Today's Broadcast

Charles Finney

A Message by W. Robert Godfrey

Charles Finney believed revival could be broken down to a science. In this lesson, Dr. Godfrey introduces Finney's methods, his many critics, and the nature of true revival.

From the series: A Survey of Church History, Part 5 A.D. 1800-1900

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Further Study On This Topic

  1. blog-post

    The Methods vs. The Message

  2. article

    What Is the Gospel?

  3. question and answer

    Is there salvation for a Christian who has turned away from Christ and does not seem to want to repent?

The Methods vs. The Message

R.C. Sproul

Many Christians go their entire lives without being used by God to be the human instrument and means by which a person comes to Christ. My own calling is not as an evangelist, but seeing another human being come to Christ is the most meaningful ministry experience I've ever had.

I once was hired by a church to be the minister of theology, which meant that my job was to teach. They also added to my job description "minister of evangelism." I said I didn't know anything about evangelism. So, they sent me to a seminar to train in evangelism.

The minister leading the seminar talked about how to memorize an outline, how he uses key questions to stimulate discussion, and how there's a pattern to the way in which evangelism is to flow. The idea behind the method he used was to focus attention on the ultimate issue of a person's individual redemption—how can he justify himself before God? Most people will say that they have lived a good life; very few will say that they have been justified by faith alone in Christ alone.

Methods such as these have much to recommend them. They are easy to learn, and they make it possible for people to engage in discussions about Christianity, though care must be taken that one is not simply reading a script but rather is really connecting with the other person.

Ultimately, evangelism is less about the method one uses and more about the message one proclaims. Evangelism, remember, is the proclamation of the gospel—telling the story, announcing the news. Some fear that they don't know enough to evangelize. I say, "Tell them what you do know." Leave the defense of the truth claims to the apologist and hold forth the simple message of the gospel. Anyone who has the ability to speak about three or four simple principles can become an effective evangelist. This is where evangelism programs and training can help.

This excerpt is taken from What Is the Great Commission? by R.C. Sproul. Download more free ebooks in the Crucial Questions series here.

What Is the Gospel?

R.C. Sproul

There is no greater message to be heard than that which we call the Gospel. But as important as that is, it is often given to massive distortions or over simplifications. People think they’re preaching the Gospel to you when they tell you, 'you can have a purpose to your life', or that 'you can have meaning to your life', or that 'you can have a personal relationship with Jesus.' All of those things are true, and they’re all important, but they don’t get to the heart of the Gospel.

The Gospel is called the 'good news' because it addresses the most serious problem that you and I have as human beings, and that problem is simply this: God is holy and He is just, and I’m not. And at the end of my life, I’m going to stand before a just and holy God, and I’ll be judged. And I’ll be judged either on the basis of my own righteousness – or lack of it – or the righteousness of another. The good news of the Gospel is that Jesus lived a life of perfect righteousness, of perfect obedience to God, not for His own well being but for His people. He has done for me what I couldn’t possibly do for myself. But not only has He lived that life of perfect obedience, He offered Himself as a perfect sacrifice to satisfy the justice and the righteousness of God.

The great misconception in our day is this: that God isn’t concerned to protect His own integrity. He’s a kind of wishy-washy deity, who just waves a wand of forgiveness over everybody. No. For God to forgive you is a very costly matter. It cost the sacrifice of His own Son. So valuable was that sacrifice that God pronounced it valuable by raising Him from the dead – so that Christ died for us, He was raised for our justification. So the Gospel is something objective. It is the message of who Jesus is and what He did. And it also has a subjective dimension. How are the benefits of Jesus subjectively appropriated to us? How do I get it? The Bible makes it clear that we are justified not by our works, not by our efforts, not by our deeds, but by faith – and by faith alone. The only way you can receive the benefit of Christ’s life and death is by putting your trust in Him – and in Him alone. You do that, you’re declared just by God, you’re adopted into His family, you’re forgiven of all of your sins, and you have begun your pilgrimage for eternity.

Is there salvation for a Christian who has turned away from Christ and does not seem to want to repent?

I believe that once a person is authentically redeemed, is truly in Christ, that person will never be lost to Christ. That person has what we call eternal security—not because of the person’s innate ability to persevere, but I believe that God promises to preserve his own and that we have the benefit of our Great High Priest who intercedes for us every day. Now, at the same time, Christians are capable of gross and heinous sin. They’re capable of very serious falls away from Christ. They’re capable of the worst kind of denial and betrayal of our Lord.

Consider, for example, Exhibit A—the apostle Peter, who denied Jesus with cursing. He was so emphatic that he uttered profanities to underscore the fact that he never knew Jesus. If you talk about somebody who didn’t seem to want to repent and who had turned away from Jesus, Saint Peter is your classic example. Yet his fellow disciple Judas also betrayed Jesus and turned away from him, and of course, both of the betrayals were predicted by Jesus at the Last Supper. When Jesus spoke of Judas, he said, “What you have to do, do quickly. Go.” And he dismissed him to his treachery. He mentioned in the Scripture that Judas was a son of perdition from the beginning. I think it’s clear in Jesus’ High Priestly prayer that he understood Judas was never a Christian. So Judas’s betrayal was not the case of a Christian turning on Christ.

When he announced to Peter that Peter would also betray him, he said to him, “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked for you. He would have you and sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you so that your faith should not fail; and when you turn, strengthen the brethren.” And then Peter says, “Oh no, Lord, not me. I’ll never betray you.” Then, of course, he did. But notice that when Jesus predicted it, he said, “When you turn”—not, “If you turn” but “When you turn, strengthen the brethren.” Because Jesus had prayed as he did in his High Priestly prayer, no one would be able to snatch his people out of his hand.

The New Testament promises that he who has begun a good work in you will perfect it to the end (Phil. 1:6). I know there are many Christians who believe that a true Christian can lose his or her salvation. I don’t. I’d say with the apostle John, “Those who went out from us were never really with us.” I think a Christian can have a gross and serious fall but not a full and final fall—that he or she will be restored even as David realized his sin, as the Prodigal Son came to himself, as Peter ultimately repented.

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