Monday, 23 March 2015

Relevance, and the Integrity of the Gospel

As Christians, once sinners, saved by Grace though Jesus on the cross, we long to see others come to know God and be saved also. Jesus dwells within us, we are his holy people and because of that we are filled with love for others and a desire to see them be given the same gift of eternal life that we have been given by God. Our true home is no longer here on earth, but we are citizens of heaven, adopted children of God. In our now relatively short time left on this earth Jesus commissions us to make disciples of all nations. So in a culture that seems to be drifting further and further away from the desired created order of God, a culture that is self serving, full of temptation, pleasures and false fulfilment -"water" if you like - that will only leave one thirsty again, how do we guide people towards Gods river of living water, which will never leave them thirsty again? (John 4:13-14)

Should we take the approach of people like Rob Bell? Mega church pastor in the US who's recently made some very controversial claims about the church and culture in regards to the issue of homosexuality. Claiming that because modern culture has moved on and changed, so should the church. He was recently quoted on Oprah as saying "I think culture is already there, and the church will continue to be even more irrelevant when it quotes letters from 2,000 years ago as their best defence”. Is this the right approach? I would strongly argue no, the bible clearly shows itself to be the true living word of God, all scripture being God breathed and useful for teaching, correcting, rebuking and training in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16). The bible, when studied and understood is also very clear on the way God created things and the way in which man disrupts this creative order through sin, of which the wages are death (Romans 6:23) and Jesus is the only way back to God (John 14:6-7). I’ve only recently begun to study the bible for all it’s worth, understanding it’s entire narrative sweep and context. it's Reliability, authorship, relevance, authority and application and already it’s very clear to me that Scripture pulls no punches in laying out what’s holy to God and what isn’t.

So instead should we take the Westboro Baptist church kind of approach? Holding big judgemental and condemning signs up, preaching a message of Gods judgement, wrath, hatred and hell? Well no, Jesus clearly taught to love thy neighbour as thyself (Mark 12:31), that them without sin should cast the first stone (John 8:7), that it was the job of the Holy spirit to convict people of their sins (John 16:8), and for us to not Judge others (Matthew 7:1-2). Jesus was also known to spend time “reclining” in fellowship with tax collectors and sinners (Matthew 9:10). 

So as young Christians, battling and seeking to see souls won for christ against the tide of modernity, where is the balance between relevance and integrity, popularity and truth, scriptural application and modern culture? Here’s a few things based on my experience and thought that I’ve found helpful in having meaning conversations with people about the things that matter, from good close friends, to strangers I’ve met for the first time. By no means are they gospel and I’d be keen to here others thoughts in the comments below.

No two conversations or relationships are the same, God has created everybody different for a reason and with that I think we have to always look to be sensitive to where people are at before we decide how to best show them the love of Christ through the things that we say. Things like peoples personalities, backgrounds, family life, education and current situations or struggles are important for us to gauge in order to know what is going to draw them towards Gods truth and love, and be able to avoid what might push them away all together. The level of relationship you have with that person often determines how well they are going to respect what you have to say and it’s going allow you to know what areas of their life need truth and love spoken into them. Remember that first and foremost Jesus called us to Love thy neighbour, not Judge them. He is the ultimate Judge and one day we will all stand before him and be Judged according to our sins. Those of us covered by the grace of God through our faith in Jesus will inherit his kingdom, that’s the only criteria. Jesus said “Nobody comes to the father except through me” (John 14:6). With this in mind, I believe it’s important to above all, always show love to others in the things that we say, understanding we aren’t above them because they are in sin and we aren’t, or we’re christians and they aren’t, but understand we were ALL once sinners in need of grace too. God will deal with the sin in his own time through his own means, we are called to love the sinner and that’s what leads people to want to be in relationship with God in the first place.

So does all that mean we compromise on Gods holiness? Absolutely not, The bible is very clear on what pleases God and what doesn’t, but before anything we should be seeking to apply that Holiness to our own lives through relationship with Jesus and allowing him to change and mould us to be more like him, We should remove the log from our own eye before seeking to remove the speck from our brothers eye (Matthew 7:3-5). God hates sin, he grieves when the wonderfully perfect world he created becomes warped and imperfect through the choices of his created beings to turn away from him (Genesis 6:6). But telling people about their sin that God so hates isn’t the command the Jesus has asked us to follow. That’s a job for the convicting power of the Holy spirit, not us. There’s a time and a place for correction and guidance away from sin and towards God, one I believe primarily belongs between believing christians, in strong relationship with one another, within the church.

So what does this look like lived out, in our everyday conversations? One big thing I’ve learned is that whether they are your best friend since kindergarten or you’ve just met them at the bus stop, one thing that really helps, and I can’t stress this enough, is LISTEN. Listen to where people are at, hear what they have to say, hear their opinions and views even if they may clash with our own. Do this first and you’d be amazed how much more willing people will be to hear what you have to say about the truth and love of Jesus. It’s so easy at times to just jump straight to that bible verse, or to our own views, what we believe God says about what’s right and whats wrong. I’ve learned the hard way through my years as a young christian when I was in high school that this very, very rarely, it fact pretty much never, leads to fruitful and meaningful conversations. We must also remember that the gospel message is not a pre written script, and although as I said earlier the truth of it shouldn’t ever be compromised, there is still a unique and sensitive way of sharing it for every single conversation and every single relationship. God speaks to us in our own way, his relationship with us is unique and unlike any other. Therefore the way in which God uses us to share the gospel and make disciples of all nations is unique and personal to every situation and individual too. 

With all this in mind, Above all we should pray. Pray for our friends, pray for our family that are yet to know God, pray for meaningful encounters with people and chances to show Gods love and compassion, pray for the right words to say and not to say, pray for prophetic insight and sensitivity to the holy spirit in everything we do. Pray for our nations and our Governments, rejoice with God in break through, and battle alongside him through trials. Our time on this earth is to short to waste so get out there into the fields, they are ripe for harvest! (John 4:35)

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