Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Seeing but not seeing, hearing but not hearing

I was driving over to a friend's house Sunday evening to watch some baseball. As usual, my radio was tuned to 106.9 and a radio preacher was letting us have it. I found out later that the speaker was Ken Lewis from West Asheville Baptist Church in Asheville, NC. I caught the middle of the sermon and gathered that I was listening to a sermon from the episode with Zacchaeus. The pastor was using the account to challenge and motivate his audience to be more committed to soul-winning, while preaching evangelistically in order that someone would get saved at the same time. It was a good sermon for the most part.

While driving and listening, Lewis quoted from William Hendrickson, the author of the New Testament Commentary series published by Baker Books. I can't remember the entire quote but it went something like this: "Jesus didn't come so sinners could save themselves. Jesus didn't die on the cross so sinners could be made savable. Jesus came to save sinners." Or something like that.

While listening to Lewis make those statements, I was thinking, "I know Hendrickson. I'll bet he's misusing Hendrickson and doesn't have a clue what Hendrickson really means in that context of that quote."

Sure enough, the very next words to come out of my speakers were these: "It's like you are floating in the middle of a large lake. You are going down. You can't make it back to shore. Then someone throws you a life preserver. All you have to do is grab hold of that life preserver and you can be saved. You can't save yourself. You can't swim in. You have to grab hold and let the person save you by reeling you in."

By this time, I was shaking my head in disbelief. I was thinking, "How can he miss that? How can he not see the inconsistency in what he is saying?"

Can you see it? Post your answer in the comments and I'll comment later as well.


Chuck said...

Using the illustration provided it would be more accurate to say that Jesus walked out onto the lake, pulled you out of the water, and took you with him.

Jeff A. Spry said...

Here's the difference. The Bible declares that man is dead, not sick or fighting for his life. Instead of floating on the surface waiting on a preserver or even Jesus to walk out to get us, the Bible declares that we are dead and decomposing on the ocean floor. We are a corpse, needing complete and total resurrection. I wrote about this earlier here:


Chuck said...

Maybe you assume too much, wise one. It could be quite possible that Jesus came and got that "floating" person precisely because he was dead, and couldn't reach for the life preserver. Dead people float.

Bruce Roberts said...

I just typed a really long and I think thoughtful response to this and then accidentally deleted it before I could post it. So here goes again. Jeff's point, I believe, is that whether we're floating or on the bottom of the ocean, we're dead, not dying. We're not about to die unless we grab the life preserver of salvation, we're already dead. You can't grab a life preserver if you're already dead. We're born dead. That's not a particularly happy thought, but it's scripturally true. When a person is born again (or saved, or accepts Christ, or asks Christ into their heart, hey, let's discuss the accuracy of some of those phrases sometime), that person's spirit is made alive in Christ. Before that, the person was physically alive, but spiritually dead. As Christians, especially evangelists, I think, we focus on eternity (not that it isn't important) because it's easier to convince someone that they might go to hell when they die than that they are in hell (figuratively) at this very moment. We are born into sin and that means we are seperated from God. It's hard to convince someone who's relatively happy that they are currently in a miserable state of hoplessness and despair (which we are in before being born again). It may be semantics or just an analogy, but we must understand and share with others that we're born dead and remain so until we are born again.

Jeff A. Spry said...

To that, I say AMEN. Very astute response. You seem to grasp the finer points. The next thing to grapple with is the terminology you bring up, re: born again, saved, accepts Christ, asks Christ into their hearts). Are they all synonyms?

Here’s something I had written earlier:

Jesus spoke often of the necessity of the “new birth.” Read John 3:7-8

7 "Do not be amazed that I said to you, 'You must be born again.'
8 "The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit."

Would you agree that it is a fairly common idea that for Christians to evangelize is to tell people “You must be born again’? Then we go through a tract and instruct them on how to be “born again.” But is that what evangelism really is? Is that what Jesus is saying here? No! Evangelism is preaching the death of Christ for sinners and the necessity of repentance and belief. Telling people “how” to be born again is like telling people to understand where the wind comes from and where it is going. It is mysterious – it is the work of God alone. The wind (new birth) blows (happens) where HE pleases!

The words “You must be born again” are not a command but as a declaration of necessity. Jesus taught that the new birth is necessary. From this, many have falsely concluded that it is a command to be obeyed by us. But `be born' is a passive verb, not active. It is not something you do, rather it is something that must be done to you, in you, through you by someone outside of yourself. On the contrary, `repent' and `believe' are active.

What does that mean? It means that those who are born again are recipients. A birth is not something one volunteers for; it is something that happens to him. Suppose I was in the Army for four years, and, at the same time, I am a Spry by birth. I joined the Army (voluntarily) and my family (involuntarily). When Jesus compared the start of the Christian life to a birth, which type of joining did He have in mind? Obviously, the second. However, which type of joining is presented in most modern evangelism? The first. One of the major problems we have in the church today is the confused membership who come as a result of well-meaning but unbiblical recruiters, instead of biblical evangelists. We have even fallen to the point where we have borrowed, on a large scale, techniques of recruitment from the world.