Wednesday, October 14, 2015

What's Your Story?

Victor Garber as Jesus in the film version of the Broadway musical, GODSPELL.
Dear Friends,

One of the highlights of our recent Groovin’ To The Sixties event was when we all sang "Day By Day" at the end of the music program. "Day By Day" was the hit song from GODSPELL, the Broadway musical and movie. GODSPELL (think Gospel) was based on the book of Matthew and told the parables of Jesus set in the era and culture of the Sixties. “Jesus” wore a “Superman” shirt and had a red heart painted on his forehead. Really? Jesus with an “Afro” and dressed in a Superman shirt? Would the Son of God approve?

It’s interesting when we compare how Christians talk to unbelievers today with how Jesus spoke to unbelievers 2000 years ago. We tend to preach about God and Jesus. We quote scripture and explain theologically sound spiritual principles. But what Jesus often did was to simply tell some stories called parables that were set in a secular context. Jesus spoke to the city dwellers, farmers, shepherds, and craftsman in a manner that they could relate to. A parable is a simple story set in the context of the current culture that teaches a spiritual truth in terms that can be easily understood. These word-pictures from Jesus are memorable, filled with clear imagery and teach deep biblical truths. He talked about sheep, seeds, coins, weddings and banquets. While only a few parables mention God by name, God is found throughout the analogies, similes and metaphors in all of Jesus’ stories. The parable of the Prodigal Son is a good example. Luke 15:11-32

Jesus was a pretty smart guy when He was talking to non-believers. He could have quoted the Old Testament prophets, Jeremiah and Hosea, and shouted: “God will remember your iniquity and punish your sins!!” But we read over and over in the Old Testament that no one listened to the prophets. That’s why the people kept getting into trouble with God! So Jesus used a different technique. He was subtle. He was clever. He spoke into their lives using simple stories that had Kingdom concepts cleverly hidden within the narrative. So when people heard Jesus talk about “wheat and tares” or their farm animals, it didn’t sound like preaching to them. It didn’t look like He was going to go all religious on them so they let their guard down. Their ears were open and they listened. Sometimes at the end of the story, they realized Jesus was talking about God and His Kingdom and sometimes the truth wouldn’t hit them until later. A parable was even sometimes deliberately vague in order to encourage people to figure it out for themselves. Jesus knew the best way to get His point across was by telling the people a simple story that they could relate to. He knew that a parable would cause men and women to think, self-examine their relationship with God and respond to Him. That’s why Jesus told parables...

What we typically do is to tell those same Biblical stories from 2000 years ago to those seeking Christ. But can the fork lift operator who works in the warehouse relate to a story about lost sheep? Does the single mom struggling to feed her young children relate to a parable about a rich young ruler? What is that college student thinking when we’re using the example of the ten virgins and their oil lamps to make our point that he needs to be ready for Christ’s second coming? Can people who have never read the Bible relate to biblical stories from 2000 years ago? Sometimes they can. The Holy Spirit can do miracles. But what would Jesus tell them today?

If we follow the leading of the Master Communicator, Jesus Christ, we might want to use contemporary, real-life stories from today which illustrate God’s love, sovereignty and forgiveness. Sometimes in our zeal to share the love of Jesus Christ, we wind up whacking people upside the head with scripture when it would be more effective if we gently drew them in with the stories from our own life and from the lives of others. Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to you those incidents from your life which best illustrate God’s love, forgiveness, grace and mercy. Tell stories that contain spiritual principles and values. Stories that engage people and connect them with the reality of God. Stories that will make them think and turn their heart toward Jesus. And then introduce them to the Bible. Oh..and by the way, if God had sent His Son into the world in the late Sixties, Jesus probably would have worn a Superman shirt and painted a red heart on His forehead!  Amen?

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