Seminary professor, teaching systematic theology and other topics. Grandfather, wicked tennis & table tennis player, loves playing chess on letsplaychess.com. Please check out the ten books I've written. "The heart cannot rejoice in what the mind rejects as false!" The better email address to reach me is: email@example.com.
Karl Barth said that people come to church out of the expectancy that they could find the answer to the question ‘IS IT TRUE? IS IT REALLY TRUE?” He was talking about the gospel. And that’s what these posts are about.
If the gospel of Jesus Christ is really TRUE, then certain conclusions follow. We’ve looked at the conclusion that, if the gospel is true, we have a message for the world which is both good news and bad news. We are Christ’s aroma (2 Corinthians 2) — and some will think we are a fragrance and some an odor!
Let’s notice a second conclusion and that is —
IF THE GOSPEL IS TRUE, THEN . . .
We have every reason to challenge other worldviews and religions as to their response to the gospel.
We are not suggesting any form of persecution or marginalization of other belief systems. We are simply stating that truth is greater than error. And the errors of human religions must be compassionately but clearly engaged so that the good news about Jesus can be heard.
This is why we have MISSIONS. We believe that people are genuinely lost and that they cannot save themselves by their own religious efforts. No one is good enough or spiritual enough to earn forgiveness from the Triune God. If we could save ourselves, then why the Cross? The Apostle Paul puts it this way: 4 “The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.5 We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” (2 Cor. 10)
One of my fondest memories of teaching theology in seminary for almost twenty years was the class I created called “Eternal Destinies.” I invited (with the approval of my seminary dean) leaders from such cults as Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons, Ba’hai, Judaism, Buddhism, Christian Science and one or two others to present a brief lecture to my class about their worldview.
You need to know that we treated our guests with dignity, but the students brought me great pride as they asked precise, insightful questions of the guests. Some of their questions were: “How do you know your spiritual authority is right?” “What view do you take on the historical Jesus?” “Will anyone ever be lost eternally?”
We need not fear other religions or worldviews. We will need to do our homework and we will need to treat others with kindness. Satan is the great deceiver and it takes work to separate truth from error.
Today’s Challenge: Do you have any friends who belong to a religion other than Christianity? Are you treating them with kindness? Do you see your mission as asking them significant questions which just might get them thinking about the true gospel?
Great commercial! But I wonder if we followers of Jesus are being told by our culture “Why don’t you mind your own business?” The problem. Our business is sharing the gospel with them! And we answer to a Higher Authority!
We began this series with a quote from Karl Barth who said that people come to church out of the expectancy that they could find the answer to the question ‘IS IT TRUE? IS IT REALLY TRUE?”
If the gospel of Jesus Christ is really TRUE, then certain conclusions follow. The conclusion we want to look at today is . .
IF THE GOSPEL IS TRUE, THEN . . .
We have a message for the world, a message which is both good news and bad news.
The “gospel” means good news. Is the gospel good news to you? IF the gospel is true, then it is the best news anyone could ever hear — forgiveness from the Triune God! A place in God’s family! A reason to live! A confidence about the afterlife! But the gospel isn’t only good news. [The first book I wrote is entitled The Other Side of the Good News].
What’s the bad news of the gospel? Eternal judgment. Separation from God and God’s people forever. Righteous condemnation. Eternity in hell. There is no worse news than that!
One biblical text has always gripped my attention. It’s found in 2 Corinthians 2 —
Please notice the olfactory emphasis in this text. We are an aroma. We smell. To some we smell great. To others, not so much. Our job is to “spread the aroma” of Christ everywhere.
Just a few observations:
1. We are to be aroma-spreaders . . . everywhere (v. 14).
2. This aroma is “of the knowledge of Him” (v. 14).
3. Our primary audience isn’t the human race, but God Himself. We read, “For we are toGod the pleasing aroma of Christ” (v. 15). 4. There are two groups who catch our aroma: (1) “those who are being saved” and (2) “those who are perishing” (v. 15).
5. The aroma we are spreading isn’t benign. To those who are perishing we are “an aroma that brings death.” To those who are being saved we are “an aroma that brings life” (v. 16).
6. Our aromatic duty is overwhelming and should cause us to exclaim with the Apostle Paul “who is equal to such a task?” (v. 16).
Today’s Challenge: Because the gospel is true, we have no choice as Jesus-followers but to bring the aroma of Him to the world. Everywhere. To everyone. Don’t be shocked when some turn up their spiritual noses at you or me. It comes with the package. Because the gospel is true.
Although I have great reservations about the theology of Karl Barth, I agree with what he said when he stood before a congregation for the first time in his life. He said, “Expectancy – that’s why they were there, why all of us were. At that strange, still moment just before the show starts. It is above all else expectancy that throbs in the stillness like a pulse. All those people out there in the pews, some hostile, some searching, some both at once, some young, some old. Their being there points to the event that is expected or appears to be expected or at least, if the place be dead and buried, was once expected there. . . . The event they await so expectantly is the sermon itself and which, whether they recognize it or not, they, all of them, want to find the answer, to one question beyond all other questions, which is the question, ‘IS IT TRUE? IS IT REALLY TRUE?”
The question I want to pose in this series of posts isn’t is the gospel true, but IF IT IS TRUE, WHAT THEN? The question IS IT TRUE is, of course, fundamental and absolutely critical. As C.S. Lewis once put it, “If Christianity is untrue, then no honest man will want to believe it, however helpful it might be; if it is true, every honest man will want to believe it, even if it gives him no help at all.” (God in the Dock: Essays on Theology and Ethics). A great message on “What Is the Gospel?” by D.A. Carson is found here.
But my assumption in these posts is that the gospel indeed is true. And my purpose is to ask what difference that makes? Some of the issues I want to consider are as follows.
IF THE GOSPEL IS TRUE, THEN . . .
We have both good news and bad news the world needs to hear. (forgiveness and judgment). We are news-bearers. Are we a fragrance or a stench? Or both?
We have a justification to be kind but clear when it comes to any other worldviews or religions. Does this or that religion help me live in God’s world? We are not to fear, but can compassionately confront alternative worldviews.
We have every reason to make the Bible our absolute guidebook for life. There are a number of inadequate pictures of the Bible which seem to dominate Christian thinking. But what is the Bible? Really?
We desperately need the people of God, the church. For many the church is the great Evangelical option. “I’ll go if I have time.” “I’ll give if I can spare some loose change.” “I’ll serve if I have to.”
We can honestly face the suffering in the world without becoming cynical or callous. We will think through the book Why a Suffering World Makes Sense and draw certain conclusions about real, but temporary suffering in this broken world.
We are able to be supernaturally joyful despite the challenges of this fallen universe. What is true joy and how is it expressed in a seemingly progressive depressed world?
We can be biblically optimistic about the future because our God is sovereign.
And on the 8th day,
God created Seniors. Most seniors never get enough exercise. In His wisdom, God decreed that seniors become forgetful so they would have to search for their glasses, keys, and other things, thus doing more walking. And God looked down and saw that it was good.
Then God saw there was another need. In His wisdom He made seniors lose coordination so they would drop things, requiring them to bend, reach, and stretch. And God looked down and saw that it was good.
Then God considered the function of bladders and decided seniors would have additional calls of nature, requiring more trips to the bathroom, thus providing more exercise. God looked down and saw that it was good.
So if you find, as you age, you are getting up and down more, remember it’s God’s will. It is all in your best interest even though you mutter under your breath.
Nine Important Facts to Remember as We Grow Older:
#9 Death is the number 1 killer in the world.
#8 Life is sexually transmitted.
#7 Good health is merely the slowest possible rate at which one can die.
#6 Men have two motivations: hunger and sex, and they can’t tell them apart. If you see a gleam in his eyes, make him a sandwich.
#5 Give a person a fish and you feed them for a day. Teach a person to use the Internet and they won’t bother you for weeks, months, maybe years. %%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%#4 Health nuts are going to feel stupid someday, lying in the hospital, dying of nothing.
#3 All of us could take a lesson from the weather. It pays no attention to criticism.
#2 In the 60’s, people took LSD to make the world weird. Now the world is weird, and people take Prozac to make it normal.
#1 Life is like a jar of jalapeno peppers. What you do today may be a burning issue tomorrow.
Please share this wisdom with others; I need to go to the bathroom.
Our latest book, Unlike Jesus: Let’s Stop Unfriending the World is a call to becoming a friend of sinners like the Lord Jesus was! You can order this through Amazon or directly from me (send $10 [which includes shipping] to my address).
Dr. Larry Dixon
117 Norse Way
Columbia, SC 29229 Cell: 803-201-9745