Monday, August 8, 2011

Some thoughts on mission (especially cross-cultural mission) - Part 2

This post continues from my last post on my thoughts on mission (which can be found here.)

The proclamation of the gospel is found throughout the narratives in the Gospels and Acts. Cross-cultural mission (and mission in general) can especially be found in Acts. But I think we need to note the content of the gospel message. The gospel message is multifaceted. Here I will list a few Scriptures. In Athens, Paul says,
“The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands. And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else.   (Acts 17:24-25; emphasis added)
In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to everyone by raising him from the dead.” (Acts 17:30-31; emphasis added)
Later in Acts Paul recalls what Jesus said to him,
‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,’ the Lord replied. ‘Now get up and stand on your feet. I have appeared to you to appoint you as a servant and as a witness of what you have seen and will see of me.  I will rescue you from your own people and from the Gentiles. I am sending you to them to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.’ (Acts 26:15b-18; emphasis added)
Paul, who was Jewish, was sent to the Gentiles and Jews alike to proclaim the good news of Jesus. Note that it is a message of the lordship of the Creator God, God's judgment with justice, repentance, forgiveness of sins, and, most importantly, the death and resurrection of Christ. As Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15:3-4,
For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures...
Here I want to point out a few things about the proclamation of the gospel.

(1) My former religion was a mixture of Confucianism, Taoism, Buddhism and ancestral worship. One of the most significant Christian experiences for me is the fact that I am a sinner and that by God's grace my sins are forgiven. To me, Jesus is my Lord, my King and my Saviour. The lordship of Christ, I think, should be at the heart of our proclamation.

(2) The gospel message contains many elements, and should never be reduced to a simple formula. For example, the preaching of the gospel is not about "a ticket to heaven". In fact, even a casual look at the Bible passages cited above will show that the New Testament Christians did not reduce the gospel to "a ticket to heaven".

(3) In the Four Gospels we find that Jesus' call is that people may follow him as their Lord and King. The gospel is about the call to follow the crucified Christ and risen Lord - that is, the call to discipleship. And as Dietrich Bonhoeffer says, discipleship is about costly grace, not cheap grace. (Click here for my post about that.) The fact that proclamation of the gospel is about discipleship is evidenced by the so-called Great Commission in Matthew 28:18-20, where Jesus asked his disciples to go and make disciples of all nations. This is not about an intellectual understanding of some formulas to get a ticket to heaven, but about proclaiming the crucified Christ and risen Lord so that people will follow his self-giving way of life.

(4) Michael Pahl speaks of our call to proclaim and live out the resurrection of the crucified Christ, and that "the church is called to enact God's program of creation renewal in this age in anticipation of the fulfillment of the renewal of creation in the age to come." I have previously blogged on what Pahl says in his book From Resurrection to New Creation (Eugene: Cascade Books, 2010). I think it is really worth reading. Click here for the blog post.

(5) It is absolutely important is that we do not see ourselves as superior to those who do not know Jesus. Christians are fellow sinners who need the grace of God for salvation. We have come to know Christ because of God's grace, not our righteousness. We are to proclaim the gospel with humility, and with sincere love for those who are living in darkness.

(To be continued.)

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