June 2008


I have recently begun reading The Gospel and Personal Evangelism
by Mark Dever with my friend Todd, who lives in Kentucky. I am also reading anther book with a friend who lives in New York, and I know I’ve mentioned this before, but reading and discussing a book with someone on a consistent basis has been extremely helpful to me. We don’t try to rush through things (one chapter a week), we are seeking to understand and apply what we read, I am held accountable to read each week, which means that I (almost) always make the time for it, and I get to talk with a friend far away once a week. If you’re like me, and you have a lot of unread books laying around that you have always wanted to read, I highly recommend the accountability and joy of reading with others.

 With that said, and having only read the introduction and first chapter of Dever’s book, I would recommend reading the introduction and first chapter of this book… and I’m sure the rest as well. He says that the book should serve as “an encouragement, a clarification, an instruction, a rebuke, and a challenge;” so far it has been a punch in gut, reminding me of the great need to evangelize and may lack of faith to do it (16). Here’s a little sample from chapter one:

Another set of excuses has to do with problems you and I think that others will have with our witnessing to them. How many times have I had these or more subtle and advanced excuses assemble in my mind as I’m thinking about sharing the gospel with someone? “People don’t want to hear.” “They won’t be interested.” “They probably already know the gospel.” “It probably won’t work. I doubt they’ll believe.” I don’t think about how powerful the gospel is. I get myself in a wrongly hopeless mindset.

Of course, I should consider how faithless all this is. As Paul said to the Corinthians, “Who makes you different from anyone else? What do you have that you did not receive?” (1 Cor. 4:7). Why do we think that we would respond to the gospel, but someone else wouldn’t? Haven’t you found that God saves some of the most unlikely converts? If you aren’t sure about this, consider some friends you’ve seen converted. Consider your own conversion. Jonathan Edwards called one account of the Great Awakening A Narrative of Surprising Conversions. Of course, in one sense, all conversions are surprising: enemies are loved, the alienated are adopted, those who should be punished inherit eternal life instead. But it is exactly this radical, surprising nature of conversion that should encourage us in our evangelism. God may save anyone. And the more unlikely it appears, the more glory, we might even reason, he gets to himself when it happens!

 

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It’s hard to be disappointed. To expect something and have it not materialize as you wanted can be disheartening, even when it’s tiny. In fact, I think I deal with large disappointments better than little one’s; maybe because the big ones usually have some kind of legitimate explanation. If friends are supposed to come to visit, and at the last second they can’t because of some unforeseen circumstance, I can handle that fine. I wanted to see them, but for a perfectly understandable reason, plans have changed. But if I’m going out for ice cream with a craving for mint chocolate chip, and I arrive to find that the mint chocolate chip is no more, it’s all over. Never mind the joy of eating any kind of ice cream; my world has fallen apart because the mint chocolate chip has run out. I morph into a 6′ 1″ baby, choking down a scoop of butter pecan, a flavor I would normally enjoy, except for the reverberating sickness of disappointment.

I was disappointed this evening, and it wasn’t at the ice cream shop, but it was just as tiny. It’s made me realize that disappointment simply reveals more of the tiny “idols to Andy” that I almost involuntarily worship every day. Dr. Stuart Scott taught me that an idol is something I will sin to get or sin if I don’t. So I may not rip the mint chocolate chip waffle cone from that five-year-old’s hand because I want it so bad, but I will become sinful angry and self-centered when I don’t get what I want. That anger or greed or whatever is just an evidence that my desire for mint chocolate chip was not simply an innocent wish; it was an idol. It was something, sadly, I loved more than God in that moment. So I chalk up this evenings disappointment as yet one more example of my depravity and need for God. May I find my pleasure in God, not His gifts. I’m going to get some ice cream now – we’ve got some peach in the freezer… I hope.

“In your presence is fullness of joy; In Your right hand there are pleasures forever.” – Psalm 16:11

“I will be satisfied with Your likeness.” – Psalm 17:15