The booklet Two Ways to Live: The Choice We All Face, written by Phillip D. Jensen and Tony Payne and published by Matthias Media (2003), is a 16-page evangelistic booklet designed to communicate the gospel of Jesus Christ. In all honesty, this booklet has a lot going for it, but it also suffers from some serious deficiencies in its presentation of the gospel.

For one thing, the booklet is very professionally laid out and printed. While I am not a professional graphic designer, I do know a bit about the subject from creating web sites, and one thing I’ve learned is that the saying “less is more” is altogether true when it comes to the layout of a publication. Nowhere in this booklet do the pages become overly “busy” with excessive graphics or text, and that is refreshing and inviting.

In addition, the structure of the layout itself is clever. Each numbered section (1–6) consists of two facing pages. The left-hand page presents a few sentences that summarize the section, an illustration that symbolizes this summary, and a citation from the Bible. The right-hand page provides an in-depth explanation of what is on the left, accompanied by a miniature version of the illustration (similar to a computer program icon). Each subsequent section adds a new illustration, creating a running series of graphics and building up sequentially until section 6, where the reader is presented with all six graphics at once.

Section 1:

Very few printed gospel presentations take time to explain who God is. This is unfortunate because not knowing what God is like leaves us lacking in a true knowledge of ourselves. Calvin provides some helpful insights in this regard:

[I]t is certain that man never achieves a clear knowledge of himself unless he has first looked upon God’s face, and then descends from contemplating him to scrutinize himself. For we always seem to ourselves righteous and upright and wise and holy–this pride is innate in all of us–unless by clear proofs we stand convinced of our own unrighteousness, foulness, folly, and impurity. Moreover, we are not thus convinced if we look merely to ourselves and not also to the Lord, who is the sole standard by which this judgment must be measured. (37)

In his rebellion against God, the natural man has convinced himself that he is the captain of his own destiny, having the right to live his life as he pleases. What section 1 of this booklet does—thankfully—is confront the reader with the truth that “God rules the world because he made the world.” That includes us. This is important to point out because it exposes our sin as nothing less than rebellion against the rightful rule of our Creator. This sets the stage for the subsequent description of man’s rebellion in section 2.

Unfortunately, this section also begins a disconcerting trend that continues later in the booklet: incompleteness. Although the authors’ opening discussion about God as creator and King does expose man’s rebellion to some extent, their discussion does not go far enough. To further drive home the awful nature of man’s depravity, they should have added some details about God’s holiness, justice and wrath. Doing so would expose the true nature of our rebellion against God, dispelling the lie that God will simply overlook our sins or weigh our good deeds against our bad deeds. Thus pointing out our dire need, for the Savior, it would pave the way for the presentation of the good news.

This divine holiness will not only not tolerate evil but is hostile against it:

Your eyes are too pure to look on evil;
you cannot tolerate wrong. (Habakkuk 1:13)

[O]ur God is a consuming fire. (Hebrews 12:29)

It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. (Hebrews 10:31)

[F]or those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury. There will be tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek,… (Romans 2:8-9)

God is more than just the creator and ruler of the world; he is a holy, just judge who will pour out his wrath on those who die in their sins. It is the knowledge of this holiness that Calvin claimed would bring a man to a right knowledge of himself.

One of the clearest ways that God reveals his holiness is through his law, the commandments, which, in turn, expose our utter sinfulness. Paul wrote that “through the law comes knowledge of sin” (Romans 3:20). This also refutes the lie that we are good because it provides an accurate measuring rod by which we can measure ourselves spiritually. It is easy to assure myself that I am “good” if I compare myself with Adolf Hitler, for example. Holding ourselves up to God’s standard, however, prevents any such grievous error. Calvin truly recognized this when he wrote:

As long as we do not look beyond the earth, being quite content with our own righteousness, wisdom, and virtue, we flatter ourselves most sweetly, and fancy ourselves all but demigods. Suppose we but once begin to raise our thoughts to God, and to ponder his nature, and how completely perfect are his righteousness, wisdom, and power–the straightedge to which we must be shaped. Then, what masquerading earlier as righteousness was pleasing in us will soon grow filthy in its consummate wickedness. (38)

When we measure ourselves against God’s law, our self-assessment undergoes a radical change as the ugly reality of our sinfulness is made plain to us. The law of God shows us that we are not nearly the righteous people we had considered ourselves to be. And it is this reality of sin that needs to be driven home to the lost; otherwise, what need will they see to turn to Jesus Christ in faith and repentance?

Continued in Part 2…

Works Cited
Calvin, John. Institutes of the Christian Religion. Trans. Ford Lewis Battles. Ed. John T. McNeill. Vol. 1. Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1960. 2 vols.

Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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About the Author

The author of this blog, Jeremy (Jehanne), is a Catholic who strives to think God's thoughts after Him and obey Christ's exhortation to take up the cross daily and follow Him on the way to Golgotha. He likes reading theology, evangelizing, and, of course, writing.