Hello Project Ezra, and happy New Year! I’m exciting to see what the Lord will do with Ezra this coming year. Over the last two and-a-half years we have seen some amazing events and testimonies, and God has chosen to use Project Ezra to encourage many people to share the word publicly for the first time. For those of you who have been faithfully participating, thank you!! I love hearing your stories and testimonies. They are so encouraging. I hope and pray that you will introduce others to the group. I know how hard it can be to get others, even committed believers, to join you in public evangelism. I have dealt with the same thing. But don’t quit! The harvest is plentiful and the workers are few, so let’s pray God continues to raise up laborers. For those of you who are part of the group but have not, or have seldom, joined us in our readings, I can’t think of a better New Year’s resolution. Although it is often marginalized, even by those in the church, public evangelism, scripture reading and street preaching have tremendous Biblical precedent, and many of the lost will never come to church on their own. It is our privilege to take the good news to them, so let’s do just that.
As I was going through the book of Acts, trying to decide which chapter to use, the question that struck me as I read Acts 8 was “Who needs the gospel?” It may seem like an odd question, since as Christians we know that everyone does. But I have seen that many people, and particularly those with advanced education or lots of money, who don’t believe they need the “crutch” of Christianity. They think Christianity, and often religion in general, is something weak people need, for comfort and support, but it’s not for those who have their lives together. Some will still attend church, thinking that it’s a good way to raise their kids, or out of a sense of duty to family or culture. But in truth it is treated as nothing more than an accessory, to be put on or taken off as is convenient. And, sadly, much of modern day evangelism, by its actions and methods, more or less assumes that to be true.
What many churches are teaching about the gospel, and what many people have been told is the proper method of evangelism, is in truth false, and unbiblical. For the past 100 years or so, the good news of Jesus Christ has been packaged not primarily as a means of escaping the judgment we all deserve for our sins, but as a way to improve your life. This message tells people that a relationship with God with improve their marriage, help them raise their children, allow them to get along with family, friends and co-workers better, and a myriad of other promises. It is fashionable to tell people about the benefits of being a believer, and to avoid talking about hell and judgment whenever possible. After all, we don’t want to scare people away. Perhaps you were raised in this type of doctrine. I was, and used it myself when I first began sharing my faith, very tentatively, many years ago. In fact, in my experience, most pastors have been raised, and taught in seminary, to do exactly the same thing. It’s hard to completely condemn them for what they have been soaked in since their conversion, although faithful study of God’s word SHOULD have shown them their error.
I recall the first evangelism class I attended, at a church which will remain unnamed. First, I must say that this church was very clearly orthodox. However, when we were taught how to share the good news, we were told to avoid talking too much about sin, death, and hell. It didn’t seem right to me that we talked about the gift of eternal life and left out the wages of sin, but I went along with it. I remember going to see a young man who had visited our church, and after a short conversation, having our trainer lead him in a salvation prayer. I volunteered to follow up with this “new believer” after the visit. I would not claim to know his heart, but I can say that I rarely if ever saw him in church following that (although his wife attended regularly), and when I called, offering to get together and talk about his new faith, he seemed to have absolutely no interest in the things of God at all.
What I believe happened there was a man with no understanding of God’s law, no understanding of repentance (because it was not explained to him), and thus likely no true conversion or faith. I’m no fan of pre-packaged, recited prayers of faith, although such a prayer from a truly repentant heart could certainly be the means God uses to draw someone to Him. However, if someone is merely draw in with the promise of spiritual benefits, and has no understanding of their sin and God’s holiness, and no understanding of Christ’s substitutionary death on the cross, then there can no true repentance, no true trust in Christ’s sacrifice, and thus no salvation.
So this week I hope we can, through the proper use of God’s law and the power of the Spirit, show people their need of the savior. No matter how successful they are, or how happy they are, or how committed they are to their own faith system, only through the power of Jesus Christ can they be saved. And that salvation, although it may bring trial, temptation and persecution, will also bring joy and peace in knowing that their sins have been paid for, and will bring an eternity of loving fellowship with God. And when power of God is manifest, and a heart is changed, it will be clear. Good works do not save anyone, but anyone who is saved WILL display Godly works and behavior, and the joy of their salvation.
I pray this outline is a blessing
All for His glory,
INTRODUCE YOURSELF AND THE GROUP
READ ACTS 8
Acts 8 tells the stories of two men, and mentions one other, who by today’s standards didn’t appear to need God. They were successful, powerful, and even religious.
But they came to know the truth of their need, and the truth that their success was empty. And more than that, they came to know the God of the universe, and what it meant to be seen as right in His eyes.
You may think that you don’t need the crutch of religion to live a happy, fulfilled life. But before you leave, and dismiss everything I am saying, I hope you’ll stay long enough to challenge your own assumptions.
You may believe that faith in general, and Christianity in particular, is just a way to improve your life. You may think it’s a good way to raise kids, or a good way to live a moral life, and it is those things. But it is far more than that.
In truth, the gospel, the good news of Christianity, is a means of rescue, a means of escape. It is a means to save your life. You have a deadly disease that is slowly killing you, and there is only one remedy available.
The men of power in Acts 8 came to know that. Despite their success and position, they saw the truth of their perilous condition, the same condition that is true of you and I.
It doesn’t matter how well your life is going. It doesn’t matter how much fun you are having or how successful you are. No amount of power, influence, money or pleasure will profit you on the Day of Judgment
One day every one of us will stand before God and give an account for our lives. The Bible says it is appointed unto men once to die, and after that the judgment.
God is holy. He is perfect and pure beyond our understanding, and if we are to earn His approval, we must be pure and holy as well. Only none of us are, and none of us can be.
God’s word says there is a holiness without which no one will see Him. And we are anything but holy. We are sinful and wicked, and deserve nothing but God’s wrath and condemnation.
Look at yourself in light of God’s law. He gave us His law as a mirror, to show us how we compare with His perfect, holy standard
GO THROUGH THE LAW
So, when you stand before God, what will you say? Your guilt will be clear, and your mouth will be stopped.
Every one of us is guilty before God, and any judgment he gives us is richly deserved. And if you look at yourself in truth, you know that I’m right.
The judgment the Bible says will be given to the unbelieving, and those who reject God, is an eternity in hell.
The Bible describes hell as fire and burning sulfur, as outer darkness, and describes people in agony. It is not merely separation from God. It is horrific punishment, which we all deserve because of our moral crimes against God. But we are praying you will see your danger and escape from it.
Despite all you have, all you know, and all you hope to accomplish, there is only one thing you really need. You need forgiveness from your sins. You need to be put into a right relationship with your God, your creator.
Without that forgiveness, everything else good in your life will burn away one day, and you will realize just how useless it was to store up earthly treasures rather than heavenly ones.
But there is hope! The gospel of Jesus Christ is a message of hope, and forgiveness.
God, who is rich in mercy and abounding in steadfast love, has graciously provided a way of escape, so you don’t have to suffer the penalty you deserve for your sins.
That escape is the cross of Jesus Christ. 2000 years ago Jesus Christ, God in human flesh, and perfect in every thought, word and deed, came to earth and willingly dies for the sins of men.
When Jesus was on the cross God’s wrath, which we deserved, was poured out on Him. Because of
His love for His children, He laid down His life so that they could be saved.
He died a horrific death, and three days later He rose again from the dead, proving His power over death.
The Bible says that Jesus Christ is our lawyer, our mediator for the Day of Judgment. More than that, it says there is ONE God and ONE mediator between God and men, the man Jesus Christ. You come to God through Him, or not at all.
Through God’s great love, and Jesus great sacrifice, you can be saved from sin, judgment, and hell.
So what now?
Turn from your sin and to your savior. Repent, and trust in Christ alone.
Only the God of the Bible is truly God. Only Jesus died to pay for your sins, and rose to prove His power over death. Only he was the perfect sacrifice, the perfect payment, so only through Him can you be saved.
Turn to Christ today, and live! He takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that they turn and live.
So turn today. Forsake your sins, put all your trust in Christ alone, and be saved!