The Optional Gospel?

What part of the gospel is optional? This is our mission, God’s global purpose…

This book takes you on a transforming journey in authentic discipleship. During his time as pastor of a large and wealthy congregation, David Platt began to see a discrepancy between the reality of his church and the way Jesus said his followers lived. In Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream, Platt examines how American Christianity has manipulated the gospel to fit our cultural preferences and challenges us to rediscover the path.

Always Be Prepared

Today is the start of the God’s Not Dead series at King’s Grant. There are six lesson in this series; here are my teaching notes and PowerPoint slides.

Introductory Questions:
Do you every feel intimidated when talking to someone who does not believe as you do about the existence of God or the reality of salvation through Jesus Christ? Why is that?

Let me introduce you to Josh Wheaton, a freshman college student who signed up for a philosophy class and discovers that the professor is a strong and opinionated atheist who sets some ground rules for the class. He asks everyone in the class to write out on a piece of paper the words: GOD IS DEAD. Josh is a believers and you can see the conflict as he refuses to sign the paper. He needs this class, he wants to be faithful to God… (Video Clip)

Slide4

This is the most important part of your witness, your own commitment to Christ. We must be completely submitted to him.
Jesus said, “Why do you call me Lord, Lord, and do not do what I say?” (Luke 6:46)

When your heart is fully devoted to Jesus, it is a matter of discerning his will for your life, not just following our own feelings and opinions.

When Josh was told to sign that paper, his commitment to Christ meant the decision was already made. His girlfriend even tried to convince him to “sign the stupid paper.” He was tested to follow Christ or compromise on his beliefs.

Lord means, boss, the one in charge. When we don’t obey God’s Word, we are in danger of living hypocritical lives and becoming a stumbling block to others.

Slide5

This verse came up a few times in the film. It means that we must stand up and be identified as a believer, regardless of the consequences.

Josh’s decision to publically defend his faith was motived by this verse, Willie and Korie Robertson also brought up this verse when talking to a skeptical reporter.

Mina, (Professor Radisson’s girlfriend) was challenged by 2 Corinthians 6:14, to not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. That Scripture is also clear on how to live our lives… we are called to obey God’s Word, not our feelings.

Imagine God’s church living out the truth and not just giving him lip service just on Sunday!

Slide6

We should always be ready to give reason for our hope. Of course, our testimony is always helpful; can we get it down to a quick two-minute testimony?

We may not be theologians but with a little effort to study and prepare See the diagrams below), we can help others find a true and fulfilling faith.

Josh didn’t start preparing with the challenge to teach the class, he was reading and studying since he was in junior high school (remember he met his girlfriend at a Christian concert six years before).

In his high school yearbook, he also referenced a quote from CS Lewis, “Only a real risk can test the quality of a belief.”

We get ready by learning the reasons to believe (the world God made, the complexity of living organisms, the sense of morality).

Atheists want to make us choose between faith and reason, yet the Christian faith is a rational belief system. Everyone’s faith is based on things that must be assumed. This is the essence of our worldview. When you believe there is nothing beyond nature, your worldview is called naturalism. If nature can’t explain it all, you view the world in a way that makes room for the supernatural.

Being ready forces us to have a basic understanding of the Bible and the Christian faith as a whole. The better you understand this truths, the easier you can explain them to someone else.

Slide7

Josh was challenged to defend his faith, but he did not act arrogantly or recklessly. He respectfully negotiated with the professor to have the class decide whether his defense of his faith was credible.

Wisdom is described as being more valuable than silver and gold.

As Josh was deciding on what to do, he went to the church to pray and seek guidance. He displayed wisdom by seeking counsel from his campus pastor, Dave, who reminded Josh about the importance of his witness to the class who might never go to church. Josh allowed the Bible to guide his feelings instead of his fears.

Slide8

In Josh’s first presentation, Professor Radisson asked him a question he could not answer. He was not defensive about his ignorance but simply said, “I don’t know.” We must not pretend to have all the answers to everyone’s questions.

You may not have a classroom situation to defend your faith, but you will enter into spiritual conversations with friends or random people you meet. Learning to ask good questions is more important than having the right answers. Some will be more open to the gospel when you show respect and value what they have to say.

Opposition: don’t take it personally. Who are they really opposing? Perhaps it is out of past bad experiences or misunderstandings. Kindness will diffuse someone in opposition more than emotional or intellectual arguments. A great question is, “How did you arrive at your beliefs?”

1 Peter 3:15 reminds us about gentleness and respect.

God honors our efforts as much as our successes. Don’t worry about falling short. Allow the Spirit to use us, depend on him to empower you to impact those around you.

Slide9

We CAN be both humble and confident at the same time. There is powerful evidence from science, history, and philosophy. Skeptics argue they can see no evidence for God in spite of what seems to be obvious and plain to those who believe (Romans 1:20).

People don’t doubt Christianity because the evidence points them away from reality, but they have chosen from the start to reject it. They filter everything they experience through the lens that God does not exist.

The Spirit gives us power and confidence (Acts 1:8).

Be confident in the change that God has done in your life. In the end, your personal testimony of God’s grace and mercy is more effective than all the theological debate in which you can engage.

Tools and Handouts:

Patterns-07-YourStory

You All Are Dogs

Here is another saying of Jesus that makes you do a double-take, “did he really just call her and her people dogs?”

To get started, in all the talk about Christian unity, what are things that still separate us?

  1. Different beliefs or practices.
  2. Worship style (regular, charismatic, liturgy, reading, silent).
  3. Usually we are a gathering of cliques, each devoted to its own members, race, style.

Remind yourself of the mission of the church.

  1. We are to continue the mission of Christ and spread his story.
  2. His last command should be our first concern (Matthew 28:19-20).
  3. He assumed his followers would be going… “as you are going,” make disciples. In the context of everyday life, how can we be involved in making disciples?

Did Jesus really just say that?

  1. None of us can imagine the amount of racial bias inside of ourselves: through ignorance, personal upbringing, experiences.
  2. Who were THOSE people in this story?
    1. They withdrew from Tyre and Sidon (two non-Jewish cities) which were symbols of OT paganism and godlessness (northwest Philistia).
    2. They were specifically condemned by Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel: these were poster children for God’s anger and righteous judgment.
    3. So, what is the typical Jewish opinion of non-Jews? Gentiles were synonymous with pagan and heathen, compared to God’s holy nation (Exodus 19:6). Even the Psalmist cursed the other nations (Ps 9, 59, 137).
    4. How did the disciples feel about being in this region?
  3. This woman represented the contempt the Jews felt about other people. The disciples clearly knew their national history.
    1. She knew all this as well, which tells us something about this woman who was willing to approach Jesus.
    2. She knew something about how to approach God (since she was familiar with Judaism): she used a very Jewish title for Jesus (Son of David).
    3. She not only had knowledge, but she had passion: she cried out in a loud voice. Implication is that she did it for a long time.
    4. She also was in desperate need: approaching the Jews with all their turned-up noses.
    5. She believed that Jesus could help: employing the classic attributes to secure a response from God, humility and faith.
  4. How did Jesus respond to her?
    1. First he ignored her, which suited the disciples just fine.
    2. They were uncomfortable not only because of the wailing, but she was a Gentile, unclean, a pagan.
    3. They urged Jesus to just send her away, “I came for the house of Israel.”
    4. She would not take “no” for an answer. “I can’t take the children’s bread and give it to the dogs.” Take the goodness reserved for the chosen people and give it to someone like you.
  5. What is it about dogs? They were not the pets we have today, but scavengers, filthy, and dangerous. It was a dramatic insult to her.
    1. “Even the dogs eat the crumbs from the master’s table.” I know you’re right, but take pity on a dog like me.
    2. Jesus liked her answer. What did her words reveal about her faith?

The key to understanding this event may lie in the story prior to this one: Jesus facing off with the Pharisees (Matthew 15:1-20).

  1. They criticized Jesus ministry, these disciples didn’t even wash their hands right.
    1. They knew nothing about purity, but Jesus defends them, their omission had nothing to do with real purity. Real purity is internal, not external.
    2. They got angry and walked away, and then Jesus explained further to his disciples, which they didn’t get. Purity is from the HEART. Not where you live or your ethnic background.
    3. On the heels of this conversation about purity, they withdraw to Tyre and Sidon.
  2. Now Jesus is able to flesh this teaching out with the disciples, to show them about purity in a real-life sort of way.
  3. What better place to teach about purity than in the most unclean place imaginable?
    1. How do you define purity?
    2. How do you differentiate between inner and outer purity?
    3. What is the most unclean place you know?
    4. This woman taught them about what being clean was all about.

In such a dirty place Jesus found something clean. What could be clean about her willingness to be called a dog? Her desperation. It is in desperation that people can see their need most clearly.

  1. She wasn’t thinking about how foolish she looked.
  2. She was not thinking about the judgmental glances.
  3. She had the purity of desperation, something the Pharisees and his own disciples lacked.

Jesus commends her faith! When we express our need for God, we say something about HIM.

  1. Are we conscious of our need?
  2. Are you comfortable talking to God about your needs, or are you fairly self-sufficient?

In keeping with a theme of the gospel going to the dogs, how about this: Don’t give what is holy to dogs and don’t cast pearls before swine… (Matthew 7:6)?

“Do not cast your pearls before swine” is a portion of the Sermon on the Mount, and to understand its meaning, we have to understand its context and placement within the sermon.

  1. Christ had just finished instructing the crowd on judgment and reproof: “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you” (Matthew 7:1-2), and “You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye” (Matthew 7:5).
  2. Then in verse 6, Christ tempers these admonitions and shows us the difference between “judgment” and “discernment.”

The analogy of the dogs:

  1. The analogy actually comes from Proverbs: “As a dog returns to its vomit, so a fool repeats his folly” (Proverbs 26:11).
  2. Swine are also described in this way, as illustrated by Peter: “Of them [false prophets and teachers] the proverbs are true: ‘A dog returns to its vomit,’ and, ‘A sow that is washed goes back to her wallowing in the mud’” (2 Peter 2:22).
  3. The dogs and swine here are representative of those who would ridicule, reject, and blaspheme the gospel once it has been given to them.
  4. We are not to put forth the gospel of Jesus Christ in the direction of someone who has no other purpose than to trample it and return to his own evil ways. We identify such people through discernment, which is given in some measure to all Christians (1 Corinthians 2:15-16).

This does not mean we refrain from preaching the gospel. Jesus Himself ate with and taught sinners and tax collectors (Matthew 9:10).

  1. In essence, the instruction in Matthew 7:6 is the same that Jesus gave to His apostles when He said, “If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake the dust off your feet when you leave that home or town” (Matthew 10:14).
  2. We are not to judge others, because we are guilty of the same things they are, but reserving judgment does not prevent us from discerning those who would accept, or at least respect, the gospel from those who would ridicule, mock, and trample it, and then turn on us and abuse us.
  3. Balancing judgment with discernment is the wisdom of serpents Jesus refers to in Matthew 10:16.

Why We Don’t Make Disciples

David Platt, pastor of the Church at Brook Hills and author of Radical, presents a compelling argument regarding the importance of missions and the understanding of discipleship. If we truly understood evangelism, the gospel, and salvation, the Great Commission would compel us toward growing in faith and reaching the lost.

Since Jesus came to save the world from sin, how can we say that those who have never heard of Jesus will somehow get a pass, after all, they have never heard the name of Jesus? In essence this argument claims that “ignorance is bliss.”

  1. If this is true, Jesus would not have given us the Great Commission.
  2. If this was true, the absolute worst thing we could do would be to send missionaries to tell them about Jesus because now they are forced into making a decision and could end up in hell if they don’t choose to follow Christ.

If they get a pass having never heard of Jesus, that would mean there were innocent people on these other continents that would have made it to heaven had we not forced them into a decision. The trouble with this line of thought is that there are NO innocent people on this planet. No not one.

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