Before going out on the streets as an evangelist, one must be prepared. I fully agree with Charles Spurgeon who said, “Ministry always starts with and demands brain labor. Be masters of your Bibles. Depth in the Word is absolutely necessary if there is to be depth of conviction and soundness of conversions.” Spurgeon stated that this was his secret to evangelism and that, “apart from God’s Word, he had absolutely nothing to say.”
For several years as a street evangelist, I have been amazed by that fact that the truths of the Bible come to life while witnessing. We often hear many repeated beliefs, questions, and criticisms towards God and His Word. We also have seen so many who profess Christianity, yet they are unable to share with us what the full gospel is. Frequently, we discover that many people have made a god to their own liking. The Bible calls this idolatry, and this sin is universal to all men’s hearts. To explain how this happens, I will echo what Spurgeon said, “Men do not read the Bible and pray.”
J.I. Packer in his book, Knowing God, expounds on this truth by showing that many do not know the God of the Bible. Below is an excerpt from Packer’s book called:
Santa Claus and Great Despair
“Never, perhaps, since Paul wrote has there been more need to labor this point (God’s goodness and also His severity) than there is today. Modern muddle-headedness and confusion as to the meaning of faith in God are almost beyond description. People say they believe in God, but they have no idea who it is that they believe in, or what difference believing in Him may make.
Christians who want to help their floundering fellows into what a famous old tract used to call ‘safety, certainty and enjoyment’ are constantly bewildered as to where to begin: the fantastic hodgepodge of fancies about God quite takes their breath away. How on earth have people got into such a muddle? What lies at the root of their confusion? And where is the starting point for setting them straight?
To these questions there are several complementary sets of answers.
One is that people have gotten into the practice of following private religious hunches rather than learning of God from His own Word; we must try to help them unlearn the pride and, in some cases, the misconceptions about Scripture which gave rise to this attitude and to base their convictions not on what they feel but on what the Bible says.
A second answer is that modern people think of all religions as equal and equivalent– they draw their ideas about God from pagan as well as Christian sources; we must try to show people the uniqueness and finality of the Lord Jesus Christ, God’s last word to man.
A third answer is that people have ceased to recognize the reality of their own sinfulness, which imparts a degree of perversity and enmity against God to all that they think and do; it is our task to introduce people to this fact about themselves and so make them self-distrustful and open to correction by the Word of Christ.
A fourth answer is that people today are in the habit of disassociating the thought of God’s goodness from that of His severity; we must seek to wean them from this habit. This habit was first learned from some gifted German theologians of the last century and has infected modern Western Protestantism as a whole. To reject all ideas of divine wrath and judgment, and to assume that God’s character, misrepresented in many parts of the Bible, is common today, a new doctrine called the Celestial Santa Claus.”
Packer stated seeing God as Santa Claus leads quickly to Christianity’s death, “For the substance of Christianity is faith in the forgiveness of sins through the redeeming work of Christ on the cross. In Santa Claus theology, sin creates no problem, atonement becomes needless, God’s favor extends equally to those who disregard His commands and to those who keep them.”
What are the dangerous results of Santa Claus theology?
Packer asserts it removes any need to fear a Holy God and that people cannot cope with the fact of evil. Packer says, “the ‘good’ God’ of liberalism” has become so widespread, the effect of this has caused people to disassociate God from destructive things like death, cancer, adultery, etc. and certainly God has no control over them. Packer points out that this false belief about God denies God’s omnipotence and Lordship over His world and that, “Liberal theologians took this course fifty years ago, and the man on the street takes it today.”
Sadly, this leads to, according to Packer, “a kind God who means well but cannot always insulate His children from trouble and grief. When trouble comes, there is nothing to do but grin and bear it. Faith in a God who is all goodness and no severity tends to confirm men in a fatalistic and pessimistic attitude in life.”
To understand this religious road and how destructive it can be, read Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan. Pilgrim’s Progress depicts the sanctifying walk of faith for a reborn believer in Jesus Christ. Bunyan depicts how redefining who God is leads to a pessimistic life in the land of Doubting Castle and Giant Despair.
“To help others get back on the true road, a person must learn to relate God’s goodness to His severity, according to the Scriptures,” says Packer.
Watch an Evangelism Encounter that Ray Comfort from Living Waters had with a man on the streets of California who expressed that fearing God and Hell is dumb.