Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Drawing us near to himself as we search for his bride

What's evangelism about? In Genesis 24 terms the evangelist is the servant of the Father who is comissioned to find a wife for the son. He's devoted to the Father, devoted to the Son and devoted to the Wife. Imagine evangelism training that aimed at fueling these (not to say you'd not want to teach persuasion, or critical thinking etc - the stronger your affections the more you'd want to speak strongly). Chris suggested that these might help us with training for this kind of evangelism, annotated by what I think that'd look like...
John 3:29-30 The bride belongs to the bridegroom. The friend who attends the bridegroom waits and listens for him, and is full of joy when he hears the bridegroom’s voice. That joy is mine, and it is now complete. He must increase, I must decrease
--- Waiting and Listening for the bridegroom's voice. A great opportunity to consider Scripture as encounter with Christ.
2 Cor 11:2 I feel a divine jealousy for you, since I betrothed you to one husband...to Christ. But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ
--- Growing in divine jealousy. This is really feeling the heart of the Triune God. Dig into Exodus! Or Hosea...
Gal 1:6 I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you to live in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel which is really no gospel at all.
--- Remaining with the one who called us. What Sibbes called 'in-being'. What does it mean to dwell in the Triune God?
Gal 4:8 Formerly, when you did not know God, you were slaves to those who by nature are not gods. 9 But now that you know God—or rather are known by God—how is it that you are turning back to those weak and miserable forces? Do you wish to be enslaved by them all over again? 10 You are observing special days and months and seasons and years! 11 I fear for you, that somehow I have wasted my efforts on you.
--- Being known by God. More of the previous one - we know God, and he knows us!
Gal 4:19 My dear children, for whom I am again in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you, 20 how I wish I could be with you now and change my tone, because I am perplexed about you!
--- Feeling the pangs of childbirth for the church. Sounds something similar to the sickness of love that you see in The Song of Songs. 
1 The 3:5 For this reason, when I could stand it no longer, I sent to find out about your faith. I was afraid that in some way the tempter had tempted you and that our labors might have been in vain.
--- Growing depth of affections that will burst for others. Imagine this kind of fear and 'stand it no longer' affection. No apathy. No ambivalence. Such is the fruit of the gospel.
This is the kind of 'training' that draws us deeper into the gospel, a gospel which is about this:
"God draws near to us in such a way as to draw us near to himself within the circle of his knowing of himself." TF Torrance (cited by Dave Cruver) 
The apologetics involved in evangelism flowing out of this kind of training would surely be warmer and more attractive, more inviting and engaging, more personal and confronting. Weaker and softer, and yet stronger and more like Christ himself.


  1. Hey bish, meant to reply a long time ago but failed. I really like this. Affectionate discipleship overflowing into evangelism. Personally I'd found it helpful in the actual process of bringing someone to Christ & the struggles involved there. EG. 2 girls who'd brought a friend to Christ in Nov, but were perplexed why she wouldnt want to come to church, and was now with a lapsed "i'll go back to it someday" RC boyfriend...one of the girls said "I feel like a massive failure. I was the one who was closest to her and supposed to help her to the next stage…I really tried to encourage her, help her find a church and it just didn't happen...and I'm frustrated, and just not really sure where to go from here...and I know that God has it all under control...but I don't how she can come so far..and then just kinda slip away...".

    Instinct was to help her put it in the context of sovereign grace, which guards us from boasting in success & depression in failure...but as I thought & prayed with these girls in the light of your espousal stuff, I noticed that I was tending to apply sovereignty to stoic apatheia. But sovereign grace just didn’t seem to roll that way for Paul. Yes grace stopped him boasting, but started him loving: he was constantly struggling with divine jealousy & perplexity, "I can stand it no longer – I fear I may have run in vain", and even "what is my boast? is it not YOU?". So these passages became so encouraging for myself & for these 2 girls pastorally to recognise their own struggles in Paul – and to hold both paul's passion (the affection of Christ) for people & the insanity of our sinful hearts (nb awareness of a shady con artist at work too) together. If I forget that the battle is for hearts, then I'll look for outward signs, and get discouraged when they’re not there. I'll also stop praying because I'll forget that only the power of God's indestructible self-giving love can change our hearts from being turned in on themselves to being captivated by his grace.

    Also, I think you're spot on re apologetics. I keep coming back to this Packer quote:
    ‘what the NT calls for is faith in (en) or into (eis) or upon (epi) Christ Himself – the placing of our trust in the living Saviour, who died for sins. The object of saving faith is thus not, strictly speaking, the atonement, but the Lord Jesus Christ, who made atonement.’ (Evangelism & the Sovereignty of God)

    i.e. the cross saves no one. Jesus saves people. The atonement can’t forgive you; Jesus can forgive you because he made atonement on the cross (which is what we try to understand – what did jesus achieve on the cross?). The gospel proclaims that the living lord Jesus is both willing and able to forgive all those who come to God through him. The cross then becomes a matter of apologetics. Which is why the Cross of Christ is the best apologetics book out there, because if faith is personal, not just believing doctrine, then apologetics addresses formative doctrines which affect our relationship to christ: is he willing & able to forgive me? how come? did this really happen? do i need forgiving or just acceptance? So it’s no surprise that Stott doesn’t just go into CH Dodd, but also Friedrich Nietzsche on sickness, Karl Menninger on the psychologising of sin, BF Skinnner on freedom, HLA Hart on positivism & law, RJ Berry on genetics, & Herbert Mowrer on Freud.

    Thinking out loud here, but compare that with a very mechanical gospel outline, where Christ died for a box of people...more like a transaction where he buys a toxic debt! Personal assurance then becomes less about his sufficiency and more about whether I'm in that unknown box. Maybe it’s a more Lutheran emphasis, I don’t know, but I’m certainly wrestling with Gerharde Forde's comment that the only response to the question "who is elect" is "you are". Crikey. Longest comment ever.