Wednesday, 3 June 2009

Using Fear In Evangelism

Recentley we decided to use a replica coffin with the scripture "It is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgement" on the streets of Exeter. We were approached by various well meaning but ignorant Christians who accused us of being unloving. The premise being its wrong to stimulate and play on peoples fears. Have you seen a packet of cigarettes lately! I mean it. The have these graffic pictures on the front of them, throat cancers, lung cancers, arterial disease. The idea being that looking at the photo will produce fear in the smoker who will then as a result quit. Fear is regulary used as a tool by the government to induce a change of behaviour in the population. Think about the horrific drink driving ads at Christmas, or the terrifying aids ads of the eighties.

I looked up fear of God in the concordance: It is a reverence for God and his power which leads to obedience. In aother words Gods awesome power has become a reality to you, in so much, that it has induced a change of behaviour in which you now want to follow him in obedience. "Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man" Ecc 12:13.

It is clear even from a casual look in a concordance that God has and continues to use fear to bring about his purposes. "Through fear of the Lord men depart from evil" is beautifuly illustrated by Jesus in the following parable, were he encourages his hearers to stay away from sin. "If your eye offends you, pluck it out: it is better for you to eneter into the Kingdom of God with one eye, than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire" Mark 9:47. He instructed his Disciples to "Fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul, but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell" Matt 10:28. What greater incentive to stay away from sin could we need?

God sent Jonah to Nineveh with a message of judgement "Yet forty days and Nineveh shall be destoyed." Through fear of the Lord a whole city repented and was saved by Gods amazing grace. Okay it doesn't always go to plan. Paul shared his faith with the noble Felix in Acts 24:25 and reasoned with him about judgement to come. Although Felix 'trembled' he sent Paul away, remaining as much as we can tell unconverted.

Barnes' commentary on Jude 23 summs up the type of people who are won by fear: "And others save by fear, pulling them out of the fire." And others - Another class; those who were of such a character, or in such circumstances, that a more bold, earnest, and determined manner would be better adapted to them.Save with fear - That is, by appeals adapted to produce fear. The idea seems to be that the arguments on which they relied were to be drawn from the dangers of the persons referred to, or from the dread of future wrath. It is undoubtedly true, that while there is a class of persons who can be won to embrace religion by mild and gentle persuasion, there is another class who can be aroused only by the terrors of the law. Every method is to be employed, in its proper place, that we “by all means may save some.” Pulling them out of the fire - As you would snatch persons out of the fire; or as you would seize on a person that was walking into a volcano. Then, a man would not use the mild and gentle language of persuasion, but by word and gesture show that he was deeply in earnest.

Hebrews 2:15 tells us that all are subject to bondage through fear of death. However Jesus defeated the power of the grave and now offers eternal life to all those who come to him. So yes, fear of death, or rather the will to live, is an often overlooked, but valid tool for reaching the lost. If you take the average age of death as seventy and you are twenty you have two thousand-five hundred weekends left. You then loose five hundred weekends every ten years that goes by. If you're sixty you have only five hundred weekends left. Charles Spurgeon said "Men have been helped to live by remembering that they must die." Fear of death should cause the lost to run for the cure, and the saved to offer it. amen.

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