Tuesday, January 01, 2008

1 Chron 12:32 report, 52: Reflecting on the fulness of the gospel as we cross the threshold of the new year

An electronic correspondent, Bro X over in Barbados, shared with me a very welcome New Year gift: a Christianity Today reflection on evangelism in a relativistic and "tolerantly" intolerant, logically (and morally) incoherent post-modern age; an age which too often despises the core Gospel message of the Christian faith as a rudely or oppressively "imposed" opinion and "theocratic," potentially violently tyrannical or terroristic agenda.

This is not only relevant to those of us who live and work and serve our gracious and loving God in the ever more secularised (and even re-paganised -- I have had recent internet exchanges with a self-described pagan calling herself Plato's Plaything . . .) , Romans 1 North, but increasingly also here in the Caribbean. So, yet again, sorry: we postpone looking at the Middle East situation and its links to the Caribbean for a day or so, DV.

[BTW, it seems to me that -- judging by how she tips over before the BANG (and the terrorist at eh left rear of the car who apparently points a gun at her), the late Ms Bhutto may well have been hit by a bullet before the suicide bomb blast; based on the video the indefatigable Charles Johnson of LGF (a great friend of Israel!) has clipped here.]

On the linked article: nice, as is usual for CT.

I loved these two key slices of the cake, as they explicitly have in them all but one of the key ingredients (and hint at that one!) :

Probably the most common objection to evangelism today is, "Isn't it wrong to impose our beliefs on others?"

Some people don't practice evangelism because they feel they are imposing on others. And the way evangelism is often done, I can understand the confusion! But when you understand what the Bible presents as evangelism, it's really not a matter of imposing your beliefs.

It's important to understand that the message you are sharing is not merely an opinion but a fact. [Cf. here, 1 Cor 15:1 - 11.] That's why sharing the gospel can't be called an imposition, any more than a pilot can impose his belief on all his passengers that the runway is here and not there.

Additionally, the truths of the gospel are not yours, in the sense that they uniquely pertain to you or your perspective or experience, or in the sense that you came up with them. When you evangelize, you are not merely saying, "This is how I like to think of God," or "This is how I see it." You're presenting the Christian gospel. You didn't invent it, and you have no authority to alter it . . . .

The Christian call to evangelism is a call not simply to persuade people to make decisions but rather to proclaim to them the good news of salvation in Christ, to call them to repentance, and to give God the glory for regeneration and conversion. We don't fail in our evangelism if we faithfully tell the gospel to someone who is not converted; we fail only if we don't faithfully tell the gospel at all. Evangelism itself isn't converting people; it's telling them that they need to be converted and telling them how they can be.

Dead right on target (so far as it goes . . .)!

The key balancing ingredient: truthing it in love under Lordship, towards fulness.

It is true that, per se, testimony, socio-cultural and mercy engagement, apologetics etc are not the core redemptive message of the gospel. But, once we see the gospel as the heralding of the in-breaking of the Kingdom of God into the here and now, and the call -- through the event that establishes redemption -- to repentance, renewal, revival and reformation as Christ fills and utterly transforms all things with his grace, glory and blessing. Thus also, the onward implication that evangelism in the narrow sense is an integral part of a call to discipleship, to evangelisation in effect. [Cf my own discussion in the context of the College Campus, here.]

But then, that gap is a characteristic challenge facing today's evangelicals. As, we are now by and large a subculture isolated and to one extent or another alienated from the predominant trends in our dying civilisation -- even here in the Caribbean.

To see that in action, just pop on your friendly local cable TV and channel surf a bit, to observe the evolutionary-materialism driven, secularised and/or neopagan or apostate, post-/ ultra-modern worldviews and agendas of an increasingly decadent, morally and intellectually en-darkened, dying Western Civilisation.

Then, reread a few local newspapers, reading between the lines to see the worldviews and associated agendas at work.

That brings us right back to the force of what I have come to view more and more as the operational form of the church's mandate, as ever so aptly put by Paul in his circular letter that we know as the Epistle to the Ephesians:

EPH 1:3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ . . . . 7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God's grace 8 that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding. 9 And he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, 10 to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfillment--to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ . . . . 13 And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God's possession--to the praise of his glory . . . .

18 I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, 19 and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, 20 which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, 21 far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. 22 And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for
the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way . . . .

Eph 2:6 And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, 7 in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. 8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith--and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God-- 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. 10
For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do . . . .

Eph 3:17 . . . I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge--
that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God . . . .

( . . . EPH 4: 10 He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe.) 11 It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, 12 to prepare God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of
the fullness of Christ.

EPH 4:14 Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. 15 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. 16 From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.

EPH 4:17 So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that
you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. 18 They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. 19 Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, with a continual lust for more.

EPH 4:20 You, however, did not come to know Christ that way. 21 Surely you heard of him and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. 22 You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; 23 to be made new in the attitude of your minds; 24 and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.

A tall order indeed!

But, that is the mandate of the church under our risen Lord, and through the power of his grace in the gospel, through also the ever -living Word of God, and as anointed by his Spirit, we can fulfill it!

And, that brings us back to our ever so relevant challenge as we go forward into this new year that promises to be ever so full of opportunities under God:

Why not now? Why not here? Why not us? END

No comments: