The following are my notes of Mark Dever’s message at T4G 2014.
Things look bad right now. Evil presses in on every side and there is our own sin. There are issues in our churches. Biblical teaching is held up for mockery in the media. We are seen as silly. The speed of the changes are breathtaking. Christians are facing terrible persecution around the world. In Egypt, the worst persecution of Christians is being seen now then in the last 700 years.
So to be having a conference on evangelism, doesn’t this seem like a strange idea during these times? However, our struggle is not against flesh and blood. Satan likes to distract us and take away our hopes. Yet, God likes to take away our small hopes to put our bigger hope in him.
I want to begin this conference with encouraging you pastors in evangelism. Especially if many of you are coming to this conference thinking about it like going to the dentist where you pay someone to scold you about not flossing more.
I want us to turn to Isaiah 36-37 of the great public event in the lifetime of Isaiah. Do you know what I mean about the great public event? It would be like the civil war if you were living in the United States during that time. The civil war was the great public event.
Scene 1: The Assyrian Invasion
In 724 B.C. Assyria invaded the Northern Kingdom and destroyed them in 722 B.C. They deported the majority of society to other places and then brought Babylonians into the nation to take them over.
Meanwhile after King Ahaz dies and Hezekiah took over as king. After he decided to stop paying tributes to Assyria they attacked Judah in the Southern Kingdom. The Assyrians were not kingdom builders, they were tortured and humiliated.
What must the people have been thinking? Where they accusing God? Why was God let this terrible thing happen?
Take note friends, some of our fears do come true. Repentance and faithfulness does not mean our fears never come true. Some friends will not repent. Some church boards will reject you. Some of your fears will come true. However, our fears tend to lie to us about how important they are.
Scene 2: God Is Mocked By The Assyrians
The field commander is calling them foolish for trusting on God. He denies that God cannot deliver them. Truth and error are mixed in this speech. These truths are mixed with the main lie that God would ever abandon his people. God will never abandon his people.
In whom will we trust? They were pressed in verse 5. “Whom will you trust?”
Has God not brought us to this place again and again in our lives. Whom will we trust.
Scene 3: The Assyrian Ultimatim
He turns to The Lord. Choose to go to God with your problems.
Scene 4: Hezekiah Asks For Prayer
In trouble turn to God in prayer. Jesus taught his disciples that they should pray and never give up. We too should turn to God in prayer.
Prayer is what faith looks like in our lives. We talk to God because we believe His word. Through prayer God draws us into His purposes. Prayer is powerful because of who we are praying to. It is the same with us. We are not powerful, but God is the one who reliable and trustworthy.
If you are a church leader, evangelistic cultures are established by prayer. Pray for yourself. Pray for other churches and by name. Pray for your congregation.
Scene 5: Isaiah Delivers God’s Word to Hezekiah
God promises to save his people. He promises to deliver them. We are a church that are shaped by God’s promises. God’s promises are a like a magnet moving around iron shavings when you cannot
Scene 6: Sennacherib’s Response
Sennacherib boasts and acts like he is like God. He tells the future and seems so certain. He acts like he knows the future better than God does.
What is going on if you get yourself confused with God?
If you are here and you are not a Christian, have you considered the danger of pride? Haven’t you seen how pride kills relationships? Humble yourselves and put your trust in Christ. In God’s great love he has sent his son and died for our sins as an acceptable sacrifice before God. Confess your sins and trust in Christ alone.
If we cared more about what God thinks of our friends, then we would share the gospel.
Pastor, do you want to see evangelism grow in your church? Then preach grace and pray for humility. These two things are like a super power when combined together.
Scene 7: Hezekiah Prays to God
What does this passage have to do with evangelism? Look at verse 20. The whole point of this story, the whole point of Isaiah’s ministry and this book and the entire bible is about making The Lord known.
If you get God wrong, then everything is affected. If we understand God and his glory
Scene 8: Isaiah Sends God’s Word
These two chapters are the hinge of the book and they are the point of Isaiah’s ministry. The judgment before chapter 36 and the promises after chapter 37 are the frame surrounding the center of the book.
In verse 22, he says the Assyrians will flee. In verse 23, he condemns Sennacherib.
God presents a different reading of the same history. This is what we do in ministry. We take the week people are having and each Sunday we define what their week was like in light of God’s truth. Seeing things from the larger picture in mind will help all of us see our history and world more clearly. Satan wants to read our lives with unbelief and lack of trust.
Why will God defend this city? For the sake of Hezekiah’s piety and prayer? For the sake of Jerusalem? For the sake of God’s glory.
God alone is sovereign and his purposes will not fail. God’s people always need to know this message.
Scene 9: The Assyrian Army is Destoryed
The question about whether God is just to punish the Assyrians is not the proper question, but the proper question is why we are not spared.
Our sins cry out for God’s judgement. He judged Assyria and did exactly as he said. God will save and God will judge. Everything that is not immediate punishment is and will be God’s mercy.
Scene 10: Sennacherib’s Death
This one who spoke like he was immortal died. The very few humans he had given life to were the ones who killed him…his sons. So much for human boasts.
A lesson for us about human glory. It is so short lived. The glory of NFL players is fleeting. The majority of them are no bankrupt. The glory of senators and politicians is short lived. Where I live in DC no one really knows who are the people on the statues or who the Senators were just a decade ago.
Remember that phrase of Jesus: I will build my church and the gates of hell will not prevail it. None of the things I mentioned in the beginning will falsify God’s promise. No persecutions. No trials. No social tensions.
We must begin with the confidence that God’s plans will succeed. We have the honor of seeing that plan succeed.
That is all I am trying to do in this message.