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Thursday, December 8, 2011

Idiot vs. Atheist

Is there a God?  It is Christmas time here in America and there are always people who seem to get offended.   There is a group trying to have a Nativity scene taken down because it is offensive.  There are debates about whether people who work at certain stores can say "Merry Christmas" or whether they must say "Happy Holidays". Christmas seems to bring out some level of tension over religious matters in our country.  The atheist are the ones that seem to be so offended by the emphasis upon religious things.

I would hope to think that the people who call themselves Atheist would consider themselves rational, logical, and a thinking people.  Surely they examine facts and data to come to conclusions about things.  They read the science books and examine the theories of evolution.  The Atheist desires to believe the cold hard facts and refuses to believe in an invisible, unprovable, irrational theory about God.  The Atheist would not call himself an 'Idiot'.

What is an idiot?  Webster says that an idiot is "showing complete lack of thought or common sense, foolish".  An idiot is a person who totally ignores the facts and is unwilling to think through the truth of the data.  An idiot just blindly goes through life and commits the most mind-boggling actions.  He is an idiot who jumps out of an airplane without a parachute.  He is an idiot who takes a nap in the middle of the train tracts.  He is an idiot who would claim that there was never a man named Jesus who walked upon planet earth.

The Atheist surely is not dumb enough to make a claim that Jesus Christ never existed.  The religious and the non-religious all recognize that there was a man name Jesus who was born in Bethlehem to Joseph and Mary.  It is impossible to prove that Jesus did not exist.  Jesus was seen by thousands of people, taught thousands of people, healed numerous people, preached public sermons, was tried in human courts, and ultimately was crucified on a hillside in front of multitudes.  The facts of Jesus' life are so enormous that only an idiot would deny the existence of Jesus Christ.  Only an idiot would deny abundantly clear evidence that is placed before him.  The existence of Jesus could be proved from secular sources, pagan sources, Christian sources, and even could be proved from people who hated him.  After all, in order to truly hate someone, they have to exist.

Instead of declaring the Atheist an Idiot I will assume that he is intelligent enough to acknowledge the existence of Jesus Christ.  Assuming that the Atheist will agree that Jesus Christ did exist upon this earth there is a large problem now presented.  Jesus Christ is called "Immanuel" (which means, God with us).  The Atheist claims that there is no God, but holds the position that Jesus Christ did exist.  That is just simply not intelligent.  If Jesus Christ exists then God exists, because Jesus Christ is God with us.  The Atheist could claim that Jesus only said He was God.  The Atheist must then deal with the historical facts that Jesus walked on water, gave sight to the blind, healed the leper, raised the dead, caused the lame to walk, fed 5,000 plus with a couple of fish and five loaves of bread, and rose from the dead on the third day.  All of these events were witnessed by numerous people, including enemies.  No mere man can accomplish these things.  It would take God in human flesh to do what Jesus did.

Call it what you will, but only an Idiot would deny the historical facts of the life of Christ.  Only a complete fool would say that there is no God (Psalm 14:1; 53:1).  It would be my prayer today that some professing Atheist would humble himself and see the beauty of Jesus Christ and repent of his sin of idolatry and believe upon Jesus Christ for his salvation.  Isaiah the prophet says, "Look to Me and be saved, all the ends of the earth!  For I am God, and there is no other" (Isaiah 45:22).

Friday, December 2, 2011

Open-Air Preaching #2

When it comes to preaching outside the church there seems to be an underlying belief that it is simply not acceptable in our culture.  This implies that at one time it was acceptable, but that it is not anymore.  In biblical times they did not have a church on every corner, no public announcement system, and no TV screens.  Thus, it must have been acceptable for people to preach outdoors.  It seems that the modern mind simply imagines that everyone in biblical times was accepting of the open-air preachers.  However, a quick examination of the best sermons ever preached outdoors (Matt. 5-7; John 1:19-34; Acts 3:11-26; 10:34-43; 17:22-34; and etc.)  will reveal that they were met with division, hostility, outrage, and even with prison and death threats.  There were those who repented and believed and there were those who wanted nothing more than to kill the preacher.

The world is not a good way to judge the things of God.  When the church stays inside and does not live out their faith, the world calls the church people hypocrites.  When the church goes outside and begins to live out its faith by proclaiming its message, the world cries out that the church has gone mad and they need to go back to their church buildings.  The world cannot be made happy by people living out truth.  The world tells the preacher to stop 'yelling'.  The world claims the street preacher is to judgmental.  The world claims that you cannot push religion down peoples throats.  The world claims that the preacher is self-righteous.  The world that crams all of their philosophies down the throat of the church is now offended when preachers stand and boldly proclaim the gospel in the open-air.

The religious people of the day are not a good barometer to judge the things of God.  The religious people are worse than the world on many occasions.  The religious people always claim that there is a better way, but fail to communicate what it is.  The religious people would rather be friendly, be relational, and pass out free hot dogs and water bottles (nothing wrong with that) than to actually verbally proclaim the gospel to dying sinners.  As a good friend once said, "A hot dog without the gospel is just a hot dog".  The religious people have found that the world will love them if they give them stuff, but if they actually confront the world with truth it will cause a stir.  The religious would rather have the world to thank them for all of their humanitarian deeds than to have the world offended by the truth that they proclaim.

The question of questions that the open-air preacher hears from the world and from the religious people,  "Is what your doing effective"?  In order to answer such a question one must ask another question, "How is effective to be defined"?  The Christian defines effective in the following way.  Effective - "Doing that which is pleasing to God for the glory of God because he loves God and doing it in a way that reveals his love for humanity".  This definition takes into account the two greatest commandments.  This definition has nothing to do with numbers, popularity, or denominational approval.

Now back to our 21st century context.  Is open-air preaching still a valid ministry?  The answer is yes and the answer is no.  Genesis to Revelation will reveal that the church has been birthed, built, and battle-proven through the public proclamation of the gospel message.  The greatest revival in recorded history was in a place called Nineveh.  A street preacher named Jonah came to a pagan city and publicly proclaimed, "Yet forty days and Nineveh shall be over-thrown".  The entire city was brought to repentance through the open-air preaching of Jonah.  The king all the way to the bottom of the social standing was brought to repentance.  The whole of the book of Acts was the birth of the early church and the key catalyst was public proclamation.  So the answer is yes.  However, do not miss the word that was said earlier, "church".  It is the "church" that as birthed, built, and battle-proven.  Open-air preaching apart from the local church has little credibility before the truth of Scripture.  God's will and work is always tied to the local church.  Open-air preaching that does not move men and women to a local church, discipleship, and accountability is weak at best and destructive at worse.  So, open-air preaching that is not tied to the local church is not a valid ministry.  Certainly there may be good that can come out of preaching any time it is done, but why aim low when one can aim high.  Preach for the glory of God in the midst of a dying world and build a church that will bring Him greater glory both now and in the years to come.