Fishing Like a Calvinist (2)

It’s quite valuable to do a little background check prior to entering into just about any situation. Police officers generally do a substantial amount of investigating prior to making a successful arrest and a military campaign without background on the situation, the terrain, and especially the enemy would prove to be dangerous. But this is also true in delivering a message. If the message is going to be successful, knowing the background of the situation and the recipients is essential. In the task of evangelism, it can be very useful for you to know to whom you’re heralding the good news. Understanding someone’s background can help deliver the message in a unique way especially in different contexts. We may have a different approach to preaching the gospel to a young university crowd than to the good folks at Aunt Marguerite’s crib club. But, with that said, there are traits that we can presuppose in all men. There’s a background that is common among all men.

The scriptures give us certain attributes or positions that should be at the back of our minds when we engage in the task of evangelism in any situation. The first of these is that humans are all born outside of Christ, and they are all sinners! While most evangelists would acknowledge this, many miss the essence behind this. I’m not speaking of merely committing sins (all the while true), but that they possess a sin nature. Every man, woman and child has been affected in some way by sin. They’re descendants of Adam and they’ve inherited his sinful characteristics. He passed down his features to us, the good, the bad and the ugly including sin. One slight difference is that, while Adam was born with a free will that could make decisions that were pleasing to God, we, as his progeny, we received from him a will that was affected by his fall. While all of us make decisions in our lives, we are born with a tainted disposition when it comes to making spiritual choices (1 Corinthians 2:14).

For the Calvinist who approaches evangelism, he/she generally recognizes that not only is a person impacted by sin, but considers the scope by which they’re affected. Human depravity extends to the whole of a person and every part of their being has felt its effect. It’s not to say that a man is as bad as he can be, but that sin has expanded throughout a man including his heart, mind and will. The person with whom you’re approaching to share the gospel has been born in sin. David could make the claim that I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me (Psalm 51:5). But it wasn’t just David who experienced this, we’re told later that the wicked are estranged from the womb; These who speak lies go astray from birth (Psalm 58:3). Yes, they were born this way, and if you’ve raised kids, you know it’s true! Interestingly, while we are told we are born in sin, we are also told that we are dead in sin. The apostle Paul certainly believed this. He argued that, prior to a conversion, we are dead in trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2:1; Colossians 2:13) and that we were by nature children of wrath (Ephesians 2:3). So, yes, when you’re evangelizing, remember that you’re talking to a corpse! As we mentioned, the extent of this depravity affects men’s choices. We’re told in scripture that human being’s hearts are sour. God looked down on men and saw their wickedness. He describes their ongoing rebellion as every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually (Genesis 6:5). This wasn’t just particular men at the beginning of humanity, since the Lord would also say that the intent of man’s heart is evil from his youth (Genesis 8:21). The decisions of the hearts of the sons of men are full of evil and insanity is in their hearts throughout their lives. Afterwards they go to the dead (Ecclesiastes 9:3). This isn’t just an occasional debauchery, it’s a depravity that follows them until death.  This heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; Who can understand it? spoke the prophet Jeremiah (Jeremiah 17:9). Yes, their hearts are corrupt and following one’s heart is a bad idea. Their hearts don’t desire to do what is pleasing to God especially believe in His Son and serve Him as Lord.

What a Calvinist fisherman is also conscious of is that the men and women hearing the message are slaves to sin. The Lord Jesus contrasted the freedom that He would bring to slavery. “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is the slave of sin (John 8:34). The person who sins does so because he is under its bondage and needs to be freed (Romans 6:20). Those who are slaves don’t simply free themselves. They need to be freed from the shackles of depravity. The slave of sin cannot be good to the end of his life because sin will always be present (Ecclesiastes 7:20). He will always be under the curse of sin and in that he finds himself under God’s condemnation.

What’s most crucial thing to remember prior delivering your message, and in return, being disheartened in the individual who rejects your message, (and yes, this happens a lot), is that in of themselves, they can do no other.  Men cannot change! We’re asked: “Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard his spots? Then you also can do good Who are accustomed to doing evil (Jeremiah 13:23). Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean on? There is not one (Job 14:4). Human beings can’t change our disposition from evil to good. This is an incapacity they have within them. They can’t grow wings and fly, they can’t hold their breath for 6 hours, and they can’t change their disposition. A miracle needs to happen for them to change, to believe in Christ, and do what is pleasing to God!

In Romans chapter 3, the apostle Paul gives a devastating outlook of a man. He states that All who are born are under sin (v.10) and furthers the state of a man who is still in the flesh:

“There is none righteous, not even one;
11 There is none who understands,
There is none who seeks for God;
12 All have turned aside, together they have become useless;
There is none who does good,
There is not even one.”
13 “Their throat is an open grave,
With their tongues they keep deceiving,”
“The poison of asps is under their lips”;
14 “Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness”;
15 “Their feet are swift to shed blood,
16 Destruction and misery are in their paths,
17 And the path of peace they have not known.”
18 “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”

Every aspect of their being has been affected, truly they don’t have any desire to seek for God, nor do they do good and there is no fear God before their eyes. Every part of their being is affected by sin, and we should remember that the rejection of the message of Jesus Christ come natural.

So, when a passerby throws a tract back at you, or some resort to mocking you, or others just ignore you completely, it’s not you, it’s really them. It’s a part of their nature! As daunting as it is, take courage! You’re not alone when sharing the message of hope! We have a God who grants people a new birth (John 3:3-8), who raises the dead (2 Corinthians 3:4), who changes the heart (Ezekiel 36:26-27), who frees men from their bondage (John 8:36) and gives the faith and repentance they need to change (Ephesians 2:8-9; Philippians 1:29). So, we go forward in wielding our sword-book with the encouragement that God will strike the blow, one way or another.


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