, Jesus Christ.” And I went to sleep. I mean to tell you, folks, I woke up without a wheeze. I went to bed in black and white, I got up in Technicolor. And I have not been the same since. Are you listening? It was better yesterday than it was today and it was better today than it was yesterday.
I love being a Christian. I’m telling you. Jesus is a piece of work. If that doesn’t work in your culture, I’m sorry. But most of you understand what I mean by that. The Son of the Living God, who gave his life, that by virtue of our repentance and faith in Him we can experience the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit, so that the law of sin and death becomes the law of the Spirit of life.
Lord, we’re grateful for what you have done for us in Jesus. We’re grateful that by virtue of our repentance, you can take these sins from us. And as we renew our faith and trust in your Son, Jesus, we can be filled by his Spirit. Amen.