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June 1, 2015

Defining the Rallying Cry for Evangelism in Today’s World

by Dave Malnes

I’m glad God doesn’t use a control-alt-delete button. Frustrated by sin and persistent unbelief from the world, I could understand the desire to purge, to wipe out previous data, and to begin again. If I were Dave Almighty, I think the great flood would have occurred twenty-three times already. But God is far more merciful than I am.

I am truly blessed with the wonderful opportunities to Lord gives me to lead mission trips. I embrace the privilege of teaching, guiding, and encouraging people on how to share the gospel with others. The messages of God’s grace, forgiveness, and redemption fall freely like seeds from a healthy tree or a generous farmer sowing his field. We trust the Lord’s timetable for the harvest of souls.

How this contrasts from Old Testament mission trips!

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Joshua was one of God’s greatest mission leaders. He did not lead his people on how to deliver messages of grace, forgiveness, nor redemption. Instead, Joshua led his people to deliver messages of judgement through a double-edged sword.

His mission was to fulfill a promise. His desire was to fulfill God’s purpose. And God chose Joshua to deliver His people into the land He promised generations ago. The mission did not mean asking people to leave, nor to extend mercy, but to forcefully remove them from the land of Canaan. God was the rightful owner. Their time of grace had ended. God eventually judges people who persistently choose to reject the God of Creation.

And Joshua was not alone in his efforts. The hand of God was with him. Victory was granted time after time. Joshua was able to conquer and reclaim what God had promised them.

Until the battle of Ai.

A man within the ranks of Joshua’s army was making a difference on the battlefield. Instead of victory, the man’s actions were causing humiliating defeats. Unknown to Joshua, the man was breaking God’s covenant by taking what was not rightfully his own. (see Joshua 8)

God takes sin very seriously. The man who broke his covenant was dealt with harshly. And not just him, but his whole family. The Old Testament gives a vivid reminder on the ugliness of sin and how God deals with it.

A prominent message from the Old Testament message and delivered by the hands of Joshua is “Don’t mess with God!”

“May the praise of God be in their mouths and a double-edged sword in their hands.” (Psalm 149:6)

What is the rallying cry for today’s Christians?

In the Old Testament, the rallying cry is “Slaughter them!”

The New Testament rallying cry is pointing people to the consequences of sin during this time of grace.

And frankly, it’s a message that most people do not want to hear.

My human nature is more prone to judge rather than forgive, especially when confronted with stubborn unbelief. We live at a turning point in history where the rampages of sin seem to dominate the headlines. There is a temptation to ask God to press the control-alt-delete button on this world and come again soon. We are prone to ask God to lead Old Testament mission trips of judgement rather than extend the New Testament messages of grace.

Perhaps we need to change our thoughts and perceptions on mission trips and what they are all about. God does not tell us to sheath our swords, but to use them. They are not the physical swords use in the Old Testament battlefields, but they are far more powerful — the spiritual double-edged sword of the law and the gospel.

Christians use the sword of the Spirit in proclaiming the New Testament message of the gospel and what Jesus has already done for us. Only this sword can cut through the thick skin of unbelief. And by using the Word of God, God’s hand goes with us — just like in the days of Joshua.

The only way for the sword to be effective is to use both edges. A person cannot begin to comprehend the message of the gospel until they have heard the eternal consequences of disobedience and rejection. An unbelieving heart needs to hear that they are in dire need of rescue before they grasp the hand of God.

Christians speak the truth in love by sharing with others the message of warning. Instead of utilizing the physical sword to exert punishment, injury, or death, we have the sword of the Spirit that slices through human pride.

Wars are still being fought like the days of Joshua. It’s just that we can’t see them. God asks Christians to step into the battlefield and gives us a commission. Sharing the gospel message with others is one way to join the front lines.

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