Recapture the Compelling Message

Retracing Our Steps

Peter Proclaims the Good News

The good news of what Jesus Christ has done on the cross has gone out. The message of repentance, redemption and reconciliation has transformed the world and continues to do so. Yet in some places and settings the impact of the gospel appears to have become stalled, aged, maybe even dull. Nations that have been labeled “post-Christian” come to mind. Our own country’s adoption of progressive ideas that have marked the path of many “post-Christian” nations press upon my thoughts.  Maybe at times even in our own life the message does not feel fresh.

If you ask my wife she will tell you that I am prone to misplace things. I tend to feel that others move them around on me but that’s an argument…er, ah discussion for another time. When it occurs that I misplace something sometimes I find it effective to retrace my steps. When I make a wrong turn and get lost I have had to back track. When I loose myself I reflect upon where I’ve been and where I was going. Whether we personally feel that our faith and hope is week or less effective or corporately find ourselves ineffective, out-of-touch, warren… it can be helpful to back track.  If the message doesn’t seem fresh or compelling to the world around us then why not back track to when the message truly was fresh, new, vibrant, irresistible. Being a little peculiar myself I went a step further and read a passage of Scripture backwards, while hanging upside down. Ok, no, not really but I did start with a verse in the middle of chapter and back tracked from paragraph to paragraph asking why before each step back. I have been a christian for a while but what I found was none the less moving and I hope that it might help others and the Church refocus.

The Necessity of Exaltation

I started reading in John chapter 12 verses 32-33; then the paragraph verses 27-33. What I found could be considered the inaugural address of the gospel. What the Emancipation Proclamation was to the slaves in a sense this Glorification Proclamation is to the Christian.

32 ‘And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself.’ 33 But He was saying this to indicate the kind of death by which He was to die. ” John 12:32-33

Christ could have used the Greek verb epairo which 90% of the time is translated lift or hoist up, but instead Christ chose to use the Greek word hupsoo which 70% of the time is translated exalt and has the metaphorical meaning; “to raise to the summit of opulence and prosperity”.  Looking back in the paragraph Christ says, “‘Father glorify your name.’ then a voice came out of heaven: ‘I have both glorified it and will glorify it again.'” indicating that the context is one of glorification. The word hupsoo brings the image to mind of a team raising a champion up on their shoulders.  Christ was talking about the crucifixion but was also saying something more to His disciples.  He was saying that when His followers exalt Him before the world, giving Him significance beyond this world, the result will be that people will be drawn to Christ.

As we back track through this passage we observe Christ saying in verse 23 “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified” and in verse 27 “But for this purpose I came to this hour”.  Why, why was this the hour?  Why was this a moment to be recognized as a defining moment?  Earlier in the paragraph we find some Greeks, gentiles, coming to celebrate the passover.  These were gentiles who recognized the God of Israel as being the one, true God and they would come to the temple and would enter the court of the gentiles.  In the court of the gentiles they could go no further, signs warned of prosecution if a gentile went further into the temple.  These gentiles, humble, approached Philip a Jewish man with a Greek name and asked to see Jesus.  Why, why is this so significant?  Because in Isaiah 49:6 God said  “It is too small a thing

The Triumphal Entry

The Triumphal Entry

that You should be My Servant To raise up the tribes of Jacob, And to restore the preserved ones of Israel; I will also give You as a light to the Gentiles, That You should be My salvation to the ends of the earth.”  Because Christ, the Ancient of Days, deserves praise and glory from all nations and all peoples!  Because the price paid at Calvary, the infinite worth of Christ, is able to cover so much more.   But,why, why did the gentiles request to see Jesus, what drew them to Him?  The verses preceding this John 12:12-19 tell the story of Jesus triumphal entry into Jerusalem.  The people were exuberant, hopeful, shouting; “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord…”  John 12:13.  Jesus, triumphant, glorified, exalted and cheered as a champion.  Was it not this exaltation of Christ that drew the gentiles, these outsiders?  Did they not have reason to wonder who this was that excited people so?  So we see in real life, acted out, the pronouncement of John 12:32; Christ lifted, exalted and men drawn to Him.  So if exalting Christ draws people to Him, what doesn’t draw people to Christ?

Unleashing the Appeal of Christ

Many things have been undertaken in the name of Jesus and while much good has been done some groups have been persecuted by so called “Christian” groups.  The Crusades, Inquisition and Holocaust are a few that come to mind.  2 Peter 2:2 says “Many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of the truth has been maligned;”.  Some have suggested an increased sensitivity, but should we grant that much power to those that have maligned the name of Christ?  Depending upon circumstance avoiding words loaded with connotation such as “crusade” may be advisable, but avoiding the name of Christ?  Scripture speaks of power in Jesus name (Philip 2:9-10, Heb 1:4).  If we, either intentionally or unintentionally, remove the name of Jesus from our outreach ministries, and advertisements or crosses from our churches we may avoid offending some but are we communicating something we may not intend to communicate?  What might we be inferring to the world about the place and significance of Christ?

To reach a broader cross section of the world, strategies sensitive to what might offend or attract target groups makes sense.  Wouldn’t it even be a matter of common sense to disguise or conceal Christ initially, especially if it could possibly hinder someone’s first impression of the Church or Christianity?  This would especially be true if we are trying to convince our “neighbors” that they need Christianity.  But are we trying to convince the world that it needs Christianity?  Is it a methodology or a set of ideas we are trying to have the world buy into?  Was Christ an ideologist secondary to the ideas He conveyed?  Looking back again in John 12 we see that prior to the “Triumphal Entry” Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead.  Ravi Zacharias has said, “Jesus was not a moralist who came to make bad people good.  Jesus is a savior who came to make dead people alive!”  All other religions place confidence in man’s ability to carry out some methodology to achieve desired social, mental, spiritual and/or eternal outcomes.  Is not Christianity something totally different?

The methods we use to convey the message of the gospel reveal something about our faith in the power and validity of the message as well as what we consider to be the main points of the message.  What message are we conveying to the watching world?  Do we trust Jesus and the cross to be appealing and transforming in and of themselves?

However we approach the good news we must keep in step with the conviction of our faith and more importantly we must adhere to the Word’s perspective on the gospel.  In Colossians 3:17 we find the following, “Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father. ”  Scripture presents us with the imperative that Jesus’ name be at the forefront of all that we do and say.  This means that in the language of the nation and people we find our-self in whatever name is understood as the Jesus of the New Testament should be the name at the forefront of all we do as a church.   Why?  What if a jewelry store had a commercial in which they didn’t talk at all about their jewelry but focused on the customer experience?  Would we think or even perceive that they had anything of significance?  In 1 Cor 2:1-5 Paul speaks of the manner in which he presented the gospel saying, “1 I did not come with superiority of speech… 2 For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified… 4 my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words… 5 so that your faith would not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God.”  The gospel has a power of its own which is hindered by persuasive words or magnanimous oration.  In 1 Thessalonians 2 verse 3 we learn that the gospel does not come by way of deceit nor in verse 5 does the gospel come by way of flattery.

The fact is, though straightforward, the gospel can be hard to swallow; 2 Cor 2:14-16 “To the one we are the aroma of death leading to death, and to the other the aroma of life leading to life.”  We cannot remove the offense of the gospel without affecting the ability of the gospel to lead us to life.  To be saved not only do we have to face the fact that we are a sinner but we have to face the fact that even our successes, our righteous acts are like filthy rags.  Why?  Because what we do right is self-appointed and self-appraised.  Essentially we are telling God, “Here, this is what You must accept!” and we corrupt any good we may have done.  This is hard, I want to be noble and good and acceptable and acknowledged for being so.  But the law of life is liberating.  We don’t have to be significant.  There are enough people lost, thirsty for affirmation.  Like the woman at the well never satisfied by the affirmation of suitors’ attraction always drinking it in yet still thirsty.  Jesus Christ and what was accomplished on the Cross is significant enough for all of us.  If you are beating yourself up then you believe you can and are able be more than you are.  If you believe you are “all that” then you are in bondage to maintain a delusion.  If we find the significance of Christ and the Cross then it will transform us, it will make us what we cannot be in and of our self.  This is the message that must be true in our life.  This is the message we must take to the world.  This is the message that many may reject but still we must continue to put Jesus out there, because, He is what we have … and is He not enough?

Salvation

Path of Salvation

Conclusion

Can we say together that all is well?  Can we say that the church is alive not merely in form but in such a way that the world is being influenced by her and not the other way around?  Can we say that here in America across the board growth is infectious and apparent in the church? These are tough questions especially since we are comfortable, though not always content, with the way things are.  This is not to say that we are not trying new things.  In the past decade church budgets for local ministry have nearly doubled and we have spent more then 500 billion dollars. We have updated methods and started new targeted ministries. But how is the nation responding to the church, its methods and its message?  The statistics are not necessarily comforting.  David T Olson’s report indicates that church attendance in America has decreased one percent every five years over the past two decades. Today around 100 million Americans are avoiding church.  In spite of the church’s increased spending and outreach efforts, church growth does not appear to be tracking with the growth of the population.  Still many Americans profess to be born again yet George Barna’s research shows that only about 9% of those claiming to be born again actually have a biblical world view.

So if exalting Christ draws people to Him, what doesn’t draw people to Christ? … Not exalting Jesus and what He accomplished on the cross…  Does He have the status in our life of being one worthy of exaltation?  Does He have the status in our church of being one worthy of exaltation?  Is the exaltation of Christ apparent to the world around us?  Do we trust Him and what He has done to redeem us, yes, but also Christ put in the right perspective in our life, do we trust that to transform us?


“Where Does the Church’s Money Go?” Christianity Today September/October 2002 <http://www.christianitytoday.com/yc/2002/005/27.136.html&gt;

“New Book Describes the State of the Church in 2002” The Barna Update June 4, 2002 p3 <http://www.barna.org/FlexPage.aspx?Page=BarnaUpdate&BarnaUpdateID=114&gt;

Olson, David T “7 Fascinating Facts about the American Church”  The American Church Research Project Presentation 2008 <http://www.theamericanchurch.org&gt;

“Unchurched Population Nears 100 Millinon in the U.S.” The Barna Update March 19, 2007 <http://www.barna.org/FlexPage.aspx?Page=BarnaUpdate&BarnaUpdateID=267&gt;

“A Biblical Worldview Has a Radical Effect on a Person’s Life” The Barna Update December 1, 2003 <http://www.barna.org/FlexPage.aspx?Page=BarnaUpdate&BarnaUpdateID=154&gt;

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About Devin Adint
I have always had many interests; technology, science, philosophy, theology, politics, history, etc... Currently, life for the past twelve years has placed me in the area of technology fulfilling roles in System Administration and Architecture. But I have always been involved in the local church and enjoy researching and discussing issues of theology, philosophy, history and politics...

2 Responses to Recapture the Compelling Message

  1. Priscilla Fu says:

    Dear Devin,

    I am very impress on the above Picture of Path of Salvation, would appreciate if you can forward a copy to me. Thank you. God Bless You

    • Devin Adint says:

      Haven’t worked with that graphic in a while. I built it in Power-Point. I will look for it and see if I can add the Power-Point and maybe as a PDF out in the Resources section.

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