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28 August 2010

If we only had a zombie evangelist...

Remember the account of the rich man and Lazarus? The rich man, who'd had it easy in life, had died and was in torment.
“Then the rich man said, ‘Please, Father Abraham, at least send [Lazarus] to my father’s home. For I have five brothers, and I want him to warn them so they don’t end up in this place of torment.’

“But Abraham said, ‘Moses and the prophets have warned them. Your brothers can read what they wrote.

“The rich man replied, ‘No, Father Abraham! But if someone is sent to them from the dead, then they will repent of their sins and turn to God.’

“But Abraham said, ‘If they won’t listen to Moses and the prophets, they won’t listen even if someone rises from the dead.’”

- Luke 16:27-31, NLT (emphases mine)

So what do you think? For most of my life I believe I honestly thought Abraham was.. ah... dead wrong. No matter how many miraculous prophecies a person had seen fulfilled, I reasoned, none would compare in sheer impact to a person coming back from the dead.

So if I was right, then why in the world would Jesus agree with Abraham?

I've come to realize that Jesus may have been onto something. It looks like the whole of Christian culture seems to think that Jesus and Abraham were wrong. Ignoring the implications in Jesus' words here, we have often, quite literally, replaced Scripture with as much eye-popping glitz as we can afford, hoping for something to grab the ADD-prone American consumer in a way that the rich man must have imagined an evangelist zombie would do to the ancient Jews.

Great speakers, expensive motivational/leadership conferences, weekly meetings that are geared to cater to the personal tastes of the Christian consumer, self-improvement books, camps and retreats geared to get people "on fire for Jesus" or lure in the non-believer... I am not condeming these things, yet while they are by no means "bad" in themselves, they are only a handful of the substitutes that have directly replaced the role of every believer as a living witness -- people who not only live the Word, but freely share it.

Do we really believe that the Word and the power of the Holy Spirit are sufficient to call and to change the heart and mind of a sinner? to convict them and call them to true repentance? I'm not sure, but it seems that we feel pretty darned confident in our replacements.

Though they have their uses, I'm not a big fan of commentaries. However, Matthew Henry, in his notes on this passage, said a couple of things quite well:

  • Foolish men are apt to think any method of conviction better than that which God has chosen and appointed.
  • A messenger from the dead could say no more than what is said in the Scriptures

 Were he writing a commentary today, I can't help wondering if Matthew Henry would write something like, "The best, most well-organized and targeted outreach event could say no more than what is said in the Scriptures."


Anonymous said...

Let's face it, people are geared to practically ignore the miraculous. The Hebrews wondered in the desert for 40 years because of it, the Disciplines constantly seemed surprised at each miracle like they had never seen one before (including an undead Lazarus), and Christians offer ignore the re-birth we experience. Why we do this I cannot fathom. That we do it is certain. The only fix I know is constant prayer, Scripture, and striving.....

Dean Lusk said...

Sort of on-topic... Last year I read a book by Dave Smelzer called "Not the Religious Type," and he made an excellent point that I'll probably butcher here.

He noted that the people who seem to receive the most credence in their opinions on the "miraculous" are the ones who are predisposed not to believe it, and those who have experienced God at work seem to be given less credibility than skeptics and cynics.

I recommend the book, because I don't know if I really did justice to that one small thought.

John King said...

You write foolish men our apt to think any method.....I agree 100%
I hate to use the word "Lazy". But the truth is not all. But alot of our leaders are plain lazy across the board. Meanning, they dont give 100%. Or look for wisdom before a sermon or decision.
If there too busy with there own life...get out of the
A Pastor who tells the kids to go out an pick up the trash is fine. But, he should set a example an be right there picking it up with them. This shows them hes not better. Hes not to be on a pedestual. He is a Equal. An he can minister to them. Thats a leader.
My point, I think the Members of the Body. They are waking up. Some leave the church unfortually or get run out by evil. Some are plain mad. an they are rallying to weed out those who aren't able to give 100%. We as followers may have been born at nite. But not last nite. These men who go through the motions. The members are now taking a firm stand to save the church in my opinion. You can pray for years. But you must speak the truth when evil could corrupt a church.

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