Thursday, July 31, 2008

Living John 3:18 and John 3:16

Part three of Contend, Contextualize, and Seek Converts.

Part one is here.

Part two is here.

I started this three part series a while ago, and never posted the third part. Well, here goes. If it is true that three of the major functions of the New Testament church art to contend for the gospel, contextualize the message, and seek converts, then I believe it is also true that the three are interdependent upon one another.

So, for instance, it is impossible to contextualize the message of the gospel for contemporary hearers within specific cultures to seek converts unless we know what the faith is “that was once for all delivered to the saints.” It is necessary, then, to contend for the truth of the gospel before we can actually share it contextually. Further, seeking converts to anything other than the orthodox faith offered by Christ would be seeking converts to something other than Christianity.

So, it is proper that Seeking Converts would come last in this series. Not because it is less important than contending and contextualizing, but because we cannot truly seek converts until such time as we have been able to define the faith and communicate it in a way that is understandable to those whom we seek to see converted. However, Contending for the faith and presenting it relevantly is no excuse to ignore evangelism.

Many have, in years past and in the present, fought the fight of faith (not necessarily the good fight) without ever sharing that faith. These are the angry apologists. They will cross the globe to fight over their doctrinal position, but will not cross the street to share their faith.

Others, especially in our present post-modern world, have cried contextualization as the mantra of the day. In their efforts to create contextualization with the Three C’s (stole that one), coffee, candles, and couches, they have forsaken their first love and lost an orthodox grounding in the true gospel. These do not seek converts to Christianity, but rather seek to convert Christianity to accommodate burned-out evangelicals who are tired of doctrine and dogma.

Neither of these positions is acceptable. Instead, we must take seriously the call to missions that resonates throughout Scripture. We must proclaim God’s love in John 3:16 from the rooftops, but we must never forget God’s judgment in John 3:18, ”whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.” We seek converts, not to environmentalism, Wednesday night suppers, Calvinism, or a political party. We seek converts to Christ.

A convert is a person who is changed. Scripturally speaking, the change is from death to life. People outside of Christ are dead in their trespasses and sins, but Christ brings life, and even greater, he brings life to the full. This is a great miracle that we have the opportunity to carry to the world. We must never be content to fight for our faith or to be cool coffee sipping Christians without seeking out others to experience the changing power of the gospel.

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