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Evangelism & The Gospel: The Good News For Today - part 2

Evangelism & Our Merssage  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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The faithful but *contemporary expression* of the timeless Gospel good news message is essential and influential! This message focusses on how to begin sharing it with others.

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Last week we began our new series, Evangelism & Us.
We know that if we want to end our guilty silence and to
grow in clarity & confidence in evangelism we need a fresh vision of Jesus;
We need to be clear & confident in the message of evangelism.
The message is the good news about Jesus: who He is, what He’s done & what He will do.
The message is the good news about Jesus: who He is, what He’s done & what He will do.
We need a grand fresh vision of Jesus’ identity & work …and how that addresses our condition.
We need a grand fresh vision of Jesus’ identity & work …and how that addresses our condition.
We need the message that embodies this vision of Jesus.
We need the message that embodies this vision of Jesus.
It is the good news message about Jesus, expressed for today.
It is the good news message for today.
Not a good news message for yesterday.
Not a good news message for yesterday.
Not a false message for today, but the authentic message.
Not a false message for today, but the authentic message.
AND
Not some good parts of the good news, but the whole of the good news for today.
Think about it: We have such a great subject for our message!
May you all become as enthused about our message as I am …and more.
I am an unmitigated, unstinting Jesus-ologist! What about you?!
Jesus has always attracted and enthused people from of every era...
…from every racial, spiritual and social background!
Jesus has rightly fascinated the practitioners or art, music and literature ‘til today.
What about you?
In the early decades of this 21st century since his arrival people are still flocking to Jesus —
— even those who hate the faults of the churches, and,
— even more so in developing nation states — less so in the enlightened, so-called first world.
The four original gospels have always shown true Christian disciples just HOW Jesus could attract & minister to anyone — whether you are just one person amongst thousands in vast hungry crowds — whether you are bed-ridden as a sick child of a nobleman — whether you are a celebrated scholar secretly creeping in to query Jesus in the anonymity of night.
Jesus could dine with a self-righteous Pharisee, or, He could rub shoulders with national traitors, tax collectors & prostitutes!
Jesus was bigger than merely human politics:
He could attract & hold the loyalty of a traditionalist-conservative like Nicodemus, a traitorous collaborator like Zachaeus, and even an aggressive radical like Simon the Zealot!!
They were all part of Jesus’ support group!
Jesus was, & is, strikingly attractive to deep places of the human heart AND YET He was ALSO profoundly disturbing to the human psyche!
Today, in our increasingly postmodern Western societies, people are attracted to fewer of Jesus’ true characteristics and worsening in their discontent towards Jesus’ true values...
…I mean, they’re outright opposed to His staggering claims for Himself and His unrelenting claims for our allegiance and love.
For us, intellectually self-satisfied and adulterous sinners, Jesus can be quite a shock to our self-determination and our cultural excuse-making.
SO, the true Jesus is not ALL attraction and delight to many people especially today...
Thus last week, I spoke of our temptation as witnesses to only speak the nice parts of the message about Jesus...
So often, we’re tempted to speak only of the more socially acceptable parts of the gospel message.
We often fail to move on from the easier parts of the gospel message to the more challenging parts of the gospel message.
I guess in trying to speak of the gospel for today, we often get bogged down in modern people’s FELT needs.
You know what I mean by “felt needs”, don’t you?...
…the needs which people FEEL and of which they’re conscious.
Of course, that is where we may begin …we begin where people are.
We best take careful note of each person’s felt needs.
Listen to their stories ...or their complaints …their groans.
Listen for their wounds, their loneliness, their family upheaval, their vocational frustration, their unemployment —
— whatever it is, we listen, we discern, and we begin …where people are “at”.
Isn’t that precisely what Jesus did when He began to evangelize individuals?
Remember the different starting points where He began with different people.
Compare the approach Jesus used when He spoke to Nicodemus as opposed to when He spoke to the Samaritan woman st the well.
With Nick, Jesus begins with Nick’s intellectual hunger and his spiritual independence.
With the lonely woman, Jesus begins with her thirsty but idolatrous heart.
Although we may begin with a person’s felt needs, we must never just stop there; Jesus didn’t.
We, like Him, must move on to their deeper needs; these are the ones that ultimately only the Lord Jesus can fully address.
We simply must move on to how Jesus would meet those deeper needs.
We must speak to how He would take them on from where they are.
We make the first of many mistakes if we just completely settle for a person’s own understanding of themselves and their condition.
By dealing with people only at such a level, we tend to only tell them parts of the true gospel...
…and our evangelism remains incomplete and inadequate.
Let me illustrate what I mean:-
One of the most irresponsible things a doctor can do is just accept a patient’s self-diagnosis.
Of course, the doctor should begin by listening to a patient’s felt needs, personal complaints — a pain here, a lump there, a change of colour when...
But then the doctor goes on to notice the patient’s other symptoms.
The doctor questions, prods, examines and scans more of the patient.
The doctor must make his/her own, independent, more fully-informed, diagnosis.
The doctor mustn’t just write out a prescription based only upon what the patient initially describes; they might as well hand over their prescription pad for dangerous medicines to every self-assertive patient!
Relying only upon the self-diagnosis of the patient is one of the most irresponsible things that a doctor can do!
The whole reason for diligent study in the medical profession is so that the medical professional can make a more sound diagnosis and be readied to prescribe or administer difficult treatments.
In the same way, the Bible’s teaching gives us a better understanding of people spiritually …to correctly perceive their spiritual problems — a better understanding and perception than most people can naturally grasp for themselves.
You see, according to the Bible, they don’t really know who they are and they don’t know what’s most profoundly wrong with them.
That’s always true of anyone who’s outside of a saving relationship with Jesus the Christ.
Anyone like that, does not yet understand His purpose and design for a fully integrated human being...
…reconciled to God
…indwelt by the Spirit of Jesus
…led by the Lord
…responsive to His Word
…trusting and enjoying His good heart toward us.
Let me give you an example of this in practice:
[A] Your unsaved friend is speaking with you, say, of their loneliness.
So you listen to them attentively; you respond with sensitivity ...
You can respond with words of empathy …reflecting the fear and angst of where they ARE.
That’s good as far as it goes. But it’s not full-orbed Biblical love and humility yet.
For your comfort is not God’s salvation...
You realize that you are not a substitute for Jesus; you are a minister of His gospel.
Speaking His gospel is a fuller love than limited Christian kindnesses. SO...
[B] gradually, step by step, you lead them to the understanding that the deepest root of their loneliness is their lostness from God — it’s their alienation, away from the God who made them to be His image, His representative.
You unfold the truth that they’re wanting to have life — but without being in restored relationship with Him who IS life.
In other words, you are leading them beyond their initial felt needs to a deeper diagnosis...
…and such a diagnosis always involves Jesus, Who He is & what He does, AND our natural condition before Him.
THUS
[C] You then can relate to them various aspects of Who Jesus is, what He has done & what He will do.
You see there are many aspects to the work of Jesus for their salvation.
It’s usually wise to start with those aspects of Jesus’ work that most directly relate to their acknowledged needs & problems as you are helping them to see them.
The we can & must explain the wider aspects of Jesus’ work for them ...in important areas that may not have felt so urgently just yet.
Let me see if I can sum up the different types of broad concerns that the good news covers.
Let me see if I can sum up the different types of broad concerns that the good news covers.
Remember that we need the full breadth of the Biblical gospel; it’s a BIG gospel!
In this series we will see that:
The gospel is good news of a new world finally — one of justice & peace ;
The gospel is good news of a new society forming — one of community & exclusivity esp.v.15
The gospel is good news of a new life freeing — one of truth & love ;
First you will listen carefully to discern the most pressing concerns your friend brings up with you...
1. Is their most poignantly felt concern… …a yearning for comfort? …a desire for relief from the problems of our fallen world? …a hungering for justice or healing well-being for our wider society or the entire globe?
Then in that case, you might want to begin with the good news of what Jesus’ plans for the world really are …and that includes, deliverance from evil, final judgement, final deliverance, final transformation of the entire heavens and the earth.
2. Or is their most desperately felt need …a longing to belong? …a struggle to find shelter and community? …a thirsting for relationships which are honest and deep despite our limitations and brokenness?
Then in that case, you might want to begin with the good news of what Jesus has begun & is forming, in the making of a people, the community of Jesus, the true churches where fellowship is based on grace.
3. Or is their most earnestly felt need …a longing for a new life, a new beginning, a desire for a proper and clean purpose? …is it perhaps a desire for cleansing and forgiveness? …a desire for personal security? …a yearning for freedom from the things which bind them …so that they can live in a new way?
Then in that case, you might want to begin with the good news of what we called the finished work of Jesus — the work Jesus has done and still outworks in people to give them a new life of freedom which we call personal deliverance or personal salvation.
ce or personal salvation.
The Lord willing, in the near future we will look at each of these 3 dimensions of the gospel and consider how they guide us in evangelizing our peers and the upcoming generations.
But for now, let us remind ourselves of some principles: I call these, beginning principles in personal evangelism
Remember that we need the full breadth of the Biblical gospel; it’s a BIG gospel!
After listening to someone’s heartaches and complaints and their self-diagnosis, then make your own diagnosis of which aspects of the gospel message most relate to their most felt needs
Tell them the aspect of the gospel which relates most closely to their expressed concerns
Gradually tell them of the wider aspects of the gospel message
In this series we will see that:
The gospel is good news of a new world finally — one of justice & peace ;
The gospel is good news of a new society forming — one of community & exclusivity esp.v.15
The conversations that you are most likely to encounter will be more about the personal dimension of the gospel.
The gospel is good news of a new life freeing — one of truth & love ;
So let me make a few pastoral suggestions about how to think in a gospel-wise manner about the issues that come up in conversations.
At the most personal level, in the lives of people to whom you listen, the gospel speaks to people in dire need of a new life of spiritual freedom.
First you will listen carefully to discern the most pressing concerns your friend brings up with you...
Listen carefully, discerningly, and you will notice that people are struggling with pathologies, moral sicknesses, that relate to guilt, fear and self-centredness.
1. Is their most poignantly felt concern… …a yearning for comfort? …a desire for relief from the problems of our fallen world? …a hungering for justice or healing well-being for our wider society or the entire globe?
Then in that case, you might want to begin with the good news of what Jesus’ plans for the world really are …and that includes, deliverance from evil, final judgement, final deliverance, final transformation of the entire heavens and the earth.
I didn’t just mention these things because secularists would agree that these things are crippling us in the C21st.
2. Or is their most desperately felt need …a longing to belong? …a struggle to find shelter and community? …a thirsting for relationships which are honest and deep despite our limitations and brokenness?
No I mention these categories of distress because these 3 things are directly addressed by the good news of Jesus (according to the Bible)!
Then in that case, you might want to begin with the good news of what Jesus has begun & is forming, in the making of a people, the community of Jesus, the true churches where fellowship is based on grace.
3. Or is their most earnestly felt need …a longing for a new life, a new beginning, a desire for a proper and clean purpose? …is it perhaps a desire for cleansing and forgiveness? …a desire for personal security? …a yearning for freedom from the things which bind them …so that they can live in a new way?
In fact each of theses 3 things are powerfully addressed by various stages of the gospel career of Jesus.
Then in that case, you might want to begin with the good news of what we called the finished work of Jesus — the work Jesus has done and still outworks in people to give them a new life of freedom which we call personal deliverance or personal salvation.
What we must do is to take up the divine opportunities afforded to us in speaking to others;
The Lord willing, in the near future we will look at each of these 3 dimensions of the gospel and consider how they guide us in evangelizing our peers and the upcoming generations.
we must relate, the freedoms for which they desperately long, to the saving actions/accomplishments of Jesus.
Do they long for freedom from bondage to guilt? …from bondage to fear? …from self-centred attitudes & habits??
Listen patiently & observe with compassion …and soon you will have the opportunity to testify:
“I know something of the thirst for freedom from _______ that you are alluding to.
But I’ve learned that such a freedom from _______ is only to be had, in the end, from Jesus.
You might say:
Friend, you can have freedom from guilt …because you can become sure that the final axe (consequences) for your wrongdoings won’t fall upon you because Jesus gave Himself over to pay that consequence, judged instead of us…at the cross.
OR
Friend, you can have freedom from that crippling fear …because Jesus faced all the kinds of things which you fear and Jesus was raised death and suffering to reign over all things — all of those seemingly out of control, all those seemingly unconquerable things, that once dominated you — and there, from the right hand of God, under the feet of Jesus, He rules over them all. Jesus has triumphed over all the things which once terrified you.
OR
Friend, you can have that freedom from self-centredness …because, not only did Jesus show you His powerfully selfless life-style, but, now, from the right hand of the Father, Jesus freely, permanently gives His Holy Spirit to live inside of your personality; so you can have the same Holy Spirit, as He did, powerfully inside you, turning You inside out, helping you to be free of self-centredness.
Do you see this in the gospel? That you can say to your friend, whatever your bondage, Jesus is able to address it and free you.
And that each need is addressed by some aspect of the saving work of Jesus; it flows from what He accomplished in His story...
By Jesus’ crucifixion on the cross,
He can grant you freedom from crushing guilt.
By Jesus’ resurrection over death & ascension to the Father’s right hand,
He can grant you freedom from your crippling fears.
By Jesus’ ascension & sending forth His Spirit,
He can grant you the power to become free from self-centredness.
My friends, we can learn to relate every person’s needs to some phase of the saving ministry of Jesus.
THEN
We can move from people’s felt needs to their deepest needs, to then speak relevant aspects of Jesus’ saving career.
THEN
We can move on to speak of the gospel more fully as The True Good News for Today.
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