What is evangelism? In my sermon this Sunday, you will hear me say basically this: that the gospel is not being shared unless we are communicating the death of Jesus for the sins of the world in order to make peace with God. His death was the necessary sacrifice to cover all the wrongdoing of all who ever lived and ever will live, for all time. As a sign that God the Father accepted it as “enough,” and approved of Christ’s death as an adequate payment for peace to be re-established with men, He raised Jesus back from the dead. And what is the promise to any and all who believe that what Jesus did for us was “enough” to save us? The promise is 1) death with Him – the death of our past, the death of our ‘slave-to-sin’ genetic default, the death of our sin-debt to God, the death of failure and a dead-end life. And the promise is 2) life with Him – life with God, life with a future, life with a purpose, life with power, life with direction, life for all eternity!
If we think we are “sharing Jesus” by just being nice, by trying to make others happy, by being loving, but stopping there – if we don’t tell them about the death of Jesus in our place as the only way to have peace with God, then we are not evangelizing. Compassion is not evangelism. It is not enough to save. All of the things just mentioned, if done without mention of the person and work of Jesus, fall under the category of ‘redemptive,’ but not redeeming.
Don Richardson is “a Canadian Christian missionary, teacher, author and international speaker who worked among the tribal people of Western New Guinea, Indonesia. He demonstrates in his writings how, hidden among tribal cultures, there are usually some practices or understandings, that he calls "redemptive analogies", which can be used to illustrate the meaning of the Christian Gospel” (Wikepedia). So what does he mean by ‘redemptive’ analogies vs. something that would be ‘redeeming?’ Richardson explains it this way -- “’Redeeming would mean that…people could find relationship with God through their own lore, apart from the gospel. ‘Redemptive’ in this context means ‘contributing to the redemption of a people, but not culminating it” (59 Richardson, Eternity in Their Hearts). The ‘redemptive analogies’ in their cultures are general revelation expressions about who God is, but don’t offer a means of getting to know Him.
What does ‘general revelation’ mean? It is a term that describes clues left by God, about Himself. Not just in creation (Rom. 1:20), but even within the hearts of people (Ecclesiastes 3:11) -- an instinct, almost a 6th sense, that whispers quietly of something or Someone who is all-powerful but unknown. But it stops there – so it is not enough to save. And all the genuinely good things we do to help and to love people fall under the same category -- ‘contributing to the redemption of a people, but not culminating it’ – because mercy without God is nothing more than a general revelation expression of God. It can point strongly at the existence of a ‘God of Mercy,’ but can’t explain the means of obtaining God’s mercy – it’s not enough to save.
God wants more for people than a comfortable journey to the grave – He wants people to thrive, both in this life and in the life beyond the borders of the grave. That’s why Jesus came to do more than just feed the hungry and heal the sick. That’s why Jesus had to die. And the gospel isn’t the gospel without His death.
Your life, Christian, is the ultimate ‘Redemptive Analogy,’ and like all redemptive analogies, yours is meant to be a big, fat clue to the existence of God. But don’t stop there. Don’t let your life stop there. We are called to be more than the ‘Church of the Redemptive,’ we are called to be ‘The Church of the Redeemed!’ Don’t leave people to guess at the clues– tell them the Answer.
Surrounded By Grace,