I will take you from the nations and gather you from all the countries and bring you into your own land. I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules. (ESV)
“Some people think that true spirituality is so mystical that we really do not need the church with its creeds and confessions, and its forms of worship, so long as we follow what God says to our hearts. A personal relationship with the Lord trumps everything else, even the plain teaching of the Bible. Other people put so much stock in the sacraments that they think receiving baptism, attending church, and taking the Lord’s Supper virtually guarantees their salvation unless they do something really bad. Reformed Christianity, in contrast to these extremes, does not separate the life of the visible church and the invisible work of the Spirit, but emphasizes both as crucial to knowing and pleasing God.”
I heard a sermon (MP3 here) recently by one of my best-friend’s, Jon Dansby, given at his new church home, Austin Stone Community Church. It was timed for the new year when many are looking to make changes in their lives of various kinds and to different degrees. The scripture Jon preached on was Galatians 6:7-9. Ryan McCarthy, College Minister at Christ Chapel Bible Church, also reiterated many of the same points (with Jon’s permission of course) in a talk he gave to the college group last night. They both made some great, practical points (their points) I wanted to share.
First of all the text, Galatians 6:7-9 (ESV):
Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.
Yes, his mind was not changed toward theism (let alone the Gospel), yes, he’s still a confident atheist … yet this act of kindness from a believer very well could be the planting of a seed that the Holy Spirit will use to later bring him to faith. May we pray this happens. Sometimes the best apologetic for our faith are not air tight logical arguments (though those are necessary for removing stumbling blocks and giving clear testimony to the Gospel) but genuine kindness and care for the souls of others. Our hope for his salvation is not in his “decision” or will to believe, for they both are in bondage to the blindness of sin and the hardness of the wrath of God that rests on him even at this moment (John 3:36). Our hope in evangelizing and apologetically defending the faith lies in the power of the Holy Spirit to grant those we come into contact with the eyes to see Him, the ears to hear Him, and a new heart that is submissive and responsive to God. “The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” – John 3:8 … and the reason this is so is because God is sovereign in salvation, not us.