Reaching Out with the Gospel of God

Part 1

Calvary Baptist Church Evangelism Conference | Winston-Salem, North Carolina

As I have reflected on your theme — Reaching Our Culture with the Gospel — what burdens me most about this topic is trying to understand first and foremost what the gospel is. And I have a particular kind of question when I ask that; namely, what is it ultimately, most deeply, most permanently, that makes the good news good. That’s been the question driving me for several years because I don’t think we give enough attention to that. I think we preach wonderful things and don’t quite bore in far enough or push through all the way to what makes the good news good. So here’s my outline for this evening.

I want to ask the question, “What is the gospel?” And flowing from that answer backward, I want to answer the question, “What is lostness?” That includes both my lostness, once upon a time, and that of the people that I would love to reach in this culture. And then flowing forward, I want to ask, “What is conversion?” I will focus on those three questions, and then the last two questions, which are, “How are human beings involved in the divine act of conversion?” I believe conversion is God’s work, and yet evangelism is all over the Bible and therefore human beings are somehow, essentially, crucially involved in this divine work. That’s the fourth question. And then the last question, which will lead into tomorrow evening, is, “How does teaching, in particular, relate to the human part of evangelism?”

It’s remarkable in the New Testament what a significant role extended teaching played in the life of the Apostle Paul, the church planter, in bringing about evangelism and winning people to Christ. So that’s where we’re going.

What is the Gospel?

I would like you to take your Bibles and open them with me to 2 Corinthians 4:4–6. These verses have been for me, in the last three years perhaps, riveting my attention because it shows me how I can understand Paul’s mind and thus God’s mind concerning the nature of the gospel. The passage says:

In their case the god of this world (I think that’s the devil) has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

I want you to first see the word gospel there in 2 Corinthians 4:4. You all know this, but it means good news. What is the highest, best, and final good that makes the good news good? Is it justification by faith alone apart from works? Is it the forgiveness of sins, or what Paul calls redemption? Is it the removal of the wrath of God? Is it the liberation from slavery to sin? Is it deliverance or rescue from hell? Is it access into heaven? Is it eternal life? Is it being free to love like Jesus loved, or deliverance from all pain and sickness and conflict? Now that’s the list that I think we preach most often, and they are glorious and precious beyond words. And I do not think any of those things that I just mentioned are the highest and best and final good that makes the good news good.

I think every single one of those benefits of the gospel is leading to the highest, best, and final good that makes the gospel good. And here’s the frightening thing. If you don’t go in them and through them and up to the final best, highest good, you can believe in those things and not believe the gospel. It’s very startling.

The Ultimate Good of the Gospel

Let’s look here and see if we see it in these verses. Secon Corinthians 4:4 says, “In their case” — that is, the case of those who are perishing — “the god of this world (Satan) has blinded the minds of unbelievers to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” Second Corinthians 4:6 is a parallel to 2 Corinthians 4:4. It says, “For God who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ has shown in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”

Now take 2 Corinthians 4:4 and lay it on top of 2 Corinthians 4:6 to observe the parallel structure, so that light is shed upon the meaning of these phrases. You can lay verse 4 on verse 6 because they are repetitions, I believe. The phrase light of the gospel corresponds to light of the knowledge, the phrase of the glory of Christ corresponds to of the glory of God, and the phrase who is the image of God corresponds to in the face of Jesus Christ. These are not two different glories. The gospel of the glory of Christ and the knowledge of the glory of God are the same thing, I think, in this text. The glory of Christ and the glory of God are the same glory, and that’s made clear by what follows there — Christ who is the image of God.

So when you’re looking at the glory of Christ, you’re seeing the glory of God shining forth. We beheld his glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father (John 1:14). It was the Father’s glory. When you see the glory of Christ shining through the gospel, you see the glory of God. That’s the point of 2 Corinthians 4:4. Then down in 2 Corinthians 4:6, it’s the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. When you see the person standing forth from the Gospels, working out the gospel in the Gospels, what you’re seeing is the glory of God.

So those two verses, 2 Corinthians 4:4 and 2 Corinthians 4:6, are parallel verses laying on top of each other. They illuminate each other. And what they both say is that the gospel in its highest, best, and final good, is the enabling of a sinner by all the means that I just mentioned, to see and savor increasingly and forever, the glory of God in Jesus Christ. That is the good of the gospel.

God’s Gifts or God Himself?

And I fear that in many of our churches, the means that are mentioned — justification, redemption, propitiation, escape from hell, removal of wrath, entrance into heaven, and removal of disease — are embraced. Who doesn’t want to get free from a guilty conscience? Who doesn’t want to escape hell? Who doesn’t want to have their sins forgiven? The devil sure would like that. But there’s one thing the devil does not want. And he hasn’t wanted it ever since the fall. He doesn’t want the presence of God. He doesn’t want to see God face to face as his all-satisfying treasure. And I just fear that there are so many professing Christians who don’t want it either.

The question I ask my people to test them on this is, “If you could go to heaven, have perfect health, restoration with all the relatives you’ve ever lost, meaningful labor, all the sights and sounds and pleasures you’ve ever known on planet Earth, and God not be there, would that be okay?” I fear that there are so many hearts that if they were honest would say, “I’ve just always thought of heaven as those things.”

The highest and best and final good of the gospel is to see in the gospel and savor with our spiritual taste buds, the glory of Christ, who is the image of God or the glory of the gospel in the face of Christ. So justification is good news because it makes us stand accepted before the one whose glory we want to see and not be incinerated by. Forgiveness is good news because it cancels all the sins that keep us away from seeing and enjoying the glory of Christ. Removal of wrath is good news because it welcomes us into his presence. Escape from hell is not escape into everlasting golf on your favorite course forever and ever.

I hear preachers joke like that, saying things like, “Hell is like everlasting par.” It’s not even close. The reason we want to escape hell is not only because it hurts, but because it keeps us from seeing and savoring the all-satisfying glory of God. The reason we want eternal life is that Jesus said, “This is eternal life, that they may know you and the one whom you sent” (John 17:3). We want freedom from pain and sickness and conflict because all those things are distracting and take us away from the fullest enjoyment of the glory of God in Christ.

These two verses, 2 Corinthians 4:4 and 2 Corinthians 4:6, show me that there is real glory, there is a real spiritual light that shines through the gospel. It is the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, and one must see it to be saved.

What is Lostness?

Now that brings us very close to the question of what it means to be lost. And it’s very simple what it means to be lost in this text. So here is question number two. What is lostness? Second Corinthians 4:4 says:

In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.

To be lost is to be unable, with the eyes of the heart (a phrase from Ephesians 1:17), to see the glory of Christ. Jesus said, “Seeing they do not see and hearing they do not hear” (Matthew 13:13). So clearly there are two ways to see — one with intellectual perception and one with the eyes of the heart. Seeing they do not see. The devil perceives perfectly well and he’s more Orthodox than any of us is; he just hates everything he sees. We must see with all our perception.

Seeing They Do Not See

We need to see, so lostness is blindness. You know people like this; some of them in your family, breaking your heart. You sit down with a person like this, like I did for four years with one of my sons at Leeann Chin, Pizza Hut, and Perkins, whenever he’d come home from making rock music on the road, trying to ruin his life, breaking my heart, we would sit and talk. And he knows everything I know. He’s a better theologian than I was. And he would look me in the face and he would say, “Daddy, probably everything you say is true. It’s just not mine.”

And with tears running down your face, you say, “It can be, why wouldn’t it be? Why shouldn’t it be? There’s no reason why you should not embrace this? Is it not glorious? Is it not beautiful? Is he not worthy? Is it not enough?” Nothing. Just nothing. You want to scream. You want to shake. I’ve got to be able to control this, right? I’ve got to be able to make this happen. But you can’t make it happen.

Lostness is blindness. Lostness is a spiritual condition that makes one impervious to the glory. It’s like a person who stands at the Grand Canyon, or the Alps, or some magnificent sunrise, and grumbles about their cheeseburger. You want to shake them and say, “Put it down. Open your eyes. Don’t you have a soul? Don’t you have any aesthetic sense at all?” And of course, they don’t.

Then you bump from aesthetics up to spirituality. This is not an aesthetic sense, it’s a spiritual reality, and lostness is the absence of that ability to see. To the Jews, the gospel is a stumbling block, and to Gentiles it is foolishness, but to those who are called, the cross suddenly becomes the power of God, the glory of God, and the wisdom of God (1 Corinthians 1:22–24). And there’s nothing you can do to make it happen.

So lostness in this text (2 Corinthians 4:4) is blindness to glory. The glory of Christ shining through what he did on the cross.

What Is Conversion?

Now, here’s the third question. So what then is conversion? Conversion is the granting of that spiritual sight described in 2 Corinthians 4:6. It says:

For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness” …

Now he’s harking back there to creation. The God who once upon a time looked down over a dark planet said, “Let there be light,” and nothingness obeyed him. It always does, just as Jesus said, “Lazarus come forth,” and dead men obey (John 11:43). When Jesus Christ addressed Lazarus, who was dead, they must’ve said, “Excuse me, he’s dead. You don’t understand Jesus. He’s dead. You don’t command dead people. That’s irrational. It’s irrational to command dead people to do things.” It is not irrational if you’re God. When God says, “Come forth,” dead people obey. When God addresses the dark and says, “Let there be light,” light happens. When God says, “Behold, the glory of God, Abraham” — that’s the name of my son — he does.

It happened in a van in Pensacola, Florida. He came home, helped some of his friends, and moved some furniture. These friends were all believers, and they were all over him, saying, “What’s wrong with you, stupid? You’re throwing away your life. It’s the best thing in the world. And this girl named Molly, to whom he is now married with a child working for Desiring God, said to him a verse in Romans and it stuck. He went home on the airplane, and that night he couldn’t remember where the verse was found but remembered it was in Romans.

So he started with the first verse. It’s very dangerous for a lost person to start at the first verse of Romans. And he read until he got to Chapter 10, and I got an email the next morning. It said, “Dear daddy, I am saved. I couldn’t do it. Molly couldn’t do it. But alone in a van in Pensacola, Florida with the book of Romans, God said, ‘Let there be light.’” I remember when this little boy was nine years old he would sit with me in prayer meetings with his legs dangling. He would be the only kid in a prayer meeting of 20 people praying out loud. I never could figure out what in the world happened, but God had it all under control. And he was most definitely four days late, or four years late, as far as I was concerned. But he was exactly on time.

Let There Be Light

I’ll read the rest of 2 Corinthians 4:6. It says:

For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

So the gospel is the gospel of the glory of Christ, and lostness is blindness to it. And conversion is 2 Corinthians 4:6, when God says, “Let there be light.” He shines into our hearts through the gospel. That’s the work of creation. And we’re granted in the gospel to see the beauty of Christ, the love of Christ, the power of Christ, the wisdom of Christ, the justice of Christ, and different aspects of the diamond of the glory of Jesus move different people. That’s why so many different evangelists are needed and so many different testimonies are needed.

Let me give you one more illustration that’s not related to me, except that it was a person in Amsterdam who was saved off the internet. God is so sovereign in the way he saves people. Listen to this amazing email that I got Monday, April 4 this past year.

God bless everyone who reads this. I can’t believe it took me two whole years to understand what is said in the audio sermon Education for Exaltation in Christ. I am a Jew, a Christian Jew since two minutes ago.

I believe that Jesus is God. Jesus is Elohim. He who has the Son has life. God used that audio sermon to crush the mind of this stubborn Jew. I must say that I had troubles with the Father’s name being pronounced, as in Jewish culture it is not common to pronounce the Father’s name, since we don’t know how it is pronounced. But I decided to go on and listen. My eyes went open. Just today I was angry with God. I said to him, “Why are you letting me search without finding answers?”

Well I found it now. Jesus is Elohim. I will make sure that this message will get spread out here in Europe. I’m from the Netherlands. I can’t believe it. Well, I do actually believe it. Jesus is Elohim. Praise Jesus, praise Elohim. Your brother in Christ.

Now there is a person who two minutes after this event knew something had happened dramatically, spiritually real. What was impossible for this Jewish man to embrace, namely the utterance of the name of God, not to mention he who has the Son has life, suddenly became beautiful enough to embrace. This Christ became irresistibly, gloriously, attractive to him. That was the work of God that leads us now, paradoxically, to the fourth question.

What Is Our Role in Conversion?

If it’s so dramatic when God says, “Let there be light,” or, “Lazarus come forth,” or, “Abraham, see,” then what’s our job? And I want to stress our job is absolutely essential. Now to do that, I’m going to take you to Acts 26. This may make it seem like it’s a strange place to go, but the reason I’m going there is that there is no other passage in the New Testament that lies on top of 2 Corinthians 4:4–6 with its human dimension.

Second Corinthians 4:4–6 is so dramatically divine. You have the devil, you have God, you have darkness, you have light, you have bondage, and you have deliverance. God is doing it and the devil is taking it on the chin. And we want to ask, “Where do we fit in here? Are we supposed to do anything about this, the lost people in our lives?” I sent my son emails almost daily. I couldn’t begin to count how many, because I knew he’d go to libraries and check his email. He never resented me getting in his face.

I never was — I probably was — but I don’t think I was preachy. He never pushed me away. He always respected me and would go out to eat with me when I wanted. He’d brace himself for the spiritual conversation, but I would always just, off my front burner from my devotions, say, “Isn’t it great that …” I wouldn’t say, “you must believe that,” but, “isn’t it great that…” And I’d quote some glorious truth about Jesus or about the cross or about the gospel. I just knew nobody else in his life, in these discos, and around the country, was giving him anything true. Scripture says you’ll know the truth and the truth will make you free (John 8:32).

Somebody, some dad, had to keep getting in his face with just truth. It’s out there. You don’t have to believe it. It’s just there. I’m going to keep telling you this till I drop. So don’t get out of your kids’ lives. There’s a difference I think between being preachy and being celebrative — I love Jesus! Speak like that and give reasons. He knows you love Jesus. He’s tired of hearing that, but give reasons that might lodge themselves.

To Open Their Eyes

So here look at Acts 26:17–18, where Jesus is commissioning Paul, a human being like you, to go do something about this blindness. And let’s put it dramatically. Jesus is telling Paul, “You go do what only I can do.” That’s what he’s saying. You go do what only I can do. Now watch this and you’ll see why I’m saying it that way. This is Acts 26:17–18, and it is absolutely incredible:

I am sending you to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God …

Do you see why I chose this verse? You have light issues in these verses, just like you did in 2 Corinthians. You have Satan issues, just like you do in 2 Corinthians. The only difference is that in this passage a human being is being sent to do this. Jesus is saying, “You go open their eyes so that they turn from darkness to light and the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.” So the aim is that they turn from darkness to light, and that corresponds to 2 Corinthians 4:4, where the god of this world has blinded them to keep them from seeing the light.

So your job is to go do something that stops Satan’s blinding work. That’s your job. Go make that happen. Your job is also to go turn them from the power of Satan to God, even though it says in 2 Corinthians 4:4 that the god of this age is blinding them. So you have to make light happen where there’s darkness, and you have to make freedom happen where Satan is holding them in bondage. That’s your job. Jesus is saying, “I’m sending you to do what only I can do.”

Sovereign Grace and Human Agency

And if you know your New Testament, that’s not an impossible paradox. That’s just all over the place in the Bible. This is 1 Corinthians 15:10:

I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me.

Paul is saying, “Yes, I’m working,” and, “No, I’m not working.” In other words, my work won’t accomplish anything if in and through my work God isn’t doing something supernatural. Or listen to Romans 15:18, which says:

For I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me to bring the Gentiles to obedience …

Paul is saying, “I won’t even begin to talk about anything I do, except what has been done through me.” Paul’s whole mindset was both these texts are true, thinking, “I’ve got to go share the name where it’s never been named. And when I do it, nothing is going to happen unless God does the decisive work in and through me. But he’s not doing it without me. He won’t save sinners without the preaching of the gospel.”

I read the book Flags of our Fathers, which is a book about Iwo Jima. In the book there is a story about some kid who was flying his Corsair, and it was hit and taken out. He knew as he was coming down than he was flying right in the amtraks of his own men. He was going to crash right into his own guys, but at the last minute, he just flipped the thing over upside down and crashed between two amtraks. And I thought, “That’s beautiful. That’s glorious. That’s an amazing human act. And that’s the kind of thing we’ve got to be involved in spiritually, bringing our jets down wherever is necessary in order to show the glory of the gospel of Jesus Christ.” Jesus is saying, “I’m sending you to do, Paul, what only I can do. I’m going to say, let there be light in your preaching, but I’m not doing without you.”

The Ministry of the Holy Spirit

What I was going to say was that the Holy Spirit is like a jet flying behind the gospel jet. Let’s say you’re in this first one. You are flying this gospel jet, and you come in and you preach the gospel and the Holy Spirit is right here. He’s going right into these hearts. If you land this jet and say, “Spirit, since you’re the one who always shoots the bullets, why don’t you just fly by yourself?” He’s going to land right behind you.

And do you know why? There’s a profound theological reason why the jet of the Holy Spirit only flies behind the jet of the gospel. It’s because according to John 16:14, the Holy Spirit was sent to glorify Jesus Christ. If you don’t lift up Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit will stay in your back pocket. He won’t work.

But if Christ is lifted up, the Holy Spirit says, “That’s my job. Now I’m ready. You lift up Jesus Christ, you proclaim him, you show all the features about him, and I will sooner or later bore in on the heart to whom you are presenting Jesus Christ. My job is to open the heart and save sinners. But your job is to present all that news about how it was purchased in the events of the death and resurrection, how it was applied in justification, how it is received by faith alone, and how the reward and final destiny is fellowship with God in heaven forever. You say all that and I’m coming in with all my guns, to get through all the calluses that are keeping people from seeing the beauty of it.”

What Is the Role of Teaching?

This leaves us just one last question. I asked, and this is a bridge to tomorrow night, “How is teaching involved in that human dimension?” I’ve been saying, “Preach the gospel, preach the gospel. That your human task is to articulate who Jesus is and what he’s done.” And then the Holy Spirit says, “Let there be light.” But what about teaching? Let’s go to one last text, 2 Timothy 2:24–26. I’m going to treat it just briefly and then pick it up right here tomorrow evening.

I think you’ll see, once I read the whole thing, how it relates to 2 Corinthians 4:4–6 and Acts 26:16–17. It says:

The Lord’s servant (now that’s the messenger, which could be a pastor, evangelist, or small group leader) must not be quarrelsome (there’s a certain style about this ministry — a certain tone and flavor that matters) but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil …

You try to explain the gospel to some people. It is just going to come back in your face. They’re going to laugh at it, or they’re going to say, “Blah blah blah; that’s your way of thinking.” To do this evangelism business, to reach our culture is going to result in that. We must patiently endure evil as we teach, “correcting opponents with gentleness” (2 Timothy 2:25). Yes, there are opponents, and yes, they need correction. And yes, there’s a way to do it and a way not to do it.

God May Grant Repentance

Let me add a parenthesis here. I don’t know how it is here in North Carolina, but as I watch from Minnesota, from my vantage point of evangelicals, across the American radio especially, I hear a lot of feisty talk that I don’t like — feisty, right-wing, conservative, evangelical garbage of which I agree with most of it. And I’m a pretty conservative guy. I think homosexual behavior is sin. I think wives should be submissive to their husbands. That’s enough to get me crucified right there. And in a lot of other things. I’m a pretty conservative guy.

But frankly, this text — “correcting them with gentleness” — makes me think there’s a lot of imitation of the world on Christian talk radio. Close that parenthesis and tune in tomorrow and see whether Stu gets it right or not.

We haven’t gotten to the main point yet. Second Timothy 2:25 continues:

…correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance …

There it is. That’s just an overwhelming statement. You can do a couple of things with that statement — “God may perhaps grant them repentance.” You can either say, “That just can’t mean what it means, and I don’t like what it means. If God grants repentance, what’s there for me to do?” Or you can be biblical, and do what this text says — teach, be patient, don’t be quarrelsome, be gentle, be kind. Get in their face for four years, and let this text shape your prayers. I shed more tears over that boy than in 56 years of all other pain in my life. And these texts sustained me because I knew I could not grant him repentance.

I tried so hard to make it happen. I gave him 18 years of my best teaching, my best modeling, and my best preaching. I went to all of his games. I loved him best I could. He never accused me of not loving him. There was no explanation I could come up with for why he was not believing. He loved me. He would have died for me as an unbeliever, I believe. It’s so strange. But I took this passage, and I said, “God, you can do this. And therefore, I ask you to do it. I ask you to do it.”

So I let that text form my prayer life. I didn’t let it make me bitter, thinking, “Why haven’t you done it?” I said, “I know you can do this. I lay hold on you can do this. Please, with all your might get in this life. I can’t make it happen. You can make it happen. Would you grant him repentance?”

Knowledge of the Truth

Second Timothy 2:25–26 continues:

God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth …

Now we’re back to 2 Corinthians 4:4–6, which says, “the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.” Here, it is “the knowledge of the truth.” The devil has lots of knowledge of the truth. But you know what knowledge he doesn’t have? He doesn’t have the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. He hates that glory, every time a little glimmer of it challenges the same space he’s running. This is why we can have power over him when we got that glory. He hates the glory of God. But that is happening when repentance is granted. When the metanoia (repentance, or change of mind) happens, suddenly the knowledge of truth happens. And then, here’s the second piece:

and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil … (2 Timothy 2:26).

There we are back at 2 Corinthians 4:4. So you have spiritual knowledge of the glory of God, and you have consequent escape from the devil. The devil has a hold on us by lying about what is glorious. My son was persuaded in his spirit that to be a famous rockstar was glorious, more glorious than the cross of Christ. Now, if that’s not blindness, I don’t know what is. There’s no future in being a rock star, even Mick Jagger at the Super Bowl. There is no future in it. It’s all coming down very soon. By the way, I didn’t watch the Super Bowl. I just learned that from the newspaper. I was working on an article last night. The snare of the devil is broken when God grants repentance and suddenly the soul sees the truth of the beauty of Christ.

New Birth, New Affections

I’m going to stop here, sum up, and then pick it up here tomorrow evening. So let me close with this summary. I pray for the State Convention of North Carolina and all others who are here. I pray for you. And I believe this is possible. I believe God is doing this in our day. May God grant you, as a movement of churches, to see, savor, treasure, be captivated by, and display the gospel of the glory of Christ as the highest and best good that the gospel offers, which makes all those other things we love to preach significant and good because they’re all leading to seeing and savoring the glory of Christ forever.

You have to preach a certain way, pastors. You have to help your people catch on to the affectional nature of conversion. It is not merely a decision to believe a fact. It is a heart treasuring Christ and his glory more than football, sex, money, power, play, or toys. You have to make this an issue, Sunday after Sunday, so that they feel scared that they’re not saved. I think some pastors are so afraid that somebody might walk up at the end of the service and say, “You really jostled my assurance this morning.” If we don’t jostle people’s assurance when they’re not saved, we send them to hell.

We must preach in such a way so that people can test themselves. Second Corinthians 13:5 says, “Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith.” One of the tests is, do you love football more than you love Jesus? Do you love golf more than you love Christ? What does your heart say about Christ late at night, all alone in front of an internet screen with the mouse ready to click? What does your heart say about Christ over pornography?

You have to get in their faces about this because there are a lot of people who have grown up in the church — Baptist churches, Methodist churches, Presbyterian churches, Catholic churches, Lutheran churches — for whom their faith is all tradition, all head. There’s no power in their life to love Christ, to cherish Christ, to have similar kinds of affections for divine things that they have for earthly things. Make that an issue.

To Die is Gain

So I’m praying that across this convention, there would be a one-mindedness that we must all yes, love justification, love redemption, love propitiation, love deliverance, love the healing power of God, love escape from hell, love entrance into heaven, and love restoration with relatives, but all of it as a means to an end — namely, do you love Christ? Do you know Christ? Do you embrace Christ? Do you want Christ? If you’ve got cancer and you don’t know how long, can you say from your heart that to die is gain? Can you believe that God will take care of your wife, and say that to die is gain and feel it?

That’s a challenge. That’s where the rubber meets the road. Do you feel that would be good, that it would be a gift, that it would be sweet? Pastors, let’s do this. Let’s help our people be saved. And may you have a unified, deep, sobering, broken-hearted sight of lostness. May you be able to cry over the blindness of people in your church and most of the people outside your church. May it be very sobering how blind the Muslim world is, how blind the Buddhist world is, how blind the Hindu world is, how blind so many professing Christians are, and how blind the Secularists are. It is such a horrible thing that the world, as it says in says in 1 John 5:19, lies in the power of the devil.

We have the light, and we work in the service of the only one who can say, “Lazarus come forth.” Oh, what a passion we should have. What liberty we should feel. What boldness and courage to get in everybody’s face with the gospel, knowing that the sovereign God is with us, loves to magnify his Son, has the power to grant repentance, and who can raise up from stones, children to Abraham.

The Gospel and Pluralism

Then finally, in summing up, may he give you a fresh, clear, glorious vision of what conversion is, which I’ve already said, and may he grant you, therefore, to go after every city, every village, every college, every high school, and every place where unbelievers gather in this state. May he give you a vision to go after them with the confidence that he is on your side and loves to save sinners. And may you never grow weary in teaching. I’ll say more about this tomorrow.

I’m going to stress teaching and the whole counsel of God tomorrow. Once upon a time when I was a boy, did you know that in Wade Hampton High school in Greenville, South Carolina, we had devotions in homeroom? A young man named Philip Rovner, a Jewish guy, was sitting right beside me and never sued anybody. The world I grew up in is unthinkable; it’s gone forever. It’ll never come back. We’re back to first-century pluralism, where the gospel spread like fire without any history of Christian America.

We don’t need Christian America to do our job. We need the gospel to do our job. It’ll never come back. It is gone forever. To check into a hotel in Greensboro, North Carolina, and have three Muslims help me is just amazing. That’s incredible. I’m guessing they were Muslims. I don’t know if they were or not. All their names sounded as though they were.

May the Lord grant this convention an amazing vision of the gospel, of lostness, of conversion, of your involvement in it, and of the importance that we’ve got to teach what once was assumed. We have to teach categories. We’ve have to teach a worldview. Evangelism today has to involve a lot of teaching. Let me pray with you.