Jun 13 2021 - Engaging the World Without Conforming
20th June 2021
How do we engage the world, for the purpose of bringing people to faith in Jesus, without being conformed to the world?
The goal of the Christian world is to bring people to faith in Jesus. It is not to bring them to a cause, or to a church, or to have a cultural way of thinking. That is not the goal. The New Testament does not give us a cause, theological system – not even a 3-point gospel presentation – it gives us a person – JESUS – the One who is fully God and fully Man – that is the point of the Bible. The person – not a system, not a structure. Jesus is the entire focus of the Bible
As we go into the Scripture, that must be our first and primary focus – to discover WHO Jesus is – not how to do it – not how to DO Christianity.
When we discover WHO Jesus is – the more we will naturally live out the faith.
Jesus lived in a specific time and place in history. He also lived within a specific narrative.
Cindy says no one else uses the word, ‘narrative’ – but the movie industry has ruined the word story – so I use narrative.
The greatest storyteller ever to live is Jesus.
God is a storyteller.
He has given us, in the Bible, the greatest story ever. The only true story/Narrative – that matters – and it starts on page 1 of the Bible.
Page 1 is a narrative – written in Hebrew narrative form – in fact, it is a poetic narrative – following Hebrew poetic form.
In Genesis 3 – we hear of this woman and man – not a whole lot of detail – there is a talking snake – it never tells us who the snake is – and the snake convinces them to eat of the tree they were told to not eat from.
And it goes terribly wrong.
He curses the snake, curses the ground – and tells the man and woman they will have a descendant who will crush the snake.
Then they have their first descendant. Cain. It does not go well. He is not the descendant of promise. And then from that point – human history is like a roller-coaster – mostly heading down!
Then Enoch walked with God and the coaster goes up.
And by Chapter 6 – we’re at the bottom, and the earth is destroyed. But – there is a guy named Noah who builds a boat and saves humanity. And what does he do? He plants a garden – back to Genesis 2 – and how long does that last? Long enough for the grapes to ferment!
And things head back down again – Genesis 11 – things down and God scatters the peoples.
Genesis 12 – Abraham – the coaster starts to go up again – but even Abraham has his issues. Abraham – as great as he is, is not the descendant. Then Isaac – and Jacob and Esau – what a mess – (and none of these are the snake-crusher) – and the coaster goes way down – and this family becomes slaves in Egypt.
Then we are introduced to Moses – an incredible individual – and maybe HE is the one? They wander – they make golden cows… Deuteronomy 34 –
9 Now Joshua the son of Nun was filled with the spirit of wisdom, because Moses had laid his hands on him; and the sons of Israel listened to him and did as the LORD had commanded Moses. 10 Since that time no prophet has risen in Israel like Moses, whom the LORD knew face to face,
None of them were able to do it.
Then we come to the end of part 1 – Malachi 4:4
4 “Remember the Law of Moses My servant, the statutes and ordinances which I commanded him in Horeb for all Israel.
5 “Behold, I am going to send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and terrible day of the Lord. 6 He will turn the hearts of the fathers back to their children and the hearts of the children to their fathers, so that I will not come and strike the land with complete destruction.”
Then we have 400 years where the Bible does not speak.
Then we get to part 2
Part 2 – page 1 – we have a list of descendants – a genealogy that shows us WHO the snake-crusher is – and all of a sudden, that roller coaster turns up and doesn’t cease going up – because He is the climax of this story. The next page tells us that an angel appears to this young teenage girl – maybe 13-15 years old. There is good news.
All of Israel would have understood this narrative – like we all understand the pilgrim narrative – having thanksgiving and football.
That is our narrative – they just knew this. They understood this. And the angel is saying – oh, by the way – that story you know – this is the snake-crusher.
All this to say – if we wish to be faithful witnesses of Jesus, we must understand this narrative – and how to live this story and communicate that story fully.
I think our world today needs this story! And too many things have come in to replace it – and a lot of blame can fall on us – we – the Church – Christians have allowed other things to take priority – and the good news has been lost – and we need to get back to that. That is the most important message the world – The Church – needs to believe today. To get back to the simplicity – and the amazement of that story.
If you think about it – all the great stories of the world somehow come from that story.
The climax of the climax is the cross and resurrection.
And the story goes on – we have The Ascension. As protestants, we don’t talk much about it – but we should – because in the Ascension – this man-God becomes Lord of all.
Then Pentecost happens – the Holy Spirit comes down – and the Church is birthed.
They are the marginalized people for 300 years – persecuted, martyred – meeting at times in secret – but through all of that – the Church grows, thrives and in 310, the Emperor Constantine capitulates and makes the Empire Christian.
That was good for the Christians who were being marginalized and persecuted – now they are free. But – it only took about 100 years for the Church to capitulate to the Empire. It conformed to the power – and it always does. It is always inevitable – throughout the history of the church – when it sits at the seat of power, it capitulates and conforms. As a result, the church stopped expanding – and instead of bringing Good News to the world, it was bringing the empire to the world.
BUT – there is always a remnant of faithful people who engage the world to bring people to faith in Jesus without conforming to the world.
In 432, there was an inventory of green beer (just kidding) – who led a team into Ireland – and his story is amazing – it has some similarities to Jeff’s story last week – he brings a small team to bring Jesus with an incarnational approach.
At the time, there is between 200-500,000 people in Ireland.
Patrick and his team would go to a village – meet with the pagan elders, and would share Christ – and that they would want to become part of the community – and if the elders were receptive – they would ‘pitch their tents’ – incarnationally – and participate in the village – living in the community of faith – but yet they became a part of these people – identifying with them – in every way they could. As they did that, people would come and visit – and people would see the love and community – and would become attracted to the community and some would come to Christ – and they would bring others into these communities – and once they had enough, they would build a church in that village and send out a team to start new churches. Patrick lived in Ireland for 32 years – and started 700 churches and sent out thousands of missionaries. It may have been one of the greatest church-planting missions of all time!
We need to think differently about how to engage in our world to bring people to faith in Jesus.
That is what Patrick did – he looked at how the church was doing it – and he said – that is not how Jesus did this! He pitched his tent.
Paul did this.
19 For though I am free from all people, I have made myself a slave to all,
Paul has a radically different view of freedom.
When we were kids and you were told to do something – you might have said – This is a free country!
For Paul – Real freedom means you are free to become a slave to everyone!
The obligation to serve, in order that people may come to faith in Jesus!