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Enjoying God Blog

The eighth dimension of a Reformed faith is the shortest of our posts, but is not for that reason less important than the others.

(8) To be Reformed means that you will always resist the temptation to become pragmatic or manipulative in your evangelistic outreach.

J. I. Packer explains:

"While we must always remember that it is our responsibility to proclaim salvation, we must never forget that it is God who saves. It is God who brings men and women under the sound of the gospel, and it is God who brings them to faith in Christ. Our evangelistic work is the instrument that He uses for this purpose, but the power that saves is not in the instrument: it is in the hand of the One who uses the instrument. We must not at any stage forget that. For if we forget that it is God's prerogative to give results when the gospel is preached, we shall start to think that it is our responsibility to secure them. And if we forget that only Good can give faith, we shall start to think that the making of converts depends, in the last analysis, not on God, but on us, and that the decisive factor is the way in which we evangelize" (Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God [Downers Grove: IVP, 1961], p. 27).

Once we begin to think that faith and repentance are in an individual's power to produce, we shall adopt those methods and contrived devices by which to extract them from him. We would become sinfully pragmatic: whatever works to secure a decision is for that reason deemed acceptable. Knowing what the gospel is would be only half the task. We would also need to develop an irresistible technique for evoking a response. The truth or falsity of an evangelistic method, therefore, would be determined solely on the basis of the fruit that it allegedly bore.

Furthermore, Packer continues, "we should regard evangelism as an activity involving a battle of wills between ourselves and those to whom we go, a battle in which victory depends on our firing off a heavy enough barrage of calculated effects. Thus our philosophy of evangelism would become terrifyingly similar to the philosophy of brainwashing" (28). But it is not right when we take it upon ourselves to do more than God has commissioned us to do:

"It is not right when we regard ourselves as responsible for securing converts, and look to our own enterprise and techniques to accomplish what only God can accomplish. To do that is to intrude ourselves into the office of the Holy Ghost, and to exalt ourselves as the agents of the new birth. And the point that we must see is this: only by letting our knowledge of God's sovereignty control the way in which we plan, and pray, and work in His service, can we avoid becoming guilty of this fault" (29).

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