Summary: How a people understand themselves and their world goes far in determining how we should present the Gospel.
PREACHING THE GOSPEL IN UNFAMILIAR PLACES
Big Idea: How a people understand themselves and their world goes far in determining how we should present the Gospel.
In Romans 1 the Apostle Paul says, “I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile.”
The Apostle Paul was a champion of the Gospel. He preached it in every environment he was in. He was also a champion communicator. Even though he had the same message wherever he went (Christ crucified and risen from the grave) he conveyed that message differently to different people groups.
For example: When speaking to the Jews he would sometime start with the promised coming of their messiah and sometimes with the need for someone to fulfill the law. But with gentiles he used entirely different starting places; neither a promised messiah nor keeping the law were part of their ethic; or even their responsibility. For example, while in Athens, Greece he started by talking about “the unknown God” (Acts 17).
The point is, his message never changed but where he started and how he communicated it varied widely from people to people.
In America we have, for too long, assumed we are still a static people and the old ways of presenting the unchanging Gospel will still work. Hence we give everyone “Four Spiritual Laws” tracts etc., when it may be so far off their radar that they cannot relate. It can almost seem like we are trying to “sell” someone a car who is trying to buy food.
Roland Muller is a CMA missionary who served in the 10/40 window. That is a portion of the globe that is very resistant to the Gospel and also happens to be primarily Muslim. Muller is of the opinion that one reason most of our Gospel proclamation fails there has more to do with our communication that with our message or the hearts of the people.
With that in mind; I would ask you to turn with me to Genesis 3:7-10. I want to show you something important from this passage about human need and the Gospel’s proclamation. This passage picks up after Adam and Eve have eaten the forbidden fruit.
7 Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves. 8 Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. 9 But the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?” 10 He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.”
This passage gives the account of man’s fall and the consequences of sin. To use words from Rev. Muller, there are three “big emotional reactions to sin” recorded here. We will also discover that these three reactions to sin serve as cultural influences in every human society. A different one may dominate each society or people but all three are present.
1. Guilt (3:7)
• 7 Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.
• Guilt comes with the knowledge of sin. Guilt comes when we recognize we have “fallen short” of God’s expectations for us. That we have “missed the mark” (which is the actual definition of sin).
• Western culture has traditionally been influenced by guilt and innocence / right and wrong. Therefore, our approach to the Gospel centers on this “reaction” to sin. For generations most of our evangelism has started and stopped here. We emphasize God’s holiness and our violation of God’s standard (our sin), hence there is judgment for guilt.
• That is all correct – as far as it goes. But America is no longer a static culture and the other “cultural consequences” need to be understood.
2. Shame (3:8)
• 8 Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden.
• When we think of “shame” most people think of something akin to “being embarrassed because we were caught at something.” But shame is more encompassing. Shame, as a consequence, involves rejection, forfeiture, demotion or exclusion (i.e. being “cast out”).
• Shame, like guilt, passed to all humanity as a consequence of sin.
• It brings a sense of unworthiness. It is a sense that one has been cast aside and removed from a place of honor.