Tuesday, 7 February 2017

Communicating the Relevance of the Gospel in a Changing Culture (VII)

Our Attitude:
May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had, so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. (Romans 15:5)
We are to have the same attitude as Christ – and what was that? An attitude of love and compassion; non-judgemental to those he came to save (he came not to condemn the world but to save the world) It's interesting that Jesus didn't express anger to sinners, repentant or not (the rich young ruler), nor to the Roman occupiers or their representatives (centurions), but only to the hypocritical Jewish religious leaders. 

The expression, “Love the sinner hate the sin” doesn’t resonate any more outside our own Christian community. The world almost exclusively, and almost automatically, assumes that if you criticize the sin, you hate the sinner, so the expression almost has become a, “Christianese” expression.

That’s why we first develop the relationship. It gives us permission to speak about spiritual things. It’s not our place to immediately judge the lifestyles of the unbelievers we want to lead to Christ. Yes, we are to speak the truth, but speak it in love, speak it from a place of love, and speak it at the proper time. 

In John 16 Jesus talks of the work of the Holy Spirit.   He said, “…when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: concerning sin, because they do not believe in me…”

Note my emphasis. He didn’t list any number of particular sins; he didn’t list the commandments; he just spoke of the sin of not believing in him. The greatest sin, the only sin that will result in permanent residence in hell, is not an act or a behaviour… it is non-belief. Every other sin, no matter how egregious, is irrelevant if there is no belief, but with belief in Jesus, any of these other sins can be forgiven. So the whole point of evangelism is not primarily to change our guests’ lifestyles or behaviours but to have them come to a place of belief in Jesus Christ.

More and more, lifestyles and behaviours that were considered wrong in the past are now considered no big deal. If we begin by attacking them as sinful, we’ll lose people before we even start. We’ll not get a second chance.
I once belonged to a weekday evening Bible study. There were a number of men who met regularly. One evening a visitor dropped in. He was new to town and just happened to see there was a Bible study going on so he came. He was a young man with a large tattoo on his arm. One of our regulars looked at him and said, "You know what the Bible says about tattoos, don't you?
We never saw him again.
Carey Nieuwhof says that if we’ve never thought through what it might be like for someone with little to no church background, with a different moral code operating in their life, hearing truths that are thousands of years old for the first time, and trying to figure out their life through a very different lens, it will be exceptionally difficult for us to connect with them. And if we can’t speak to the unchurched, we will speak to an ever-shrinking audience, because one day only unchurched people will be left.

We in Alpha like to look at people in the light of 4 Biblical themes:

First - Creation: God made man in His own image, so … Look at them like that. Look past their current lifestyles, their current situations, their current faults. See in them the same value that God does.
Second - The Fall: Every guest who does not yet know Christ is in exactly the same position that we once were, so let’s not be judgmental. Many will be living in ways that they see nothing wrong with, but to which we might be tempted to take exception or judge. In 1 Corinthians 6: St Paul lists those who will not inherit the kingdom of God - various areas of sexual immorality, thieves, the greedy, drunkards, slanderers, swindlers;

But then he says,
…that is what some of you were. But you were washed; you were sanctified; you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”
We were washed, sanctified, justified – there’s every reason to believe that God can do the same with others as well. Let’s leave that part to Him.
Third - Redemption: Every guest is someone who Jesus died to give the possibility of eternal life. John 3:16: God so loved the world, not just good people who measured up to His standards. As we said before, nobody does, all have sinned, but nobody is beyond redemption.
Fourth - Glorification: Every person who puts their faith in Jesus will one day be with him forever. Any guest may be one with whom we will spend eternity. Imagine them coming to Christ. Imagine them as a brother or sister. Imagine meeting them in Glory. How would you like them to remember you?

(to be continued... next: conclusion)



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