am I just being a bit picky or…?

I just came across the Simply Share Jesus website and watched and listened to their gospel presentation video in which they use  a magic cube. It’s probably the slickest presentation that I have seen in a long while. I can see why it would be attractive for Christians to use this device/presentation. There are some good references to scripture in the presentation but it just falls short of being biblically faithful. Unfortunately they mess up the explanation of what sin is and then they omit the fact that we need to repent. They lead the viewer in a prayer that has no mention of repentance – only believing. In the entire presentation the viewer is never simplytold that they need to stop sinning and completely forsake it. Here are a couple of quotes from the presentation and my response:

  • “Sin is anything other that what God desires” This is just confusing. Sin is law breaking. We need to help people see that they have specifically and deliberately sinned against a Holy God. We need to use the 10 Commandments in evangelism
  • “I confess that I have sinned against you” This was part of the prayer. Its confession, not repentance. The sinner is still permitted to live their sinful lifestyle but go on thinking that their belief in Jesus is authentic.
  • “If you just prayed that prayer you are now a child of God and your sins are forgiven.” Praying a prayer like that and then exhorting them to think of themselves as Children of God. It just seems so dangerous.

Overall – This presentation could well be the vehicle to getting someone saved. But I am so concerned with the lack of repentance issue and muddy understanding of sin. I appreciate the time and effort that the production team has put into it. I am sure they are really excited about the project.

   … What do you think? Am I off on this? Let me know. 

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10 Responses to am I just being a bit picky or…?

  1. tikkiro says:

    Hmm – interesting point. Ironically I’ve actually been recognising more how Protestantism has perhaps added a huge burden onto the gift of salvation which isn’t there in scripture. Paul doesn’t outline a particular prayer to pray or in fact what words should be used etc – in some respects he doesn’t even put in repentance to the statements he makes to those he’s evangelising. Also, thinking of the eunuch – all it says was that Philip “preached onto him Jesus” – while we take that to mean he told him about Jesus sacrifice for sin, it’s not specifically mentioned how he stated it, and most commentaries seem to indicate it more likely he revealed how Jesus was the Messiah. And for baptismal purposes the eunuch was only told to “believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved” – no big long prayer to have to pray or mention of repentance. Don’t get me wrong – I totally accept that repentance is the bedrock of our faith for the purposes of salvation, but do sometimes wonder if our understanding of scripture has somehow added more to it than necessary. When God can use the foolish to teach the wise, and evil to bring about good, I think He will move in such things as this regardless of whether we feel it honours Him or provides a solid message. Blessings for 2007, TKR

  2. Hi Tikkiro,

    Thanks for visiting EA. I am so with you on the prayer. I would rarely ask someone I was witnessing to pray. No one is usually at that point in my street evangelism. If I ever I did, I would get them to pray aloud their own prayer.

    You are also right on the fact that many scriptures refer to ‘just believing in Jesus’ and you will be saved. Like any doctrine, the doctrine of Salvation has to be understood by a careful survey of all scripture that refers to it.

    Probably one of the best reads on the net regarding this issue is John Piper’s book, Desiring God, Chapter 2: Conversion

    Here is a brief extract:

    “Repent, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out. (Acts 3:19)

    Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved. (Acts 16:31)

    Not everybody is saved from God’s wrath just because Christ died for sinners. There is a condition we must meet in order to be saved. I want to try to show that the condition, summed up here as repentance and faith, is conversion…”

    I think we need to be crystal clear in our message about the need for repentance and faith in Christ. Otherwise the sinner may have a false sense of assurance. Yes, God might use the video to bring someone to this point because salvation is a work of God (John 6v37,44,65; Acts 10v41; Romans 9v11) but there is a glaring omission that is so dangerous and unnecessary.

  3. Pastor Chris says:

    What a great review of the cube thingy. I’ve got similar questions.

    Let me raise a question however. Perhaps you’ve already addressed it, i’m new to your blog.

    When engaging people in conversations, what are the absolute elements you need up front, and what can be added (or explained further) later? Can people become believers before they understand they are sinner? Particularly if the bible is not their source of authority?

    The ten commandments is indeed one model. Some in my church use it. Its not the only model, for sure, and i think most of us agree other models are useful tools.

    I’m convinced the sovererignty of God overrides all our muddy and partial explanations. I’m also convinced that God’s sovereignty will help new believers discover deeper truth and fill in what ever was left out of a gospel presentation. God’s Spirit draws people unto himself, no matter what the tools.

    Pastor Chris

    Evangelism Coach

  4. Pastor Chris says:

    What a great review of the cube thingy. I’ve got similar questions.

    Let me raise a question however. Perhaps you’ve already addressed it, i’m new to your blog.

    When engaging people in conversations, what are the absolute elements you need up front, and what can be added (or explained further) later? Can people become believers before they understand they are sinner? Particularly if the bible is not their source of authority?

    The ten commandments is indeed one model. Some in my church use it. Its not the only model, for sure, and i think most of us agree other models are useful tools.

    I’m convinced the sovererignty of God overrides all our muddy and partial explanations. I’m also convinced that God’s sovereignty will help new believers discover deeper truth and fill in what ever was left out of a gospel presentation. God’s Spirit draws people unto himself, no matter what the tools.

    Pastor Chris

    Evangelism Coach

  5. Paul says:

    I don’t think you are being picky at all Daniel. Without a clear understanding of what sin is, how will a clear realisation that one needs to repent follow? Without being clearly convinced of how one has wronged God in specific terms, how will the need for Christ’s righteousness be established? If sin is brushed over lightly, then Hell as a place of punishment for breaking God’s laws doesn’t seem reasonable, but unfair and unjust. If I’m going to be judged on something, I want to know what the charges are.

    Some people just don’t get the word “sin”. I mean, biblical knowledge is quite different now to what it was a few decades ago here in NZ. For me, I’m going to start with the assumption that people don’t know what sin is, why be so presumptuous?

    To quote someone else.
    “in the past evangelism was rather like hanging washing on a clothesline that was already in place. In the past you could take texts like John 3:16 and hang them on the ‘line’ of the Judeo-Christian worldview. The problem in trying to reach postmodern people is there is no clothesline. The great challenge before the preacher is to put up the clothesline”. Don Carson

    Furthermore, I’m thinking of getting into evangelism now that my sceptical head has been sorted out with regards to God’s existence. This means that I need to get my definitions right with the words “Evangelism” and the “Gospel” message. The enemy wants to screw up these definitions in the Christian mind. This is NOT going to happen to me, I have had enough with stuffed up thinking in my mind.

    I think pastor Chris is right, the absolute elements of the gospel must be clearly defined. Although, I got a bit confused when Chris was talking about God’s sovereignty. The bible clearly indicates God’s sovereignty in the work of evangelism, but is also emphasizes the Christians responsibility to faithfully preach the gospel. In other words the Christian has the responsibility to do their best not give “muddied and partial explanations”, but rather preach the full Gospel. Given that God has deliberately made this a simple message, so that the idiot and the genius can both understand it, surely Christians can avoid muddied explanations of it? Well, sadly this is not the case. I think the reason we do give muddied and partial explanations (from what I have read), is because Satan and demonic beings are bent on disrupting the definitions of Evangelism and Gospel message.

    Yes, God can use many things to get through to a person, a sunset, a biblical genealogy, a truth here a truth there etc, God is sovereign. However, his plan A, is for Christians to faithfully present an un understandable and biblical gospel message to unbelievers. In fact, the sovereignty of God is the one thing that prevents evangelism from being an utterly pointless activity (to paraphrase J.I.Packer in “Evangleism & the Sovereignty of God”).

    I’m just a 30 year old guy trying to figure out Christianity after being smacked around by a gazillion other worldviews. So cut me some slack if I seem a bit blunt and jumpy.

  6. Hey thanks so much Paul, Chris and Tikkiro for your thoughts on this one.

    I have not touched my blog for a couple of days and its nice to come back and read your comments.

    Hey, guess what? Not long after I replied to Tikkiro I got a bit of an epiphany. I realised that instead of posting criticism here I should contact the authors of the video and let them know my concerns(Matt 18v15 _ its not a sin issue but I thing the principle is useful in this instance.)

    I searched their website and found a contact email and copied and pasted my opinions about their gospel presentation. To my surprise, within hours I had a reply from a very humble guy who was open to the fact that they may have got it wrong on repentance. I was really touched by the guy’s humility. He even invited me to help with suggestions for re-making the video. He invited me to help write a script. I am considering posting our correspondence here because it is really challenging and humbling stuff. I have not been in contact with the guy for a while and I will only past our private correspondence with permission.

    I really learnt a lesson in this: Do the right thing and you might be surprised by the results.

  7. Pastor Chris says:

    To be clear, i agree with Paul about a Christian’s responsibility to faithfully and clearly explain the Gospel. The essetial element for me is this: Jesus Christ died and rose again so that I can have a relationship with God.

    Out of that are several aspects and starting points: my sins are forgiven, my guilt removed, called to a new direction of life, and my life has a larger purpose (Eph 2.10).

    To me, I think that the gospel has so many facets to it, that there are multiple starting points in our explanations and presentations. One can start with sin, one can start with forgiveness, one can start with purpose, one can start with adoption, one can start with creation, one can start with spiritual emptiness.

    I also think that people can start following the Lord without a full understanding of all the riches of the Gospel, but grow into it. We understand in part, but come to understand fully. Some decide before understanding everything. Others want to understand more before deciding.

    I can’t explain everything i’m thinking here in a comment, but did want to agree with Paul about our responsibility to work at being clear in our explanation, no matter the starting point.

    Yet we can confidently rely on the sovereignty of God to overcome any befuddled explanations, muddy confusion, or too-much over-the-top super-deep explanations that require a PhD to understand.

    We do need to be clear and understandable. We need to be able to explain. We need to do better when we are muddy in our conversations. As a personal habit, i meditate on every evangelistic conversation i have to see what i explained well, or could i have done differently.

    Pastor Chris
    Evangelism Coach

  8. Paul Said:

    Some people just don’t get the word “sin”. I mean, biblical knowledge is quite different now to what it was a few decades ago here in NZ. For me, I’m going to start with the assumption that people don’t know what sin is, why be so presumptuous?

    Thanks for this. Yes, we need to clearly present the gospel.

    Chris said:

    I can’t explain everything I’m thinking here in a comment, but did want to agree with Paul about our responsibility to work at being clear in our explanation, no matter the starting point.

    Yet we can confidently rely on the sovereignty of God to overcome any befuddled explanations, muddy confusion, or too-much over-the-top super-deep explanations that require a PhD to understand

    Yes Chris, we need to be clear and simple when it comes to explaining the gospel. We should be moved with compassion for the people we are addressing and show them the seriousness of their current condition.

    I like how you are ready to reflect on previous witness encounters. I always do so too, though not always in a formal way such as writing it down. Probably the best thing we can do after any encounter is continue to pray for the person(s) that God will use the seed that You have sown to bring them to repentance and faith in Jesus Christ alone.

    I checked out your blog. It’s always encouraging to hear of the efforts of Christians in evangelism.

  9. Dizzy says:

    Wow, it’s great that they’re open to changes on the video.

    I looked at a link to the website selling the cube, “E3 Resources” and it bothers me because of the advertisement of the book, Restored: Experience Life with Jesus. In the advertisement it reads:

    Escape your Bondage and Discover Freedom from:
    Depression, Anxiety, Inner Conflict, Adictive Behavior, Fear and Anger, Tormenting THoughts, Negative Habits, Low Self-Worth.

    It is misleading to the non-believer, because it implies that solving those problems is why you should accept Jesus.

    I’ve been wondering what the definition of the Gospel is myself, and been thinking about the criteria for when a Christian has explained it or not. Tentatively, I would say a proper delivery of the gospel should communicate the following to the non-believer:

    I am sinful, having broken all of God’s commandments.
    God is holy, and just, and must punish me for breaking the law.
    On the day of judgement, God will make me an account for my life, and I will have no excuse of guilt, deserving punishment in hell.
    God, the Father provided his Son, fully human and fully God, to take the punishment for my sins.
    Jesus’s life, punishment and death is counted to me if I repent (turn away from actively sinning), and believe that Jesus is God, resurrecting on the third day in my heart (not just says it or prays it), and confess Jesus as Lord (i.e. in charge of my life).

  10. Yeah, I still have not heard from the guy from e3 for a whiles. I will try sending another email to him tonight so as to keep our discussion going.

    I think your gospel summary is spot on. I will forward that to the guy.

    All they really need to do is strenghten their position on the requirement of repentance from sin (which your message includes).

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