Thursday, 21 June 2012

Common Grace and Evangelism (4): A Gracious God and Evangelism

In the previous posts in this series we’ve spent some time thinking about what God’s common grace is. In this final post, I shall explore how understanding common grace can help us in one particular area: In the area of evangelism. I want to apply what we've previously seen about common grace, to how we speak with our non-Christian family members and friends.

Recognising that God is gracious to all will give us confidence in speaking the gospel to non-Christians. There are two main ways that common grace gives us confidence in evangelism:

1) The non-Christian has a constant testimony to God’s grace
We live in a world where God restrains sin and enables good. This means that the non-Christian is constantly experiencing God’s grace. They are surrounded by pointers to the fact that God is a gracious God. They cannot escape the

Think about it. Without realising it, the non-Christian is completely dependent upon God’s common grace. All that is good and beautiful in this world, all that they enjoy, all their favoirite hobbies and activities, they would never experience without God’s common grace. Further, without his grace restraining their sin, the non-Christian would completely destroy themselves and others. What is more, if God had not held back the day of judgement, they would be in hell right now. However, in His grace He is holding back that day, so that people have opportunity to repent and turn to Jesus before it is too late.

The non-Christian, even though he refuses to submit to God's rule and wants to live life without Him, it completely dependent upon Him for life, and everything they enjoy (This is why one writer has described the non-Christian as being like a child sitting in his fathers lap and slapping him in the face!). They daily experience God's common grace. They live in a universe that is constantly testifying to the grace of God.

All of this means that no conversation is ever far from the gospel. This is because no conversation is never far from a gracious God. This world is constantly testifying to God's grace.

2) The non-Christian will be inconsistent at some point
This is because God is restraining their sinful nature from being worked out to the full in their life. If they were completely consistent with who they are they would be as wicked as they could be. But they are not. God restrains sin in them, which makes them inconsistent (as we saw in our previous post).

Because the non-Christian is inconsistent it is possible to have conversations with them. It means that we are able to talk with non-Christians about the gospel. Their opposition to God is not fully worked out in this life, making gospel conversations possible.

More than this, when we do speak with our non-Christian friends or family members, their inconsistency makes it possible for us to challenge them to repent and turn to Jesus. Because God graciously makes them inconsistent there will be things that they do, beliefs they hold or desires that they have that they will not be able to explain without the God of the Bible.

Let me give an example: Suppose you have an work collegue who is a strong atheist, they constantly remind you that they believe in the survival of the fittest. Well, there will be some things that they will not be able to explain. An atheist cannot explain hospitals without God. They will never be able to give a reason why they think medical care is a good idea, unless they believe in God. It would be a very rare thing to find an atheist who does not think medical care is a good thing. Almost any atheist you speak to will agree that hospitals are good. However, he cannot hold this view and be consistent with his view of the world. Why should they care about something that provides for and cares for the weak? Huge amounts of money that is spent to care for babies who are born with defects and for those who are chronically ill. Why should your atheist friend care about this if he believes in the survival of the fittest? This provides an opening for us to challenge their view of the world, and to call them to look at the gospel, which alone makes sense of reality.

The fact that the non-Christian is inconsistent at some point gives us opportunities to challenge them on where they stand, and to share the gospel of grace with them.

Now, you don’t need to be super-clever to be able to discover these inconsistencies. All you need to do is to take a genuine interest in people, and ask them questions about what they believe. The more you do this the more obvious their inconsistencies will become.

It is in this way that God’s common grace serves his special grace. Because God, in his common grace holds back people’s sinfulness,making them inconsistent, people will be able to hear the gospel, which gives life.

God is a gracious God. He is good to all that he has made. He is gracious to both the Christian and the non-Christian, and shows this common grace by restraining sin and enabling people to do good.
The more we recognise this,the more confidence we will have in evangelism. The more we recognise that God is a gracious God, the more bold we will be in challenging false ideas of the world, and calling people to repent and believe in the Lord Jesus.

Previous posts in this series