FOLAU’S FAITH COMPELLED HIM TO SHOUT A WARNING: REPENT

This article by Kel Richards appeared in this morning’s newspaper The Australian. Thousands of Australians will read and be challenged by this Gospel message. I never thought I would see the Gospel preached so well in a major Australian newspaper.

Israel Folau was only following God’s command:

“I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His Kingdom:  Preach the word!  Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all suffering and teaching.”  2 Timothy 4:1-2

Israel Folau criticised several groups in his Instagram post, but only one of them has complained.

“On April 10, Israel Folau posted on his Instagram account the following message: “Warning: Drunks, Homosexuals, Adulterers, Liars, Fornicators, Thieves, Atheists, Idolators: Hell Awaits You. Repent! Only Jesus Saves.” Next to this big, bold statement was the message: “Those that are living in Sin will end up in Hell unless you repent. Jesus Christ loves you and is giving you time to turn away from your sin and come to him.”

This eye-catching text was from the Bible, a loose paraphrase of 1 Corinthians 6:9-10: “Do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.”

If someone else had posted this it would almost certainly have slipped under the radar. But Folau was being watched. Partly this is because of his brilliance as a footballer. He holds the record for the most tries scored in Super Rugby. In 2007 he won rugby league’s Dally M Rookie of the Year award for having scored the most tries in his debut year. In that same year he was the all-time youngest international player (he was 18 at the time).

But it looks as though Folau was also being watched for an opportunity to punish him for being a Christian; indeed, for being a blunt defender of the classic, conservative Christian faith.

The attack on Folau provoked an unexpected reaction: many Aussies were unhappy. They flooded open-line radio with calls in support of the right of Folau to hold and express his faith. This support was not limited to the 52.1 per cent of Australians who called themselves Christian in the 2016 census. A bucket load of callers took the line of “I don’t support what he said or the way he said it, but, hey the bloke’s obviously sincere so why is he being bashed up like this?”

Whether articulated or not, the underlying feeling of much of this response was: Australia is a free country. There was a distinct unease about the possibility of losing at least some degree of freedom of speech, freedom of conscience, freedom of belief and freedom of religion in this wide, brown land.

Tone deaf to the electorate Bill Shorten came down on the wrong side of this debate in the election campaign. Ignoring section 116 of the Constitution, which says there shall be no religious test for public office, Shorten demanded to know where Scott Morrison stood on the “gays/hell” issue. This blunder won him no friends (apart from the inner-city crowd, who were already on his side).

For Rugby Australia this is a lose-lose debate. The religious test they applied to Folau’s employment looked so unfair to him that he bypassed their internal appeal process as pointless and announced his intention to test them in the courts. So Rugby Australia now will either lose the court battle or lose its major sponsor. It has already lost its best player.

This is no storm in a tea cup: this is central to Australia’s character as a nation and raises three questions:
 Why should there be penalties for defending classical Christianity?
 Why do the rights of one group trump all other rights?
 What is the actual content of the view he is defending?

Let’s tackle them. First, why should there be penalties for defending classic, conservative Christianity? It’s not as though Christianity is an eccentric, minority belief system. It’s the largest faith on earth with 2.3 billion followers.

Some will say people can believe what they like in private but the views of classic Christianity do not belong in the public arena. The problem is that Jesus ruled out that option when he said: “Everyone who confesses Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, I will also deny him before My Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 10:32-33)

So according to Jesus there is no such thing as private Christianity — there is only whole-of-life Christianity (public and private). Being a Christian means speaking about it. The Christian faith is part of our community and not a private matter.

Some politicians will say, “Well, we have to balance the rights of Christians to speak their faith aloud with the right of homosexuals not to be offended.” But from the words of Jesus it is clear that telling Christians they are not permitted to speak their faith aloud is telling them they are not permitted to be Christian.

Which brings us to the second question: why should the rights of one group trump all other rights? In this case it appears that the right of homosexuals not to be offended trumps the right of Christians to be as Christian as Jesus intended. It is especially interesting to note that Folau included eight groups in his post — none of the others has complained.

Surely the issue is that none of those seven other groups is demanding approval from everyone. On the whole, drunks, adulterers and the rest don’t care whether you approve or disapprove of them.

The homosexual community, however, appears not to be willing to accept disapproval. They may say all they want is tolerance. But that’s looking increasingly like a dishonest claim. They won’t, it seems, settle for anything short of complete approval.

Devout Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, Jews, atheists, Christians or Calathumpians don’t expect you to approve of them. They think they’re right, and if you believe differently you’re wrong — and they’re quite happy to debate this with you. But they don’t demand that you be legally compelled to approve of them, and legally silenced and punished if you disapprove.

Which brings us to the third question: what is the actual content of the view Folau is defending? Is it simply a system of morality? Folau lists eight behaviours that with the support of the Bible he says are proscribed — unacceptable to God — so it could certainly look like a question of morality.

In part this is a problem created by the brevity of social media posts, which don’t allow for nuance. But Folau himself is pointing beyond simple moral judgment when he writes that “Jesus Christ loves you and is giving you time to turn away from your sin and come to him”.

He is drawing attention to the fact that classical Christianity is certainly about judgment, but it is also about sacrifice and forgiveness. For 2000 years Christians have been calling it “good news” because the news that God loves you despite your behaviour and offers forgiveness can only count as very good news, indeed.

This good news Folau is talking about addresses the fact of death. The Christian world view says “people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment” (Hebrews 9:27).

The point is that life is a journey and, like every journey, it has an end. It would be intelligent to give some thought to how and where the journey of life might end. You might protest: but we can’t know! It’s not possible to know what death will be like and whether we might survive it, and, if so, what that survival might be like.

Picture it as being like a group of travellers walking down a long country road. They fall into an argument about where the road will end. One of them may claim it ends at a steep cliff face and that’s it. Someone else may suggest it ends at a railway station where a train is waiting to take you back to the beginning so you can do the journey all over again. Yet another may suggest the road of life ends in a garden and, just like Christmas, everyone will get gifts and be happy. Another may argue there are two cities at the end of the road: a comfortable one (“heaven”) and a bleak one (“hell”) and that we can be switched from the bad option to the good option as a free gift because the lord of the road loves the travellers and has paid for the gift.

That is pretty much the state of the debate in the modern world, and that brings us back to Folau’s warning that we should avoid hell.

Cartoonists have had a lot of fun will hell through the years, picturing comic demons in red tights with pitchforks prodding hapless condemned souls into furnaces. However, all the amusing things, or silly things, that have ever been said about hell, or thought about hell, spring from our reluctance to seriously consider death — what it is and what it means.

Here’s a practical definition: death really means separation.

For a start, death is the separation of the mind (or soul if you prefer) from the body. Most human beings who have ever lived, from Plato to now, have believed that the mind (or soul) will survive this separation. If it doesn’t, then that answers our question of destination. But if it does it means we are on the right track in thinking about death as separation.

But there is another separation that counts as death: separation from God. In classical Christianity separation from God is spiritual death. This separation from God shows itself in a wide range of behaviours, including the eight behaviours listed by Folau in his Instagram post, but not limited to those eight. Because, according to the classically Christian world view, we are designed to function plugged in to God; once we are unplugged (separated) we are like an unplugged appliance — we don’t function properly or we don’t function at all.

That’s the danger Folau believed he was warning people against. He thought he was warning his followers that those people who ignore God, choose to be separated from God, are sending a message; are saying to God, “just leave me alone”. The danger is God will take them at their word: they will be cut off from God forever.

That being “cut off” is what hell is. Not the funny cartoons of demons with pitchforks but being cut off, isolated, exiled, expelled, separated. When Jesus himself pronounces judgment on people the words he says are “depart from me”, adding, “I never knew you” (Matthew 7:23).

But as Folau’s short post indicates, there is more to the story. Here’s the completion of those words from the Bible quoted above: “Just as people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many” (Hebrews 9:27-28).

There is the offer of God’s love and forgiveness and restoration: switching at life’s end from the bad option (separation, isolation, “hell”) to the good option (connection, community, “heaven”) as a free gift. From the point of view of classical Christianity, Folau saw people in danger and shouted out a warning. In other words, the intention of his message was the exact opposite to how it has been portrayed. And for that Folau is being punished.

Kel Richards is an author, journalist, radio personality and lay canon at St Andrew’s Cathedral, Sydney. He is the author of The Aussie Bible.

PRAYER, HOLY SPIRIT AND BOLDNESS

Another important message for the last days church from Francis Chan and David Platt.

Are we truly taking Jesus command to tell the good news to at least our circle of family and friends? We are all ambassadors of Christ, so need to be equipped to share our testimony and a simple presentation of the Gospel message.

Can I suggest one Gospel presentation that you can give on your mobile phone. It is called the Way of Life, go to http://www.thewayoflife.com.au to download it. This is just one of many that are available but I know this one has proved to be effective at least here in Australia.

Please let me know what you have found to be effective. Blessings, Ron

INVESTMENT OPPORTUNITY FOR NOW AND ON INTO ETERNITY

I think this project has the potential to be a life changer for thousands; let’s get the message out about this video series THE CHOSEN.

This is your opportunity to invest in the Kingdom and whilst it will provide a reward in this life, the big reward will be in eternity, with all of the people you will help come to a realisation of the good news of Jesus Christ.

This project has the potential to impact the world for Jesus like no other I have come across – Holy Spirit inspired for these “last days”.

INVEST NOW vidangel.com/thechosen

THE ULTIMATE PRODUCT – WHY DON’T PEOPLE BUY IT?

Salvation through faith in Jesus is the ultimate ‘product’:

  • ETERNAL LIFE IN A NEW HEAVEN AND EARTH WHERE THERE IS NO PAIN AND SUFFERING
  • IT’S AVAILABLE TO EVERYONE
  • IT’S FREE
  • REJECTING JESUS (THE PRODUCT) CONSIGNS YOU TO AN ETERNITY IN HELL (SEPARATION FROM YOUR CREATOR AND HIS GOODNESS FOREVER)

“For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame…., for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him. For whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” Romans 11-13

We are all involved in selling on a day-to-day basis, often without even knowing it. A dictionary definition of selling is ‘to persuade someone of the merits of’, or, to ‘cause someone to become enthusiastic about’ something.

And there is scriptural support for the idea that we should be more ‘calculating’ (or strategic) in our witnessing. In 1 Corinthians 9: 20-23 we read how Paul was strategic:

“To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some.”

Sales professionals simply take what is second nature to us all, refine it, and apply it to specific situations to maximise their chances of success.

What follows is not intended to be prescriptive of how we should witness to the lost. We are all different and, as such, we relate to people in different ways. Hopefully, many of you are already using a lot of the techniques I’m about to share, often without even realising it. But if you’re about to take the first step in your evangelising, or you are frustrated by your efforts to date, I hope this might help.

Laying the foundations

“Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks us to give the reason for the hope that we have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behaviour in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.”  1 Peter 3:15–16

Be prepared

When you witness to an unbeliever, you will be asked questions. It’s important that you can either answer these questions or, at the very least, direct them to a place where they might find the answers. But it’s pointless having all the answers if you never actually take the step to talk to an unbeliever about Jesus.

Prepared to give an answer

The Gospel message provides an answer to the predicament of every person—we are all sinners in need of salvation. Once this ‘cornerstone’ is in place, we have a sure foundation from which to confidently answer objections to the message.

Being equipped with answers will help you to overcome objections and give you confidence to step out and share the Gospel. This is where Creation Ministries International resources are so valuable. Probably the best place to start is with the Creation Answers Book, which has easy to understand answers to over 60 most asked questions on creation, evolution and the Bible.

You should also familiarise yourself with creation.com, so that, if you don’t know the answer to a question, you can recommend a place they can go to find the answer (and the search terms the person might use for best results). It can also be helpful to have tracts to give away (e.g. creation.com witnessing cards).

To everyone who asks

Successful sales people will actively seek to generate selling opportunities. Moreover, the Great Commission is a command – “go and make disciples of all nations” Matthew 28:19.

Making a sales presentation will usually involve an invitation, either in the form of an appointment, or at least a request for information about a product. Evangelism is similar—yes, we should always be looking for opportunities to start a conversation about Jesus (the easiest way is simply to tell (or, remind) people you’re a Christian). But ‘everyone who asks’ implies an invitation to give the reason for the hope we have.

The invitation(s) might be obvious: e.g. “Why are you a Christian?” Or they might be subtle: e.g. a throw away comment about Jesus, Christianity, another religion, or a news item with an evolutionary bias, etc. You just have to be prepared to recognize them when they arise. And don’t beat yourself up if you miss an opportunity (we all miss opportunities). Put it down to experience and work out ways to be better prepared next time.

Gentleness and respect

Successful selling requires persuasion, not pressure, and this is even more the case with evangelism. In most cases, you will effectively be telling someone that their whole worldview is wrong. This can be very confronting! Gentle persuasion is less likely to cause offence and, in the event of a negative reaction, is more likely to leave the lines of communication open for future discussions.

Respect is equally important. First, we are all made in the image of God, with responsibility for our decisions. We must always respect a person’s right to choose their own destiny, no matter how wrong we believe that choice to be. Second, respect implies a relationship. You cannot respectfully tell a person their worldview is wrong if you don’t know what that worldview is.

Before sharing the Gospel with someone, it’s important you take time to get to know them (if time allows). The easiest way to do this is to ask questions and be a good listener. We humans like to talk about ourselves and asking questions invites people to do just that. In the process, you will have the opportunity to demonstrate a genuine interest in who they are and what they believe. They, in turn, will be more comfortable in speaking to you, and will be more likely to listen when you speak to them.

Ask open-ended questions that require more than a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer. For instance, questions prefaced with ‘Who?’ ‘What?’ ‘Which?’ ‘Why?’ ‘When?’ ‘Where?’ and ‘How?’ Look for common interests and shared views and highlight these as they come up (as Paul would have done). If the conversation becomes more worldview-centric, ask clarifying questions and make a mental note of anything they may tell you that you can use to make the Gospel message more personal to them and more relevant to their life.

Whatever you do, don’t assume anything about the person you’re speaking to that you haven’t heard from them personally. When the time is right, it can be remarkably easy to steer the conversation to what you believe, simply by saying something like; “That’s very different to how I view the world.”

The reason for the hope that we have

Our ultimate aim should be that the people we witness to will place their confidence and faith in Jesus as their Lord and Saviour. This is the hope that we have for ourselves, and the hope we should have for others. It may not happen at the first meeting, the second meeting, or for many years. We might not even be present when the decision is finally made (if it is made at all) but this must be our goal from the very beginning.

To this end, the most important part of witnessing is the Gospel presentation and you need to get it right. Prepare, commit to memory, and practice your Gospel presentation. It should be biblically sound, containing all the major features and benefits of the Gospel message, starting with the ‘very good’ Creation of Genesis 1. It should be logical, easy to understand and concise.

It should explain the features of the Gospel, but should focus on the benefits, the reason(s) for the hope that we have. To use a sales analogy, no-one buys a refrigerator because it has a motor, insulated walls and shelves (the features). We buy a refrigerator because it keeps drinks cold and food fresh (the benefits).

Don’t cut corners. Just as you shouldn’t assume anything about another person’s worldview, don’t assume they have a clear understanding of the Gospel, even if they tell you they do. In this increasingly secular world, if an unbeliever has any understanding of the Gospel at all, it is likely to be a distorted version.

As you grow in confidence, you may be able to weave into your Gospel presentation some of what you have learnt about the person you’re witnessing to. A good sales presentation is designed to turn ‘wants’ into ‘needs’, the theory being that a person is much more likely to ‘buy’ if they are convinced they need something, rather than just wanting it. This same process can also be applied to evangelism. For example; most honest people, when confronted with questions of mortality, will admit they want to know what happens when they die. You can point out that, logically, they need to find the answer to this question before they die, because, once they’re dead, it’s too late to do anything about it.

Those who speak maliciously against your good behaviour in Christ

Competition is a fact of life. Sales people are always on the lookout for ways to convince potential clients that what they have to offer is superior to the opposition. Successful sales people do this by highlighting the positive features of their own product and subtly, rather than overtly, undermining the competition. However, if there is anything in a competitor’s sales presentation that is perceived to be inconsistent, or false, it will be (and should be) ruthlessly exploited.

How much more will this be the case with evangelism, where we must contend with an enemy who “masquerades as an angel of light” (2 Corinthians 11:14) but also “prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8).

Don’t make Satan’s job any easier. Everything about your Gospel presentation, and your answers to the questions you are asked, must be internally consistent (without contradiction). In doing so, you give yourself the best opportunity to convince people that the Christian worldview, alone, is externally consistent (true).

This is where those who attempt to fit evolution and millions of years into the Bible get it so wrong. By attempting to make Christianity conform to the world’s version of origins, they open the door to accusations of inconsistency and outright, deliberate deception. If the Bible can’t be trusted in the first chapters of Genesis, why would anyone trust what it says about Jesus?

Militant anti-theists will always rage against the Christian worldview simply because they have an anti-God agenda. We do ourselves, those to whom we witness, and the God we serve, a disservice by trying to appease them. Keep a ‘clear conscience’. Let Satan and his minions argue the benefits of their own worldview rather than allowing them to point out inconsistencies in yours!

Be prepared for success

When a decision is made to buy, a good salesperson will have a procedure in place to finalize the sale and an after-sales support program designed to ensure long term buyer satisfaction. In the same way, you need to plan what you will do when someone indicates that he/she is ready to commit to Christ.

First, and foremost, you should encourage them to acknowledge and confess their sin (1 John 1:9), turn to God in repentance (Acts 20:21), and believe in Jesus for remission of their sin and for salvation (Romans 10:9John 3:16).

Then, help them to put in place the tools they’ll need to grow and defend their newfound faith. This should include: encouraging them to read the Bible and pray, helping them find a Bible believing church in their area, and suggesting they seek out Christian friends and join a Bible study group. You might also offer to stay in touch and disciple them.

Last, but not least, make sure they know where to go if they have questions. Introduce them to CMI materials; Creation Magazine (you might start by giving them one of your back issues), the Creation Answers Book, and the wealth of biblically based, God-honouring resources at creation.com. That way, they too will be prepared to give an answer.

Be prepared in the heavenly realms

One last piece of advice (this one’s definitely not learnt from the business world); before you do anything, cover yourself in prayer.

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” Philippians 4:6

Pray for opportunities to share the Gospel and pray that you will recognise these opportunities when they present themselves. Pray for the boldness to speak God’s truth into the lives of friends, family, workmates, new acquaintances, etc. Pray that you will have clarity of thought and mind and that you will be able to answer the questions you might be asked. Pray for open hearts and open minds, that your efforts will bear fruit and that you will have success.

And pray, in particular, that you, and those you witness to, will be protected from the arrows of the enemy.

“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” Ephesians 6:12

The above article has been taken from the CMI article – More effective evangelism Lessons from the business world – Laying the foundations by Mark James, published, 5 June 2018 http://www.creation.com