Monday, January 01, 2007


I don't propose to start many posts with a picture of Saddam Hussein, but I have a reason for this one. Look at it for a minute, if you would, please. With the knowledge that he died a few minutes later. I'll get back to it in a minute.

Jeff Richard Young has an excellent post (but then I love satire) about a seemingly common approach to evangelism. I'd like to take a look at the same issue, from a little different angle.

Since I'm old and don't have a lot to do ... when someone asks me how my schedule looks for some possible meeting, my usual response is that I don't have a schedule ... I watch a fair amount of TV news. Thus, I've seen a number of spots about Saddam Hussein, and his final journey to the gallows. NOTE: I'm assuming he was not saved; more about that later.

I was struck by the utter sadness of the photo of his being fitted for the noose; here was a man about to die. Condemned. Hopeless. Not even knowing what he was about to experience, eternally. Sure, I was in favor of his demise, but it's just sad, regardless of how evil he may have been.

Let's switch to evangelism. The first plan I ever learned was the Four Spiritual Laws. That starts with the premise that God loves you (true enough) and has a wonderful plan for your life. True, again, but THAT cannot be understood by a lost person!

1 Corinthians 2:14: The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned. (NIV)

If we tell a lost person that God has a wonderful life all planned for him, what could he possibly envision? You can figure it out as well as I can!

What we frequently tell lost folks is that sin is standing between them and this beautiful life promised by the Four (non-existent) Laws. Solve that by applying Jesus, and they can have this terrific life we promised. I would imagine, under those circumstances, a fair percentage of responders would opt for that terrific life, and "say the sinner's prayer". If that happens, the plain fact is that they have not chosen to follow Jesus. They've chosen a life laid out per a "wonderful plan". And that is wrong.

God doesn't offer an "upgrade to first class" in his Word. He spells out a death to self and a spiritual resurrection to newness of life, on earth. And the real reason to do that, the only one that a lost person can comprehend, is to avoid hell.

Consider this question: What "spiritual" knowledge can a lost person appropriate? What can he understand, spiritually? As I read scripture, I see only 4 things. I think it's important to keep these things in mind, when we talk to a lost person. Hence, our "presentation" should be limited to these sorts of things.

1) He can know some stuff about God, and His attitude toward sin:

Romans 1:18-20: The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them.
For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities-- his eternal power and divine nature-- have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse. (NIV)

That's always been true, and when Jesus left earth, He said He'd send the Holy Ghost to convict lost mankind of some other stuff, too. Namely:

2-3-4) Sin, rignteousness and judgment.

John 16:8-11: When he comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment: in regard to sin, because men do not believe in me; in regard to righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer; and in regard to judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned. (NIV)

When we're witnessing, to folks that are lost, we cannot go beyond those parameters. Unsaved folks cannot comprehend how God can be glorified through tragedy, nor what happens to babies who starve in Africa, or anything else in which the truth is spiritual in nature. To deal with those things is to confuse the non-believer.

Back to Saddam Hussein. Look at the picture above. Try to put yourself into his mind. He's about to die. He is condemned. All appeals are over. He has an appointment to die. Of course, you know that his belief was not in the only Name by which we may be saved, so know what he is presumably facing. Can you get a feel for the hopelessness and despair you'd feel, in that place?

Well, THAT is what lost people should feel. And that eternal prospect is what they need to be saved from. They do not need to be saved from a boring or frustrating life; from a lack of meaning or purpose. Yet I fear, as we too often present the gospel, that's what they're choosing to be saved from.

Side note: in my Sunday School Class, I spent a fair amount of time educating my classmembers on what they were saved from.

We do love John 3:16. Maybe even 17. But how often do we spend some time exploring 18?

John 3:18: Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God's one and only Son. (NIV)

What really needs to happen when we talk to someone? We need to put them, in their mind, in Saddam Hussein's place. About to die. Condemned. That's not a pleasant place to be, and of course only the Holy Ghost can really do that (Jesus did say He's the Guy Who'd be doing the convicting...). But, folks need to have some gut-level knowledge of what they are being saved from, and that best comes when they face the sin, death, and righteousness that only the Holy Ghost can convict them of. But, when that does happens, they can understand and appropriate it.

If my feelings on this subject are correct, I'd envision a lot of folks who "say the sinner's prayer", who subsequently see their lives pretty much the same as before, only with the added benefit of the devil trying to keep them from becoming more dangerous to him. If that happens, it'd be just like buying some new tool that didn't work like you thought it would. You might take it back (which you can't really do with salvation), but you'd sure quit using it.

Does that seem to happen in our churches, today? Do folks "say the prayer" in our outreach activities, only never to be heard from again?

The reason to be saved is that, unsaved, we're condemned to an eternity in hell, a place of suffering of an intensity that we cannot now comprehend. Anything less, shorts the gospel and the work of Jesus.

How about the folks who "opt for the Christian life"? Are they saved? How should I know? But when you're about your evangelistic activities, ask yourself:

What are you willing to leave to chance?

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At 3:36 PM, January 01, 2007, Blogger CB Scott said...


Very sobering. When I got saved I knew nothing of a "better life" offer, but I was certainly convicted of the reality of Hell and the only HOPE of escape.

If the only proposition was a better life here, I saw no need of one. I was being convicted by a righteous God of my sin and the certain judgement of Hell. I looked to the only hope, which was and is Jesus. He gave me my salvation without any "negotiations" of trade from me. I was saved due to His merciful grace and that alone.

Your post is worthy of publication in a LifeWay resource of some kind if LifeWay has a resource worthy of your post:-)


At 4:06 PM, January 01, 2007, Blogger Bob Cleveland said...

Thanks, CB. As a teacher, I get very convicted about what I teach. I don't ever, here or in eternity, want to hear one of my classmembers ask "Why didn't you tell me that?"

This post stemmed from that fear in my heart.

At 7:06 PM, January 01, 2007, Blogger Jonathan K. said...


This post on evangelism is VERY true and VERY well done. I commend you. The Four Spiritual Laws thing (I was a part of CCC, too) just doesn't work.

We need to know that salvation is not just for "fire insurance," though, and there is something to eternal life. I'm glad you realize that.

Blessings this New Year.

At 7:24 PM, January 01, 2007, Blogger Bob Cleveland said...


True enough, and thanks.

Two things ... the "more" probably can't be comprehended by natural man. He's apt to be disappointed and distracted if he expect more than fire insurance going in. That part is Spiritually discerned, IMO.

Second: Jesus said He came so that we might have (a) Life, and (b)Have life abundantly. He seems to indicate two transactions. As I see it, when we're saved, we receive Life (see John 5:24 ... we pass from death to life).

The "abundant" part isn't something we receive. We have to (active verb alert) LIVE that.

At 10:45 PM, January 01, 2007, Blogger Jonathan K. said...


I don't know if the natural man can only discern "fire insurance." I don't even know if the natural man can really discern anything spiritual, without the help and illumination of the Holy Spirit.

I think when we are saved, we receive eternal and abundant life. Its not two transactions, it is one major transaction, which happened on the cross, and is effectuated in one's life by faith. I think abundance (however one defines that) is something that we receive as part of "everything pertaining to life and godliness." I also agree with you abundance needs to be actively lived, because "to whom much is given, much is to be required." But I also believe that you cannot give what you do not have, and so in order to live abundantly (and give in abudnance), you must have to receive it by faith first. What do you think about that?

Thanks and happy new year.

At 8:48 AM, January 02, 2007, Blogger Bob Cleveland said...


I'll give it another shot. My theory is two-fold. First, "abundant" means"

perissos; superabundant (in quantity) or superior (in quality); by implication, excessive; adverbially (with 1537) violently; neuter (as noun) preeminence:

That doesn't sound like anything etherial or esoteric.

John 5:24 has Jesus saying how we can pass from death to life. When that happens, we HAVE life.

Now. in the eternal sense, we receive eternal life when we are saved. But our life and the abundance of it, evident in our life, occurs when we walk with Jesus. When we conform to HIS purpose. When we die to self. I cannot really judge others, but I see a big percentage of the church that shows no sign of that happening. Maybe God is happy if people just get saved and then sit in a pew (occasionally) and never ever show any discipleship. Maybe He'd rather have that, than their never saying the sinner's prayer. But where there's no fruit, where the life is not changed, where folks still panic while awaiting test results, no different from what a lost person would do, I have to ask where the abundance is.

There's an old story about a traveling salesman who was in Kentucky and kept seeing targets painted on trees. Hundreds and hundreds of them. He looked, and they all had a bullet hole in the bullseye.

He tracked down the guy who did the shooting and asked for information. He was told he shot them all from 150 yards and used an old long rifle his great granddad had given him. The salesman asked how he shot so well and the guy said:

"It's easy .. FIRST you shoot .. THEN you paint the target".

I fear that's too much of Christianity. We settle for whatever we see. And I KNOW God has more for us than most ever experience.

And the "abundance" of serving God IS a Spiritual matter and the natural man CANNOT perceive it. God said that, which settles it for me.

If you want to kick the ball around more, drop me an email.

Thanks for you comments.

At 12:42 PM, January 02, 2007, Blogger Jonathan K. said...


Oh, I absolutely agree with what your point is. I think we just characterize and articulate the same thing differently. :)

Also, I've tried locating your e-mail on your website... cannot find it. Help, please?!? Thanks.


At 12:52 PM, January 02, 2007, Blogger Bob Cleveland said...

Jonathan: Whoops .. I think the old Blogger had the email address on the Profile, but not the new.

It's mighty(at)charter(dot)net

At 2:47 PM, January 03, 2007, Anonymous Lee said...

Well said.

It has taken me a long time to learn that my approach to evangelism has been flawed. It's not just about "presenting" the gospel, it is about repeated exposure to the gospel, as I live it out in my life, that provides the effective motivation for someone to receive it. I looked around a couple of years ago and realized I didn't really have any friends who were not already Christians. Now, I do.

At 9:52 PM, January 03, 2007, Blogger Jeff Richard Young said...

Dear Brother Bob,

Yes! I love it!

When we say, "God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life," we set the sinner at a false sense of ease.

I agree with Brother C.B. But nobody at Lifeway is going to publish it!

Love in Christ,


At 9:58 PM, January 03, 2007, Blogger Bob Cleveland said...

Hi Jeff. Thanks for looking in, and for the kind words.

I hope things are looking up for you. Email me your phone # some time .. I'd like to call you.

At 11:43 AM, January 05, 2007, Blogger Jeff Richard Young said...

Dear Jonathan,

I enjoy reading your thoughts, and hope to make your acquaintance sometime.

Love in Christ,


At 3:36 PM, January 17, 2007, Blogger Rob said...

I saw a TV show and I looked at their website and it approaches this much from the same angle.

I believe it's called Way of the Master, it has Kirk Cameron (80's TV) involved with it.

I've also been reading lately about "fishing" evangelism vs "hunting" evangelism. It just seems like most evangelizing lately is more like a drive by shooting instead of thru relationships and sharing life together.

At 4:44 PM, January 17, 2007, Blogger Bob Cleveland said...

Hi Rob. Thanks for looking in and commenting.

I think there are all sorts of witnessings going on out there, but most that's "church-emanated" is the "hit & run" of the programs like F.A.I.T.H., et al. My theory is that the foot-soldiers of God's army stay in the barracks and leave the battle to the generals, unless the generals come get them and take them on a forced march.

I guess that's just the way it is.

At 3:57 PM, March 03, 2007, Blogger saint david said...

We must give John Calvin's thought consideration 'Reformed and always reforming'

Is man mortal or immortal?

Paul says that we seek immortality, Ro. 2:7
also that mortal man puts on immortality in Christ, I Cor. 15:53,54
also that immortality came by Christ and Christ alone, II Ti. 1:10

This article at:
sheds much light on it(if you take a look at it carefully)


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