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Reformed. Christianity. Evangelism. Modern Culture.
Ever watched a mime perform and wished that he would clearly articulate the message he is dying to bring across? The audience a mime has will interprete his gesticulations with a degree of error because most of it is shrouded. But if he speaks and articulates his message, then the listeners are illumined. They are then not in any doubt of the original intention of the message bearer. A good message bearer delivers what he is entrusted with, without subtracting or altering it and leaves his audience with the intended message so that they are without any excuse. This is probably why miming (though is truly entertaining) falls short in many ways in delivering the Gospel message (which requires the hearers to know the name and person of Jesus Christ). Speaking of incomplete messages there’s one other thing….(ha ha look what I just did there!)
There are many conferences going on around us that supposedly are ‘bringing hope’ to the world or ‘happiness’ to the community. These in themselves are not bad but if it comes in the name of ‘Jesus’ then it has got to be clear in it’s intended message. Hope – why does the world need hope? Honestly, if you are going to preach to the world that they need hope then you should be ready to clearly demonstrate why they need hope. To delve into why the world needs hope then you will be inviting your listeners to open the Bible and see their sin and lawlessness in light of the Holiness of God. You will then pray that God opens their eyes to the effects of their sin and how it separates them from God – how they are at war with God because of the iniquity and root of wickedness in their own hearts and they, despite the best attempts to be good are dead in with no ounce of righteousness that will appease God. There are usually two reactions to such a message. The first reaction can be illustrated by the first words that the prophet Isaiah muttered after seeing the Holiness of God compared to himself:
And one cried unto another, and said, Holy, holy, holy, is the LORD of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory.And the posts of the door moved at the voice of him that cried, and the house was filled with smoke.
Then said I, Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts Isaiah 6:3-5
The first reaction is that of conviction of your own sin and realization of your inadequacy and utter inability to attain any iota of holiness compared to God’s Holiness. Woe to me! Woe to the man who depends on his own righteousness to appease God for you will be undone! Sin has corrupted man since the fall of Adam. The world has become a dangerous place since we lost Eden (a place where we communed with God and in our moral innocence and utter nakedness before him we were happy. Sin has instead brought shame and misery and an inability to attain any righteousness. The Bible says Holy Spirit alone can awaken (regenerate) any man to see their need to be clothed with righteousness from above and only God can draw a man to that point where they begin to seek him.
The effects of sin are far reaching and the misery therein is great. The second reaction that occurs when people are told of their sin and perverted depravity before God is of immediate rejection. The one good illustration is this passage in Acts 7 when Stephen (one of the first Christian martyrs) brought ‘a message of hope’. Did they go and hug him and roll out a red carpet? See what the Bible records in Acts 7:
[Stephen: ]“You stiff-necked people! Your hearts and ears are still uncircumcised. You are just like your ancestors: You always resist the Holy Spirit! Was there ever a prophet your ancestors did not persecute? They even killed those who predicted the coming of the Righteous One. And now you have betrayed and murdered him— you who have received the law that was given through angels but have not obeyed it.”
When the members of the Sanhedrin heard this, they were furious and gnashed their teeth at him. But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. “Look,” he said, “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.”
At this they covered their ears and, yelling at the top of their voices, they all rushed at him,dragged him out of the city and began to stone him.
If it were up to us to seek or turn to God none of us would even in a million years. No, not even the best of us would stir to wards him in a billion eons. But God is good and rich in mercy. God the father sent his perfect son Jesus Christ to be a propitiation for our sins. He appeased the wrath of God by being the sin offering to draw away the wrath and punishment for sin. He paid it in full and drunk the cup of the wrath of God and then said, ‘it is finished!’ He, the God-man died in my place as a cursed repulsive ‘thing’ on a cross so that God in turn clothes me (imputes me) with Christs’ eternal righteousness! He takes upon himself my shame, misery and sin and I am clothed with His righteousness – an alien righteousness!
Jesus died for sinners, perverts and worms like me that by repentance of sin and faith in Him we can become the righteousness of God! This message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing (a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles) but to a few of us whose eyes have been opened by the grace of God it is the gospel – the power of God unto salvation. It gives us …. our night of hope!
As we walk through this world, a place where we are constantly in the valley of the shadow of death, this message is the good news we need. Yes, indeed as the prophet Isaiah foresaw, the people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned. Thank God for preachers who bring messages of Hope! Thank God for preachers who faithfully and clearly first show people their helpless sinful state before a Holy God!
O How beautiful are the feet of those who bring the gospel; the message of Hope to a world dead in sin!