This Foolish Fantastic Gospel!

Simple Sketch of Crucifix

The Immortal Died ~ So the Dead Mortal might gain Immortality

Have you ever thought about how the gospel must sound to someone hearing it for the very first time?  I think that, as Christians, we often fail to realize just how drastically different our world view is from others.  Just to give you an idea, read the following description of a Christian:

I am immortal!  I was once dead, but I am now alive, forevermore.  Having drunk deeply of The Fountain of Living Water, I have passed from death to life, becoming an immortal son of God, who will never die.

Because I am immortal, I seek to live my life from an eternal perspective, always aware of the brevity of life and my own mortality.

As an immortal son of God who will never die, in the last days, I will be resurrected, to live forevermore.

My immortal life was made possible by the eternal Creator of the universe, who became a creature of His own creation.  Out of His love for me, an inconsequential dead creature of His own creation, the Immortal One chose to be hanged on a cross to die. Through the death of the Immortal One, I who was dead have been raised to life and granted immortality.

Though we are all born dead creatures, by nature rebellious against our Creator, the Creator has such love for each individual one of us that He accepts each of us, just as we are, blind, sick, rebellious, lost and stained with sin, and asks us to dine with Him and enter into covenant with Him.  He accepts us just as we are, requiring nothing of us but our faith in Him.

Having once entered into covenant with our Creator, we are assured that He will not leave us as we were when we came to Him.  No matter how uncomfortable or painful the transformation may be to us, He promises to mold our hearts and character into an acceptable temple for Himself.

As recipients of His grace, we are asked, nay required, to honor Him with such single-minded and unadulterated love, that by comparison we hate all others, including our own families and even our own lives.

The mark of being His disciple is made evident through our outrageous love for others, pouring out sacrificial love even to our enemies, loving even those who hate us and seek to harm us.

I hold these truths as essential to my world view, as a believer in Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God, the Savior of the world, through whom and for whom all things were created.  As essential truths, I feel no need to defend these positions through intellectual arguments.  Though I enjoy discussing their wonder, I feel no need for further evidence of their existence than what is presented in the Bible and the work which God has wrought in my own heart.  I expect like-minded individuals who call themselves Christians to also hold these same truths.

Granted, I have intentionally worded these truths in a jarring disjointed fashion, in order to make a point, but isn’t that how a non-Christian probably hears them for the first time?

We refer to these, and similar truths, as The Simplicity of the Gospel.  We see them as being so basic in nature that even a child can understand and accept them, and many of us have accepted them since we were children.

Yet, when asked to explain them, we either point to the written scripture as being explanation enough, or else we resort to parables and illustrations to reveal a partial truth while simultaneously demonstrating that no verbal explanation by man will ever be sufficient.

And then we act surprised, when our unbelieving friends and neighbors react negatively to our world view. We take offense when these truths we hold sacred are described by others as foolish and illogical beliefs that are unworthy of a discerning intellectual
mind.

The question is not why the gospel is seen as foolishness by those who do not believe, but rather, why we would expect otherwise.

Everything about the gospel of Jesus Christ runs contrary to human logic and expectations.

Over the course of the last two weeks, I have read three very interesting blog posts that independently addressed different aspects of the drastic difference in world view between a believer in Jesus Christ who has experienced the transforming power of the Holy Spirit, and the world view of an unbeliever who has not.

Mike Duran’s post on http://mikeduran.com/2011/11/is-it-dishonest-to-not-label-christian-fiction/ has sparked a spirited debate among authors of Christian literature who are puzzled by the strong reaction of unbelievers against literature written from a Christian viewpoint.  In multiple comments, the question arises: Why are non-Christians often so strongly opposed specifically to a Christian world view? Why do they not react with equal vehemence against other world views?

I must admit that I have often wondered the same thing from a different slant.  It often seems that our own modern western culture eagerly embraces and accepts any and all world views with a very high degree of tolerance, with the single exception of Christianity, which is reviled and treated with disdain.  Why is that?

Quite simply, in the words of the Apostle Paul, in 1 Corinthians 2:14, “A natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised.”

As I attempted to illustrate at the beginning of this post, the gospel is all topsy-turvy from normal human logic and expectations.  The claims seem to be outrageous and
intellectually indefensible, even appearing self-contradictory.  Yes, the gospel is truth, and those of us who have experienced the transforming work of the Holy Spirit can see and understand that it is truth.  But to the person who has never known the Holy Spirit, it is foolishness.

Why are unbelievers offended upon discovering that a book that grabbed their attention in the first three chapters is revealed in the fourth chapter to be written from a distinctly Christian viewpoint?  Because that viewpoint makes no sense to them; it is foolishness.

I would feel rather the same way if I started a book that I thought was a murder mystery, but turned out to be an Alice-in-Wonderland nonsensical story that made no sense.
Expecting a murder mystery, I feel I have an agreement with the author that the book is supposed to follow sequential logical events gradually unveiling the answer to the mystery, with a few unexpected twists along the way.  I would feel extremely
disappointed, and a bit betrayed if, after capturing my time and attention, the
book turned out to be completely illogical, and, in fact seemed to gleefully celebrate its very lack of logic.

We must understand that from the viewpoint of an unbeliever, this is exactly how Christian literature is likely perceived…and we have been forewarned in the very Bible we hold dear, that this is the case.

In her post http://www.theveryworstmissionary.com/2011/11/because-bible-is-kinda-weird.html , Jamie asks her readers where they would direct someone with no biblical
background whatsoever to begin reading the Bible.  I must admit to my own bewilderment at an appropriate response.  My first response was to start in the Gospel of John, which contains such clear declarations of who Jesus is, why He came, and what we must do to be saved.

However, other commenters pointed out that, for someone with absolutely no biblical frame of reference, the gospel of John uses a lot of figurative language that can be very difficult to follow.  As one who was raised in church, I had never thought about how strange it may be to read, for example, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God… and the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.”  For those who know and understand, this is a very clear explanation of who Jesus is, but for a novice, it would be a bit of a puzzle. I did feel somewhat relieved when some responders stated that although the Gospel of John made no sense to them when first read, the Holy Spirit still opened their eyes and hearts, to receiving Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Savior.

Thank God, for His Holy Spirit, who teaches us!

And in a guest post at http://www.theveryworstmissionary.com/2011/11/missionary-positions-doing-it-by-doing.html , Julie discussed the futility of trying to use intellectual argument to evangelize.  In the 17th chapter of the book of Acts, Paul discovered this futility himself, when he engaged in intellectual debate with the citizens of Athens, to no avail.  It was some time after this experience that Paul penned the words of 1 Corinthians chapter 2, explaining the futility of this approach.

The more I think about it, the more I realize how very involved the Holy Spirit must be, not only in the salvation experience, but in everything leading up to it, the openness to listen, the desire to hear, and the ability to understand.

So, if Christian literature and intellectual debate are not effective evangelism tools, how are we to live out the great commission to “Go and make disciples”?

How do you share Christ with others?

 

12 thoughts on “This Foolish Fantastic Gospel!

  1. ..by RELATING to them. That is the MOST important part. Nobody really wants to be preached at without consideration, especially us “non-believers” who really do view it as another language (dead on with that one). However, if you take the time to at least try to see it from another point of view your method of delivery will be much more successful..I have to say, I was really impressed by this post. Normally, a Christian’s attachment to the bible is so severe that they are unwilling to recognize the bible as anything other than absolute. I believe you to be well on your way to making more disciples out of your non-believers.

  2. How do you share Christ with others?
    —————————————————–

    We might be more productive if we concentrate on the “where” first, then the when”, and then the “how”. How productive are we relative to our potential?

    WHERE:

    If I were an elephant hunter, I would go to an African water hole.
    If I were a devil, I would go to a church.
    If I were a minister, I would go to a bar.

    WHEN:

    Anywhere a listener is present.

    HOW:

    Comunication with a spirit is required. No words are necessary. If we can’t point to a spirit’s location, faith is required. Logic is of the world and wisdom is not.

    The answer then is by sharing wisdom. In order to share wisdom, you have to have it. Our wisdom knows how to share.

    • Excellent points, Dan!

      Sometimes we Christians act as though we expect unbelievers to just flock to our chuches, hungry for the gospel. We tend to forget that although they may be hungering, they are not likely to know what for unless they have a Christian in their life, connecting with them in a positive manner.

      Thanks for the input!

  3. Sharing Jesus can sometimes be difficult because we get in the way of what God wants to do. We must be sensitive to the Spirit of God. We must stay prayed up! Really, I think the best we can do is live our lives in a Christ -like manner. People are looking and searching for something different. If we react as non Christians do, then what have we proven? That there is nothing different about us. I believe we must live in him, trust in him, and then, and only then, will people be interested in what we have to say. I pray daily that I can make a difference in someone’s life each day. Not only do
    I pray to be blessed, I pray to be a blessing! We must take the church outside of the walls of our church buildings and live our lives loving others just as Jesus did. Thanks for letting me share!

    • Janet, I agree with you 100%. We must follow the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and we must recognize the role of the Holy Spirit. Without the Holy Spirit speaking to them, people would be unable to even comprehend the message, much less to make a life-changing decision.

      At the same time, we must also be constantly aware that God works through His people. We cannot just sit back, do nothing, and assume it’s all up to the Holy Spirit. We play a significiant role, as well.

      I love your statement, “I pray to be a blessing!” I tell my kids each morning as we part ways for the day, “Be a blessing!” It requires a degree of intentionality and conscious openness to the prompting of the Holy Spirit and recognition of others’ needs.

      And, Janet, you are a blessing to those around you. Thank you, so much for letting the light of God’s glory shine through your life, and for sharing it here.

  4. Generally I share the Gospel the most to people who are addicted, abused or physically hungry. That’s the easy part, in a sense, because that’s who I work with every day. Again & again I have encountered the problem of my assumption that people know anything about the Bible. Living in the “Bible Belt” only helps to add to the assumption that everyone went to church at least some of the time growing up. I could tell you lots of funny/sad stories about how they taught me to stop assuming. (!!!) (By the way, Joe, you forgot to go into the part of how we now have to choose to die daily, -even though we just told them we have been made alive through Christ-crucifying the flesh, taking up our cross and following.) The Gospel, I think, needs to be seen and felt before it’s ever heard. If I’m feeding people who are hungry, clothing the naked, etc they are seeing the Gospel. Then when I talk about it I try to stick with what they are presenting as what their problem is.

    When they want to read the Bible, I have found that many of the really love children’s Bibles- especially the illustrated kinds. It seems to give them a nice overview or framework so they have some reference points. I have found this out by them bringing these Bibles to me (out of the Library in our facility) and asking me if these stories were really IN the Bible.

    Joe, I wish I had read your blog a long time ago. Maybe it would have kept me from confusing & frustrating people. (I probably do that enough without bringing the Bible into it.) 🙂

    • Hah, you and me both, Dorcas (on the wishing I had read this long ago)!

      Then, again, I guess I did read it long ago, in Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians…it just didn’t sink in, at the time.

      There was a time when I saw the Gospel as being very logical, and approached evangelism as basically engaging people in debate to prove to them the truth of the gospel. Needless to say, that approach didn’t work too well. Although, astoundingly, the Holy Spirit did use even those feeble efforts, at times…which goes to show just how set He is on using whatever we offer to Him.

      Thank you for the suggestion of using a children’s illustrated Bible, for a novice. What a great idea! It really is hard knowing even where to start, when talking to someone with absolutely no idea what the Bible is about.

      Also, a great suggestion about keeping the topic to their specific need or concern. People need to see where the Bible is relevant to their life.

      Thank you, for the input! I’m learning lots of good stuff, here!

  5. I actually have been encountering this exact question the pasy week or so.. We started a bible study at work and we are going thru Matthew, and last weekend we got to the Beattitudes and the Law. Well, one of the girls asked me why would God give us the laws in the first place (in the Old Testament) knowing we would not be able to live up to them. The answer to me is sooooo simple, I don’t think I had ever before thought of giving the answer to anyone not understanding that it is because he was sending the answer – Jesus. The whole thing from the very beginning was set-up that way. And the Law is just a standard a written way of saying we can’t do it without Christ, we need him. Like I said, to me it is that simple. Yes, in know I can on and on and on about it, go into God’s Glory, a relationship, etc., but without that ‘simple’ understanding those other things have no grounds.
    I of course gave her this answer and her question again is, but why would he even create Adam pre-destined to not be able to live up to His standards. Why not lower the standard, or not allow us to go below the standard. Why set it up to even be required to send your son to die?…….
    Like you pointed out, it was at this point that I realized how ill-logical this sounded, and my only response was well, let’s look it up in the bible and get back together on it next time.
    I asked my pastor about and did find this very good verse in Galations 3:10-14, explaining that, and how, Jesus fulfills the Law of the Old Testament. Which I thought was very good, since that is where her question started from.
    So, from this experience I have realized that is the Holy Spirit that leads people to Christ, not me or anyone else. It doesn’t matter what I do, but what Christ does thru me.
    I have realized to pray a lot for those around me to be open to the word of God, for their hearts and minds for be listening and open to the Spirit.
    And also, I am starting to realize that I am may just be the person that the Spirit uses to plant a seed, just a seed sometimes. Like you said it is a process. And so sometimes, most the time, many believers are used in the process of just one person being saved.
    Someone plants the seed, and someone waters it, someone shines light on it, and eventually someone is ready to bloom – and to always be ready and praying to see when the spirit has brought them to that point, for the strength and courage to be able to bring this person that is now ready for the gospel to Christ.

  6. I think that’s the key, Tabitha. Much prayer and the realization that it has to be the work of the Holy Spirit. Yes, He uses us, as His messengers, but the message is His, and only He can truly communicate it.

    Thanks, much, for your comment, and for your faithfulness! Love you!

    • Thanks, and by the way, not sure I actually answered your question, but I use the Logical and the Gospels for as far as I can. I relate to the person on whatever we have in common, which here recently is things like marriage, kids, childbirth, breastfeeding, and oddly enough creation (I don’t know why, but that last keeps coming up as to what my opinion about it is, but hey it lead to a bible study) But, like I said, here lately I have started realizing that that may be all I can do, but that at least I did that if I can’t do more. If I can YEAH! its my turn for God to use me to help this child of his find Him, if not it’s an awesome feeling to know that I have planted a seed. 😉

      • That is such an amazing feeling, isn’t it? To realize we have been used of God to bless someone else’s life! So humbling, yet such an honor, all at the same time…

        Love you!

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