Thursday, July 07, 2005

The offensive gospel

In an effort to fill churches, modern Christianity has lost much of the offense of the gospel. You see, it is much easier to tell people that Jesus is the answer to all their questions than to tell them to them to take up their cross and follow him. Taking up your cross involves work, sacrifice, and perhaps even some study--*gasp*. We must never dumb down what Christ has said in the interest of making it more appealing to the masses because the very thing that is offensive to the world is what gives hope to the people of God.

Contrary to modern evangelists, it seems that Christ sometimes presented things in the absolutely most offensive way possible.
Luke 4:23-27 He said to them, "You will surely say this proverb to Me, "Physician, heal yourself! Whatever we have heard done in Capernaum, do also here in Your country."' Then He said, "Assuredly, I say to you, no prophet is accepted in his own country. But I tell you truly, many widows were in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, and there was a great famine throughout all the land; but to none of them was Elijah sent except to Zarephath, in the region of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow. And many lepers were in Israel in the time of Elisha the prophet, and none of them was cleansed except Naaman the Syrian."(NKJV)

For the time, this was quite possibly the most offensive thing Christ could say to the Jews. They thought they were the special people of God, and they thought this was because they were somehow better than all the people around them. Christ had a way of bring out how prideful they were in just a few words. There is no doubt it got their attention as well; they were immediately filled with wrath and tried to kill Christ.
John 6:48-54 I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and are dead. This is the bread which comes down from heaven, that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread that I shall give is My flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world."

The Jews therefore quarreled among themselves, saying, "How can this Man give us His flesh to eat?"

Then Jesus said to them, "Most assuredly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.(NKJV)

I am amazed every time I read this passage for it is a great illustration of an aroma of death leading to death and life leading to life. Notice how Christ doesn’t back off his words, or dumb them down, or really do anything else to make his words more appealing. No, he even makes the words more offensive as he goes along! “Unless you eat the flesh of the Son and Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you.” Those to whom the gospel is an aroma of life unto life spiritually feast on the flesh and blood of Christ because they know that his words are spirit and they are life. Those to whom the gospel is an aroma of death don’t hang around. They leave to look for a teacher that more suits their fancy.
John 8:51-58 "Most assuredly, I say to you, if anyone keeps My word he shall never see death."

Then the Jews said to Him, "Now we know that You have a demon! Abraham is dead, and the prophets; and You say, "If anyone keeps My word he shall never taste death.' Are You greater than our father Abraham, who is dead? And the prophets are dead. Who do You make Yourself out to be?"

Jesus answered, "If I honor Myself, My honor is nothing. It is My Father who honors Me, of whom you say that He is your God. Yet you have not known Him, but I know Him. And if I say, "I do not know Him,' I shall be a liar like you; but I do know Him and keep His word. Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad."

Then the Jews said to Him, "You are not yet fifty years old, and have You seen Abraham?"

Jesus said to them, "Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM."(NKJV)

This is perhaps the most offensive part about the gospel: the idea that God was among them--standing there clothed in flesh and blood. They could not accept this because if it were true, that would mean they owed him worship. The way Christ speaks with them is also just blatantly offensive. First He calls them liars, and then He tells them that the greatest of their fathers rejoiced to see His day. Finally, to make it even worse, He gives himself the very name God used in Exodus 3:14. The Jews understood all too well what this meant, and they immediately tried to stone him.

In case you are inclined to think that Jesus was the only one that spoke in such offensive ways, I suggest a closer look at Galatians 5. Let me make it clear that I’m not suggesting we look for extra ways to make the gospel more offensive. The gospel is offensive as it is! Let’s just not try to water it down in the interest of attracting more people to our churches. The Word of God will make distinctions--even between people. The aroma of life will attract God’s people.


At 8:52 AM, Anonymous Adam Woeger said...

You are right that The Gospel is offensive to unbelievers. We truly must never "dumb down" The Gospel. Unfortunately many churches and people today have forgotten this vital truth.


Post a Comment

<< Home