Archive for the ‘321’ Category

Don’t-Be-a-Slave-to-Writer’s-BlockHello there. Sorry I haven’t been writing very much here recently. I’m trying to write “321” the evangelistic book right now. Please pray for that project if you remember. And perhaps you can help me with something….

At one point in the book I talk about the four fundamental realities you can choose between in the beginning – nothing, chaos, power or love (see here for the seed of the idea). Was wondering if you had any good quotes for each of the options.

If you believe in the beginning there was nothing – life is absurd, meaningless, hopeless.

If you believe in the beginning there was chaos – life is endless struggle and power plays.

If you believe in the beginning there was power – life is a slavery to almighty god or law or fate.

If you believe in the beginning there was love – life is about finding your place in God’s family of love.

Do you have any quotes from nihilists, ultra-Darwinians, determinists, theologians or others that would put flesh on those bones?


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321 in 4 Talks

321 Four Talks

Talk 1: JESUS – Colossians 1:15-23

Talk 2: GOD – Galatians 3:26-4:7

Talk 3: THE WORLD – Romans 5:12-21

Talk 4: YOU – John 15:1-9; Ephesians 5:21-32; Hebrews 4:14-16


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Lazarus not Hercules

Hercules-at-the-CrossroadsThe gospel is not ‘the clever option’ for a discerning religious consumer.  It’s “life unto the dead”.  What does that mean for our evangelism?

Many times I’ve written against ‘Hercules at the cross-roads’ evangelism. Unbelievers are not decision-makers who need to be cajoled or coerced to ‘take a step’.  Unbelievers are ‘Lazarus in the tomb’ – dead in sins and desperately needing the voice of the Son of God.

Well alright, I hear you saying…  But, Glen, at some stage you need to “close the deal”, surely.  At some point the unbeliever needs to make a choice right?  Even if it’s all about ‘receiving Jesus’, fine, there’s still something for the unbeliever to do, isn’t there?  So how do you preach that without falling back into Decision Theology?

Now before I have a stab at an answer, let me distinguish between what must happen in evangelism and what the unbeliever is capable of.  What must happen is that the unbeliever must be born again, they must be forgiven by God, they must be adopted by the Father, they must be united to the Son, they must be sealed with the Spirit, they must be cleansed by the blood of Jesus, they must be pronounced righteous (i.e. justified), they must be made a new creation.  I’m not laying out discrete stages in salvation here – I’m speaking about the same truth from different angles.  The unbeliever must be converted.  But notice this: they must be converted. No-one can get themselves reborn or forgiven, or adopted, or united, or sealed, or cleansed, or justified, or recreated.

What must happen in evangelism is precisely what the unbeliever can’t do.  I know I keep stressing this, but it needs to be stressed: sinners can’t save themselves.  Salvation belongs to the LORD.

But, having said all this, there is a call to repent.  So what does it look like?

Well think of Lazarus called from the tomb.  “Come forth” was the resounding command.  Here’s something very definite for Lazarus to do.  And he did it.  But just think… later that day, as Lazarus had the unusual experience of enjoying his own wake, he could have said: “I heard Jesus’ voice and I decided to obey” (cf John 5:25).  That’s one way of putting it.

But put yourself in the shoes of those would-be mourners, listening to Lazarus.  As he recounts how he beat death, you’d be smiling and nodding, all the while you’d know what had really happened.  You’d seen it all from Christ’s perspective.  It was the voice of the Son of God that raised him and Lazarus found himself unable to do anything but “come forth”.

Lazarus’s story is a conversion story – Jesus set it up like that back in John 5 (see v24-29).  And this story includes the perspective of the listener – a perspective which involves decision.  Every sinner has a “how I beat death” story. There are rational processes that we can reflect upon.  But all this is reflection upon a miracle.  What was actually decisive was the Word raising the dead.

So… and now, finally, I’m going to say something mildly practical… when I call unbelievers to receive Jesus, I try not to frame it as a “decision” they need to weigh up.  I announce Jesus as the Lord.  I paint Him in biblical colours, I tell them what He’s done and along the way I say things like:

“Don’t you just love this Jesus?”,
“Are you finding yourself drawn to this Jesus?”,
“Are you beginning to feel that He really is Lord?”
“Do you want Him?”

Basically I allow the word of Jesus to draw them.  (That’s the point of biblical evangelism – letting the voice of the Son of God be heard).  And then, at certain points, I’ll say “If you are feeling drawn to Jesus, that is God calling you.” Or I’ll say “If you are now sensing in your heart that Jesus really is Lord, you’re becoming a Christian. Because a Christian is someone who looks to Jesus and says “Yes, He’s the One.”  Is that happening to you?”

I’m not so much into telling them “Choose to make Jesus Lord of your life.”  I’m telling them “Jesus is Lord, whatever you feel about the matter.  If you can’t see it you must be blind.  If you can see it, that’s God opening your eyes.  Don’t refuse His Gift – receive Jesus, He’s yours.”

That’s my take anyway.  What’s yours?

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This is different to a version I demonstrated a few months ago.  Back then I drew the world twice – once with Adam taking it down and once with Christ raising it up.  That’s obviously not ideal – Christ saves this world.  So in this version we’ve overcome that problem with the help of a nifty fold – Christ descending onto this world to do Adam’s job right.  I much prefer this version – not least because you get to do a bit of gospel origami!

Learn how to draw 321 for yourself here.

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The Importance of Adam

AdamChristCarl Trueman writes here that,

…the question of Adam is arguably the biggest doctrinal question facing the current generation.

He has a couple of strong quotes from Warfield and Bavinck worth reading too.

Last night I taught a little on 321 and experienced some push-back on Adam.

There are issues of clarity – it seems overly complicated to speak of our corporate identities like this.

There are issues of fairness – original sin seems unreasonable (to non-Christians and, one suspects, to Christians too).

There are issues of credibility – no-one believes in Adam anymore. (Non-Christians and Christian alike it seems!)

I’ve written on this stuff here and here, but I thought I’d list some more thoughts in the hope that we might speak of Christ’s vicarious action for the world with a renewed sense of the importance of Adam. With the backdrop of Adam I’m convinced we’ll be able to speak with a greater sense of clarity, fairness and credibility. Here are ten bullet-points, and some further reflections:

1) All Christians are in the business of proclaiming vicarious action: one man on behalf of humanity – on behalf of the cosmos even.  To the Bible’s way of thinking, the fact one Man answers another one man is what makes the gospel clear and credible. Without Adam, we’re proclaiming a vicarious solution to a self-caused problem.  Or, even more ridiculously, a vicarious solution to a God-caused problem.

2) All Christians are in the business of proclaiming a sin problem.  But if “sin” is basically bad behaviour, you’ll draw a blank with many. (See more here)

3) We all know that our families shape us. My ancestor, Ann Forbes, committed a crime, was exiled from the mother country and thousands have been radically affected. One person, one crime, and whole generations are determined. All our family trees are like this. It’s a modern delusion to think that we’re self made people. It’s worth unmasking that delusion because it goes right to the heart of the gospel.

4) It has real traction with the unbeliever to say “There’s a brokenness to me that goes far deeper than behaviour. I’m a part of something bigger than me. Give me the best circumstances, the greatest achievements, my dearest loved ones, and still a selfishness and pride and envy comes out of me that can be shocking.” It connects with people to talk about “deep, overpowering drives”. Connecting that to a problem of being over behaviour is not incredible.  For those being awakened to the truth (about themselves and about Christ) it is very credible.

5) Addiction is a great category for sin opened out by speaking in ‘original sin’ / ‘bound will’ terms. (Not the only category certainly, but an important one),

6) Steve Levy’s “Hell sermon” is a tremendous example of how being “condemned already” (in Adam) connects with unbelievers in a profound way.

7) Mockingbird are constantly culturally relevant because they’re always hammering home the bound will.  See their resources. Here’s an example.  Or try this series: Good News for People with Big Problems.

8) Non-Christians are also questioning our modern equation of freedom with choice – see this TED talk on the Paradox of Choice.

9) Atheists (like Sam Harris) are far more deterministic than any biblical teaching on the bound will.

10) Whether they be atheists or not, many in the culture are drawing deeply theological conclusions from our supposed union with others. It’s just that they’re thinking of their union with star-dust, we’re thinking of our organic union with humanity.  I think we’re offering a much more believable account – certainly one that accords with our deepest feelings of personal affinity.

In my own experience, I’ve seen non-Christians respond powerfully to Adam and Christ teaching.  Secular folks have become Christians through 321 and the Adam stuff has made a deep impact.  On Sunday I preached on Romans 5 and the common response from listeners was “I wish my unbelieving friend could have heard that.”  Not – “That was weird, let’s keep it to ourselves!”

I’m sure I’m wrong in many, many cases, but when I hear people say “The world will never believe in Adam”, I suspect they really mean “I do not believe in Adam.”  That might be completely false, but it’s a suspicion that’s been borne out in a few specific cases.

You might ask, “What on earth should we say to our scientifically minded friends who laugh at an historic Adam?”  Well I’d simply ask them about their belief in Christ. With 1 Corinthians 15 open I’ll say, “Here’s the bible’s logic: if Christ rose, Adam fell. Let’s ask whether Christ rose…”

I’m not seeking to build discrete theological points in a sequential argument – in which case I suppose we’d have to lay an Adam foundation first. But no, I’m inviting the non-Christian into the bible’s world and saying “Look around at the whole thing, see how it fits together. See how this story helps make sense of your story, etc, etc.”

I’m not asking them first to buy Genesis 2. Nor am I asking them first to buy Genesis 1.  To begin with, I’m asking them to view the world through a different set of lenses and praying they’ll “See it!”

Notice that I want them to “view the world” differently.  I think that’s important.  So often in evangelism we want maximal agreement in advance and so, for instance, when we teach on God, we won’t make explicit that we proclaim ‘the God of Jesus‘. Instead  we’ll just let their default doctrine of God slide – maybe addressing that down the line.

In the same way, when we teach on humanity and the world, we leave people’s ruling assumptions alone.  We basically ask them to switch their view of “God up there” and possibly “me down here” but there’s zero transformation of their view of “the world out there.” It’s enlightenment evangelism, with a transition of “the man upstairs” but little or no change in their vision of the real world, down here.

I’m fully aware that such transformation is a life-long activity.  But given that saving faith fixes on the enfleshed, crucified and risen Christ, the youngest Christian’s vision of ‘the world’ is beginning to be transformed. Again, I’m not asking anyone to believe in ‘Genesis first’ or anything like that.  I’m just saying, when we invite our friends into a Christian view of reality, we’re inviting them over to our place – a grand and strange old house. But we’ll be super hospitable and we’ll pray they’ll grow to love it.

The trouble comes when when we leave the house built on the Rock and simply build on supposed common ground.  Great will be the fall!


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Evangelism Training Session 6

EvangelismHere’s the sixth and final 321Go evangelism training session.

The others are:

Session 1

Session 2

Session 3

Session 4

Session 5

Session 6 Handout



Our Words – His Words  2 Corinthians 5:18-21; Luke 10:16

What does it mean to go in Jesus’ name?


Prayer for Openings  Acts 16:13-15; Colossians 4:2-6; Ephesians 6:19-20

What does it tell you about evangelism that we need open hearts, doors and mouths?


We’ve thought about these sentences:

“That’s what I love about Jesus…”
“That problem is far beyond me/us…”
“That’s what I love about being a Christian…”
“That’s what I love about my church…”


A Final Sentence Up Your Sleeve

“What’s stopping you becoming a Christian?”


Helping Them Make A Start  John 1:10-13

Explain that salvation is to know and trust Jesus (it’s a marriage union with Him)
We do this together with His brothers and sisters (talk about church)
We hear His word (talk about the bible)
We speak to Him (talk about prayer)

If they want to receive Him: Romans 10:9-13 – Believe, Confess, Call


Who Do I Know Who Needs to Know?

How open are they to me?

1. Nodding acquaintance / rarely see em
2. We talk, not very deeply
3. A friendship is there
4. We could talk about most things
5. We talk about everything

How open are they to the gospel?

1. They don’t know I’m a Christian / Don’t want to know
2. They know I’m a Christian but not much more
3. We’ve spoken about gospel things once or twice
4. They’d come to something / read a book
5. They’re open to exploring Christianity in a deeper way

Spend time thinking of 3 friends and how they might meet with Jesus.

Pray for them and for opportunities to share Jesus with them.


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Evangelism Training Session 5


321-GO! Part 5


Problems of the Head Luke 10:25-30ff

Coming to Christ is like getting to know a potential partner
Questions are involved, but questions are not the be-all and end-all!
At some point you just know enough to trust them.


Answering Questions: Reframing, Reflecting, Revealing…

We reframe the questions around the Bible’s definitions. (You could use 321!)
We reflect the question back because they too must answer it.
We reveal the gospel focused on Christ and Him crucified.


DISCUSS these questions using Reframe, Reflect, Reveal…

1) If God is all loving, all knowing and all powerful, how can he allow suffering?

2) Religion simply causes wars

3) How can Jesus be the only way to heaven?


A Sentence Up Your Sleeve…

“Can I step back and tell you what Christians believe in 5 minutes…”


Problems of the Heart  2 Corinthians 5:10-21

We want to feel ok with the world But Jesus hits a conversation like a sack of bricks.

We want to feel ok with God So I don’t want to get too involved with ‘the world’

We want to feel ok with ourselves But frankly we’re spiritually dry and it feels like a duty.


How would the Apostle Paul handle these objections? (2 Cor 5)



1. What problems of the head do you feel most keenly? How can they be addressed?

2. What problems of the heart do you feel most keenly? How can they be addressed?

3. Can you explain the Christian faith in 5 minutes using jargon-free language? Try it on each other.


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