In the name of the Father, the Son+, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
So for those of you who don’t know, I’m not Pastor Joe. My name is Remy Sheppard, and I’ve been a member here for about 2 years, a Lutheran for about 2 years, and a Christian for much longer. I wasn’t always a confessional and orthodox Christian, however. I was raised in the Pentecostal Holiness church and from there moved into and spent a great deal of time in the Word of Faith heresy.
But I want to spend some time today talking about something that was very big at Pentecostal church growing up: Evangelism Explosion. Have you guys heard of this?
Evangelism Explosion is an evangelistic outline tool that is used by the protestants to share the Gospel with people. At the church I grew up in we were actively encouraged to learn and use it, and a certain point in your church life it became a compulsory course – around 18. You were put in teams and sent out to church visitor’s houses, cold calling them with the Gospel, essentially.
Evangelism Explosion, known as “EE” (very clever), is probably most famous for its Two Questions. Do any of you know the two questions? The two questions are:
\1. If you were to die tonight, do you know for sure that you would you go to Heaven?
\2. Suppose you got up there and God met you at the gates and asked you, ‘Why should I let you into my Heaven?’, what would you say?
Pending their answers, EE then teaches you to take them through Five Steps wherein you explain to them, in this order:
· The Grace of God, that he wants you in Heaven, but your works can’t get you there.
· The State of Man, that he is sinful.
· The Mercy of God, that He doesn’t want to punish you for your sins.
· Jesus Christ, that He was God and Man and was sinless and died in your place
· And that through faith, you can be saved because of Jesus.
Next the EE outline asks you for a commitment. It was just explained to you that you are sinful because you’re not perfect – those are the words they want you to use – and that you can’t work your way in to heaven. But now, they turn around and ask you to do the following:
· Transfer all your trust to Christ
· Accept him as your savior
· Receive him as Lord
· Repent of your sins
After you do this, EE gives you a list of things that you must now do because you’re a Christian:
Read a chapter a day out of your Bible, Pray, go to church each week, attend a weekly Bible study, and tell others about Jesus.
There are a lot of problems with the EE Outline, as it’s called. For one, we can clearly see how American sort of take on Christianity believes that the Gospel is for the non-believer, but the law is for believers. You’re in now, so you gotta do stuff!
Next, their version of the Gospel all revolves around you doing stuff, doesn’t it? You have to believe, you have to transfer your trust, You have to accept, You have to, You have to, You have to. After all, Jesus has already done the hard bit, right? The least you could do is your small part.
I don’t want to come down too hard on E.E., though. They fall into the trap that we as humans always fall into, a trap that I often find myself in and I’m sure one that you find yourself in. Remember in our Gospel Reading today when the disciples come to Jesus and tell him the people are hungry? Jesus says, “Okay, so feed them.”
Now, where do the disciples immediately look for this food? They turn to themselves. They start looking in their own pockets and purses.
Any confirmation class kids here? Any brave adults here?
Can you tell us: What’s the third article of the Apostles Creed?
*[I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Holy Christian Church, the Communion of Saints, the Forgiveness of Sins, the Resurrection of the Body, and the Life Everlasting.]*
And what does this mean?
I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him; but the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith.
To Wit: I believe that I cannot believe.
We need bread, but we do not have it. And when we realize how hungry we are, we try and scrounge our pockets for lint so we can perhaps bake or buy a loaf with the dust we find.
Contrast that against Ray Comfort and Kirk Cameron’s The Way of the Master series. In it, they present an evangelistic tool that is devastating, if not completely effective. First you get them to agree with you on God and the Ten Commandments.
\1. What do you think your grade on the Big 10 has to be to make the cut and get into Heaven?
a. Most people will say, a B+, an A, something like that. So let’s walk through it real quick.
\2. Do you misuse the name of God? *That’s Blasphemy.*
\3. Have you ever Murdered? You know, Jesus said that to even hate is to murder in your heart. Surely, you’ve hated someone, yeah? I know I have.
\4. How about adultery? Some have, sure. But did you know Jesus said to even lust after someone in your heart is to commit adultery. Everyone does that, especially in our sex-obsessed culture.
\5. Have you ever stolen anything? True story: When I was ten, I stole my neighbor Shannon’s jump rope. I didn’t even like jump rope. I stole it just to have it.
\6. How about lying? When Shannon asked me if I had seen her jump rope, I told her I hadn’t.
So, by your own admission you are a Blaspheming, lying, murdering, adulterous thief. That’s just five out of ten, a 50%. We won’t even get into obeying authority , honoring the Sabbath  – which plays itself out in our personal Bible study and prayer time – Covetousness…. Let’s be honest, we fail on all 10 of them.
Not only do we fail in keeping the Law, but left on our own, humans delight in our failing! We, as a people, are truly ravenous for our own rebellion. Wicked at heart. What does Paul say in the beginning of this epistle? “There is no one righteous, none understand, none seek after God. No one does good, not one!”
We turn our ears towards things that scratch our itch. As our reading in Isaiah says, we waste our money on things that are not food, and work at things that cannot satisfy us. How often we get caught in the trap of the law. We think if we do not do this thing for so long, or abstain from that long enough, or perform the ritual so many times we will surely gain God’s favor.
The truth is, try as we might, we cannot buy the bread we actually need. Not only do we not have enough money, we’re spending entirely the wrong currency.
But I have good news for you, beloved: The Lord is Good, and His steadfast love endures forever. We all struggle with sin. We all fall short.
But nevertheless, The Lord our God stands in the streets and cries out with a loud voice, “Come! I have the food you need! I’ve already paid for it! Come and take your fill; get all that you need!” When it comes time to settle up, we come up short (I know I personally do every single time), but God has already paid the bill.
When the disciples realized they had no bread, they turned to Christ. He had all of the bread that they needed. More so, in fact. And he offers you that same bread. *[Altar]*
The Lord Jesus Christ, truly God and truly man, came down from heaven, incarnate as a man, lived the life you couldn’t, and took the punishment you should have had. And in your baptism he freely gives you eternal life, as St. Paul says, “We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.”
Those waters washed away your every sin and failing and brought you into new life, now at Peace with God. You are no longer a thief, or a liar, an adulterer, murderer. You are now a redeemed child of God.
All of this – the Suffering of Christ, your Baptism, your salvation – all of this is the Work of God and Him alone. And it is a work that he has been planning since before he created even the first Spark of Light. It is a work He is carrying out even now. Rest assured: You are redeemed.
This is the point! No matter who you are, no matter how wicked you think you may be, or how short you’ve fallen, the Lord yearns for your salvation so much so that before he even created you, he planned out how to catch you. He’s standing in the market and shouting for you. Come and eat this Bread of Life. Be forgiven.
Be at peace with God as his own dear child.
In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ,