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BULLETIN ONE HUNDRED AND TWENTY FOUR
ONLY ONE (NEO-EVANGELICAL) METHOD OF CONVEYING THE GOSPEL ?
FAR FROM IT!
When you survey the methods of conveying the Gospel, seeking converts, applying and penetrating minds and hearts with the Gospel, it is apparent there are many, ranging from the solicitously kindly to the rampantly asseverative. Those using these are often godly, and include Jesus Christ.
The methods of conveyance of the substance, site, atmosphere and impact of the Gospel, in whatever context, and directly, subtly or penetratingly are by no means one with a single avenue to drive, with a lightsome touch and a predictable schema, plan and mode. Far from it. Such however was the apparent theme of a recent communication from a substantial creationist magazine which has a splendid task. Let us consider the matter.
In fact, the Bible is of great breadth in this area of HOW you convey the Gospel, with its select centre in the whole word of God.
You find confrontational personal challenge of the utmost rigour in John 3:9-13, the requirement to "reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering" in II Timothy 4:2, rank and terse exposure in Mark 12:24, including these words, "Do you therefore err, because you do not know the scriptures or the power of God." This is sharp rebuke in correction that the way may be plain, and hence not missed or manhandled.
Personal assault on scripture or its exponents is often found when the Gospel is presented, and these are some of the biblical responses, retorts, responses. Tests may be directed as a shield against the Gospel or a ground for its rejection, and in the Bible, many are the modes of conveyance, standing fast on the word of God, removing the fire of the assault, or the fog of the confusion.
As in Psalm 78:41, however, it is a presumption to limit God whether with the latest methods of psychology or otherwise. It is easy to find something highly acceptable to a given culture, which does not ruffle its complacency but maximises its self-importance, sometimes almost as if they were gods: and so gain half-converts, pickily choosing what they will accept.
It is so whether with one or with
groups, as with tenderly treated seekers or on the other hand, as in the case of Stephen's impassioned, truculent denunciation, saying,
"You always are resisting the Holy Spirit," (Acts
7:51). In this, he addressed them before they stoned him, in an attempt to put
an end to his
Gospel preaching, faith displaying, miracle consigning ways, in his calling from
the Lord, in this way:
"You stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears," so that this formed part of the total confrontation process. At the least, this displays the dynamic of deadly exposure to which a situation may lead. It may well have led to much in the case of Saul-Paul who participated in the murderous event.
Christ's conveyance in the arresting rebuke department, is perhaps never surpassed in the sheer vigour and unremitting confrontation in His restrained, accurate, fluent, scarifying and penetrating challenge and clash, giving acute voice to exhibit their wild folly, as a physician might (in part) do in some cases. With His words in this instance, it was presented in the main, as if in parallel, for a sullenly, martially, controverting patient with lung cancer, who continually tried to minimise reality and maximise confusion. Such is found in Matthew 23 for example. Yet it contains pleas and grief in His manifest love for them as we pass from 23:37 to the end, where grace laments their avoidance of His offers, and the harsh reality their refusal requires, is alike featured.
Peter and John, repeatedly, as appointed Gospel agents at the most direct level, and indeed in the very presentation including crucial elements of the Gospel, met the religious 'royalty', the rulers in this field, with such statements as these, concerning Christ, "whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead" (Acts 4:10), just before proceeding to asseverate to their faithless faces, "Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is no other name under heaven, given among men, by which we must be saved." There is present the opportunity, the means, the scope, the command with "must" bearing down remorselessly on their spiritual need and condition, all exceedingly un-neo-evangelical. Indeed, along with Gospel urging, the apostles not only countermanded directly the religious alternative or option held dear by the authorities, but trivialised their arrogantly seized place directly, relative to the God whom they acted as if to represent, saying: "Whether it be right in the sight of God to listen to you more than to God, you judge for yourselves." This differentiated in no uncertain terms between what IS authorised and what is not, by God.
They did not decline cautiously to omit even more direct intimation (and it was not only priests who were guilty), saying again of Jesus the Christ, this very thing: "The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom you murdered and hanged on a tree" (Acts 5:30), to make it more particularised and envisageable, and not satisfied with that, in fearless contravention of directly anti-biblical command, even when imprisoned, and liberated by an angel, they continued in the very midst of the temple public area, to proceed right on, and preach anyway. Even escape was not to escape duty but silencing, and they did it with what must have appeared to the suppressors, a flair and fearlessness that had an epochal ring, and gave to the Gospel a glorious parade.
There is no monotony of canny method. It is an unblushing thing, choosing according to their awareness of the precise manner of the need, of the overall impact, the fast course or the slow, as in the onrush of a flood. Thus in Matthew 11:11:25ff., you delight in the tenderness to those looking for help in their spiritual lives, and wearied with the world and its ways.
Again there is room for authority springlike as a lowland spring from the torrents of water high above, as when Paul directs, "shun profane and vain babbling," adding with rainbow band completeness and contrast, the way towards which one must gravitate: "the servant of the Lord must not strive, but be gentle to all men, apt, patient, in meekness instructing those who oppose themselves..." This is a normal teacher-student relationship where the student is open and ready, and conveyance of content is open. Moreover, to strive suggests carnal, fleshly contortions or exertions, and that is not the MODE of working in the Lord. Argue ? yes. Decisively ? yes. As with Jesus Himself, this even with additions withering to the philosophies and preferences of contention where deemed fitting, as in Mark 2:27-28,12:24, John 3:9-10). There is all the difference in the world between mere rousing and been given the spiritual wording and attitude, atmosphere which betokens as in Stephen's case, the depth of the reality which is being assailed and assaulted.
A special mode is of course far from the particular cases, just as accelerating a car is far from quiet driving, when another car is about to crash into you, or a post appears 5 feet from your windscreen. In fact you see marvellous scope in the very varied way in which Christian and others in Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress question, respond to and pursue the point with various would-be fellow travellers, and even the almost pertinacious way in which they do NOT just let a generally favourable situation mature, but pursue it until the underlying danger is clearly exposed, even to the point of separation from some in the walk in such a case, who might like to accompany them. These vary as do so many in the Bible
Thus method of conveyance of the word of God, the Gospel, includes persons, situations, needs, things pending or impending, and the treatment of these openings, direct or indirect, depending on the case, has something like the variations in the little waves near the seashore. To avoid this variety, as biblically exhibited both in principle and in practice, with individuals or the groups involved, is to avoid the lesson concerning the limiting of God ("yea, they turned back and limited God"), while the seeking to standardise methods, whether the topic be creation or conversion, is alike a diversion. Thus statistical "success" must never be confused with impartation of licence to keep to only one type of road, in conveying the cargo. Different roads are to be met differently, and some bump awake, as in Mark 12:35ff.. Maximum contentment in listening is assuredly no biblical criterion of what the presenters of the word of God, the Gospel must seek to secure.
In fact, sleepy nominality for those who may declare themselves Christians is not limited, just as in the case of the five foolish virgins, nor did it save them, the object of the exercise, whether the method be piercing penetration or quiet rumination, as the case may be deemed to require. There are in fact times and occasions, particular purpose, people, situations, challenges as with Christ Himself displayed, in principle, and many are the methods of responding and covering cases. Compare for example Titus 1:9-11 and II Timothy 4:2,II Corinthians 10:5 with II Corinthians 7:9-10, and I Timothy 1:18-20 with Acts 16:25-33. Again, consider Luke 9:60-61, very direct and confrontational, together with Ezekiel 18 and 33, where common principles permeate both Testaments concerning need and the modes of God, and Luke 18:16 and Matthew 12:17-21 together.
One of the great dietary deficiencies of this century, spiritually, is the fear of God, which is only after all, the beginning of wisdom. Without that, you do not even begin to find wisdom. What fails to reflect that as an atmosphere distorts the image. It is of course not craven fear, but more a delighted fear, one with rejoicing as in Psalm 2; but just as building a tower requires earthworks earlier, and may involve works of art later, so all manner of godly concern may be expressed with a speech seasoned with salt, not subject to being trodden under foot, but rather used in a mode leading to actual, active scrutiny. Similarly, you don't use an atomic bomb on a mosquito, but your slap may be sharp and your spray lethal.
Now in all this, we are not dealing with the internal dynamic of the Gospel, its inherent arresting power, the fact that the word of God breaks rock, but with a specific topic. Granted the wonder of His word, what is the best way of CONVEYING it... Isolating this point, then, we acknowledge that the Bible is full of different modes, as in finding access to a heavily defended tower, and that not only is there the peril of elevating one method for all (like a spray for all insects), but of omitting the very atmosphere of casting down imaginations, a task relevant indeed as seen not only in II Cor. 10:5, but from I Corinthians 11:1.
Remember Jude 22-25 and Titus 1:13-16. When you see a plane about to crash land and envelop an aerodrome with flames, do not choose a method of conveyance of what you can offer as if it were in mid-flight serving lemonade in all quietness. Then there is the case of someone nursing unawares a cancer about to be found, and who knows what ? Wait on the Lord in all things, for He acts for those who wait for Him (Isaiah 64:5), and do not limit Him in His dealings.
Recall that one of the most amazing things about Jesus Christ was His complete avoidance of ruts in the impact on reality, the principles the same, the person most free and gloriously perceptive while giving new beauty to freedom, the Gospel fixed, the presentations most various. Even parables were extensively used because of the discerned state of the people in that case (Matthew 13:10-16). Such examples are not intended to deaden us, but rather to keep us alert, adaptable in mode, while unvarying in purpose and substance, founded on and fostered by the word of God.
The Gospel has a fixed address (Galatians 1), the postmen have different bikes, sites and modes (Psalm 68:11), being as different as Peter and Paul, Thomas and John, whether through being stoned not quite to death, or welcomed with danger of being pseudo-deified, as in the case of Lystra (Acts 14:8ff.).