Thursday, January 16, 2014

Enabled to Respond

There is no one who does good.
God has looked down from heaven upon the sons of men
To see if there is anyone who understands,
Who seeks after God.
Every one of them has turned aside; together they have become corrupt;
There is no one who does good, not even one.                                  Psalm 53:1b-3 NASB

Such is a biblical description of the depravity of mankind. How can a being so described ever be reconciled to God? Obviously, some kind of gracious intervention by God would be required, but what kind and to what degree?

Suffice it to say, the depraved person is enabled to respond to God with faith as God speaks to him or her. A rewiring of the person is not required at that point, just an interaction with God. When the Spirit of God interacts with a depraved person, that person is, in effect, freed from their natural state of depravity (i.e., their inability to know good and to know God) and given a window of opportunity to respond to God with faith.

This is the most natural reading of the biblical testimony of how mankind has been since the Fall. Whether we look at Adam and Eve, Noah, Abraham, Moses, Isaiah, or the Apostles, the pattern is the same--God spoke to them and they were able to respond. None of them is reported to have been regenerated in order for this to happen, no great re-fabrication of their humanity was ever mentioned; therefore, the implication is that it was not necessary. Only the logical necessity within an extra-biblical theological system (Calvinism) even remotely suggests such a thing, not the text of scripture.

What the scriptures do teach indirectly by example, and directly through the words of Christ is that depraved human beings have no way or means (or desire) to find God by their own self-initiated effort. Even if they could make such efforts unassisted, those efforts could never be effective, for God is not obligated to appear at the summons of a sinner. God is not like a set of misplaced car keys which are found if searched for thoroughly "whether they want to be or not." If he did not make himself findable, available, we would never encounter him.

The truth is, if he didn't draw and woo us by his Spirit, we would never look. And yet, our depravity is not of such a nature that it cannot be overcome by God showing up. His tap on our shoulder is sufficient to give us the power and reason to turn to him, without the necessity of reworking our inner being just in order to do so. The scriptures do not relate the latter occurring anecdotally nor describe such theologically. Embracing such a thought can only muddy the waters and make confusing what isn't.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Leapfrogging Into the Great Commission

Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation."   Mark 16:15 NASB

I like the way the Great Commission is stated in Mark, particularly as it is rendered in the KJV, namely, "...preach the gospel to every creature." In commanding the reader to do so, the text is not telling him or her to preach to every snail, lizard and iguana Dr. Doolittle-like, but to proclaim the gospel's life giving message to every single human being. That is a daunting task, even today, with the means of communicating that message so much more broadly than ever before.

It can be hard to wrap our heads around such a humungous task. It's so over-the-top, so all-encompassing, so out of reach, that it can become irrelevant. The temptation, I think, is to chalk it up to being just a theory that we never really anticipate becoming reality. Can you honestly say that the Great Commission smacks of reality and is thereby relevant to you?

If not, let me offer what may be a new way of looking at this mission to you. According to a modern statistical theory, any human being on the planet is separated from any other human being by a mere six degrees of separation. In other words, every person is networked to every other person by a maximum of six interpersonal links of association. According to this model, I know someone (1) who knows someone (2) who knows someone (3) who knows someone (4) who knows someone (5) who knows that one in consideration but who is unknown to me (6).

So how can we reach every creature with the Gospel? How were you reached? Doubtless, you became acquainted in some fashion with someone who knew Jesus. In making that connection, you were in a position to hear about Christ. I submit to you, then, that evangelism is, or should be thought of as, the process by which someone becomes connected to someone who knows Jesus.

In such a framework, the Great Commission becomes a task whereby the church lessens the degrees of separation that exist between one who does not know of Christ and one who does know Jesus. Our mission under such a regimen is to leapfrog the degrees of separation by sending people who do know Jesus into masses of people who do not know Jesus, until the degrees of separation between those of one class and those of the other reduce to one. Ultimately, that would give "every creature" an opportunity to hear about Jesus, and bring the Great Commission from the realm of fleetingly impossible into the realm of the probable.

The key to the Great Commission is to simply send people in the know into as many culturally distinctive groups who do not know as is possible and let them get to know people in that group and to share the gospel with them. If we do this at a great enough rate, ultimately, every single person alive will know someone who knows Jesus. Finishing the Great Commission is only a hare's breath away at that point. Tell me, are you sufficiently engaged in going and sending to make this happen in our age?