Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Star Witness Part 2

"Your example can't save anybody.  It's not how you live, it's that He died!"
-Patrick J. Walker

Some years back, Rob Bell had re-popularized "The Ghandi Question".  Never heard it?  The Ghandi Question is a counter-apologetic move in a conversation intended to derail your gospel presentation and fluster the Christian.  It works like this:

You're presenting Jesus as He described Himself, "... the Way, the Truth, and the Life.", and declaring that no one has access to the Father except through Jesus (John 14:6).  You know it's not popular to express exclusivity in Christ but in your desire to be faithful to what you believe and in Whom you believe, you say it anyway.  Then it happens--the Ghandi Question-- "Well, Ghandi was practically a saint but he wasn't a Christian.  Are you saying that God is as narrow minded as you are?  What kind of God sends a good man like Ghandi to hell?".  Of course, it comes in variations, but the effect is the same.  You look like a bully, a buffoon, or worse.  Naturally, the questioner is smug or self-righteously angry with you and anyone else listening just knows you've lost whatever ground you thought you were standing on.  However...

God's standards are not the standards of men.  It doesn't matter who we think of as a saint.  We are not the judges of who enters Heaven or Hell; God is.  His standard is clear in both the Old and New Testaments: "Be holy, for I Am holy." (Leviticus 19:2, 1st Peter 1:16).  Psalm 15 is only 5 verses, but it will rock your world.  Can you claim any single attribute of one who dwells on Yahweh's holy hill?  Make no mistake: the only sinners who ascend the hill, do so on the back of Christ.  You can disagree if you want to, but God has already explained His thoughts about our thoughts and given His diagnosis of the human heart that doesn't yield to Jesus.  Thank God for the prescription!

But for the same reasons that Ghandi's life isn't enough to qualify him FOR eternal life, your life and my life--even this new life in Christ--is not the message OF eternal life.  If it were, wouldn't Peter's sermon in Acts 2 read very differently?  For our purposes here, it is just as interesting to observe what Peter didn't say as it is to observe what he did say in that sermon.  Think about it, who could have boasted a more "changed life" than Peter?  Certainly none of the Apostles had experienced what he experienced in the preceding 60 days leading up to his sermon.  Why didn't Peter stand up and say something like this:

"Men and brethren!  Just a few weeks ago, I was a coward and a fraud.  Forewarned by my Jesus of Nazareth--my best friend, of course-- that I would be tempted to deny him, I laughed at the thought and denied it outright.  But as I followed my friend Jesus after his arrest, I was shocked to find myself shaking like a leaf in front of a little servant girl.  I was too ashamed and too scared to even admit I knew Him.  I cussed like a sailor and when He looked my way after the 3rd time I had denied him, I wanted to drink myself to death and crawl under a rock.  And yet, here I stand here proclaiming the power of my Lord and Savior to change lives!  I'm brave enough to stand in front of thousands of you and unashamed to claim Him as the One Who transformed me.  He picked me up, turned me 'round, placed my feet on solid ground (does anyone know if this phrase rhymes in Aramaic?)!  And what He did for me, He'll do for you too!  Don't you want Jesus in your life?

Somehow, I doubt that they'd be "pierced to the heart" from such a "gospel" presentation.

But it's noteworthy and instructive to see how Peter "brought them to Jesus".  His delivery was:

1.  Historical... Jesus was presented as a real person that his audience knew.  His actions, ministry, arrest, death, and resurrection were addressed not as "faith" but as events that were verifiable.

2.  Scriptural... Peter proclaimed his message from two Psalms.  He used reasoned from Psalm 16 that David was not speaking of himself but of the promised Messiah.  And he used Psalm 110 for other purposes--

3.  Confrontational... This should not be over-looked.  Psalm 110 does not display Christ as One Who is pleading for an opportunity to make the lives of men complete.  Peter's use of Psalm 110 is almost threatening.  It's as if he's saying, "The Jesus you all killed?  Yeah, God is His Father and just put Him on a throne... and promised to crush His enemies.  Um... that would be you.  Any questions?"  Yes, we do make urgent pleas for unbelievers to come to Christ.  However, we must never neglect the importance of warning a world that is hostile toward God that He will break those who oppose Him with a rod of iron.  Therefore, we who believe this message must repent and believe even as we encourage others to "kiss the Son".

This is why Pastor Walker's quotation is vitally important.  No one can look at kindness, winsome dispositions, or other fine qualities and ascertain that Christ lived a perfect life, died as propitiation for the sin-debt of believers while simultaneously applying His righteousness to their account, resurrected on the 3rd day to assure justification and serve as the First Fruits of the Resurrection.  What?  Is the homeless guy I helped supposed to hear all that from me handing him a sandwich and a smile?  But rather, as it is written,

"I believed, therefore I have spoken."  (2nd Corinthians 4:13)

Lastly, this post should not be understood as a rationale for not sharing how one came to faith in Jesus.  But rather, it is a reminder that the story of how one comes to faith is distinct from the gospel story of salvation for all who believe.

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