Friday, June 21, 2019
From the beginning of Jesus’ ministry on earth He preached the Good News of the kingdom of heaven. In describing the kingdom and its inhabitants He went into great detail about many issues of faith, but the beginning point of his teaching and preaching is always the same. He is always calling people to repentance. In Mark’s Gospel we read, “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!” It would be wise for us to adopt the same style as the Master.
Matthew 4:17-23 From that time on Jesus began to preach, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.” As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will make you fishers of men.” At once they left their nets and followed him. Going on from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John. They were in a boat with their father Zebedee, preparing their nets. Jesus called them, and immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him. Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people. News about him spread all over Syria…
Unfortunately, we have been drawn into a so-called contemporary model of witnessing that is socially acceptable, politically correct, and non-confrontational. This “new and improved” model of reaching the lost has been called by different names and described by different phrases, like “seeker-sensitive”, “tolerant” and “felt needs-based”. Now don’t get me wrong, I am not condemning sensitivity to people’s needs, but in an attempt to be more acceptable and appealing to people we have put the cart way before the horse. Now the horse is running loose and not even connected to the cart any more. Let me explain.
From the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, He preached repentance and the Good News of the coming kingdom. He challenged people to believe in the Gospel of the kingdom and revealed three things to them through His life, death, and resurrection:
- that He was the Way into that kingdom;
- that He is the only Truth;
- and that He is the only source of real Life.
The entire message of the Gospel could be summed up in this way: Man’s way is wrong, so turn from it and turn to Jesus, choosing eternal life over the temporary. Even though as time went on Jesus modeled a variety of methods to get that point across, like feeding the hungry and comforting the grieving and healing the sick, He never stopped preaching repentance. He was compassionate, caring, and a selfless servant to others, and He always addressed the real human need – repentance and faith in God.
As followers of Jesus, we would be wise to return to a message of repentance. The hard part of doing that is that it requires a focus on the wrong way of mankind. We have been focusing on making people feel good about who they are and what they are doing so that we will earn the right to tell them about a better way. When we do that, we set ourselves up to have to prove to others that our way is better, and we give them the right to defend their way as better. We spend far too much time trying to teach them a better way when we should be preaching to them the only Way!
There is a huge difference between teaching and preaching. The primary meaning of the word “teach” means “to hold discourse with another”, meaning that it is a discussion where ideas are presented. Preaching on the other hand is “to proclaim truth as a herald”. Scripture does not reveal Jesus teaching repentance, but rather He preaches repentance. It is proclaimed as a truth, but never discussed as an option. That is where Jesus started His ministry, and that is where He continued it.
We must start in the same place with people. I understand it is important for people to know we care about them and their needs, but their greatest need is salvation from sin. That’s where Jesus started with people. That’s where we should start. Yes, we care. Yes, we are compassionate. Yes, we meet people’s needs. But let it be said that first we tell them the truth. Their condition is caused by sin, and it is only in repentance and believing the Gospel that their real needs can be met. That is where witnessing must begin.