Saturday, May 17, 2008

The gospel: compassionately passionate.

For those of you who've been reading and commenting on my last post you will already be up in the know as to what this post may be about. Some discussion was raised about really how we as Christians are presenting the gospel - something that has been an age old debate for a long enough time. The sides presented are in reference to making sure that we aren't sharing the gospel in a way that judges or demeans people or their opinions, while at the same time honestly highlighting our importance for Jesus to save us from our sin. Notice that I used the words 'our' in that last sentence. 
We're all in the same 'sin boat'. Much of the controversy and 'putoff' of Christianity in recent times is in reference to this very issue with many people saying that they often feel judged by Christians or feel as though they could never reach their 'holier than thou' rung on the ladder.
My thoughts are that this feeling can be felt when we as followers of Jesus, slip into the mindset that it's us vs. them. This kind of mindset can be very easy to fall into, I've been there myself many times, but is something that can be pretty destructive when we go about sharing the gospel with people who don't have the same belief system as us.I mentioned before, some of this mindset can be caused by missing the fact that it's not a "us vs. them".... it's a "us reaching us". What I mean by this is that we can easily forget that we would be in exactly the same boat as those who don't know God personally if it wasn't for God offering us the same gift that we're inviting others to. It's easy to slowly forget that we are just as sinful, just as fallen, just as in need of God - the only thing that's different between followers of Christ and those who don't is accepting God's free gift of salvation. Given by grace. We didn't get offered salvation because we're any more special - again, the only thing that is different is that we have accepted it and they haven't yet.

It's a pretty simple concept but it's a pretty important one to grasp. We're no different to the world. We make about the same mistakes (I know I do) and mishaps as others but we have someone who is willing to wipe them clean again because we're still human. It's important for us to watch the kind of words and language that we use - God loves His people, our language needs to reflect our love for people no matter what they believe. We need to meet people where they're at with a gospel that isn't judgement of others, but that is about helping people find a solution to the problem they often know they have.

Jesus. The ultimate example.
He didn't stand on the side of the gravel road in Jerusalem belting at the top of his lungs whilst holding a sign saying "Repent! The end is near" or something to that effect. That, as we would guess, would have turned everybody away or got him crucified right then and there. No. You know what he did? He made friends with the worst sinners. Not the ones who he thought might have had most of it altogether; he hung with the prostitutes and IRD guys. The guys everybody hated. And you know what he didn't do? He didn't preach at them about how sinful they were and how they were going to go to the worst place in the world if they didn't follow him. He saw the potential and the awesome person inside and brought it out. He didn't point the finger and say "you're the worst sinner I've met", he said "you're the greatest person in the world - why don't put aside the stuff that isn't going to work and follow me. You'll have the greatest life you can ever have."

What I'm getting at is I think sometimes we as Christians feel righteous enough to go about preaching the gospel in a way that makes people feel guilty enough about their not-so-pretty stuff that their only choice is to accept Jesus. But (in my experience anyway) they feel guilty enough about it already and the last thing they want is someone reminding them of that. What they want most is someone who can say "hey, what you've done doesn't matter when you choose Jesus. He accepts you for who you are, not for how perfect you are." That, to me, is the gospel. Yes, a challenge to people to realise their need for God's grace and redemption for their sin - but, also an invitation (which we've all been offered) to lay down their old life and recieve the greatest one they could have - for free.

I'm not a fired up super spiritual guy whose angry about Christians etc etc, I'm just putting out a challenge and an encouragement to think about the way we go about sharing the gospel. It's not supposed to be something we believe which somehow gives us an excuse to look down on people. It's an amazing invitation that God has offered freely to everyone who realises their need for God and chooses to accept Him. We need to be passionate about the sharing of the gospel but in a compassionate way. In a way that so freely offers it to anybody and everybody; just as Jesus did.


imatrufundy said...

Hey Broham, nice post. It was really interesting seeing you struggle with this issue that I have struggled with too, and people in my church. We were not sure how to "market" the Gospel, and there was a lot of similar viewpoints to yours being expressed, I think I felt the same way you did, as I was recently saved then!

I was thinking about what you said about Jesus and how he didn't say about the end times and to repent…he did! Think of all the "when the Son of Man comes in glory…" verses! That is about being a part of the Church or the Kingdom as a true believer who has repented for their sins so that they will be saved "when the Son of Man comes in glory!" Just pointing that out, I really liked though about how you mention hanging out with the tax collector, good point! Love your neighbour, regardless of what they do!

I really like how you point out that we should love people as Jesus did whilst sharing the Gospel! This is key! After that though…I don't know…

I just wanted to take you back to a point that you made in your last comment, under your last post.

You said: "I agree that the nature of the gospel is accepting responsibility for our sin and that can offend a decent amount of people - but the conviction is brought by the Holy Spirit not by the words we bring in an attempt to convict people." With the last "convict" did you mean convince? If you meant "convict" then sure, I am with you, we ought not be trying to convict people of their sins, we can only do that of their "crimes." If you meant "convince" then I am also with you, it is indeed the Holy Spirit who does the convincing and the heart changing.

I was talking to a former friend the other day, a real liberal guy, he was saying that we need to "act out what we believe," and I was like yeah, we do…

I think that his problem with true Christianity, and the reason he is into all his new agey type stuff now, is that he sees the hypocrisy in Christians. He sees us saying things like "I really agree what you are saying about…" whatever, sin, the rapture, homosexuality, prayer, salvation etc, but I don't want to tell people about it even though I think it is important.

He was saying about how us true Christians have our beliefs right, or wrong in his mistaken opinion, but that we don't live up to them. We believe in honestly proclaiming the Word of God to Save Souls, yet we only tell people about the love of God, and we are afraid that if we tell people all that we truly believe, like about homosexuality, sin, the rapture etc, that we will be seen as "holier than thou!"

To me this seems nuts when we believe that it is the Holy Spirit that changes people's hearts anyway! I think if I was still unsaved and I read some of the comments here I would be like, "wow, these guys have all these great beliefs, things I know in my heart to be something that will fill that ache, but they don't want to tell people…why would I want to join people who are so deceitful?"

Now, as a Christian, I know that there is this big debate about how we save people and spread the Gospel and the like and we are concerned about saving people and that is why we are deceitful! I often wonder, if I just gloss over this point and try and sell the Gospel to people this way so they will be saved before the end times, then it will all be worth it! But it really won't! If they are "saved" because of a half-Gospel, or a false Gospel then they won't really be saved, will they? And also, if we try and save them all ourselves with our tricky words and picking the "best bits" or the most appealing bits of the Gospel then we really aren't showing our trust in God and the Holy Spirit to do the saving, are we?

All I know is that the Gospel message has saved me, and now I need to save both the Gospel message itself (from corruption) and save people with the Gospel message before it is too late! I don't want to be there in Heaven getting asked, "why were you ashamed to tell that person what you deeply believed and knew about me?" by God, do you?

If my beliefs are good enough for me to talk to Jesus about them then they sure as heck are good enough for me to talk to non-Christians about! That is my unashamed point of view, I would be keen to hear more of yours! God rocks (even more than the Foo Fighters :P)!

Rhys Lake said...

Hey imatrufundy, thanks heaps for your comment. I completely agree with you in that we need to make people aware of the whole gospel and the ins and outs of it instead of just selling them a half gospel or picking out the 'positive stuff' so that it somehow avoids the need for people to realise their sin and need for God.

I was shocked the other day to hear the story from a friend who doesn't know Jesus yet about her only experience of church. She was telling me about how she was tricked into going to church by a friend thinking it was a farewell party and then was tricked into putting her hand up for the salvation call by the preacher. Next thing she knew she was thrust up the front and was asked to repeat the sinners prayer into the mike in front of the whole congregation. This experience not only gave her the worst representation of church, but also of Christianity itself.

I said to her that a church trying to trick people into becoming a Christian is absolutely ridiculous because it's a personal decision not some sort thing we can trick people into the Kingdom.

This infuriated me as you can understand and the thing I was thinking about was that we need to be upfront and honest with people about the actual 'ins and outs' of the gospel - while at the same time honestly showing them that it's the greatest decision they could make.

I agree, it's not about trying to trick or necessarily convincing people into the Kingdom - a decision to follow Christ has got to come from a personal realisation for their need for Jesus and choosing to accept Him because of that. Someone once said that if you can talk someone into the Kingdom then someone can also talk them out of it. It has to come from a display of the reality of Christ and a personal decision to follow Him, not just because someone's tricked them into it.

I agree with you, we need to constantly re-evaluate ourselves and make sure that we're not just open about the incredible gospel but that we're also passionately showing people it instead of just talking about it in church. In the end, people aren't going to be reached as effectively as possible if we're not out there proclaiming it - in a personal, passionate and people-honouring way.

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