Month: December 2014

Translation Tuesday – Luke 1:19

Luke 1 19

Unknown to almost all Christians, the word evangelize is used 55 times in the New Testament.  This truth is hidden from most Christians not due to lack of reading Scripture, as some might guess, but due to a burying of the word through the translation process.  In fact, until recently there was not a single modern translation that included this word.  The Holman Christian Standard Bible has begun the task of bringing this word back into our translations, though the use of this word 6 times, but that still leaves 49 buried instances of the word.

Each Tuesday we are looking at verses that include the Greek word evangelize.  Today we look at Luke 1:19.

Once again, I cannot say thank you enough to Dr. Thomas Johnston for opening my eyes to this truth.  Although I plan to scratch the surface each week in regards to this translation issue, his depth of research and knowledge in this area is staggering.  Without his pointing out this to me, I would be blind to this truth.  His books of notes on evangelism is a must for any pastoral library.

Luke 1:19

And the angel answered and said to him, “I am Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God, and was sent to speak to you and bring you these glad tidings. (NKJV)

Of the many passages we will look at, this is one that I feel the removal of the word evangelize does not hinder the understanding.  Evangelism is the speaking of glad tidings (good news).  In many translations that is exactly what is being described.  The meaning has not been changed.

This is also a message delivered directly from the mouth of an angelic being, which is something that none of us are, or can relate to.  No matter what word is used it would be clear that the message was coming from a being, and in a method that we cannot replicate.

The question would have to be asked, though, is anything gained by translating this another way than evangelize?

The book of Luke alone uses the Word evangelize 10 different times.  Of these encounters two are by angels, one is John the Baptist, six are from Jesus, and one speaks of the disciples.  A consistent translation of the word evangelize would show the readers the continuity between the messengers of God, the work of Christ and us as disciples.  We would see that we are to be obedient just as Gabriel was.  We are to speak in the same bold manner as the one who “stands in the presence of God”.

Although the meaning is not lost in the removal of the word evangelize in Luke 1:19, our understanding is richer with it there.

Yours in Christ,

J. W. Willard

Coming out of the Closet

“and be sure your sin will find you out.”

More than once this verse has run through my mind over the years.

I have been fairly open with my past struggles with sin, and my testimony includes many dark moments that I know God can use, but if I am honest I wish weren’t there.

  • I sometimes fear that the many drugs I took when I was younger will catch up with me and I will lose time with grandchildren or great grandchildren because of it.
  • I think of people I pushed away from the Lord because of my blasphemy and debating against Christianity, and I pray that the Lord has opened their eyes over the years to the truth.
  • I feel remorse for shop owners that I stole from, and people whose property I damaged.
  • I feel guilt for the way I treated my parents and teachers and for the gifts of God that I wasted over the years.

I know, I was not a very good guy, and I praise the Lord that He saw fit to save a sinner such as I.  That He could look past the above sins and countless others and still love me never ceases to amaze me.

With all of my openness in my testimony there is still a darkness that clouds my past that I have hidden from everyone. One sin so great and embarrassing that I have tried to pretend it wasn’t there.  A section of my past that I even kept hidden from my wife for 14 years.  A past sin that I fear could end my career while it is still getting started.  A sin that I live in fear knowing it could find me out.

Although I have no desire to share this sin, or go through the pain of people finding out about this, I fear that I do not have a choice in the matter.  Fear of being found out has caused me to not speak out against others who commit this same sin.  My fear of ruining my reputation has been greater than my boldness for Christ, and that is a sin I can no longer bear.

I also believe in the sovereignty of God.  I know that what I have done in my past can be used by Him to help others who are in the same boat.  I have talked with drug users and used my testimony as a witness to them.  I have shared my journey with atheists in order to show how I came to know the Lord.  I have used my past to show people that God can love you despite all you have done.  There have been times, though, when I could have spoken but out of fear kept my mouth shut.  Times where the testimony God has given could have been used, but I was silent.  After today, no more.

I also believe that we have come to a point in history where the people that the church will be reaching will come in damaged in a way that the church is not ready to deal with.  We are going to see people saved who have pasts that few in the church can relate to.  People who will be afraid of what the church might say.  Afraid of whether or not they will be welcomed.  Afraid to even share where they have come from.  People like me.

Perhaps God can use me during this time in church history.  In order to do so, I have to get past my fear of the possible reaction and lay everything on the line.  I have to be willing to allow Christ, and not fear, to reign in my life.  My love for Him and His church must be greater than my love for myself or my friends.

So…

For 2 years (during my junior and senior year in high school) I was involved in an active, ongoing, homosexual relationship.

Even at the time I would never have gone as far as calling myself homosexual, but if forced to give an answer I probably would have labeled myself as bisexual.

I was a young, stupid, unsaved guy out looking for a good time and willing to have one in whatever form it came in.  I paid no attention to dangers.  Basic rules meant little to me.  I could have cared less about morals, and I didn’t believe that God even existed.  At the time, I didn’t see anything wrong with what I was doing, (although the modern push for acceptance of this lifestyle had not yet started so no mention was ever made to anyone by me or my partner).

Looking back on this time of my life through the lens of salvation, I know the things I did were horribly wrong.  I know this was a lifestyle that was against the wishes of God, and it is something that I will have to live with.

When I was 19 years old I met Kristin and over the course of 2 years (and many influences) the Lord drew me to Himself, and in November of 2001 I placed my faith in Him.  The shame I felt for my past sin was so great that I vowed to never speak of it, to anyone, and for 13 years I did just that.

The problem is that I never felt comfortable with this approach.  Does it bring glory to God to hide the work that he has done in making one new?  Is it not sin to have a testimony and refuse to use it?  Is it ok to hold secrets from your bride?  Is it right to sit in silence while the church struggles with their approach to a quickly growing segment of our culture?  The hard answer that I have recently come to for each of these questions is, no.

A little under a year ago I opened myself up to Kristin and shared my full past with her.  To say she was shocked would perhaps be the greatest understatement ever.  What wife ever expects to hear this after so many years of marriage?  The love and grace that she showed me blew me away.  All of my fears of rejection turned out to be unfounded, and if anything our relationship is closer now than even before.

Since I ‘came out’ to my wife, though, I have been troubled about what my next step should be (if anything).  I have listened in silence to many Christians, and their struggles with homosexual people, and reaching out to them.  I have seen the anger, and hostility towards a group of people that the church needs to reach out to because of their desperate need for the Gospel.  I have watched as the church at large continues to harm their witness because of their reaction to the homosexual community.  And I have prayed about what my role should be.

Because of this year of turmoil and prayer I have decided that I cannot remain silent about my past.  How can I reach out to the community and ask people to confess sins that I myself am afraid to admit.  How can I tell them that the church is warm and welcoming when I treat it as if it isn’t?  How can I be a witness for Christ and share my testimony with unbelievers when I refuse to share my testimony?

There are many days that I wish my past wasn’t what it is, but I know God had a plan for my life even during that time.  Today, I offer my life as a living sacrifice, because that is my reasonable service.  I refuse to be ruled by fear or my own selfish desires.

Even though I wish these events never occurred, I have learned through this that His Grace is greater still.  The blood of Christ can cleanse the darkest sin.  I can’t imagine a scenario where I could have strayed further from God, than what I lived out in high school.  Yet, Christ welcomed me with open arms when I came running to Him.  His love is amazing.  There is no sin that can keep us from being able to reach out to Christ, and no sin that would cause Him to not want us to reach for Him.  He accepts us as we are, broken and all.

I don’t know what the churches reaction is going to be to this knowledge of my past.  In my mind I see it not going well.  I fear a loss of friends, and possibly a damaged career.  That was my same fear when I opened up to Kristin, and yet it turned out to be unfounded.  I pray this is the same.  I pray people can see past my dark past, and see the man that God is making me into, even today.

I pray God can use my testimony to encourage and reach out to others with similar pasts.  Perhaps God can even use me, and people like me, to prepare the church for the tidal wave of similar stories I believe will be coming into the church in the near future.

The onslaught of propaganda for same sex relations in the culture today is overwhelming, and many young people are being deceived by it.  We will soon find many hurting, and looking for a place to turn.  The church of Christ needs to be ready to openly minister to them with love.

Over the coming weeks and months I plan to explore many of the issues surrounding the modern gay movement, and will be posting those here.  I will still keep this blog focused on evangelism, and outreach, and I feel this issue is one that must be addressed in order to effectively reach out into our current culture.

Thank you for your patience with this long post.

As well as I can, I want to be available to field questions and concerns.  Post them below, or send them to me privately and I will respond as best as I can.

Yours in Christ,

J. W. Willard

Evangelism as the Key to the Spiritual Disciplines

One of my favorite books, and a book that has greatly impacted my life is Don Whitney’s Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life.  This book opened my eyes to the ways in which God uses the things that we do to make us more Christ like.  It encouraged me to practice these things, and through them I have been changed, and continue to be changed.

Don Whitney hits the nail on the head when he informs readers that God has commanded Christians in 1 Timothy 4:7 to “discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness”.  We are to be constantly growing in our relationship and understanding of God, and that takes discipline.  It is an ongoing process through which “we can place ourselves in the path of God’s grace and seek Him”.

Dallas Willard, along with having an amazing name, also wrote on the topic of spiritual disciplines.  His central premise of his classic book on the subject is that “we can become like Christ by doing one thing-by following him in the overall style of life he chose for himself.”  So it is by doing what Christ did, that we become more like Him.

Both of these books are great on the subject, and I by no means wish to say otherwise.  If you have not read them, you should.  You should also pick up N.T. Wright’s After you Believe.  These three books will change the way you live your life, and you will be forever blessed should you follow their wisdom.

There is one issue that I would like to address shortly today.  Something that God has shown me over the years of my disciplines.

If one were to follow the teaching of these books, their disciplines would look something like the chart below.

Disciplines

As the Christian interacts with each discipline he/she is changed, and shaped, and molded by it.  The interaction with the discipline works to make the Christian more Christ-like.  Each of these works in isolation with each other, and each is of equal value.   Don Whitney’s book is laid out in a format that even encourages this type of understanding.  Each discipline is assigned a chapter, and is giving equal value.  The only exception to this is the idea of Bible intake.  According to Don Whitney taking in God’s Word takes priority over everything else.  Everything else is on equal footing.

Most Christians live their lives with this understanding, though they may not understand that they do.

Over my life I have learned that there is another way to look at the disciples.  In fact, I believe that there is one discipline that is a key to opening the full potential of all others.  That is the key of evangelism.  My rough chart below gives a picture of this idea.

Disciplines 2 (2)

I believe that evangelism is the key to opening the full potential of all of the other disciplines.  I believe that it is through a Great Commission lens that we can open the fullness of what God offers us.  As Dallas Willard stated we become Christ like by “following him in the overall style of life he chose for himself”.  So why did Christ come?  What was his overall style of life?  The Son of Man cam to seek and save that which was lost.  Or, as Christ Himself said in Luke 4:43, “I must evangelize”.

If we truly want to model our lives’ after Christ our primary focus must be to seek and save that which is lost.

Here is where it gets good.

All of the disciplines mentioned above are worthy of our time (to a certain degree) along with many more.  We should each be disciplined and growing.  That is what God has commanded us to do.  If we do each of these, and leave out evangelism though we are doing them for self-serving reasons.  We are focused on ourselves.

If we evangelize our disciplines become tools to shape us so that we can better be used by Christ for His mission on Earth, which is to bring sinners to Himself.

When I evangelize I read my Bible differently, I pray differently, I worship differently, I learn differently, I fast differently.  I do this differently because I do them from a position of being inside God’s will.  I am taking in Scripture with passion knowing that what I read and learn may be used by God to draw someone to Himself.  I pray with passion because I pray for real, lost people and can see their faces and know their names.  I worship differently because I have seen God at work in hopeless situations.  I learn differently so that I can be used by God.

Everything is changed by the practice of the evangelism.

All of the other disciplines fall into place.

Don Whitney teaches that evangelism is often a skipped practice because we are frightened by “the seriousness of evangelism”.  I agree whole heartedly.  When we evangelize we are taking part in the most serious thing imaginable.  We are offering life to the dead.

That seriousness works as a fuel that burns deep and bright.  It forces us to our knees and drives us to the Word of God.  I challenge you to practice the discipline of evangelism knowing that it will change everything about you, bringing you more in line with Christ.

J. W. Willard

 

Translation Tuesday – Matthew 11:5

In 2009 I began my seminary studies, and have been richly blessed by them.  I have studied deeper than I had ever before, and have looked into subjects that I may never have looked to under my own direction.  This period of my life has been priceless.

One truth has stood out amongst the rest during this time that completely shocked me, and has impacted how I look at Scripture.  While sitting under the teaching of Dr. Thomas Johnston I learned that the word evangelize was used in the original Greek of the New Testament 55 times.  As I opened by New King James (or most other translations) I found that it was not used a single time.  The word has been buried by translators for one reason or another.

With this knowledge many of these texts take on new meaning and I believe if widely known they would significantly impact the way the church operates.

Beginning today I am going to post a verse each Tuesday for the next 55 weeks showing the word evangelize where it has been used in Scripture.

Today our text is Matthew 11:5

“The blind see and the lame walk; the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear; the dead are raised up and the poor have the gospel evangelized to them.”

At first glance this may seem to be a minor change, but its implications are quite massive in the modern church.  In the NKJV and most other modern translations the word used here is “preached”, in the HCSV the poor are “told the good news”.  One need only ask the question “Who preaches in the church today?” to see that the modern reader will not see this verse as an evangelistic verse, but instead as a pastoral verse.

When a congregation sees the pastor preaching and the community hearing the gospel they believe that the church is currently doing what Matthew 11:5 points to.  With the original word evangelize being used it becomes clear the task is much greater than the preacher.  The Gospel must be sent out.  People must evangelize.

This week, work to apply Matthew 11:5 to your life.  Look to have people have the Gospel evangelized to them, and allow yourself to be the tool.

J. W. Willard