Examining the Fallacy that Being Like the World Will Attract The Worldly to Christ

“Our Lord attracted sinners because He was different. They drew near to Him because they felt that there was something different about Him. And the world should see us to be different. This idea that you are going to win people to the Christian faith by showing them that after-all you are remarkably like them, is theologically and psychologically a profound blunder.”

—D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones

There is a very troubling scenario that played out in Sodom just before it was destroyed by God. Having been warned by a pair of angels that the Lord was going to drop a heavenly nuke on his city, Lot scrambled to get his family together to get them to safety. Among those he warned were the men betrothed to his daughters:

Then the two men said to Lot, “Whom else have you here? A son-in-law, and your sons, and your daughters, and whomever you have in the city, bring them out of the place;for we are about to destroy this place, because their outcry has become so great before the Lord that the Lord has sent us to destroy it.”Lot went out and spoke to his sons-in-law, who were to marry his daughters, and said, “Up, get out of this place, for the Lord will destroy the city.” But he appeared to his sons-in-law to be jesting.

Genesis 19:12–14, NASB95)

Having seen the power of God demonstrated by the two angels’ blinding their attackers only a short time before, Lot knew that the warning was deadly serious. One can only imagine that a sense of panic has set in, and his urgency must have shown on his face and in his voice. When Lot went to the men who would marry his daughters, you would think that they could read the outward signs of his terror. But the text says “he appeared to [them]…to be jesting.” How could this be?

Earlier in Genesis, Lot’s uncle Abraham asked his nephew to choose the plot of land he wanted to live in, and Lot chose to set his tent near Sodom. At that point, Lot was outside the city and still living the life of a nomad and herdsman. But in Genesis 19, this has all changed. Lot lives in town, which may have meant that not only was he no longer living as a nomad in a tent, but that he has given up the life of a herdsman.

When he comes upon the two men who are angels preparing to stay the night in the town square, he asks them to come stay with him knowing that this wicked city is not safe. So, why had Lot settled there? And when the homosexual mob demanded that these men be turned over to be raped by them, he offered the mob his daughters in their place. What could have changed in Lot that would make him think that this was even an option?

All of these tie together when we come to the actions of the young men engaged to his daughters, the disobedience of his wife, and the later actions of his daughters. Something had gone terribly wrong in Lot’s family life. What could it be? We can’t be certain, but it appears that Lot had made several compromises along the way which are illustrated in his physical movement toward Sodom. His heart had made a journey as well, and it drew him further from God and closer to the ideals and ethics of Sodom. And worse, it had saturated the hearts of his family members.

The Apostle Paul observed a similar troubling element in some of the Christians in Corinth. To them he wrote:

Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness? Or what harmony has Christ with Belial, or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever? Or what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; just as God said, “I will dwell in them and walk among them; And I will be their God, and they shall be My people.“Therefore, come out from their midst and be separate,” says the Lord. “And do not touch what is unclean; And I will welcome you. “And I will be a father to you, And you shall be sons and daughters to Me, ”Says the Lord Almighty.

(2 Corinthians 6:14–18, NASB95)

Reflecting on the continuous influence of the pagan nations on Israel, Paul alerted the Corinthians that the people of God are to continue to be set apart from those that are standing against our God. As with Israel, God walks among us and in the Church Age, even dwells within us. Should we then partner with darkness? Paul answers with the same thing that the Lord spoke to Israel–come out from among them!

Some misguided Christians have said that God intends for His people to be among the sinners of this world, and in saying this they have meant that we are to be non-judgmental and even participate with them so that we might befriend them and show them the love of God. But that is not what God called Israel to do, and it is not the practice of anyone in the New Testament–even Jesus! It is a lie to claim as one Christian brother told me, that Jesus “partied with the pagans.” To say this is to slander our Lord.

Instead, Jesus was kind, and was not willing to avoid or cast away those who were in their sin as they came to him seeking forgiveness and redemption. Jesus welcomed them. He was a friend of sinners, drunkards, and prostitutes because he demonstrated not only the love and patience of God, but also because he pointed them directly to their need to repent so they could be made right with God.

Those that believe that licentiousness and worldly living is a missional strategy and evangelistic method will sooner or later find themselves inching closer to Sodom, and will face a similar fate if they do not withdraw from that which is unclean. Love sends us into the sewage to seek the lost, but holiness draws us back to the Father’s side. As Lloyd-Jones says in the opening quote, may we shine as light in the darkness and by this show the world that we are profoundly different and may that difference from the world be attractive to those seeking a sweet respite from this dark world we live in.

Are You Able to See the Signs?

One afternoon while we were camping in the sequoias fo California, we started to notice that the clouds were beginning to look a little heavy and ominous. As evening began to fall, we started feeling a drop of rain here and there. As experienced campers, my wife and I knew that we needed to take a few precautions before we went to bed for the night. We folded up our camp chairs and put them into our car, and then we took down all of our towels and clothes off of our clothesline and put them into the tent. We made sure that anything that could be damaged by the rain was in a safe and dry place. There’s something romantic about being in a tent while its raining, but there is nothing fun about having to run out in the middle of the night in a rain storm to cover and move things out of the rain.

In Matthew 16:1-12, Jesus spoke about observing the signs of the weather, and the activities that are affected when we are good judges of what will occur. Even today, we still read signs. We read the stock market to see whether or not stock prices will go up or down. We forecast the trends of politics and the real estate market. Some people are involved in watching the trends of fashion and technology.

But, what about the big picture? What about the signs of the times that point to the end of the world? The only person the world sees warning about the end of the world is the homeless guy in the movies who holds up a sign warning of the end of the world. The unbelieving world demonstrates its willful unbelief when it can read the signs of the culture while rejecting the signs of the end of the ages.

Of course, Jesus’ comments were to unbelieving Jews who were absolutely rejecting the Messiah and the clear signs that he had been sent from the Father. But as I meditated on how I could apply this text to myself, I realized that we, even as Christians, sometimes can demonstrate willful unbelief much like the Jews did. How do Christians demonstrate our willful unbelief by rejecting those same signs? I think there are at least three ways:

1. By Failing to Live Holy Lives-2Pet 3:10-13

Like practical atheists we can say we believe that Christ is returning, but act like his coming is a long way off–probably beyond our lifetimes. Peter recognized that since the day of the Lord is assured, his coming should affect our striving after holiness and godliness.

2. By Failing to Live For Heaven instead of Earth-1Cor 3:10-15

Paul instructed the Corinthian church to stop living for worldly pleasures and to think ahead to that day when they would stand before the Lord and give an account for the sort of life they lived. Would their efforts burn down and blow over like the straw house of the three little pigs or would it stand the refining fire and come forth as refined jewels? Everything that we do in this time frame we have been given will count for eternity–and for some Christians, they won’t have much to count.

3. By Failing to Evangelize the Lost (Acts 20:24-27)

Paul was pretty sure that he was heading for rough times when he headed for Jerusalem. He stopped in to say goodbye to the Ephesian church elders on his way back, and he felt that this might be the last time he would see them. He wasn’t thinking about Jesus’ return as much as the fact that he might go to see Jesus first. So, when he assessed the effectiveness of his time with these brothers in Christ, he was confident that he had done everything that a faithful servant of Christ can do, including preaching the truth of the gospel without any reservations. Paul’s conscience was clear, and his hands were clean.

Jesus’ return may come before we die, or after we die, but what’s the difference? We’ll still be called to give an account as stewards of the gospel treasure. How will you fair?

The signs that Jesus spoke of regarding the end times are true. As Jonah illustrated, Jesus died and rose again. But that isn’t where the gospel ends. He is coming back. Do you believe that? Can you read the signs around us that show us that it will be soon?

Do you have enough sense to get out of a storm?

We need to respond to Christ, not out of fear, but out of faith. Jesus IS coming soon. We need to be prepared.

How God’s Sovereignty Affects Our Attitude in the Present Circumstances (part 3)

For in the hand of the Lord there is a cup with foaming wine, well mixed, and he pours out from it, and all the wicked of the earth shall drain it down to the dregs. But I will declare it forever; I will sing praises to the God of Jacob. All the horns of the wicked I will cut off, but the horns of the righteous shall be lifted up.

(Psalm 75:8–10, ESV)

Trials, difficulties, and challenges have a way of making clear where we place our faith. For those that are believers in Jesus Christ, the times when we are most challenged in our faith offer us a time not only to test the faith we have, but also to grow in our faith and trust of Christ.

In the first two posts of this series (you can read them here: How God’s Sovereignty Affects Our Attitude in the Present Circumstances (part 1) and here: How God’s Sovereignty Affects Our Attitude in the Present Circumstances (part 2)) I laid out six ways in which the sovereignty of God affects our attitude toward our present circumstances from Psalm 75. Here are the final three reasons:

7. It Focuses Our Hearts On God’s Grace (v. 8)

For in the hand of the Lord there is a cup with foaming wine, well mixed, and he pours out from it, and all the wicked of the earth shall drain it down to the dregs.” (Psalm 75:8, ESV)

The references of God’s wrath being like a cup of mixed wine is a familiar metaphor used throughout the Bible. In the Old Testament, wine was often mixed with spices and used for special occasions, usually for the purpose of intoxication.

In other places, this picture of the wrath of God as a cup of wine pictures the wicked as reeling, vomiting, crazed and prostrate. God is giving them what they so richly deserve. He is giving them a dose of their own medicine. Charles Spurgeon wrote, “The retribution is terrible, it is blood for blood, foaming vengeance for foaming malice. [If] the very color of divine wrath is terrible, what [must] the taste be?”

But how does this encourage us when we are in the midst of the trials? It once again shows that God is sovereign, in control over the wicked. And the encouragement that we receive is in relation to his sovereign grace that he has poured out upon us.

When you recognize the fact that all of mankind sins “and fall short of the glory of God” and that “the soul that sins must die,” you see that you and I are worthy of this cup of staggering—this cup of God’s hot, spiced wrath.

We are so worthy of his eternal punishment. But God poured out his wrath upon our Savior Jesus instead of us. We received mercy because of the abundant grace of God towards us. And it was given to us because of God’s sovereign choice. Undeserved and overflowing.

8. It Encourages Worship (v. 9)

But I will declare it forever; I will sing praises to the God of Jacob.” (Psalm 75:9, ESV)

Because of the surety of the justice of God, the psalmist expresses his delight in God through praise. The title “God of Jacob” used sin verse 9 is both an endearing name as well as a covenant name. Although our God is indeed the God of all the nations, the psalmist personalizes his worship by expressing praise that the God of the universe is also the personal God who loves, cares for, and protects his people.

Have you thought much about why you worship God? Most of us would probably say that we worship him because of what he has done for us—for his love of us, most clearly shown in personally saving us from our sins.

But here in verse 9, the psalmist gives us another perspective about praise. It includes praising God for who he is which drives what he has done, including bringing us salvation. In verse 9, the psalmist is praising the Lord for his vengeful wrath which he will pour out upon all unrepentant sinners. Now, to most of us, that seems like a weird thing to praise God about—maybe even inappropriate. “Praise God for crushing sinners and sending them to hell?” Is that right?

To clarify, we shouldn’t delight in the punishment of sinners with a ghoulish delight. But we should see that it is very appropriate to praise the Lord for his justice and hatred of evil, by which he will make right all wrongs, and punish the wicked for their rebellion against God.

Look at Rev. 19:1-3 when you have an opportunity. If you read it, you will see the rejoicing and praise of God’s people. Then in verses 6-18 you will read about two feasts of celebration—the marriage supper of the Lamb (in verses 6-10) and the Great Supper of God prepared for the birds of the air (in verses 17-19). 

So, we should think about God more deeply and meditate on him as we seek to worship him. Our Great God is worthy of worship for all of his attributes, not just the ones we benefit from and are tied to our comfort. His so-called “negative” attributes along with his positive attributes all make up the character of God—and everything about our Great God and Savior is worthy of praise.

9. It Drives Evangelism (vv. 9-10)

But I will declare it forever; I will sing praises to the God of Jacob. All the horns of the wicked I will cut off, but the horns of the righteous shall be lifted up.” (Psalm 75:9–10, ESV)

There is a question about what exactly the “it” in verse 9a means and how it ties in with verse 10. Some scholars have said that the “it” of verse 9a refers to what God said he would do to the evil. And I think that that is part of it, but not all that the “it” refers to.

There is a bit of a puzzle in verse 10 as well regarding who is speaking, but I believe the most logical and probable answer depends on the word “it” in verse 9. I believe the psalmist is stating that he will declare God’s words of impending judgment. It would read something like this, “But I will declare [the coming judgment of the Lord] forever; and I will sing praises to the God of Jacob.”

And then, verse 10 makes sense. It is a reiteration of what he has already said about bringing low the proud “horns” of the wicked.

Now if that is what it means, then here is what I think that means for us. I think the impending judgment of the Lord should have two responses that impact our evangelism:

First, it should drive us to share Christ because we believe in the reality of the coming judgment of God. How can we say we believe in hell and the torments of a Christless eternity and yet still remain unmoved to share Christ?

And finally, a warning of the coming judgment of God should be included in our gospel messages. Many versions of gospel presentations have been “cleaned up” and sanitized like some Disney movie. No blood or gore. Everything packaged up into a neat and clean “Jesus loves you” gospel. Even John 3:16 is inadequate in itself because “perish” is so vague. Unpack this when you proclaim the gospel. Let sinners feel the fires of hell. Don’t let them go unwarned!

When we remember the fact that our God is seated upon his throne, it changes everything in our outlook. And the reverse is true as well. When we forget or minimize the sovereign rule of God over this world, we also cast ourselves in a place where we were never meant to be, carrying burdens we were never meant to carry. For the unbelieving world, this is how it functions. But for the child of God, may we not only say that Jesus is Lord, but may we live daily in the beautiful light of this truth and embrace each day as a gift from our sovereign God.