Friday, August 6, 2010

Jesus, What Were you Thinking???

I ran across a book called "Questioning Evangelism" by Randy Newman. In it, he talks about something I've been thinking about for a long time. Sometimes (often), it's better to ask questions than to give answers.

He talks about a study he did (maybe I'll do this when I have more time) where he wrote down all the times in Scripture Jesus was asked a question (on the left of the page). On the right, he wrote how Jesus responded. More often than not, he answered the person with a question.

Matthew 19 is a perfect example. The rich young ruler came to Jesus and said, "Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?" In the words of John Piper: "Jesus would have failed personal evangelism class in almost every Bible college and seminary I know." This guy was ripe for the Gospel. Right? He was sincerely seeking. He knew Jesus had the answer, even. Did Jesus say, "Repeat after me, and if you mean it from your heart, and really mean it, and sincerely mean it, you'll be saved"?


"Why do you call me good?"

Jesus blew it! At least, according to virtually every evangelism book I've read.

The guy walked away with nothing. No closer to eternal life. Nothing.

Jesus corrected his understanding of good: "No one is good but God." Jesus, what are you doing? You're going to blow the most perfect evangelistic opportunity possible! NOOOOOOOO!

Jesus continued: "Keep the commandments." He gave the ruler a few commandments. Don't murder. Don't commit adultery. Love your neighbor as yourself.

"I've done all that already," the ruler said (New Jesse translation), excited that he was already good enough to get his ticket to Heaven.

Jesus said, "One thing you lack. Go and sell everything you have and give to the poor. Then come and follow me." The rich young ruler said he'd loved his neighbor as himself, but he was lying. He had not kept any of the commandments.

Neither have you.

Perhaps you've said some prayer in your life, or had some emotional experience. I've talked with quite a few Mormons who have a burning in their bosom about truth. Guess what? Their understanding of good is flawed.

Jesus didn't chase after the guy. He didn't beg him to come to the chili cookoff at church. He didn't establish an ongoing relationship with the fellow, whereby the ruler can see joy and peace emanating from Jesus, so that he'd ask Him about the hope that lies within Him. He even turned the ruler away with nothing, when he was the perfect "sinner's prayer" candidate.

Unless your understanding of what is good is correct, you, too, will be turned away with nothing. If you're relying on an experience you've had in the past, or anything else (baptism, church membership, good works) then you need to understand that God's wrath abides upon you at this very moment, and if you die right now, you'll end up in Hell for all eternity, the just punishment for a life of rebellion against a Holy God who's given you life, taste buds to taste great food, eyes to see beautiful sunsets and waterfalls, everyone you love and who loves you, and every other good gift you enjoy.

But Hell is not God's will for you. He came down to Earth, died on a cross, taking the punishment you and I deserve upon Himself. No one ever taught like this man. Read the Gospels. His teachings have a ring of truth and authority. No one ever lived like this man, perfect in word, thought and deed - to the point where those who WANTED to find fault with Him could bring no charge of wrongdoing against Him. No one ever died like this man, loving and forgiving His enemies. And He rose from the dead, defeating death. He was seen by over 500 people, most of whom laid down their lives in brutal deaths because of one reason: their claim to have seen the resurrected Jesus. Many die for a lie. But who would knowingly die for a lie? They died because they wouldn't deny what they had seen with their eyes and touched with their hands - the resurrected Jesus Christ (1 John 1).

If this is true, and it is, then you and I have a big problem if we die in our sins. But to all who repent (turn around and head the other direction) and embrace by faith Jesus' death on the cross as payment for our sins, God grants us forgiveness, eternal life, and joy unspeakable because He has defeated death. He gives us a new heart with new desires to please Him instead of filling our flesh with junk that will kill us. Jesus calls this being "born again," and without this, no one will see the kingdom of God, no matter what you believe.

Jesus turned the ruler away, because the ruler was resting in his own goodness to get right with God. He answered questions with questions. He corrected his understanding of good. When the ruler wasn't willing to repent, Jesus sent him away with nothing.

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