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Saturday, July 02, 2005

Jesus Christ and the Church of LCD--Part 3

Most people would think that the gospel would be free from Lowest Common Denominator thinking. After all, we come to Christ with child-like faith (Mark 10:15). Members of the church may not understand the difference between creation and evolution. They may not know about Open Theism or have eschatology mapped out...but they understand the gospel, right?

What issue is most critical to the method/message debate? I'm profoundly motivated to present the message in a way that people connect with. If a person were to only hear one conversation from me, or only read one post of mine, I would pray it would be a presentation of the gospel. What could be more important than making sure we present the gospel in an understanding and relevant way?

However, because it is such a critical topic, is there anything else I need to as passionately defend? Because of its urgency, I should find myself zealously guarding the message from dilution. Not just from others mouths, but from my mouth most especially.

Our saving faith is fairly basic. The theif knew he was a sinner and called out to Jesus to deliver him (Luke 23:40-43). However, the work of salvation is anything but simple (Romans 11:33-36). Do we challenge our people to explore the depth and the riches of their salvation? Too often I think salvation is treated as a past act, and our only reason we study about it now is for sharing with those that aren't saved.

Take for instance the discussion of purpose in evangelism. Can a person be saved by asking God to give them greater purpose? If it's that request alone, I don't think so. To stand before God and state that you should have eternal life because you sought fulfillment in Jesus on earth has no mention of Christ's atonement for your sin. It's an incomplete gospel. Now, can purpose be a great springboard to start a discussion with a person about eternity, God, and our values in life? Sure. And if from that discussion we expose a person to their sin, its consequences and our need for justification through Jesus' atoning sacrifice, then purpose can be a great tool. (I'm trying to be neutral about Warren. I really haven't read or listened to enough of him to know if he faithfully moves the discussion beyond just purpose. I am not giving commentary on Rick Warren, but rather on the "gospel presentation" that ONLY revolves around fulfillment. I will say, however, that Warren's book should be labeled as the very basic, and the fact that some see it as a deep exercise of faith only exposes how many are not truly digging.)

How does this happen in our Body? How do people begin to forget or neglect the very center of our faith? I think it's because too many people aren't called to dig into the truths of their faith. They don't understand the entire Bible to be account of God's redemptive solution for man. They know what they need to be saved and then they see the other things in the Bible (Old Testament historical accounts, The Law, parables, New Testament history, eschatology, etc.) as extras; separate issues that have nothing to do with salvation.

I've seen this from the reaction I've received from some when preaching. When the gospel is presented during the sermon, they see it as the section that doesn't pertain to them, since they are already saved. They tune out (which is frustrating, at the minimum they should be begging God to soften hearts of any unsaved present), assuming this part of the service is only intended for an unsaved person that may be in the room. While I want that non-believer to listen (I've been praying that their presence is an indication that Holy Spirit is prodding them!), that is not the primary reason I present the gospel in my sermon. I present it to be Biblically accurate to whatever texts I am preaching. I present it to show the believer that the issue we are discussing is centered in the fact that God has made a relationship possible with Him through His Son. Sadly, I don't think I do a good enough job of articulating that fact.

Take prayer for instance. What is our acceptance of the gospel if not our first genuine prayer to the Father? How would we have a right to enter the throne room if the Son, who walked this earth, has not passed into the heavens (Hebrews 4:14-16)? How do I truly know that God gives me what I need instead of what I want if I don't understand that He offered His Son when I wasn't even asking Him to (Romans 5:10)? Do I need to totally understand prayer to be saved? Of course not. But can I really understand prayer if I only know the basics of salvation? The answer is just as equally no.

Even if Rick Warren is preaching a purpose ONLY gospel (again, I have no clue if he is or isn't), the problem isn't him. The problem is, our people don't understand the importance of justification, redemption, the atonement and other issues well enough to notice their absence from a message. People have got to be encouraged to move beyond the "bare minimum" of what they need to know.

There is a minimum to what needs to be understood to be saved, but we should not allow others to make that our only point of reference regarding salvation.

What things are you seeing done that encourages a deeper digging? We're talking about offering a sunday school class centered around the "Soli's" of our faith. Obviously, that doesn't cure the problem, so other thoughts are greatly appreciated.


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