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Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Open-Air Preaching

Once upon a time there was a man walking close to his hometown.  There was a large gathering of people just up in front of him.  Perhaps the crowd was gathered for a marathon, bicycle race, football game, sales event, parade, or something else that typically draws a crowd.  As the man made his way closer to the crowd and took in the scenery of all the people socializing and demonstrating their personal agendas.  He noticed that people freely talked about all types of worldliness.  They talked about abortion, politics, material possessions, sports teams, and some even seem to have their own self-made religion.  There seems to be little to no problem with this cacophony of voices bouncing around the crowd of some 12,000 or more people.  People are wearing clothes that advertise their own bodies, make statements about their favorite team, cliche's that may not be acceptable in the public school, and some shirts that state direct opposite views to what others hold dear.  People are drinking water, coke, beer, and wine.  Some of them smoke and blow their smoke across the crowd and others spit their tobacco on the ground for people to step in.  The man notices that all of these things go on at the same time and no one seems to have a problem with it.

If one was to analyze the conversations it would be readily obvious that they are in opposition to one another.  If one was to take a pole of the crowd and vote there would be a variety of opinions upon what is acceptable to wear in public.  The man is convinced that some in the crowd would be against the public consumption of alcohol and that certain drink companies would rather the crowd would only drink what their company produces.  The man notices a woman turning her nose up in disgust when her 5 year old catches a whiff of cigarette smoke in his face.  It is obvious that some are opposed to the smoke that is floating around the crowd.  Just then the man notices that a child has dropped his pacifier on the ground and it has rolled into a fresh spot of tobacco juice.  The man takes all of these things into account and wonders why there is not more of an outrage.  Then just as all this diversity seems to be existing in unity he hears a loud voice crying out a different message.

The man walks along the valley floor just below the mountain's edge on the outskirts of the crowd and begins to push his way through the noise to find out what this loud voice is saying.  As he pushes through he sees a man elevated over the crowd speaking in an extremely loud voice in order that as many as possible can hear.  The man notices that not all are in agreement.  Some do not believe the man has any right to speak this way.  Others have great interest in the things that are being said.  The man's voice is piercing and the crowd seems to be divided now.  Just a few minutes ago it seemed that everyone was entitled to his own opinion and now it is obvious that all opinions are acceptable except for what this man believes.

It seems to be the religious people who are the most upset.  The religious people are saying that he does not have a right to speak in public like this.  He will offend the people.  This man is crazy.  He will run the people off.  He is being too condemning.  He needs to have more compassion.  He might could preach in the church like that, but it is not right to preach out in the public like this.  He is too judgmental.  He is too narrow.  He is claiming things that are very narrow and saying that those who truly believe the gospel will be recognizable.

The man is now gripped by the intensity of the message and the anger of the crowd.  He begins to look into his own heart and examine his heart before God.  No one sees what is going on with the man and the only one who really cares about the man's heart is the one who is speaking these truths so very loud over the opposition of the crowd.  The man breaks and his heart is softened and he believes for the very first time the truths that he has just heard and his life is changed forever.  He departs from the unknowing crowd and returns home to tell his family what has happened.

The man tells his family that a great crowd had gathered from Galilee, Decapolis, Jersalem, Judea, and the Jordan and that he went to see what was going on.  He tells his family that there was man there elevated over the people on the hillside with a very mighty voice proclaiming a message of truth.  He tells his family that the truth that was proclaimed by that man changed his life forever and that he will never be the same.  He tells them that the open-air preacher that day was a man named Jesus Christ and that Jesus was bold, compassionate, and zealous for the truth.

Friday, November 11, 2011

The Glorious Word of the Gospel

"I Am the good Shepherd.  The good Shepherd lays down his life for the sheep" (John 10:11; cf. 10:15)
In the Greek text the Word is υπέρ.  The word υπέρ means, "in place of", "in ones stead", or "on the behalf of".  This word is clearly brought out by the apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 5:21 where he says, "He made Him who knew no sin to be sin υπέρ (on our behalf)".  Jesus stood in our place as suffered the wrath of God as if He had lived our life.  The other half of this glorious truth is that He not only took our place, but that he imputed His righteousness into our account.  Jesus was treated as we deserve to be treated and we are treated as if we lived His life.  The theologians call this double imputation.  It is here that believing humanity finds all its hope for this life and the life to come.

Now back to John 10:11.  This great verse tells us four important things in regards to the gospel.  First, Jesus tells us who He is.  He says, εγώ ειμί (I AM) the good shepherd.  Second, Jesus tells us what He does.  He τίθημι (to take off or give up) His life.  Psalm 49:7 says, "Truly no man can ransom another, or give to God the price of his life, for the ransom of their life is costly and can never suffice, that he should live on forever and never see the pit".  This is why we need a God/man to redeem us.  Humanity by itself would not be enough.  Third, Jesus reveals the glorious truth of the gospel when He says, "υπέρ of the sheep" (on behalf of the sheep).  Lastly, we are confronted with the doctrine of election.  The good Shepherd knows His sheep.  His sheep hear His voice and they follow Him.  Notice that the good Shepherd does not lay down his life for the goats, but only for the sheep.  He is omniscient and knows perfectly who belongs to Him.

What is a man to do with a verse like this?  He should readily and with humility confess that Jesus is the good Shepherd, that He believes Jesus has died in his place, and that he desires to follow the Shepherd for the rest of his life.  After all, that is the response of sheep.