Thursday, June 22, 2006

Under-estimating the Gospel

Once, there was a foolish young boy named Brad. (That's me.) One day, he decided to take a three inch tube, cut open a bunch of shotgun shells, and pour and pack the powder into the tube. He then tightly taped a top onto the tube, buried it halfway in his front yard, added a fuse, and lit it. The ensuing explosion was so loud that his mom heard it from the inside of the house while taking a shower. She came out in a towel in a panic, and when she ascertained what happened, the proper beating commenced.

As an idiotic kid, I completely under-estimated the power of gunpowder. My goal was simply to create a small hole and make a loud explosion, not rattle the windows of nearby homes and get beat by mom. (If you have a problem with a deserved whipping, let me say that this was so stupid that Social Services came over and beat me.)

Lately, Romans 1:16 has been burning in my mind and heart. In it, Paul says, "I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God." You probably have this memorized already, but I beg you to rethink it. Say this to yourself, "The gospel is the power of God." Let me expand on this thought.

When I think of the power of God, I think of earthquakes, hurricanes, and floods. I think of stars and black holes and gravity and supernovas and a universe larger and more complex than our collective imaginations. I think of DNA and RNA and microbes and ants the 5 million bugs that live in a spoonful of bayou water. I think of Jesus Christ holding all of creation together by His power. Ashamedly, I do not think of the gospel in this category, but I am trying to learn to.

The gospel is so simple. Paul defines it in a few words in 1 Corinthians 15:3-4. He writes, "For I delivered to you of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriputres, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day." Don't blink; you just saw the power of God. Here it is again in bullet point:

1. Jesus Christ died for our sins.
2. Jesus was raised from the dead.

If you believe this, and if you confess Jesus as Lord with your mouth, you will be saved. If you have been saved, you have known part of the power of God. When you are fully glorified, you will know it better.

The gospel is the power of God for salvation. The hardest, darkest, most depressive heart can be and has been changed by those two simple points. The gospel is the power of God is not to blow up, it is the power to put back together. Any juvenile can blow something up; it takes a miracle to put it back together. That's what the gospel does. It restores broken lives.

When you witness to the glory of a risen Christ, do you really believe that the dead bones to which you speak can live through this simple message? Does the darkness of culture and sin and tradgedy make you doubt the power of God? I wrestle with this every day. Sometimes, the hardness of the heart seems as strong as diamond, and the ears on which the gospel falls seem hopelessly deaf. I do well to remind myself: This is the power of God. This is the power of God.

So meditate on this truth. I believe that it will make you a more shamless witness. Sow the seed that has never failed, and you will reap a harvest that is guaranteed.

6 comments:

Even So... said...

We are responsible to be faithful, and God is reponsible for the results.

I agree, Brad, and I am seeing this and having to learn this again right now in the children's camp I oversee. Some kids are "right there" and others, even more "intelligent" ones, look like they don't even realize someone is talking, they look like a stone.

I like what James McDonald (Walk in the Word) has to say about evangelism, looking for the "green apples" as opposed to the red ones, some are ready because the Holy Sprit is calling them, and some are not.

Having said that, I don't think we should be in the business of picking and choosing which fruit seems ripe, per se. To wit, one of the "stone faced" kids came to Christ, while another, who seemed "ready", proved that all she wanted to do was get through this ordeal, and get baptized because her friends wanted her to. Of course, she won't be getting baptized, not by me anyway, until she has shown a credible confession of faith, over some time.

This brings up a whole 'nother ball o' wax considering regenerate membership, kids, baptism, and such. Brad, I am no paedobaptist, but what happens when parents who are members in good standing, and obviously know their kids better than I do, want their five year old baptized, when said child seems unable to articulate even the most basic, yes "five year old" understanding of the gospel? What then?

I don't have a pat answer for this. What say you?

(first comment and we're already sidetracked, my my what a help am I!)

Daniel said...

JD asks, "what happens when parents who are members in good standing, and obviously know their kids better than I do, want their five year old baptized, when said child seems unable to articulate even the most basic, yes "five year old" understanding of the gospel?"

If I may be so bold, you put on your best "I am no man pleaser" face and tenderly rejoice with them over their zeal while at the same time explaining that when the child comes and asks to be baptized of his or her own accord, and at the same time can articulate their faith, then it will be your duty to baptize them, and if they do not, then it is the same duty that demands you wait. Faith is a personal thing, and these little ones, precious as they are, must come through the gate the same as everyone else - on their own faith, and not on the faith of others.

Brad, I am certain that this is just an oversight on your part, but... is there not also a spattering of repentance in the gospel?

Recall how in Acts chapter two, after Peter, had convinced the assembly of Jews that the same Jesus whom they had put to death was in fact God's only Messiah and that this same Christ had indeed died for their sins and that God raised this Same Christ from the dead - after this, the Jews asked, "What must we do to be saved" - that is, they already believed the truths you describe - yet acknowledging these truths to be true did not result in their experiencing regeneration. We are not surprized, since even demons acknowledge that the gospel is the gospel.

Peter's reply was not that they were already saved by assenting to these truths - but that to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit they should repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ.

Paul also, in summarizing his missionary activity said that he testified to both Jews and Gentiles repentance towards God and faith toward the Lord Jesus Christ. (c.f. Acts 20:21)

Which is not unlike the gospel that Christ Himself preached (c.f. Mark 1:14-15).

Likewise Christ testifies of himself that He did not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repent (c.f. Mark 2:17) and was not His instruction to the apostle to preach repentance and the remission of sins beginning in Jerusalem (c.f. Luke 24:47)

Likewise, when Christ rebuked the cities in which his mighty works were done - did he not rebuke them because they did not repent? (c.f. Matthew 11:20)

Isn't repentance the message that Christ sent out the others to preach (c.f. Mark 6:12)?

Did Christ say that unless you believe you will all likewise perish? No, He said, unless you repent (c.f. Luke 13:3).

We are therefore not surprized at the phrase we read in Acts 3:19 , "Repent therefore and be converted" - clearly, conversion includes repentance and not mere assent to the truth.

I am not suggesting that you believe otherwise - rather I didn't see you touch on the idea of repentance - and (as I feel that Paul outlined the gospel best when he described what He was preaching as "repentance towards God, and faith in Jesus Christ") I felt inclined to point out the vacancy.

Sojourner said...

Daniel,

Excellent observation. I agree with you that if there is no repentance, then there is no salvation. I want to say that, strictly speaking, that repentance is not part of the gospel as I understand it. Rather, repentance is a product of the gospel. (Just as regeneration itself is produced by the Holy Spirit working through gospel proclamation.) I believe that being confronted with the fact that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, was crucified for sins will produce godly sorrow/repentance in a regenerate heart.

I do not see this as contrary to Peter's command to repent. The obstinate will not comply, but those who have the gospel work in their heart will comply when commanded. As to whether or not those to whom Peter spoke already believed, I am certain that some did. Their ability to obey, I believe, was a sort of first-fruit of genuine belief.

Daniel said...

We agree that unless a person is given the grace to repent the same will never begin to possess a "faith" that is regenerate - even if he or she hears the gospel.

The sort of "faith" that is conjured up in an unrepentant heart is described by James as a dead faith - and rightly so, he was describing what happens when the seed (the gospel) falls into fallow ground (the unrepentant heart) - it produces "nothing" spiritual, because it there is no spiritual life in it.

When I think of the gospel in those terms - that is, in terms of what truths must be believed in order for a man to be regenerate - I agree with you whole heartedly:

1. Jesus Christ died for our sins.
2. Jesus was raised from the dead.

No other truth is required, and if any part of that is omitted, you do not have the gospel.

It seems my unfortunate habit to think of the gospel in terms of what one must do in order to be saved - which is a larger question than what is the gospel. Whenever I present "the way of salvation" to a person "come to the cross" as it were, by way of repentance - that is, I explain how the seed needs the right kind of soil to take root - I explain what it means to "break up your fallow ground until He comes and rains righteousness on you."

So I concede to your point - the gospel proper doesn't include repentance per se - though I would contend (as I take it you would also) that one cannot describe the way of salvation without explaining the necessity of repentance.

Good post btw.

Daniels said...

Personal Testimony.
Dearly beloved in Christ,

Loving greetings in the sweet name of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

I take pleasure to meet you all thro my testimony. How I came to know the love of Jesus ,I was born and brought up
in a thoroughly an orthodox Hindu Brahmin background, my father was a high priest in that community, we used to go to perform poojas and Hindu religious rites to only high caste community, my father’s ambition was that I should also become one day like him so he didn’t like to send me to school to study, on contrary my mother wished that I should go to school and learn basic education it means up to 8 th std, I thanked God , He helped me to study further in Christian High school there came to know about the New Testament distributed by The Gideon’s International ministries, I read the NT and came to know the love of Jesus Christ ,I was secret Christian for years and suffered a lot by witchcraft powers , sicknesses and poverty and even ex communicated from my family.I was literally on the street God graciously provided what all I wanted. .But One who called is faithful,

Almighty God gave me a vision also in that vision I saw Lord Jesus Crucifixion scene it made me to serve Him.
I was baptized, thro me more than 200 non-Christian families
Came to Christ and am working among them for the glory of God.
God gave me the calling and vision to do His work full time.
Now I am an evangelist teaching, preaching, praying, witnessing,
delivering the possessed people by the grace God., helping,
visiting sick people also doing internet evangelism , by His grace traveling around the world doing missionary work.
I am also running a regd Charitable Trust to help many and planting churches to the unreached areas.
Kindly pray for us and support us if God speak to you.


John 3:16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

Heb 4:12.For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.

Psalms 107:20 He sent his word, and healed them, and delivered them from their destructions.

1 John 3:8 He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil.

Psalms 46:10 Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth.
11 The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah.



Kindly pray for our ministries and us.

With much love and prayers.

R.CHANDRASEKARAN.

Sojourner said...

JD,

Okay, so I totally skipped the deal on a child's profession of faith. I think I'll mull the question over and post on it soon.