Hello Project Ezra! I pray you are all doing well. This week’s reading will be a couple of selections from the book of Luke. One is the story of Lazarus and the rich man, and the other is the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector. These passages deal with the subjects of earthly pleasures and pride, and these two are the motivating force behind many people’s rejection of the Christian message. First, earthly pleasure frequently becomes an idol. How many people do you know that either claim the name of Christ while enjoying sin with little or no remorse, or who believe they can live a wild life and choose to repent on their deathbeds? Both of these are symptoms of the same problem, the love of the world and of sin. Many professing Christians are practical atheists, living as if no God exists, trusting in God’s goodness to overlook their sins when they stand before Him. But the one thing they think will save them, God’s goodness, is the very thing that will end up condemning them. A good God cannot allow evil to go unpunished.
And what about pride? Much of the heresy in the Christian church stems from man’s desire to earn His own way to heaven, or to wrestle control of his destiny out of God’s hands, so he can have it for himself. Everyone wants heaven, but people want to get there on their own terms. People are willing to be obedient to God, but we want to pick their own list rules that are worth following, and throw the rest out, as culturally irrelevant or antiquated. I would even argue that it is pride that led to the first sin in the Garden of Eden. What was Satan doing when he encouraged Adam and Eve to eat the fruit, if not playing on their pride? He uses the same tool today, and it is as or more effective now then it was then.
So the goal this week is to bring these sins to people’s attention, and show them how they have led to a false view of God and His law, and a false view of how we can be forgiven and allowed into heaven. I have tried to make the outline a bit shorter and simpler this time. Although I want to make sure you have all the material you need for a good open-air presentation, I also hope that as time goes on, Project Ezra will help you develop the tools you need to come up with your own open-air or one-to-one evangelistic presentation. I will continue to include a more thoroughly written outline from time to time, but I will try to move toward more of a bullet-point format instead, and I hope to post it earlier in the week. I like to include a lot of material, so we’ll see how well I stick to my own rules, but that’s the plan. If there is a specific subject or area of your gospel presentation that you are struggling with, or need additional verses for, just let me know. I’ll either contact you directly with more information, recommend some good resources, or maybe make it the subject of an individual blog post. At any rate, whatever feedback you can give would be appreciated.
All for His glory,
INTRODUCE YOURSELF AND THE PROJECT
READ THE PASSAGES FROM LUKE
Luke 16:14-31 (ESV)
The Pharisees, who were lovers of money, heard all these things, and they ridiculed him. And he said to them, “You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts. For what is exalted among men is an abomination in the sight of God.
“The Law and the Prophets were until John; since then the good news of the kingdom of God is preached, and everyone forces his way into it. But it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one dot of the Law to become void.
“Everyone who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery, and he who marries a woman divorced from her husband commits adultery.
“There was a rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. And at his gate was laid a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who desired to be fed with what fell from the rich man's table. Moreover, even the dogs came and licked his sores. The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham's side. The rich man also died and was buried, and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side. And he called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in anguish in this flame.’ But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner bad things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish. And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who would pass from here to you may not be able, and none may cross from there to us.’ And he said, ‘Then I beg you, father, to send him to my father's house—for I have five brothers—so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment.’ But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’ And he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ He said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.’”
(Luke 18:9-14 ESV)
He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”
Here to tell the greatness of Christ and His great gift
Shared the stories of two sets of men
Two men justified, and two condemned
Those condemned thought they were fine
Pride and pleasure deceived them
Pride, the root of many other sins
Makes us believe we deserve more than God has graciously given us
Leads to neglect of God and His greatness, idolatry, coveting
Tells you you’re worthy of heaven on your own
Tells you that you can earn your way by your own goodness.
The distraction of Pleasure
Not a sin in itself, if it is enjoyed within the boundaries God has given
Pursuit of it and riches above the pursuit of God, who gives all good things, is the ultimate foolishness
Pleasure and comfort become our gods
Don’t be distracted by things with no ultimate value
What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses his soul? (Mark 8:36)
YOU MAY WANT TO USE SOME VERSES DISCUSSING THE SHORTNESS OF THIS LIFE
Glory of God in Jesus Christ surpasses all
We are estranged from God because of our sin (1 Cor 6:9)
LOOK AT THE LAW TO BRING CONVICTION OF SIN. Remember, we should never use the law of God to encourage legalism. The purpose of the law is to shut the mouth of the sinner, and stop them from justifying themselves, and to lead them to Christ that they may be justified by faith. (Rom 3:19, 7:7-8, Gal 3:24)
THE REALITY OF HELL AND JUDGMENT – Giving people a proper understanding of hell and judgment is important. Many people think hell is a place of unrestrained sin, and that the devil
rules hell. Revelation 20 is a good place to start to dispel these wrong ideas.
May sound harsh, but God is just. Must see sin punished (Ps 7:11)
We all love justice, just not for ourselves. Our desire for justice ends where our sin begins.
Despite our sin, despite our evil, there is hope!
God is also loving, patient, merciful (Eph 2:4)
God demonstrated His love on the cross (Rom 5:8)
Our creator set aside His glory, humbled Himself (Phil 2:8)
Became a man, lived earthly life
Willingly went to the cross (John 10:18)
Suffered under the wrath of God (Isa 53:4-5)
Died for our sin. Satisfied the legal demands of the law, nailing them to the cross (Col 2:14)
Raised for our justification, proved His power over sin (Rom 4:25)
Be like the tax collector. Humble yourself before God, throw yourself on His mercy
Repent, turning from sin, turning to Christ (Acts 20:21)
Christ, only name under heaven by which you must be saved! (Acts 4:12)
Born again, transformed by God’s power. Give you a new heart and new desires. (Eze 11:19-20)
Turn to Christ today, while God has given you time.