Good News & Grave Times

Good news that is not explained is not only not good it's not even news. - John Piper

This note is primarily a conclusion to the Answers According To Scripture (1, 2, & 3) posts.

Too often, those who hail under the banner of "Christian" have failed at explaining what exactly it is we mean when we use the term "good news". I'm a fervent believer in preaching the gospel and have a lot of hope in this world because I truly believe that the gospel can do amazing things.
Christians within scripture are not only called to be evangelists, but we are also called to be apologetical in our ability to give responsible and proper answers in our evangelism.  If we are unable to explain the good news, and the subsequent questions surrounding it properly, we as Christians can become handicapped in your ability to properly communicate that good news.

Jesus is not an idea, He is a person. Salvation comes from putting your trust in Him. But we need to be careful, because we can get into dangerous theological water by making distinctions here, the overall point however is this, the Christian faith is not merely a philosophy of ideas to be accepted, it is so much more than that.

To be a Christian is to know Christ, to be in Him, found in Him, have a relationship with Him. The writer Frank Schaeffer, once said that, "Christianity isn't about believing in doctrines, not even the right ones, it's more than that, it's not less than that it's more than that." There is a personal reality in the person of Christ that is vitally important to understand in talking about our relationship with Him.

Is the reason for our Christianity that we can answer every possible complicated theological question that one will bring to us? Of course not. Which begs the question, exactly what does it mean to be a Christian?
I once heard a talk on the issue of apologetics (the time and place escapes me so I apologize) and at the end there was a questions and answer period. During this period the question was asked of the speaker, "Can I argue you out of your Christian faith?" to which the answer given was, "Sir, your question assumes my Christian faith is a state of mind. But Christianity is not a state of mind, it's a state of existence." This is the reason why Paul declares in  2 Timothy that, "I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that He is able."

Christianity is not about ideas, rather, it is about coming to know a person. And one of the reasons I can be sure is because I know whom I have believed.

It needs to be understood however, that what we have enjoyed in the west in terms of our peace and prosperity is very unusual. Both from a historical perspective and in terms our contemporary cultures this is not the norm for those under the label of "Christian". From a historical and cultural perspective, normal existence of the average Christian throughout history has been one of persecution and suffering.
It is only in the west where the church is perceived to be much smaller, where we take it otherwise. What we have in the west is a historically abnormality. We have a key example of this in the book of Hebrews where it says,

And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Sampson, Jephteah, David, Samuel and the prophet, who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies. Women received back their dead, raised to life again. Others were tortured and refused to be released, so that they might gain a better resurrection. Some faced jeers and flogging, while still others were chained and put in prison. They were stoned; they were sawed in two; they were put to death by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated - the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, and in caves and holes in the ground. These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised. God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect. Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a grout cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him, endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.   - Hebrews 11:31-40 

The problem that Christians have in the west is that when passages like Hebrews 11 are put into context, and we are faced with the reality of those who suffered for the gospel, it often sounds alien to us. It is hard to imagine the breadth and depth of the passage in its fullness. And yet, as stated already, for the majority of Christians around the world today, that is the present reality. These passages are not alien to them at all.

The word used in the original Greek for witness is the word μάρτυρός, "martyros" which is where we get our term martyr in the English. The simple fact is, that those who witnessed for Christ were often killed. There is a very strong link between the English word martyr and the Greek word for witness, they are interchangeable in the Greek. The idea being, that if you were a witness for Christ, it was most likely going to cost you everything.

For example, church tradition tells us the fate of several apostles and early evangelists, Philip is said to have been crucified in Phrygia (in modern day Turkey) in AD 54, Matthew was said to have been beheaded in Ethiopia in AD 60, Barnabas was reported to have been burned to death in Alexandria, Egypt the same year Mark was dragged by horses till he died in AD 64. Paul is reported to have been beheaded in Rome in AD 66, Peter, to have been crucified in Rome in AD 69, Thomas was speared to death in India in and around AD 70, and Luke was hanged in Athens, Greece in AD 93. In fact, out of all the biblical apostles that we know of, John was the only one that actually died of natural causes, and that was after the Romans had failed to poison him.

And don't get me wrong, right living is extremely important. But the problem I find with that is that I believe that it is only by right thinking that we can truly find the foundation for right living. The connection between doctrine and life is much more foundational than most believers realize.

It is only by understanding God rightly that we can press forward in our Christian walk, in other words, I believe that good living is an outpouring of good thinking. Sometimes we just need to be reminded of what Jesus' great commission actually was...

Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. - Matthew 28:19


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