Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Keep The Lemons....I'm Sold on The Gospel!

For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. - 2nd Timothy 4:3

I have a friend who still shakes his head in amazement when recounting his experience selling cars.   He describes how his most frustrating days consisted of describing the attributes of vehicles to people who never intended to buy a car.

These customers would come and look again and again wasting the time of the salesmen with question after question.   Yet in the end they just would not be convinced to buy a car.

Another friend of mine recently recalled a long-famous car industry saying: "It's either the machine, the man or the money - those are the only three reasons why people don't buy a car".   He continued, "but most times it's just about the money".

There's an archetypal image in our consciousness of the used car salesmen that's not to be trusted.   Megan and I once went to look at cars and were struck with a deep sadness at the persistent quality of a particular salesman anxious to move cars in hopes of thickening the size of his paycheck.    We doubted his motives and consequently, didn't buy a car from him.

Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect - 1st Peter 3:15

The Gospel of Jesus Christ is not a sales pitch.   It is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes (Rom. 1:16).  But often times we tend to consider our part in The Great Commission like salesmen. We ask ourselves, "what are the attributes that we find most attractive about Christianity and what ways would The Gospel enhance a potential "buyers" life?".  

Pragmatism has long been an inhibitor to true Gospel-driven faith.   Tim Keller answers the pragmatist by saying, "The Gospel isn't true because it works, The Gospel works because it's true".   In other words don't come to Jesus Christ because of what you want Him to do for you (i.e. behavior modification, success, health, wealth etc...).  Come to Jesus Christ because of what He has done for you (forgiving sin and securing eternal salvation) and learn to trust God with whatever life you've been given as draws you into His holiness. 

When we preach The Gospel pragmatically we pray upon the listeners' immediate self-interests.  The danger here is that we can end up becoming more like Disney's Sly Fox (read: used car salesman) than the Son of God who brought about the salvation of His elect not with words but with a silent surrender of His life on the cross of Calvary.

The pragmatic strategy puts the onus on the receiver to make a decision based on the facts that are given to him.  Yet Jesus says, "No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him". (John 6:44). 

These should be words of sweet relief to many of us who, without seminary training or extreme discipline studying the word, often find ourselves at a loss for words unable to recall the perfect scripture that will speak to others in their time of need or in the midst of their prideful disbelief.  

For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power. - 1st Cor. 1:17

Paul didn't talk people into faith in Christ.  He preached the Gospel.   The power was not in Paul's words but was and is in The Gospel itself.  Thank God that eloquence is not a necessary element for true reception of The Gospel.   How many of us get tongue-tied trying to articulately expound the truths of the faith?   The profound simplicity of The Gospel was made clear by the man who, though blind from birth, was given sight by Christ.   When the Pharisee's pressed him to explain the details he simply answered....

 “Whether he is a sinner (Jesus healed the man on The Sabbath when Jews were not to work but rest in accordance with The Law of Moses)  I do not know. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.” - John 9:25

After this formerly-blind man received Jesus into his heart, Jesus said, "for judgement I came into this world that those who do not see may see, and those who see man become blind" (John 9:39).   Jesus used this healing to describe how we come to faith:  Jesus opens the eyes of those who are intellectually honest about their blindness.   After Christ's ascension He sent The Helper to open the eyes of believers to His presence within them.

"If you love Me, keep My commandments. And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever; the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you." - John 14:15-18

Preaching the false Gospel of pragmatism is tempting those who "cannot see" to buy a lemon.   Sooner or later it will "break down" and they will resent "the salesmen" and the heretical Gospel they presumed to agree "to buy".   Realizing they've been sold a "bill of goods" many will become even more hardhearted towards Christ.  People need The Gospel and most often it's not what they want.
The truth is, in Christ, God has not given us what we wanted.   He has given us what we were too blind to recognize we always needed: Delivery from blindness to the love and forgiveness of God.   This is the "real deal" that has gone down.   This is no fair exchange.  We get life eternal with God and He got crucified.    Belief in Christ is the deal of a lifetime!

Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom,  but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles,  but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ (is) the power of God and the wisdom of God.  For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength. - 1st. Cor. 1:22-25

Only in the The Cross of Christ can salvation be found.  The Cross triumphs over all other worldviews turning upside down the wisdom of the wise (after all only a foolish God would begin a revolution by dying on a cross) and the strength of the strong (no savior would forgo social, political and military upheaval in this world in favor of death on a cross).

In gifting us with the recognition of our blindness, ignorance and weakness God is gracefully and mercifully drawing us to His Son, the true source of sight, wisdom and strength.

He has purchased us at a great price.  This is The Gospel and The Spirit alone reveals the truth of it to the heart of man!

Grace and Peace,

For an updated Clapton version...

This Week... 

* Wednesday Men's Group - Kings Cross Chapter 17
@ 2 American Center, 5th Floor (Ritcheson Law Firm)

* Wednesday - I turn 35!

Please pray as we are meeting with hurting couples and playing music for and sharing testimony with the elderly this week and weekend

Next Week...   
* Men's Lunch @ Dakota's in Tyler, TX - Mondays @ 12pm - Keller's Kings Cross - Chapter 16

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