Saturday, August 3, 2013

Evangelism is more than just Soft Cuddlies

Most Christians would define evangelism this way:

  • Sharing the Gospel – the power of God unto salvation – in hope that it might bring faith by the mercy of God.
This is not a bad definition, but it is very incomplete. For instance, Jesus often sought to humble the arrogance of the self-righteous in hope that they’d see their need for the mercy of God. While He often simply taught His listeners that they needed to believe in Him in order to find mercy (John 3:16, 36; 5:24; 6:29; 8:24). He also preached the law to show them that they could not trust in their own righteousness.

On one occasion, the “experts of the law” tested Him, asking what they should do to “inherit internal life” (Luke 10:25). Jesus asked them what they thought. They answered with the two greatest commands – loving God and loving our neighbor.

Jesus then described what this looked like in the parable of the Good Samaritan and told them to “Go and do likewise” (Luke 10:37). Of course they couldn’t do so on any consistent basis, and they were humbled.

We require humbling. Jesus warned:

  • "I tell you that this [tax-collector] man, rather than the other [the Pharisee], went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted." (Luke 18:14)
If mercy first requires humiliation, Jesus, in love, sought to humiliate the religious leaders:

  • "Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices--mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law--justice, mercy and faithfulness…Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men's bones and everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness. (Matthew 23:23-28)
Jesus didn’t use this tactic because He hated them, but because He loved them:

  • "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing. (Matthew 23:37)
The leadership needed to first see their need for mercy before they would cry out for mercy.

Love requires that God first humbles us. This is accomplished in many ways – some ways we find very troubling, like the prayer of the Psalmist:

  • Pursue them with your tempest and terrify them with your storm. Cover their faces with shame so that men will seek your name, O Lord. (Psalm 83:15-16)
Why do we require such harsh treatment before we become ready see the light?  This Jew required decades of depression to “cover my face with shame” before I would even begin to think about Jesus. I had been “wise in my own eyes” as the Proverbs describes:

  • Do you see a man wise in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him. (Proverbs 26:12)
Only the man who knows he doesn’t have the answer will be open to listening. In God’s mercy, He shut my mouth to open my ears.

What then is evangelism? It is lovingly giving the other what they need so that they can hear the truth.

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