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Review Part 2

What’s the answer?  Well, Tim Keller and Jim Peterson both present fascinating glimpses into two different ways of arriving at the same thing.  Jim Peterson talks about affirmation attending our proclamation.  Affirmation is the lifestyle that accompanies the gospel.  He makes an interesting point by asking one to look through the New Testament epistles for commands to witness.  (There aren’t any.) He then takes this negative to point to the fact that Paul especially is thinking that more planting and cultivating must take place before another harvest (after the first he had already made) could be reaped.  He then argues for this based on side arguments Paul makes.  For instance, Titus 2:3-5: in the exhortation to older women the reason given is that so no one will malign the word of God.  Young men are exhorted to behave so that those maligning the gospel will be ashamed that they have nothing bad to say against them.  Jim is saying that unless we model what the Gospel produces the watching world will reject our repeated attempts to proclaim its truth.

Tim Keller talks about gospel actualization.  He says we need to let the gospel become the driving force behind what we believe and the way we live.  By doing this we will present a more powerful reality to what we are saying.  In some ways this is a fancy way of saying, “you’re walk talks and your talk talks, but your walk talks louder than your talk talks.” 

One might say, “Well, this is nothing new.”  And in a way it isn’t.  But it is maybe in the direction it’s being applied.  Tim Keller is suggesting that until we eat, live and breathe the Gospel it won’t pour out of us properly.  Not that we can’t have our views on eschatology or sublapsarianism but that until we show how they adorn the Gospel it’s not helping us in our presentation of the gospel.   He is suggesting in a way that the Gospel be the center of our theology.   While I differ a little here with what he seems to be saying, I agree that we need to do a better job thinking through how the gospel applies to our behavior and especially our everyday conversation.  How many of us take seriously the command in James to always add “Lord willing” to our plans for the day?  Is the Gospel just a few summary belief statements or is it truly a way to live?  If it is a way to live, should we not be demonstrating that way?  One could argue at this point saying, “I already seek to ‘walk worthy’ of the Gospel?” Great! But have you really considered what you are communicating to those outside the faith watching you to see what it’s really about?  I’m afraid too often we communicate that the Gospel is about being busy and acting superior.  The trouble is people so easily define what we’re doing in terms they understand – unless they can’t understand it.  And every generation to an extent must come up with fresh ways to communicate old truths because the last generation has already substituted the answer behind the behavior as something other than Christ.  For instance, not smoking could be done because one loves Christ and honors His temple or it could simply be because we don’t want to get lung cancer.   Which way will the outside world take it without explanation? 

And here’s where it gets tricky.  How do you slow down long enough and get them to slow down long enough to truly communicate the Gospel?  Tim Keller at this point thinks we need a process and Jim Peterson actually lays one out.  The key at this point, I think, is to realize that the “process” takes time, an investment of time, effort and thought on our part to really communicate the gospel and its life to others – a stepping outside of our comfort zone of busyness to actually connect with others in meaningful ways.  My former pastor laid out a plan of random acts of kindness, invitation to events at church, and home bible studies as a three tiered approach to a process.  This is good, but it takes people being very intentional to do this.  And I think that starts primarily as people are gripped by the wonder of the Gospel and how it impacts all of life.  Tim Keller uses a fascinating Bible picture to illustrate modern day evangelism – the story of Jonah.  Have we been to like Jonah – communicating that everyone’s headed to destruction and not really caring enough for people to stop and communicate the wonder of God’s mercy and grace?  Or have we been the earlier Jonah – not really caring that the world is headed to destruction and wishing it would happen already, never letting that message get out nor letting it impact our urgency?  We must realize that evangelism in modern day America takes effort – more effort than we typically give it because there are more barriers to overcome.   I know that some have advocated “friendship evangelism” where one becomes friends before sharing the Gospel.  I think Jim Peterson is advocating more a lifestyle evangelism – where the Gospel shows up in every decision and therefore we’re making reference to it all the time.  So we must consider how the Gospel is impacting our lives and communicate that in word and deed.  In our town I think that means not appearing too busy for people, having a concern for social justice issues, providing hope to destroyed lives through biblical counseling, constantly showing a love for the body of Christ (not backbiting), and especially always explaining our actions by pointing back to our reason for existence – Christ. How?

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