What is Truth? Part Three

In this “What is Truth?” series, we have seen how vital it is to know sufficient information about the identity and history of Yahweh in order for a person (or ourselves!) to have confidence in God and his Word.

Many presentations of the gospel focus mainly on Jesus’ work on the cross. But then comes the question, “Who is Jesus?” It is not sufficient to say, “He is God,” because then you must explain what God is like. In this series, we’ve seen that it is vital to explain God’s identity and history if we expect people to trust him.

The same principle extends to trusting Jesus for our personal salvation. We need to know the identity and history of Jesus before we will trust him. We sort of intuitively know this but we often skip to the story of the cross without really nailing down the identity of Jesus. The identity of Jesus is that he is the Creator God. We simply cannot assume a person knows or believes that to be the case.

It is no coincidence that the identity of Jesus is the one area that cults and other religions most commonly assault.

It is no coincidence that the identity of Jesus is the one area that cults and other religions most commonly assault. They make Jesus out to be a lesser god, a prophet or maybe a good man, but not the Creator God of the Bible. It is also no coincidence that the Apostle John began his gospel with the clear statement that Jesus was the Creator God. He then reinforces that identity with eight miracles that confirm his deity. Only once that is nailed down can we really explain the historical reality of Christ.

The history of Jesus Christ centres around the events of the cross and tomb, but here, too, we benefit immensely from having a little background. Many ask, “Why did Jesus need to die on the cross? Why didn’t he just pronounce forgiveness on our sins? Did he have to die the way he did?” Those kinds of questions, gone unanswered, have been often cited as reasons why people leave the faith. They simply didn’t understand the identity and history of Christ and so begin to question their own faith. Clearly it is vital that we have a firm grip on the identity and history of Christ.

Those kinds of questions, gone unanswered, have been often cited as reasons why people have left the faith.

Dr. Andy Woods, author and teacher, says the whole reason for the necessity of the cross and tomb can be found in Genesis 3, where God gives his first promise of a Messiah to the newly fallen Adam and Eve. Dr. Woods quotes W.H. Griffith Thomas when he says, “[Genesis 3] is the pivot on which the whole Bible turns.” (1)

“[Genesis 3] is the pivot on which the whole Bible turns.”

W.H. Griffith Thomas

There in Genesis 3, we read of the sad history of mankind. We learn of the choice to trust Satan instead of God, the first human sin. We also learn about the shared identity of all humanity – our sin nature – and the consequence of that sin – eternal death. In Genesis 3, we also learn the early history of the Promised Messiah when God says to Satan, “I will put hostility between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring [the Messiah]. He [the Messiah] will strike your head [a fatal blow], and you will strike his heel [a temporary wound].” (2) This then becomes the first of many prophecies pointing to a coming Saviour.

“If you don’t understand what happened in Genesis 3, you have no idea what the rest of the Bible is really talking about.”

Dr. Andy Woods

Dr. Woods goes on to say, “If you don’t understand what happened in Genesis 3, you have no idea what the rest of the Bible is really talking about. You have no idea why Jesus had to come into this world to die on a cross if you don’t understand Genesis chapter 3.” (1)

Let’s be sure we take sufficient time and care in our gospel presentations to ensure our listeners grasp the identity and history of their Saviour. Doing so can make all the difference in the faith walk of a believer.

  1. “Revelation 072-Identification Through Omission,” last modified February 23, 2020, accessed June 22, 2020, https://slbc.org/sermon/revelation-072-identification-through-absence/#transcriptlink.
  1. Genesis 3:15.

What is Truth? Part One

A surprising answer to an ancient question

(Part One of Two)

Never in history has there been a greater flow of information and never before have so many questioned what is actually the “truth.” We find ourselves swamped with experts, many of whom contradict each other. As debates rage over the pros and cons of various approaches in this pandemic, many more wonder which “expert” is actually telling us “the truth.” I mean, after all, who really knows? People are left mired in doubt and justifiably full of suspicion to any truth claims.

Then the Bible believer shows up claiming to have The Truth. In its defence, we often start with the absolute reliability of the Bible. This can be very appropriate, as any truth claim is only as good as its source. In fact, it is very good to know how to defend the uniqueness of the Bible. We even wrote a booklet about that subject!

In communicating our beliefs to others, especially the skeptical, it seems reasonable to look to Scripture and see how it approaches evangelism.

“…it seems reasonable to look to Scripture and see how it approaches evangelism.”

Looking at the Bible evangelistically, Scripture does not begin with arguments addressing the reliability of Scripture. You don’t find passages on archaeology or manuscript evidence. No time is dedicated to the intricate detail and carefulness with which scribes copied and recopied the autographs. Much could have been written on these topics, but nothing is said.

The Apostle Paul, when dealing with the scholars in Athens, did not start his evangelistic message with a defence of Scripture. Nor did the Apostle John begin his evangelistic gospel with an argument for the reliability of God’s Word. And the book of Genesis simply starts with, “In the beginning God”–the ultimate Source of truth. (1) Over and over again we find that Scripture takes us directly to two spheres of information necessary to trust God: his Identity and his History. In this first of a two-part article, we will look at that first sphere of information, the issue of identity.

“Knowing the basics of God’s identity is key to grasping the Gospel.”

The issue of identity looks at who God is and what he is like. Knowing the basics of God’s identity is key to grasping the Gospel.

Jesus asked his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” The answer to that question is the ultimate statement on truth. One might respond, “Jesus is God,” and think that communicates sufficiently. But think again. Who or what is God? If a person’s idea of God is something like, “Let the force be with you,” or is mingled with other gods including oneself, then it becomes very important to take a few steps back and allow the Bible to fill in one’s understanding. But is that how evangelism is commonly done? Not usually. 

Most of our gospel presentations are based on 40-year old methods. Back then, assumptions were safely made that people knew who the God of the Bible was. We could say, “God loves you,” and people immediately thought of the God of the Bible. They clearly understood the basics of his identity. But that is not the case today. Today we still say “God loves you,” and we still assume people know what God is like, but more often than not, they don’t. I need not quote statistics to show what we all know from our own experience: that people today have a very garbled perspective of God’s identity. It is a problem in every aspect of our culture and society. 

In such situations we need to imitate what Scripture itself does: take the time to build a picture in people’s minds regarding the identity of God. We must recognize that a big chunk of Scripture is dedicated to defining the character of God. And how does it do that? Not with a dry list of attributes, but through stories that reveal God’s nature. 

“…we need to imitate what Scripture itself does: take the time to build a picture in people’s minds regarding the identity of God.”

That is where the Bible starts, declaring the power and knowledge of God through creation. That is where the Apostle John begins his book, declaring the God who is the creator. It is where Paul began with his esteemed crowd in Athens. As ambassadors of the gospel, we need to make sure people know a little bit about the identity of the God of the Bible before we leap to the events of the cross and tomb. Otherwise we may find that our “convert” is not trusting the biblical God, but rather an impersonal force or a very corrupt concept of Jesus. (2)

“What I believe in my heart must make sense in my mind.”

Ravi Zacharias

Sharing the gospel in the context of the biblical story line, from creation to the cross, declares a personal, supernatural God at work in history. It clearly defines who God is and what he is like—his identity. More often than not, in today’s world, that is where we must start.
With the passing of our brother in the Lord, Ravi Zacharias, we are reminded of the importance of knowing not only what we believe, but why we believe it. Ravi spoke again and again to the importance of bringing reason to what we believe: “What I believe in my heart must make sense in my mind.” (3)

It is only when we have the nature of the biblical God clear in our minds that we can make sense of the world around us and understand what Scripture has to say to mankind. We will look at that in our next post.

(1) In the Bible, the truth of what is written is assumed and taught as such. Only prophecy seems to be used as an apology for the reliability of Scripture (Isaiah 42:8-9).

(2) For example, Islam, Hinduism and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormonism) all speak of Jesus, but the Jesus they present is not the Jesus of the Bible.

(3)”Bridging the Heart and Mind”. Interview with Danielle DuRant, rzim.org. July 28, 2011

Going Deeper: No Longer a Stranger! Part Three

In our preceding article, we talked about how there can be no greater motivation for believers to live out their new lives in Christ as a BIG THANK YOU than to have a growing understanding of the grace of God. That is certainly the experience described in Scripture on more than one occasion.

Remember the immoral woman who came to Jesus quite unexpectedly in the home of a Pharisee (Luke 7:36-50)? Braving probable scorn and ridicule, she came to express her love and gratitude for what she had experienced of the grace of God in her life—forgiveness. She was well aware of how undeserving she was but nevertheless God had forgiven her and for this she was supremely thankful.

Rather than drawing back in disdain from this woman with the tarnished reputation, Jesus expressed what was at the heart of her outpouring of emotion: she loved much because she had been forgiven much.

“I tell you, her sins—and they are many—have been forgiven, so she has shown me much love. But a person who is forgiven little shows only little love.” (Luke 7:47 NLT)

Possibly a prostitute, this woman recognized how needy, how undeserving she was of Christ’s forgiveness. In fact, she was conscious of her abject spiritual poverty—totally incapable of doing anything to merit God’s forgiveness. Yet, the Bible assures us that…

He [God] does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. (Psalm 103:10 NIV)

That’s grace—undeserved!

Continue reading “Going Deeper: No Longer a Stranger! Part Three”

Going Deeper: No Longer a Stranger! Part Two

“No longer…!”

In the context of the message of the Gospel, these two words hold tremendous significance. They are words that ought to prompt an overwhelming sense of wonder and gratitude as to what Christ accomplished on the cross on our behalf. Consider that we, as believers, are no longer…

  • slaves to sin but free (Romans 6:6-7,14,18).
  • strangers and aliens but members of God’s family (Ephesians 2:19).
  • servants but friends (John 15:15).

These statements represent powerful, new realities for us who have been transferred at the moment of salvation from the “kingdom of darkness” to the “kingdom of light”—the kingdom of God’s Son, Jesus Christ (Colossians 1:12-13).

Each of these declarations holds a wealth of meaning but all hold in common a fundamental fact of change as to how God perceives us, brought about by God alone. Understanding how God now sees us—the new position we have been granted in Christ—is a key principle for living the Christian life.

Continue reading “Going Deeper: No Longer a Stranger! Part Two”

Going Deeper: No Longer a Stranger! Part One

Most of us have experienced the uneasy feeling of being in an unfamiliar setting where we’re conscious of being outsiders who have very little in common with those who “belong.” After finding ourselves in that environment, it’s a welcomed relief to come to a place where we are “no longer a stranger,” but where we’re known and accepted.

As Christians, we can identify. There was a time in each of our lives when we were separated from Jesus Christ—strangers to Christ and everything God desires for us (Ephesians 2:12). This separation came about as a result of sin.

Your iniquities have separated you from your God… (Isaiah 59:2 NIV; cf. Romans 3:23; Ephesians 4:18).

However, for believers, a time came when all that changed as a consequence of what Jesus did on the cross. When we put our trust in what he accomplished by dying in our place, the Bible says to us as believers:

You are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God (Ephesians 2:19 ESV).

Whereas previously we were separated from God, “without hope and without God in the world,” we have now “been brought near through the blood of Christ” (Ephesians 2:12 NIV).

No longer a stranger! What welcome news that we have been brought back into a right relationship with our Creator!

And yet, if this is true…

…why is it that so many professing Christians live as if Christ is still a stranger to them? Why is it that many new believers and even others who are not-so-young-in-the-faith experience so much difficulty in growing spiritually, seemingly falling back two steps for every step forward? (If the truth be known, perhaps most of us can identify with those questions because they are part of our personal experience.)

Continue reading “Going Deeper: No Longer a Stranger! Part One”

Using the Worldview Survey, Part II: Discovering your friend’s worldview

In Using the Worldview Survey, Part I: Sharing the gospel when time is short, we shared how the Worldview Survey questions can be used as a springboard to sharing the gospel when you only have a short time with an individual (perhaps in a waiting room, interacting with a door-to-door salesman, or in a street evangelism context). In this second article, we share more specifically on how you can use the questions to discover the beliefs of the individual before moving on to share the gospel.

The conversation was going so smoothly. The young woman in front of me seemed to be eagerly digesting each point I made as I walked her through the gospel message. She was nodding her head, agreeing with me when I’d ask her questions and assuring me she understood. Great! Next up, the sinner’s prayer, right? We’d been conversing for some time when she finally began to open up more about her own worldview, extinguishing my optimism. Apparently she was exploring a pagan religion. She worshipped the earth. She wasn’t terribly bothered by her sin. Surely God could be expressed in many forms and there were many ways to seek him.

It was surprising to me that she could both agree with what I’d been saying, while at the same time hold to these very opposing viewpoints. She was, by definition, a post-modern thinker.

As she walked away from me a little later, I realized that I’d spent a long time sharing the gospel to a woman who did not have the foundations in place to understand it. While I knew God could still bless and use my feeble efforts, surely I could be more effective if I’d had an idea of the worldview of my listener before I dove into sharing the Bible’s message.

I realized I needed a method of quickly determining one’s worldview and finding a way to discern their true understanding of the Bible’s message, so that I could know how to proceed with the truths of the gospel

The Worldview Survey (originally published in the book And Beginning with Moses), a list of nine simple and objective questions, is designed to give a person a good idea of what their student believes. It’s a helpful tool for many situations, but especially handy if you’re not sure how to approach sharing the gospel with an individual or what tool would suit them best.

Continue reading “Using the Worldview Survey, Part II: Discovering your friend’s worldview”

Going Deeper: Final words of a dying Saviour, Part II

Jesus made seven statements during the final hours on the cross before his death. These are recorded for us in the Gospels, and GoodSeed’s primary tools emphasize three of them. In this two-part Going Deeper article, we examine the deeper significance of all seven statements.

Introduction

Jesus of Nazareth has been arrested in the night on trumped-up charges. Falsely accused, he is paraded through a series of courts. These court sessions are simply a pretext to provide legality to what is already a foregone conclusion in the minds of the Jewish religious leaders: a sentence of death for blasphemy. Jesus is beaten and mocked before he is sentenced to death by crucifixion by Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor.

The intent of this barbaric form of execution was to prolong the agony of dying as long as possible. However, the crucifixion of Christ lasted a relatively short time, from the “third” hour—about 9:00 a.m. (Mark 15:25) to about the “ninth” hour—3:00 p.m. (Mark 15:33).

As a person reads the description of what happened during those six hours, what isn’t found are sensational, lurid details of the physical suffering Jesus experienced as he hung on the cross. The Bible doesn’t indulge our curiosity. There are none of the horrific details that one might expect in tabloid journalism. Rather, the account of the crucifixion is told in a simple, straightforward manner without any dramatics. This is not to minimize the physical agony Christ felt on the cross. His pain was very real, but pain isn’t what Scripture highlights. Instead, the Bible gives us glimpses of Jesus’ heart for humanity through seven statements he made during the final hours before his death. Just as the final words spoken from the deathbed of a loved one hold great significance to family and friends, so these words of Christ are such that they have reverberated down through history.

In the first part of this two-part article, we delved into the significance of Christ’s first three statements from the cross. Now we will discuss the final four statements.

Continue reading “Going Deeper: Final words of a dying Saviour, Part II”

Going Deeper: Final words of a dying Saviour, Part I

Jesus made seven statements during the final hours on the cross before his death. These are recorded for us in the Gospels, and GoodSeed’s primary tools emphasize three of them. In this two-part Going Deeper article, we will examine the deeper significance of all seven statements.

Bible writers Matthew, Mark, Luke and John each give us unique insights into the crucial few days surrounding Jesus’ crucifixion.

Setting the Scene

Jesus of Nazareth has been arrested in the night on trumped-up charges. Falsely accused, he is paraded through a series of courts. These court sessions are simply a pretext to provide legality to what is already a foregone conclusion in the minds of the Jewish religious leaders: a sentence of death for blasphemy. Jesus is beaten and mocked before he is sentenced to death by crucifixion by Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor.

The Crucifixion

The intent of this barbaric form of execution was to prolong the agony of dying as long as possible. However, the crucifixion of Christ lasted a relatively short time, from the “third” hour—about 9:00 a.m. (Mark 15:25) to about the “ninth” hour—3:00 p.m. (Mark 15:33).

As a person reads the description of what happened during those six hours, what isn’t found are sensational, lurid details of the physical suffering Jesus experienced as he hung on the cross. The Bible doesn’t indulge our curiosity. There are none of the horrific details that one might expect in tabloid journalism. Rather, the account of the crucifixion is told in a simple, straightforward manner without any dramatics. This is not to minimize the physical agony Christ felt on the cross. His pain was very real, but pain isn’t what Scripture highlights. Instead, the Bible gives us glimpses of Jesus’ heart for humanity through seven statements he made during the final hours before his death. Just as the final words spoken from the deathbed of a loved one hold great significance to family and friends, so these words of Christ are such that they have reverberated down through history.

Continue reading “Going Deeper: Final words of a dying Saviour, Part I”

Using the Worldview Survey, Part 1: Sharing the gospel when time is short

Five full days of street evangelism! Under normal circumstances, if someone had suggested this idea as a potential evangelistic pursuit, my response would have been, “No thanks! Not for me!” However, here I was in a large van heading to the big city. My husband, Troy, and I were the designated leaders, no less, for a dozen or so college-aged students. And we’d be standing on a street corner in no time at all, attempting to get into deep spiritual conversations with all kinds of scary strangers.

The first day went by much as I expected. Many were closed to hearing about the Lord, a few were willing to get into a discussion and most walked by completely indifferent. That week on bustling city streets was quite the adventure, arming us with stories and experiences that still effect our approach to sharing the gospel when time is short.

Even if you never participate in street evangelism, it’s good to be prepared for the moment when you have a quick opportunity to share the Bible’s message with a passing stranger. Your brief opportunity may come while sitting in front of your hairdresser, or with the salesperson at the door, or while you’re passing time in a waiting room. No matter the scenario, there are certain common obstacles that brief interactions present, as well as good ideas to navigate those obstacles.

Continue reading “Using the Worldview Survey, Part 1: Sharing the gospel when time is short”

To give or to guide… that is the question

ladies-studyKayla* has three friends who aren’t believers. Because she desired to share the gospel with them, Kayla attended a TERM Seminar to be better equipped. After the seminar, Kayla knew she wanted to use GoodSeed resources with her friends. But should she give them each a book and leave it at that? Or should she offer to guide them through a study?

We encourage believers to share the good news through two primary ways: give and guide. To elaborate, give means to take one of our books, audiobooks or videobooks and give it to a friend. Guide means to take the resources and lead a gospel Bible study. Both methods work. We have numerous testimonies of how people have come to faith in Christ because a friend gave them a book or guided them through a study. But in Kayla’s situation, which option would be better?

Let’s explore the merits of each option in turn.

Continue reading “To give or to guide… that is the question”