This Sunday I'm going to start a sermon series titled "Objects of the Father's delight." The goal of the series is to impress upon us the pleasure that God takes in us, both as people made in His image, and as people redeemed by the precious blood of the Lamb. It's one thing for a dad to tell his daughter that he loves her. It's another thing for him to scoop up the little girl, twirl her in the air, and gaze at her with a huge grin.
Last week, Redeemer Presbyterian hosted a forum titled ‘Missional Living.’ A video recording is available for $15.00 at: https://gospelinlife.com/missionallivestream/. Although the recording is about 120 minutes, portions of it would be suitable for a community group. If you don’t have time to watch the video, then here’s a quick synopsis of Tim Keller’s two addresses.
Tim Keller begins the forum by describing cultural headwinds that make it difficult to share the Gospel.
First, there is the problem of attention. It’s hard to get people to slow down and give sustained reflection to anything. We live in a distracted age. Smart phones and social media exacerbate this.
Second, there is the problem of comprehension. Our culture trains us to find truth inside ourselves, to discover morality for ourselves. No one has the right to define reality for us. In contrast, Christianity teaches that truth comes from outside us. The Gospel is truth revealed by God about who we are, the nature of our need, and his provision in Christ.
Keller makes an interesting parallel to Greco-Roman paganism. In antiquity, to question the various deities of the Pantheon was sacrilegious. Today, an individual’s chosen identity is deified. To question it is sacrilege.
Third, there is the problem of spectrum. In a pluralistic culture, there’s no one Gospel presentation that fits everyone. The Gospel has to be tailored to each individual.
Despite these problems Keller is optimistic. Citing John Stott, Keller asserts that “When it comes down to it, if you heart has been affected the Gospel, you’ll find a way to share your faith.” The Gospel dispels pride and any stench of superiority or abrasiveness. The Gospel dispels fear; we’re beloved in Christ therefore we don’t need to fear man’s disapproval. The Gospel dispels pessimism; God reached us despite our hard hearts and this means he can reach anyone. The Gospel promotes joy and love; this becomes the grounds to share our faith. It is unloving to never speak about Jesus. Again, citing John Stott, Keller asserts “Nothing closes the mouth like the secret poverty of our spiritual life.”
Keller avoids giving any practical suggestions for how to start conversations about faith. Instead, he promotes genuine friendship with non-Christians. If we’re living in community with non-believers, and we’re not hiding our faith, then we’ll naturally talk about it in authentic ways.
In his second address, Keller states that for non-Christians to come to faith, four things have to happen.
First, the person has to give the Gospel attention. This normally takes place when a non-Christian respects or admires a believer enough to take a serious look at Jesus.
Second, the non-Christian needs to see the beauty of Christianity and to be attracted to it. The person must reach a point of feeling, “It would be wonderful if Christianity was true.”
Third, the Gospel must be demonstrated as true. This is the place for apologetics and for answers to peoples’ genuine questions about the Bible, science, and ethics.
Fourth, the Gospel must be soundly presented and the non-Christian given the opportunity to respond.
Keller is careful to state that we do not love non-Christians in order to share our faith. Rather, we share our faith because we love them. If we build relationships in order to share our faith, then we’ve objectified the relationship. We’ve treated it as a tool, as a means to an end. If we’re in deep community with non-Christians, then our faith will be expressed in authentic ways.
Although Keller refused to give techniques about evangelism, he describes different opportunities we will have for meaningful conversations.
First, sometimes a non-believer will sometimes come across an interesting article, book, or movie which deals with a deeper question such as, “Is there any absolute right or wrong. Is there any meaning to our lives?” These questions aren’t directly about the Gospel, but they lend themselves to discussions of deeper issues.
Second, because non-believers are living in God’s world, there will be places in times in which their secular worldview won’t work or provide answers. Their false worldview will break down under the stress of suffering, loss, or disappointment. These times can naturally lend themselves to discussions of deeper issues.
Third, the Gospel at its core is about grace. Everyone who doesn’t believe in Christ is trying to save themselves through their career, romantic love, or religious duties. When these false sources of identity, significance, and righteousness inevitably fail, there’s an open door for the Gospel.
Many other people gave addresses during the forum. I commend the fuller video recording to you.
November 22, 2019