Seventy pastors from all walks of life. Some from Pentecostal backgrounds, others from a background of Hinduism. Some from villages not far away, while others traveled over six hours to get there. The news breaks early that one of the pastors was in an accident while coming to the training. It is not good. He was thrown from his motorbike and early indications were, that he broke his back. Everyone was saddened and decided to take up an offering in order to help with some of the upcoming medical expenses. Prayer was offered, and songs of praise towards Christ ring throughout the humid hall. All of the ceiling fans on full blast, pushing the warm air throughout the church, had no chance to be heard over the Tamil tongue singing hymns before the Lord.
The task ahead of me was great. Sixteen sermons were on tap for the next three days. A task far too great to be accomplished in the power of the flesh. It had been heavy on me for a couple of weeks now. It seemed like every free moment over the past several weeks was given to preparation for this moment. In fact, anytime someone asked about the trip, I would in return petition them for prayer. An hour before the conference, I sent a message to the brothers at HeartCry requesting prayer once again. They, in turn, passed the request to the church- so there was little doubt in my mind that the church family was storming the throne of Grace on my behalf. Words cannot describe how great a comfort that thought was to me.
The topic at hand was the Order of Salvation, or how the Lord applies the great work of Christ to the sinner. After introductions, and some explanations of the importance of this conference, I wrote nine theological terms on the whiteboard, ranging from election to glorification. I asked the men to take out a piece of paper, and put these terms in the order of application, then define each term, and give two scripture references. Everyone was wide-eyed and sheepishly smiling. They were not expecting a pop quiz before I even started preaching. After 20 minutes of rustling bible pages, the answers started trickling in. It was a chance for me to see where each of the men were in their beliefs. It was obvious, they were all over the place. Some nailed it, most were clueless. Some were written completely in Tamil, and therefore I was clueless.
I knew this was going to be fun, and yet I have to admit, I was a little nervous about how they would respond to some of the things we were going to talk about. But, before we could jump right in, I had to set the stage and lay down some foundational truths. If they were truly going to understand the application of salvation, they first needed to know the sinfulness of man and the gospel of Jesus Christ. That is what I did, I took two sessions on man, covering the imputation of Adam’s sin and man’s guilt, followed by the understanding of the corruption of man. I hit it hard, and everyone agreed with all the Scriptures passages that were covered; there are none righteousness, none who seek God, and through and through sinful man is dead in His trespasses and sin. The longest session of the entire three days was the third session on the gospel. I hit all the essentials of the importance of the life, death, and resurrection of Christ. It seemed to have a profound impact on many.
Then it began, with election. God’s choice of man before the foundation of the world. I could tell this was new information for most of the men there. There were murmurs and whispers and I knew I was about to get hammered with a ton of questions. But I had prepared for that, so I wrote the top 7 arguments against unconditional election on the whiteboard. I asked if they could think of any other arguments, or if they had any other questions to add. They didn’t, but I could tell they were anxious to see how I would answer each of the arguments on the list. I had originally planned to speak about election in two sessions, but that turned into four sessions full of questions. Honestly, it was amazing to watch. It was as if you could see the lightbulbs being turned on, and men coming to an understanding of what I was teaching. I’m not sure how many I actually convinced, but many thanked me afterwards and told me how they have never heard anything like this before.
Next, I covered the call of God, both the universal and effectual call. But, I decided to add a third one, the false gospel call. Out of all the sessions, this is the one that I felt completely carried by the Spirit. I wanted to show them the true gospel call, the call to repentance and faith in Christ. For I know many in India, like the States, substitute this call with appeals to earthly things. So I covered the three most common mistakes in issuing the call: (1) Promising things the gospel does not promise (Such as health, better marriages, wealth, etc…), (2) Overemphasizing the good benefits that come with salvation while underemphasizing the Person of Christ (i.e. focusing on heaven, or just focusing on an escape from hell), and (3) cheapening the call (i.e. the sinner’s prayer, or walking down to the front of the church). During this sermon, no one looked drowsy, everyone was dialed in and focused. I could tell I was hitting some sore spots, but the Lord would not allow me to let up. Afterward, I was greeted by many hugs, confessions, and conversations of appreciation for pointing these things out. Praise be to the Lord alone for this!
After working through regeneration, conversion (repentance and faith), justification, and then, as time permitted we closed with the doctrine of adoption (unfortunately leaving sanctification, perseverance, and glorification for another time). I was tired by the last sermon and felt that I could barely speak 5 clear words on the subject. However, to my surprise, during the times of feedback, it was the topic of adoption that seemed to make a great impact on many of the pastors. It seems that this topic is never taught in India. They rejoiced in the thought of God rescuing an enemy out of the enemy’s house, to make him, not a slave, but a son. Truly, that is amazing grace!
I rejoice in the prayers answered, not only in the preaching of the Word but also the work of the Spirit in the lives of all who were in attendance. I pray that lives were affected by the truth and that these three days together would lead all to bear the fruit of love towards God and each other. Will you join me in praying for these men? Pray that they would continue to dig into the truths of God’s Word to discover more of Him and His most glorious work of the redemption of the sinner.
J.S. began working for HeartCry in 2015. As coordinator for Asia, North America, and Western Europe, he currently oversees the missionaries over 10 countries. J.S. currently lives in Virginia with his wife and four children.More By J. S.