Am I saying to candy-coat the message? In a sense, I am.

Am I saying to candy-coat the message? In a sense, I am.

What can we achieve by establishing common ground with our detractors? Simply, we can gain their ear. R.C. Sproul illustrates, in his lecture Christ: The Only Way, how to connect with people through searching for an agreement. After a skeptical professor singles him out, Sproul gets the opportunity to dialogue with the individual in a private conversation concerning the exclusivity of the Gospel. He begins his apologetic by connecting with the professor on an intellectual agreement. He asks hypothetically, “Do you believe that Jesus could be at least one way?” By asking this simple question, Sproul has extended a bridge to conversation instead of erecting a wall that would stifle dialogue. Sproul then has the ability to share his reasoning with a listening audience.
The Apostle Peter writes, “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear:”(1Pe 3:15 KJV). Many people know the reason for our hope, but forsake sharing it in a spirit of meekness and fear. Although, the person may object to the truth claims of Christ, the individuals we are speaking with are made in the image of God and we must remember their intrinsic value. By establishing a common ground, we demonstrate that we value the individual’s thoughts. This aids in our receptivity.
For a biblical example, the Apostle Paul utilizes this approach at Mars Hill. The Bible records,

Then Paul stood in the midst of Mars’ hill, and said, Ye men of Athens, I perceive that in all things ye are too superstitious. 23 For as I passed by, and beheld your devotions, I found an altar with this inscription, TO THE UNKNOWN GOD. Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, him declare I unto you (Act 17:22-23 KJV).

Paul could have verbally assaulted the audience for their polytheism, but he builds a bridge by using their superstitions. After gaining their ear, he launches into sharing the truth of the Gospel. This is exactly the technique R.C. Sproul used in dealing with a skeptical scholar.
Am I saying to candy-coat the message? In a sense, I am. Please put the stones down and allow me to explain. Unequivocally, we should share the truth of the Gospel without compromise for eternal souls hang in the balance. However, we can package it in a manner more appealing to the ear of our audience. For illustration, when my dog was sick it needed medicine to heal. I attempted to force feed the pup a pill, but time after time a saliva-covered pill plummeted to the ground. So, what did I do? I put the pill in a spoon of peanut butter and the dog gobbled it down. Now did I reduce the amount of medicine given to my canine companion? No. I merely presented in a manner he would receive. The same principle, when applied to our exchanges with skeptics, should not be found illegitimate.

In conclusion, I am not opposed to given the hard-hitting meat of the word, but are they ready for it? By finding common ground, it allows the delivery of truth to be more palatable. Of course, there comes a point of no return and truth is either accepted or rejected, but as we see in Sproul’s (and even Paul’s) example they attempt to establish a foundation for reasonable dialogue to progress. Our wit will never bring salvation to anyone, but we can in a loving and respectful way present God’s word to others. In my opinion, if we can continue the conversation, they will continue to ponder our position and remember truth is on our side.

The Forgotten Season

The Forgotten Season

Jeremiah 33:14-16

14 Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will perform that good thing which I have promised unto the house of Israel and to the house of Judah.

15 In those days, and at that time, will I cause the Branch of righteousness to grow up unto David; and he shall execute judgment and righteousness in the land.

16 In those days shall Judah be saved, and Jerusalem shall dwell safely: and this is the name wherewith she shall be called, The Lord our righteousness.

Okay, admit it! You’ve seen the meme on Facebook of Santa saying, “Slow down and let’s have some turkey first.” He was protesting society’s habit of skipping from Halloween to Christmas without giving Thanksgiving its rightful spot on the season’s agenda. I concur with Santa about slowing down to eat some Turkey, but Thanksgiving is a memory. So, it’s Christmas right? Not quite.

When does Christmas Season begin? For many it begins in the wee hours of the morning, while standing in line at the department store, waiting for Black Friday’s deal. But to be honest, Christmas doesn’t begin the day after Thanksgiving; no matter how many radio stations begin playing your favorite carols. It actually, well, begins on Christmas!

So what do we call the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas? Have you forgotten? Well, don’t be too hard on yourself, because many have or at least almost forgotten.(Especially, us Southern Baptist, but I guess my Methodist upbringing is showing!) In my opinion,  the consumerism placed on Halloween, Thanksgiving, and even Christmas has dwarfed this very important Christian holiday season. It is the wonderful Season of Advent . (Oh, yeah now you remember vaguely the thing with the wreath and candles.)

Advent is celebrated on the four Sundays prior to Christmas Day. It marks the beginning of the Christian calendar year. It is a season to take time to reflect on Christ’s Incarnation (1st Coming) and His Parousia (2nd Coming).  In many Christian traditions, a wreath is placed with five candles (4 purple  candles with one white candle in the center). The four purple candles are lit  on their respective Sunday to represent hope, love, joy, and peace. Finally, the last candle (the white one in the center) is lit on either Christmas Eve or Christmas Day to represent the coming of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ; who is the Light of the world!

Okay, so what? Well, I would highly recommend taking sometime away from the hustle and bustle of the holidays and reflect on God’s faithfulness to His promises.  New help? Watch the video of one of my favorite  Advent carols below.  Buy a wreath and candle for your home as reminder or a teaching aid for children. By the way, get to church tomorrow and start the New Year off right! (Well, the Christian New Year at least.)

An Old FaceBook Note

***The following post was written three years ago.

I have to go on the record! I have a spur under my saddle. It bothers me, when people get cultural issues and the obeying the gospel confused. It is common to human nature to try to make others like ourselves, but this is not the Great Commission (See Matthew 28:19,20). The church is simply to preach the gospel and make disciples of Christ; not westernize believers. If the practice in a culture is not contrary to the New Testament teaching, then we (the church) should not try to change this tradition. For example, in America it is widely accepted that ministers should wear ties. Yet, I have a Bulgarian friend, that says, at one point, in the Bulgarian culture, ties were considered worldly and shunned. (For ties pointed down to hell!)Another illustration of this blurring the lines of culture and gospel commands, I experienced first hand. I occasionally grow my facial hair out, because I like it that way. Some people call this practice sinful, which I find humorous, since the sinless Savior of the world had a beard!
How does one receive salvation? For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: (Eph.2:8) Further more, the evidence of salvation is the fruit of the Spirit. (22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith,23 Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law ~Galatians 5:22,23). When we reduce the evidence of conversion down to obeying a dress code or a set of unbiblical traditions of men, we are on the verge of being a modern day Pharisee (See Matthew 23:15).
I understand people have different personal convictions and this is fine.(I also have personal convictions, but I will not promote them from the pulpit.) The individual with these convictions must remember they are “personal” convictions. (Please see Romans 14 about “personal convictions”.)The rule and guide of a Christian’s conduct should be the New Testament. You may ask, “What about the Old Testament?” Remember Christ came to fulfill the law! We as Born again believers should only hold to those Old Testaments commands that are reiterated in the New Testament. This is due, because we are under a new and better covenant! If you say you live by the law, then maybe you should read this: 20 I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.21 I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain (Galatians 2:21,22). Thank you Jesus for your truly amazing grace!
In conclusion, before you teach a person that practicing an act, performing a task, or dressing a certain way; is what makes you a Christian. Ask yourselves if this is a biblical conviction or a cultural conviction? I am in NO WAY saying traditions are wrong, but we are to view traditions through the lens of Scripture. I will take the approach of Paul, who did not allow cultural difference to hinder his evangelistic work (See 1 Corinthians 9:20-22).

Kevin W. Bounds