The Gospel, II

Darrin Patrick, Church Planter: The Man, the Message, the Mission summarizes the message of the gospel in this way:

The Facts
– Incarnation
– Sinlessness
– Crucifixion
– Resurrection

The Announcement
– Heralded declaration
* Jesus died for God
* Jesus died for sinners
* Jesus rose again
– Faith response
* Jesus is savior
* Jesus is lord
* Obedience is Christ motivated and empowered
* Identify idols
* Repent and believe the gospel

Best reminder from Patrick’s summary is this, referring to the revelation of Jesus in the Bible:

“Jesus isn’t saying, “Let me show you how to live,” so much as he is saying, “Let me show you why I died.”

The Gospel

Greg Gilbert (What Is the Gospel? gives a well reasoned summary of the Gospel message.

God
– Creator
– Holy and righteous

Man
– All guilty of treason against God
– All fall under God’s active judgment against sin

Christ
– A fully divine, fully human king
– A suffering king
– A substitute
– A resurrected and ascended king

Response
– Faith relies on Jesus for one’s righteousness
– Repentance acknowledges the rightful king and leads to real change

Kingdom
– God’s redemptive reign
– God’s present reign
– God’s reign to be consummated
– Christians live for the King

Personal Authenticity on the Clinic Sidewalk

Earlier today we posted this quote from John Stott’s book Christian Mission in the Modern World.

If we do nothing but proclaim the gospel to people from a distance, our personal authenticity is bound to be suspect. Who are we? Those listening to us do not know. For we are playing a role (that of the preacher) and for all they know may be wearing a mask. Besides, we are so far away from them, they cannot even see us properly. But when we sit down alongside them like Philip in the Ethiopian’s chariot, or encounter them face to face, a personal relationship is established. Our defenses come down. (71)

The lack of such authenticity is why I’m generally critical of ‘guerilla’ techniques in evangelism (raiding the world from our safe strongholds) and of the various methods of street preaching. But to every principle there is an exception. There is a man in the church I pastor, let’s call him John (for the simple reason that that is his name) who, finding himself out of a job this time last year, believed God was calling him to preach at an Orlando abortion clinic six mornings each week. He has been doing that for a year, and has seen a number of people come to Christ and a number of women decide to keep their babies.

Most remarkable to me, though, is this. Recently, John was laid up with surgery and a heart condition and was unable to make his daily trip to the clinic. When he was finally able to return, two of the nurses who work at the clinic, whom he has urged to repent and seek other work, came to him and told him that they were worried when they did not see him. They were genuinely concerned that something had happened to him. His message is dismissed by them, but he has established a personal bond with them.

John is unique. You cannot talk to him without knowing that you are loved. Even though he has been preaching a strong message of sin and repentance for a year, these women, while opposed to what he does, have been captured by his faithful earnestness. He has with these women established the kind of personal authenticity that is normally not at all possible for one doing what he is doing.

And so we pray for these two nurses, not only that they would turn from the awful work they are doing, but that they would respond to John all the way, not only to his love, but to the love of the One whom he represents.

Stott on Dialogue

[We are clipping quotes from John Stott’s Christian Mission in the Modern World. When Stott wrote the book, the idea of ‘dialogue’ with other religions was a very hot topic. He differed with the concept, seeing proper dialogue being a part of our proclamation itself. Nevertheless, the idea of a loving conversation and interaction with adherents of other faiths was a type of dialogue he embraced.]

Paul seems to have expected all the disciples of Jesus to be involved in continuous dialogue with the world, for he urged the Colossians: ‘Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer every one’ (Colossians 4.6). Here are Christians in such close contact with ‘outsiders’ (v. 5) that they are able both to speak to them (with gracious and salty speech) and to answer their questions. (63)

(Here quoting J. H. Bavinck) So, ‘in practice I am never concerned with Buddhism, but with a living person and his Buddhism, I am never in contact with Islam but with a Moslem and his Mohammedanism’ (240). Further, this living contact must also be a loving contact. (70)

If we do nothing but proclaim the gospel to people from a distance, our personal authenticity is bound to be suspect. Who are we? Those listening to us do not know. For we are playing a role (that of the preacher) and for all they know may be wearing a mask. Besides, we are so far away from them, they cannot even see us properly. But when we sit down alongside them like Philip in the Ethiopian’s chariot, or encounter them face to face, a personal relationship is established. Our defenses come down. (71)

It is impossible to evangelize by fixed formulae. To force a conversation along predetermined lines in order to reach a predetermined destination is to show oneself grievously lacking in sensitivity both to the actual needs of our friend and to the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Such insensitivity is therefore a failure in both faith and love. (73)

Stott on Evangelism

[We are clipping quotes from John Stott’s Christian Mission in the Modern World. These come from his second chapter where he wrestles with the nature of evangelism itself.]

Evangelism is the announcement of the good news, irrespective of the results. (38)

Now it is comparatively easy to be faithful if we do not care about being contemporary, and easy also to be contemporary if we do not bother to be faithful. It is the search for a combination of truth and relevance which is exacting. (43)

But Christ offers more than the forgiveness of our past. He offers too a new life in the present through the regeneration and indwelling of the Holy Spirit, who is also the guarantee of our future inheritance in heaven. We must not separate the two gospel promises which God has joined together, forgiveness and the Spirit. (52)

There can be no evangelism without the church. The message comes from a community which embodies it and which welcomes into its fellowship those who receive it. (56)

Stott on Mission

[We are clipping quotes from John Stott’s Christian Mission in the Modern World, these from his first chapter on how the mission of the church is to be defined, particularly whether evangelism or mercy should be at the center.]

Yet it seems that it is in our servant role that we can find the right synthesis of evangelism and social action. For both should be for us, as they undoubtedly were for Christ, authentic expressions of the love that serves. (25)

It comes more natural to us to shout the gospel at people from a distance than to involve ourselves deeply in their lives, to think ourselves into their culture and their problems, and to feel with them in their pains. (25)

To see need and to possess the remedy compels love to act, and whether the action will be evangelistic or social, or indeed political, depends on what we ‘see’ and what we ‘have’. (28)

I venture to say that sometimes, perhaps because it was the last instruction Jesus gave us before returning to the Father, we give the Great Commission too prominent a place in our Christian thinking. Please do not misunderstand me. I firmly believe that the whole church is under obligation to obey its Lord’s commission to take the gospel to all nations. But I am also concern that we should not regard this as the only instruction which Jesus left us. (29)

Christian Mission in the Modern World

How clear, helpful, and relevant was and is John Stott. The ‘Modern World’ for which Stott wrote Christian Mission in the Modern World was 1975, but it still feels relevant to the world I inhabit.

When I read the book first in 1978, I was young and ministry naïve. That has changed, on both accounts. Now I better understand the questions that Stott was answering, and I find that his answers continue to be fresh and biblical (and fair, as mentioned yesterday).

Over the next several posts, I’d like to offer a selection of quotes, some with, but most without comment. You may find that you will want to add this short but helpful book to your stack ($8 at Amazon, and only $5.12 for the Kindle).

Follow Me

THAT the church is to be involved in evangelism is rarely the question.

HOW we should be about that business can generate conflict and fear.

It is no secret that I favor a relational, friendship style of witness over a directed, confrontational style. There are many reasons for that, but one of the main ones is that culturally we have moved into an era where the directed method may produce ‘decisions’ but rarely produces disciples, and may, in fact, harden others. I myself have little patience with any stranger who wants to ‘sell’ me something, be it vacuum cleaners, a political candidate, or Christianity.

Gordon MacDonald winsomely does a much better job than I could ever do in modeling the alternative in this helpful article. In it he details one example of how he and his church (an important part of this) loved someone and incorporated him into his life and the life of the church, with the result that this someone came to faith in Christ.

I never asked my friend if he’d yet given his life to Jesus. I just created the circumstances in which he began doing it: giving his life to Jesus, I mean. I have no idea when he (or his wife) completed the faith transaction. I just know that everything about these two wonderful people over a period of a year began to show the “Christian!” brand, in the best sense of that word….

I was never conscious that I was implementing some evangelism method. But I suppose it was a method of sorts. It was evangelism by first belonging. Rather than making him jump through doctrinal and ceremonial hoops before saying he belonged, we declared from the get-go: be family with us, and in the process you’ll discover what we’re about, and you’ll find what you’re looking for in Jesus.

Thanks to Geoff for the link.

Earning the Right

In A Faith Worth Sharing Jack Miller tells many tales of encounters in which he had the opportunity to share Christ with others. He was, by all accounts, gifted in this and intentional. In rereading his book, I appreciated this assessment:

Some want to rush in and confront others with the gospel without taking the time to build a relationship of trust. Others are wonderful at building relationships, but never take the next step and lovingly confront their friends with the claims of Christ. I have been guilty of both mistakes. This is when we learn what prayer is all about. As we pray, the Holy Spirit gives us what we need: the right combination of love and boldness as we share with others the words of life.

Ouch.

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I just ran across a couple of helpful quick thoughts on evangelism from Justin Taylor to complement the above, both on his blog Between Two Worlds. I encourage you to check out this and this. For some reflection on a contrasting view, see this.

Tell ’em about Hell

On Maundy Thursday, I’m going to be preaching on the wrath of God, and that has me thinking about who needs to hear about hell.

I’m not sure that the message of the reality of eternal punishment is all that effective to scare the unconverted into faith in Christ. It’s real, certainly, and it is the logical result of the rejection of the gospel, for sure. But I’m not sure conversion born of fear itself holds much promise for a lifetime of discipleship. It is the love of God that draws.

No, those who urgently need to reflect on the reality of the wrath of God are Christians. And we need to hear it not that we might fear for ourselves, but fear for those we love. Knowledge of the wrath of God will feed our urgency like nothing else.

We do not need to tell the unconverted they are going to hell. They probably know that already.

We need to tell ourselves that they are.