Summary: Christ came into our context and gave us the supreme example of living our lives of following Him within the context of where God has placed us!
The Reverend Billy Graham tells of a time early in his ministry when he arrived in a small town to preach a sermon. Wanting to mail a letter, he asked a young boy where the post office was. When the boy had told him, Dr. Graham thanked him and said, “If you’ll come to the Church this evening, you can hear me telling everyone how to get to Heaven.” “I don’t think I’ll be there,” the boy said. “You don’t even know your way to the post office.”
In this evening’s Scripture reading we hear the Apostle Paul saying that he became all things to all people so that we might save a few. In other words, he contextualized his ministry so that he could reach people within the context of their circumstances with the Gospel of Christ.
Here, Paul is not saying that he changed the message of the gospel to make it easier for people hear, as so many in our day have done; having ignored substantive teaching with regard to sin in order to make the Gospel more palatable. No, what Paul is saying is not that he changed the Gospel to suit the times, but that he contextualized it; he placed it into the here and now circumstances of their lives.
This evening, as I enter my text, I will focus on making just three points. (1) The Gospel message speaks to all people at all times in every circumstance, culture, and context; we dare not change the Gospel to suit the culture. (2) In order to effectively share the Gospel message, we must live it out within the context of our immediate circumstance. (3) We can do all of this because just as Christ broke into our context 2,000 years ago, He is available for us today, in our context!
(1) The Gospel speaks to those enslaved to the law; the legalist. The Pharisees were condemned by Jesus as being “whitewashed tombs.” Where the law only highlights our sin and need for a savior, where legalistic religion only has the power to enslave people to tradition and ritual, true religion, true redemption has the power to set men free from sin, its consequences, guilt, and then to free us unto a life of communion with God.
Grace cancels disconnection with God and even more so, it affirms connection with God! “Where sin did abound how much more did grace abound!”
The Gospel speaks to those who have never heard the law or of grace. How many in our day have been deceived, even here in a culture where the Gospel is so available, into believing or rejecting a false Gospel? Watered down preaching by overly ambitious and agenda driven preachers has done much to convince unsaved people that they are in fact right with God.
An incident is related of a missionary who came into contact with a proud and powerful Indian chief. The chief, trembling under conviction of sin, approached the missionary and offered his belt of wampum as atonement. “No!” said the missionary, “Christ cannot accept a sacrifice like that.” The Indian departed, but soon returned offering his valuable rifle and the most beautiful skins he had taken in hunting. “No!” was the reply, “Christ cannot accept those either.” Again the Indian went away, only to return with a conscience more troubled than ever. This time he offered his wigwam, together with his wife and child – everything for peace and pardon. “No,” was the reply even to this, “Christ cannot accept such a sacrifice.” At this the chief seemed utterly oppressed; but suddenly he somehow sensed the deficiency, for, lifting up tearful eyes, he cried out, “Here, Lord, take this poor Indian too!” That is the only condition for fellowship with Christ.
Faith unto repentance is the Gospel, not faith unto a new Mercedes. Faith unto eternal life is the Gospel, not faith unto egalitarian social ideas. Faith, true faith, is the simple act of receiving grace. Paul presented the case of the pure Gospel, man fallen and lost in his sins, Christ blood offering the hope of redemption! Dear Saints, let us proclaim the pure Gospel of hope and truth!
Paul speaks also of those who are weak; those who are oppressed. Let us not be so proud in our dealings as the Church that we forget those who are oppressed. The postmodern culture, in its pursuit for self advancement, self determination, and selfish pleasure has, in many ways, left the oppressed very far behind in the dust.
For the unborn child who seeks only to keep the gift of life given to him by his creator, let us speak out! For the oppressed unwanted child who suffers at the hand of a parent let us keep watch! For the oppressed wife who suffers the abuses of the man who vowed to protect her, let us be vigilant.