Thursday, August 22, 2013

Communicating the Gospel

What does it take to communicate the Gospel? The message is rather simple: God came to earth in the form of a man named Jesus, lived sinlessly as that man, willingly accepted the weight of every other man's sins upon his own shoulders, died the death that was due that sin, and then rose from the dead on the third day thereby demonstrating that he'd overcome that sin and the death due it. To everyone that believes that good news and thereby embraces Jesus as Lord (and follows him), the victory over sin and death he achieved is shared with them.

Now a lot of effort has been and is made to analyse, criticize, synthesize and publicize what makes communication successful. That is particularly true in regard to the Gospel, because it accomplishes nothing if it's not shared. As would be expected in a venture that is so reliant on communication, the church world is up to its eyes in books, conferences, magazines, blogs, and courses on effective, relevant communication. Are those efforts misplaced? 

I find it remarkable that Jesus, our prime example, at the critical moment in extending his ministry, did not commission communicators to help him fulfill his vision. He neither relied on the instruction of experts in the field, nor enlisted those so instructed to do his bidding. Instead, gasp, he chose friends to help him, and not even well-spoken ones at that! That is counterintuitive at best, not at all what a wise leader should do--so why did Jesus do it?

Obviously, the quality of communication is not what converts sinners. Could it be that a church's true evangelistic success (that is on people actually becoming born again) depends more on whether or not Jesus has friends in that congregation than on how well that church markets its message? Is this not a Spirit thing after all? If his friends are not capable of communicating the gospel message with effect, and the onus seems to be on their bad technique, it may well be that it's not the gospel they are actually trying to communicate.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

The Two Witnesses of the Apocalypse

"Who are those guys?" students of prophecy wonder in regard to the two witnesses of the 11th chapter of the Revelation. We are given only a few details concerning these cryptic figures: they prophesy for three and a half years at the end of time; they fulfill the prophecy of Zechariah; they are powerfully anointed as attested by signs and wonders; their ministry and death will occur in Jerusalem; they are hated and feared by the world; and they are raptured by God, publicly, after being dead for three and a half days. There have been interesting guesses about who they might be offered through the ages, but I know who they are with certainty!

How? You might ask. Well, I Corinthians 15 gives us all the information we need to figure it out! We are told there that Christ is the first one who defeated death and received an imperishable body. Furthermore, we are told that no one can go into eternity in perishable flesh and blood inherited from Adam. All born of Adam must die and/or be transformed into a new body following after the model of Christ in order to enter eternity with God. The old cannot inherit the new.

That produces a problem with the biblical record when one remembers the stories of Enoch and Elijah. They were taken by God to be with him while they were still alive in Adamic flesh, before Christ arose. Therefore, according to I Corinthians 15, they are not prepared for, nor can they enter into eternity until they put off their old bodies and rise in new ones untainted by Adam's fall. Somehow, either by an transformation akin to the Rapture of the Church (which not revealed in the Word), or by returning to earth and going through "normal" processes, Enoch and Elijah have got to be transformed. 

We have known that Elijah is in the mix forever, but the identity of the other witness has caused incredible speculation in the church. It really did not need to, for the Apostle Paul told us what we needed to know in order to identify both of them conclusively. Enoch and Elijah may have been enjoying the last few thousand years in the presence of God well enough, but they can't go into eternity the way they are. For their own good, and for the good of the Jews alive during Daniel's 70th week, those guys need to come back to earth, and then, they need to die!

Friday, August 2, 2013

The Wealth Lie

Jesus said to him, “One thing you lack, go and sell all you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.”    Mark 10:21 NASB

Why do preachers in the modern church tell the rich, young rulers of our day something other than what Jesus told them in the days he walked on earth? For that matter, why do preachers in the modern church tell the poor to aspire to be rich, young rulers? The rich of our day are told that their wealth, and the self-indulgence and self-concern it breeds, is a blessing from God. They are told that God would like all his children to be thus, even that there are fool-proof ways of getting there (like tithing)--really, to be anything less than rich evidences a break-down in faith.

They are told lies!

From a biblically informed point of view, the only good thing to do with wealth is to give it away. Not to accumulate it; not to "seed" the ministry of a televangelist or mega-church pastor, but to give it away to the benefit and blessing of others. The televangelist and the big church guru (generally) seek only to build their own Taj Mahals or to pad their own notoriety and and influence. Either, more often than not, solicits the givings of the giver with the promise of multiplied returns from God (primarily, just so they can enrich themselves).

Jesus never asked for that kind of response to the Gospel, and won't open the windows of heaven for some self-seeking manipulator just because he or she "gives" along those lines. Give, oh yes, but to one who is in real need, without seeking blowback. Give actually trying to help someone else. To anyone to whom you do give, be like God and be generous. Don't let your left hand know what your right is doing. Give of your wealth and follow Jesus in service.

To the one who can't see, bring a healing salve that can give sight. To the one that has sight, teach him to read so he can read God's word, and then, give him God's word. To the one that can't hear, bring a means of hearing. To the one who can hear, speak God's word to him so he may truly hear. To the one who is thirsty or hungry give sustenance so he may live another day and come to know God's care.

It is absolutely true that there is no greater gift to give than the Gospel, and that giving toward the support of Gospel ministry is as important to give to as anything. But let's be clear and honest, the Gospel was not given by God as a source of wealth acquisition for its supposed promulgators, NOR FOR THOSE WHO EMBRACE ITS TEACHING. The church is talking a lot about wealth these day, but it's mostly telling lies!