Christians today face the challenge of sharing truth (with grace) in a society betting the ranch on its humanistic redefinitions of Truth, Justice, Identity and Morality – definitions that run directly counter to the Lord’s original intent for those terms:
- Truth – Human intellect (e.g. science)
- Justice – Human rights (e.g. social justice)
- Identity – Self-actualization (e.g. fulfillment)
- Morality – Self-righteousness (e.g. moral superiority)
John 14:1 says that Jesus was “full of grace and truth”. Evangelism reflecting God’s grace and truth is difficult in a culture that has redefined both of those terms – “grace” to mean “tolerance” and “truth” based on “personal opinion”. Is there a way to speak about biblical truth that will resonate with non-believers today who adamantly reject absolutes or attempts to impose them on others? YES!
Shock and Awe
Even before we say a word, our actions have the potential to “shock and awe”, waking those staggering in a self-induced stupor. God’s unconditional love that leads believers to die to self far surpasses the world’s counterfeit love of self. Imagine for a minute the reaction to a truly radical demonstration of God’s love. For example, rather than angrily seeking (our perception of) social “justice”, what if those wronged proactively and freely offered grace, forgiveness and kindness to those who wronged them. Wouldn’t it be imminently clear that this type of love didn’t come from planet earth? No one in their “right mind” would do something so countercultural. Only the power of the Holy Spirit could fuel that kind of role reversal.
Society says we should resent, take revenge and only forgive after apologies. However, our identity is in Christ and this world is not our home – facts we could make more apparent by living out their literal meaning. Such a stunning turn of events would perhaps “heap burning coals” on the heads of those consumed with retribution and reparations.
As we contended in our last post, no one “likes” Jesus. Jesus clearly states that everyone must choose sides – love or hate. We all have to place a bet – on God or on man. Those whose trust and confidence is entirely in themselves wager everything that God doesn’t care or doesn’t exist. For those closed off to evangelism in this post-truth culture, rather than preaching at them, we should boil the message down to the reality and implications of those “love or hate” options.
Breakthroughs can occur once they understand the magnitude of the risk they are taking in betting on man (i.e. hating Jesus) in this life-or-death, all-in parlay. For example, we can play back the words we hear from those who wager on humanity, exposing their shallowness and futility. Last week a teacher in my son’s 6th grade class asked the students to share the meaning of life. Each classmate repeated the same two words – “fun” and “happiness” – earning enthusiastic praise and a star from the atheistic teacher. When my son said our purpose is “to know Jesus and make sure others know Him too”, she said nothing but slowly ambled over, reluctantly handing him his obligatory star.
All Roads Do Not Lead to God
Others gamble on mankind by placing their faith in false gods, hoping to save themselves through good works or enlightenment. Convincing them that Jesus is the only answer requires helping them understand that only God can fix what we broke. Mankind had an agreement with God, but we didn’t keep up our end of the bargain. Since Adam and Eve, the creation has been trying 1,000’s of different ways to make things right with the Creator. All methods (i.e. religions) that involve striving to repair the relationship through our actions or inner divinity end in disappointment. We can’t restore the covenant ourselves.
Yet all of the religions in the world, except for Christianity, go down that same path – placing their bet on man. Those “wage” religions attempt to earn God’s favor (in this life) and salvation (in the next life) by doing enough good works, avoiding enough bad deeds or searching deep enough within ourselves (by going to great lengths to attain heightened levels of spirituality). Betting on man by diligently pursuing what we “deserve” is alluring because it provides a (false) sense of control and elevates self.
Christianity is the only faith that bets solely on God. It is the one “gift” religion – none other teaches that man must rely completely on God’s goodness and divinity (not our own) for our salvation. (Romans 3:20, Romans 4:4) Christianity alone believes that God holds the keys to eternal life, not man. That’s why the Lord had to reach down to save humanity – which He did through Jesus Christ coming to live with us and die for us. His sacrifice on the cross was a “gift”, that we must be humble enough to accept, rather than believing we had any role in earning forgiveness or salvation.
Christianity is less attractive than every other religion because it alone contends that we are sinners in dire need of a Savior, with no control over our eternal fate. That message flies in the face of all that our world stands for today – namely the ability for each individual to define truth, justice, identity and morality.
He Descended Because We Can’t Ascend
We can best counteract worldly philosophies and religions in this day and age not by trying to convince non-believers that our God is better than their “gods”, but by disrupting their self-confidence. We can make them question their underpinnings – the foundation for their enormous gamble on themselves. We can make them wonder whether they have the ability to ascend to the heights they aspire to attain on their own strength, intellect, identity, spirituality or goodness.
If they possess the patience and integrity to honestly evaluate the feasibility of human ascension, they may come to understand the necessity of God’s descent into our decadence. Each of God’s interventions to deal with the depravity of mankind involved Him descending, because we couldn’t ascend up to Him:
- Rain came down from the “heavens” to flood the earth
- The Father sent his Son down to live among us and pay the penalty for our sins
- Jesus will come back down again (with all of His angels from heaven)
Love drove Christ to pay a debt He didn’t owe because we owed a debt we couldn’t possibly pay. Failure to acknowledge our debt and attempts to reach up to grab a paycheck we think God owes us is a slap in the face to the generous Father who handed down to us a free “gift” of eternal life, one that cost Him so dearly.
Consequences of Betting on Man
Believing in a religion that places its bet on man angers God because it:
- Says to God, “It wasn’t necessary for Jesus to come here, suffer tremendously, and die for me – I had it covered. Thanks, but no thanks.”
- Ignores the magnificence of God’s creation – The Bible says we are accountable for having a right understanding of God (in humility) as we observe his omnipotence and acknowledge our limitations
- Elevates or deifies man (the creation over the Creator) by assuming we have the ability to force God’s hand and earn our way into “heaven”
Imagine how the Lord feels when His invitation to the “wedding feast”, which He extended at the expense of His Son’s horrendous death on the cross, is rejected as worthless – even scoffed at by Selfists and other religions who plot their own path based on self-worth and personal achievement.
As for me, I’ve placed my bet on God. When evangelizing, I point out the stark contrast between putting one’s entire chip stack on either “red” or “black” – the blood of Jesus or the willpower of mankind. When I look at myself (my frailty, shortcomings and lack of actual control), I consider a bet on myself, the world’s philosophies or ascending religions far too risky. Every individual must let it all ride on “red” or “black”, whether they know it or like it (or not). The good news is that once we come to know Jesus, we quickly realize we’ve hit the jackpot as He begins to work in our lives and a personal relationship forms, moving us from a wishful wager to absolute assurance of His Lordship.
It’s Your Turn
Are you encountering greater resistance to the Gospel message (of dying to self) in this era of self-determination? What methods of conveying the love of Jesus have you seen be most effective in breaking down those walls?