Tuesday, May 17, 2011

...for the sake of the Gospel

"I do all this for the sake of the gospel..." 1 Corinthians 9:23

I was challenged by the message at ChangePoint this past Sunday (listen here). We are going through a series in 1 Corinthians and this week Jim Capaldo spoke on the section of scripture that contains the verse above.

If you look at the life that Paul lived, the people that he served, the punishment that he endured you have to ask yourself...Why? And his answer to the question of why, is simply..."for the sake of the Gospel."

What I have been struggling with is not Paul's answer, but the fact that my answer is not the same. I struggle with the fact that my desire to serve people, to go overseas, to make a difference in this world tends to have very little to do with "the sake of the Gospel."

It generally has to do with:

- My desire to be a good person
- My desire to serve people
- My desire to "be a good citizen"
- My desire to contribute to the good in the world
- My desire to give my life away
- My desire to experience new things
- My desire to contribute something positive to the world

It would be a long list before "for the sake of the Gospel" was there. Why?

Well, it isn't because I don't believe that the Gospel is worth it and it isn't because I don't believe the Gospel is true, because my life has been radically changed because of the power and truth of the Gospel. Instead, I think that it could be a few reasons.

First, I would rather just serve and love people and not tell them about Jesus, but live a positive life and hope that someday they ask me why and I get to tell them. I used to think that was OK, but I am more and more being convinced that I use that as a cheap excuse to not tell people about Jesus...ever. I really enjoyed a recent article in Relevant Magazine that asked the question: Are you in danger of neglecting evangelism in your passion for Social Justice? And I have to, sadly, answer that question...Yes. That is exactly what I do. My desire to serve and give my life away is often greater than my desire to tell people about Jesus. The reality is that serving their current need and ignoring their eternal one is no service at all! Ugh. How much does that suck?!

Second, I don't feel qualified. I think that there are other, more gifted people out there who will do a far better job of telling people about Jesus than I will...so...I remain quiet. I have really been challenged in this area recently. I feel like I have a good understanding and grasp of the Gospel. I love reading the Word (especially recently) and I love sharing with people what I am learning. But when it comes to people I don't know...it changes. I am nervous and self conscious.

During Lent Sherri and I were reading through the Gospels and the one story that has stuck with me the most is in John chapter 9. Jesus had just healed a blind man on the Sabbath, and the Pharisees questioned the man that was healed and began to accuse Jesus and ask questions of this man. Then something amazing happens. Talking about Jesus, they say..
"We know this man is a sinner."

They just accused the man who gave him sight, and his response is awesome.
"Whether he is a sinner or not, I don’t know. One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see!"

In that one sentence he says something that has been challenging me. He says, I don't have answers to all of your questions, but I know this. I was blind...I encountered Jesus...and now I see. The end.

This verse has shown me that the ability to tell people about Jesus doesn't come from theological training. It doesn't come from years of Bible study. It doesn't come from some cerebral ascent that helps us gain wisdom. It comes from an encounter with Jesus.

Because of how I have been changed by Jesus, I am equipped to tell people about Jesus. My story, your story, our story, of how we have been changed, is enough.

So, as I wrap this up I am realizing that this is really all about this: People have 2 needs. A current, often practical need (food, clean water, money) and an eternal need. Both of these needs are important. I, too often, want to only focus on helping the first need while leaving the second need for someone else to deal with. The reality is that if I only meet the current need and ignore the eternal need, have I really loved them? Really?

The list of desires that I posted above are all good. But if they are the end, I have come short. However, if I can become a person that desires to meet the current, physical needs of people and point them to the only person that can meet their eternal need, then when people ask why I do it, I will be able to honestly answer..."For the sake of the Gospel."

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