Flatlander Faith

Apologetics from an Anabaptist perspective

Tag Archives: good news

The bad news and the Good News

“And the devil, taking him up into an high mountain, shewed unto him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time.  And the devil said unto him, All this power will I give thee, and the glory of them: for that is delivered unto me; and to whomsoever I will I give it. If thou therefore wilt worship me, all shall be thine” (Luke 4:5-7).

The devil made a shocking claim; can it possibly be true? Jesus did not contradict it. The apostolic writings confirm it.  The apostle Paul calls Satan “the god of this world,” in 2 Corinthians 4:4. In Ephesians 2:2 he calls him “the prince of the power of the air.” In Ephesians 6:14 he informs us “we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.”

In the gospel of John, Jesus refers three times to Satan as “the prince of this world” (John 12:31; 14:30 and 16:11). In 1 John 5:19 we are told that “the whole world lieth in wickedness.”

The twelfth chapter of Revelation tells how Satan has been cat down to the earth and has great wrath “because  he knoweth that he hath but a short time.”

The apostle Paul also tells how Satan can transform himself into an angel of light (Ephesians 6:14).

All schemes to make this world a better place by political means, by revolutions and protest movements, are Satan’s work and will fail. When accusations fly, where there is strife and bitterness, this is Satan’s doing. His is not trying to make the world a better place, but to divide us all into groups at war with each other, each thinking they alone have the light to solve the problems of the world.

The Good News is that there is still hope for mankind. That hope is embodied in the Kingdom of God, the only place we can experience durable peace, understanding and brotherly love.

Satan counterfeits the Kingdom, tries to divide citizens of the Kingdom into rival camps over things of no eternal value.

True peace, freedom and happiness are only possible when we admit we have followed the wrong way and turn around, trusting only in the forgiveness of God that is possible by Jesus’s sacrifice on the cross. When we are forgiven, and the risen Christ reigns in our lives, we are free at last

Some more thoughts on evangelism

OK, we need to strip the gospel message down to the pure Bible-based essentials and restore all those essentials that have been cast away. Now, when we come to sharing this vital message, we need to strip away all the verbiage and attitudes that hide the message rather than revealing it.

Here are some thoughts about how to share the Good News, as much for my benefit as anyone else’s.

1. Be curious —In the end, the gospel message is the same for everyone. But not all start at the same place. We need to get to know people, find out what are their greatest concerns. The best way to do that is to ask questions.

2. Hide the hammer — If someone doesn’t understand our message, or doesn’t want to listen to it, hammering away at the same point isn’t going to help. We may need to go back to step 1.

3. Stick a needle in the hot air balloon — Impressive words, adjectives, adverbs, a round about way of speaking and Christian jargon are not the stock in trade of a good communicator. A pompous speaking style pumps hot air into our balloon, we go floating away and lose contact with the person to whom we are speaking.

4. Get down off the pedestal — The message is important; we are not. A servant does not try to impress you with how important he is. Let’s take a lesson from the apostle Paul: “For though I be free from all men, yet have I made myself servant unto all, that I might gain the more,” (1 Corinthians 9:19).

6. Admit you don’t know everything — The Bible is the source of all truth; I am not. In evangelism, if I am always the teacher and the other person is always the student, I have failed. The goal of evangelism is to lead others to dependence on God. Jesus is the Master, we are all disciples (students), always learning from the Master and from one another.

The importance of being doers

The men who had been with Jesus were of a dismal mood that first Easter morning. They had believed everything He had told them, except for the really strange parts. Now this. Wasn’t Messiah supposed to cast out their uncircumcised overlords and restore the kingdom? They came together to discuss what to do next, or if there was anything left to do.

The women had something to do. They had gathered all the supplies needed for their task and they left for the tomb early in the morning to prepare their Master’s body for a proper burial. They were just as disheartened as the men, but this one thing they had to do.

Thus it was the women, the doers, who came to the tomb, found the stone rolled away and the tomb empty, saw the angels, heard their message. One of them, Mary Magdalene, heard Jesus speak her name.

The women raced back to where the men were to tell them the wonderful news that the Master was alive. The men didn’t believe them. Nevertheless, Peter and John went to the tomb to find out for themselves just what had happened.

It all rings true, doesn’t it? If the men had wanted to invent a story about a man who had died on a cross, then came back to life, wouldn’t they have written in a more heroic role for themselves? All the details of the story bear the unmistakable stamp of truth. Their highest hopes crushed by the death on the cross, their bewilderment and feelings of hopelessness.

The only thing that could have turned their despair into joy and invincible courage must have actually happened. They met the Master whom they had seen perish on the cross, had seen the blood and water pour from his side, and He was alive again. They could touch Him, feel His wounds. He walked with them, talked with them, cooked them a meal.

Now all the really strange parts of His teachings made sense. His kingdom was something much greater than they had been able to imagine, and He commissioned them to carry the good news of the kingdom into all the world. They became doers, many of them died because people didn’t want to hear their message. Other people took their place and the message is still being told and still changing lives.

Joy to the world

The gospel is good news for all mankind. How is it then that so many of us make it sound like bad news?

Of course the gospel is unmitigated bad news for those who reject it. Jesus did not try to soft peddle that part of the message; in fact, He spoke of hell a whole lot of times. In spite of that, the central theme of His ministry was “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.” Although He never compromised, never hesitated to call sin by its name, the essence of His approach to people was tenderness: ” A bruised reed shall he not break, and smoking flax shall he not quench, till he send forth judgment unto victory. ”

I find in myself a pronounced tendency to react to others according to their words and actions. With those who are gentle, kind and generous, I can also be gentle kind and generous. If that’s the best I can do, then I am doing no better than the general run of people around me. If I want to be known as a Christian I need to obey Jesus’ teaching;  “But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; that ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven.”

That goes way beyond my natural ability to relate to people and problems. There is something within me that wants to fight back. But what, or who, am I fighting? Are people my enemies? Or have they been captured by an enemy who is more powerful than either of us? If that is the case, and I fight back against the person, then I am adopting the enemy’s methods .  . . and he has won.

There is a genuine warfare going on, a war between light and darkness. The enemy wants to keep this reality concealed from us so that we will use his weapons to defend ourselves when we are attacked. There is something within me that wants to do just that. I need to stop just a moment to realize what is going on and that I cannot advance the cause of the light by using the weapons of darkness.

Jesus said “Ye are the light of the world.” Nevertheless, we are not the source of that light. The light comes from God and is imparted to us by the Holy Spirit. Our calling is to reflect that light into some of the dark corners of the world around us. There is so much that is just plain wrong in the world around us, but we cannot set it right. Our attempts to do so play into the enemy’s hands. But if we can bring a ray of God’s light to bear on some of these dark situations it may help others see the true nature of these things. The more people who allow the light to shine into their lives, the brighter this world will become.

The vine of evil is very robust; we can hack away at the leaves and branches and feel that we have won a victory. Then we see that there are new tendrils growing up in a dozen different places and we have not weakened the vine in any way. But if we can uncover the roots and expose them to the light, the vine will wither. That is why the gospel is good news. Nothing else has any effect on that vine. If we attack the branches of evil with a machete, we are apt to do more harm to ourselves than to the vine. Victory comes when we can be a means of reflecting God’s light into the dark heart of that vine.

Heaven and hell

Atheists consider the teaching in the Bible about a place called hell to be a conclusive argument against Christianity and its belief in a loving God.  As a Christian, I consider hell to be part of the good news.  I don’t any vindictive feelings against other people, but if heaven is to be a good place, there must also be a place for all the bad things in this world.

And the world is full of bad things: hatred; envy; jealousy; greed; lust; terror; anger; bitterness; and the pain. suffering, sorrow and grief that they cause.  We understand from the Bible that these things have their origin in Satan, who rebelled against God and was cast out of heaven, along with the host of angels who followed him.  It was for them that the everlasting fire of hell was prepared.

The hatred of Satan and his demon angels for God and all that is good drives them to attempt to destroy all the works of God.  But they do not present themselves to us as enemies, but rather as our most reasonable friends.  “And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light.  Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works” (2 Corinthians 11:14-15).

Atheists have no explanation for the existence of evil.  Nor do they have any explanation for good.  Since man is purely an accident of natural forces, there can be no objective moral basis for right and wrong.  All is rationalized as man’s instinct for self-preservation.  Thus it would be perfectly natural for me to try to preserve myself at the expense of someone else.  Societies therefore must make laws to create order and protect the weak, but their is no objective moral foundation for those laws.

Thus our world becomes more and more chaotic, with numberless special interest groups shrieking out their demands for recognition of their rights and for protection from everyone else.  The Bible’s claim that all this is happening because the devil knows that his days are numbered and has sent out his spirits to deceive the whole world begins to seem the best explanation for what is happening.

Hope is offered to us in a most paradoxical way.  God sent His Son into this world who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; therefore Satan stirred up so much hatred against Him that He was nailed to a cross and left to die.  Yet it was precisely by His death on the cross that Jesus won the victory over Satan and his powers.

“Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross;  And having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it” (Colossians 2:14-15).

This is the source of the hope of heaven for a Christian who has repented of his allegiance to the forces of evil and turned with all his heart to follow Christ.  However, in order for heaven to be a place that is holy and pure, free from all the toxic effects of Satan’s realm, there must also be another place for all these spirits that have had such a toxic effect on mankind.  Unfortunately, this means that in order to maintain the purity of heaven, all people who have willingly contaminated themselves by their allegiance to these toxic forces must also be sent to hell.

This is not vindictiveness on God’s part.  He has made a way for all mankind to avoid such a doom, He is calling all men, everywhere and not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.  The most horrible part of the eternal torment of hell will be the knowledge that one is there by his own choice.  The memory of the time, or times, that the way of escape was offered in this life will be forever engraved upon the memory of the damned.

Yet this terrible reality is not the reason that most people turn to God for salvation.  It is not the fear of hell, but the longing for something better than this world has to offer that leads us to search for answers to the troubles of this life.  And the only answer that makes any sense is that we are made in the likeness of God and there is something within us that continually searches to be reunited with our Creator.  To attempt to deny this leads to alienation from anything that would give life meaning and purpose.

 

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