There are four characteristics of our culture that we can no longer ignore in our mission of bringing the gospel to our world. Our audience is increasingly:
- Biblically illiterate: They know very little of the basic story line of the Bible, the people, stories, or events. They have heard of Jesus but know little of His basic claims and the story of His life.
- Narcissistic: Beyond consumerism, narcissism is selfishness on steroids. The prevailing question being asked is, “What’s in it for me?”
- Humanistic: We cannot assume a historic biblical view of God or man. The basic elements of a biblical worldview that has been a framework for centuries, is crumbling. We cannot assume our audience sees God as the uncaused Cause: the sovereign Creator and Sustainer of all that is (the cosmos). In our present culture man is not the crown of God’s creation and the focus of His love. Heaven and hell are part of a fairytale fantasy.
- Feeling base: Facts and a logical pursuit to discover what is “true” is less relevant. “What I feel is my reality. You can’t argue or debate it. Since I feel it’s true, it is.”
“Authority has shifted from what is true to the feelings and beliefs of the individual. Feelings now trump truth.”1
Past generations understood a biblical worldview regarding God, man, sin, and Jesus. We could simply add to that background clarity on what it meant to believe the gospel or receive Christ. People had the raw material with which we could build on. People had pieces of the Gospel but just had not put it together. They basically knew, understood, and accepted the back story. We can no longer assume this is true. We will need to present an accurate and complete picture of who Jesus is and what He came to do. We need to set the gospel in its context if it is to be the gospel that transforms and transfers (Romans 1:16, Col. 1:13). This gospel is more than a promise of sin management, a fire insurance policy, or a promise of the good life. It involves a radical transfer of kingdoms and the personal transformation of lives to fit into that new kingdom reality.
We cannot risk presenting an abridged gospel to this generation. We need to revisit how the gospel was presented in the book of Acts when the early Christians took their counter-cultural message to a skeptical and even hostile audience that also lacked a biblical framework in which to understand it. What they did and we must do is focus on the revelation of the Son of God (His story) as the good news. His story embodies the truth that will set people free.
We also need to resist the temptation to “sell” the gospel or try to make it attractive by putting it into the values of the current culture e.g. fast, easy, and fun. We need to present what is accurate and true including the aspects that may be hard to accept. We need to recognize it will always be a counter-cultural message.
1. The Bible presents God as the eternal uncaused Cause: the Creator and Sustainer of the cosmos (our universe). Out of his sovereignty God created man as the crown of His creation, uniquely made in His likeness (image) and designed to live in relational harmony with Him.
2. We are all born into an existing conflict of two kingdoms (God’s and Satan’s). We have chosen to reject God’s authority and replace it with our own. The result is a distortion of the original design and plan. Our default condition is now:
- Spiritually dead (Eph. 2:1; Rom 6:23)
- Alienated from God (Eph. 2:12)
- Stuck in a cycle of immorality (Eph. 2:3)
- Under God’s disapproval (Eph. 2:3, John 3:18-20)
- Captives in the kingdom of darkness (Eph. 2:2)
3. Out of a heart of love God intervened, providing access to His kingdom of light through His Son who is called in the Bible “Jesus Christ the Lord” (Rom. 1:4). His story is reveled in the New Testament historical records. The defining moments of His life are:
- His incarnation (John 1:1-5, 14)
- His demonstration (John 5:30; Phil 2:3-7; Heb. 2:17)
- His crucifixion (and death) (Rom 5:6-8; 1 Peter 3:18)
- His resurrection (Luke 24:1-12; Romans 1:1-4)
- His ascension (Acts 1:9-11; Luke 24:50-53; Heb. 4:14)
- His coronation (Heb. 1:1-3; Rev 5:11-14; Matt 28:18)
- His revelation (John 5:25-29; Acts 17:30-31)
4. The kingdom of light (also called the kingdom of God or heaven) offers freedom from our default condition in the kingdom of darkness. It offers a brand new life and identity (2 Cor. 5:17) substituting what we have by default to what is possible by God’s grace through the work of His Son, Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 3:18)
Jesus is referred to as the Doorway to a new dimension of life in His kingdom. He claimed to make the kingdom of God possible. He also claimed that He was the only way into that kingdom (John 14:6). His kingdom offers a:
- New dimension of life (Eph. 2:5; John 5:24)
- New relationship with God (John17:3; 1 John 5:11-12)
- New moral record (Eph. 1:7; Rom 8:1)
- New spiritual power (Acts 1:8; 2 Tim 1:7)
- New kingdom citizenship (Eph. 2:19; Col 1:13)
5. The kingdom of light is a present potential, offered by means of the grace of God through His Son Jesus Christ the Lord. Its access requires a response of repentance and faith. (John 1:12, John 3:16).
- The Bible is clear that there is no way we can earn or merit all that he offers us in His kingdom. The offer is out of his love and grace. He, however, does not force it on anyone but allows each one a chance to accept or reject it. (John 1:12)
- The response requires we recognize and turn (repent) from our current condition of independence from God. Then by faith accept as true all that Jesus claimed to be and what He claimed to do. In the Bible this response is called “faith”, “accepting Christ”, “surrender”, or simply “belief”. (John 5:24)
The gospel delivers us from more than the issue of sin. It delivers us from the kingdom of darkness that is now in opposition to the kingdom of light. Becoming a citizen of His kingdom means a new identity with a new passport
1Sean McDowell, PhD, assistant professor of Christian apologetics, Biola University. Article in Christian Research Journal, Vol 40 Number 04.