Isaiah 61 - part #2

“The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to preach good news to the poor, he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners. To proclaim the year of the Lords favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion—to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.” – Isaiah 61:1-3

My Thoughts:
What is the good news? What is the gospel? This is a question I've been asking myself lately. For years I would have proceeded by taking you on a stroll down the Romans Road, or given you four simple happy hops to Heaven, or given you the ABC's of the faith: ADMIT that you're are sinner, BELIEVE in your heart that Jesus died for your sins, Confess that Jesus is Lord. Presto! There you have the gospel in a nutshell.

Or I would take people on a quest of diagnostic questions baiting them towards the question: "If you were to die today, where would you spend eternity?" followed by another cornering question: "If you were to stand before God and he was to ask, 'Why should I let you into MY Heaven...what would you say?" (After you wet your pants, of course!) Mind you, these people thought they were answering a random survey and within two mintues I'm asking them to bow their head and bend their knee repeating a Sinner's Prayer in heart felt consecration. This is sharing the least this is what came to my mind when I thought about the gospel.

I remember going on a "Gospel" trip to New York City for my evangelism class in college. I was a freshman just barely cutting my teeth in ministry. We packed in a church van (you gotta love those) and headed to the Big Apple. Upon our arrival, we had a crash course in street smarts and the "Shotgun Gospel Method" we would all have a chance to try out in the subways. The guy told us that as people got onto the subway, we would wait for the door to close, stand up on the nearest seat and with lightning speed, share our testimony with a "creative altar call type of invitation" at the end of the quick sermonette. We had about a minute to start and wrap up the whole deal, because the subway stopped about every minute unloading and loading people.

As it came time for me to perform this awkward and unusual form of verbal invasion, I remember feeling my heart pounding in my temples. I wasn't sure if I wanted to faint, run, puke or soil my pants, but make no mistake, I was dreading this "opportunity" to share the gospel. It didn't feel like "good news". It felt like selling merchandise to uninterested bystanders. I was the slick saleman pitching the deal of a lifetime. I was the auctioneer talking so fast I was making myself dizzy, not to mention everyone sitting in this moving rectangle trying to mind their own business. I took my stand, swallowed hard and performed like a stiff puppet. I'm not sure what I said, all I know is that people just looked down at the dirty rubber flooring and bit the bullet until they reached their destination. No one made eye contact. They put up with me. It's almost like they were letting me do whatever I needed to do to reach my evangelistic quota. It's like they knew I was doing this for a class grade...they weren't the lab rats, I was. I was embarrassed, violated, and dehumanized that day. Ever since, whenever there are groups getting together to street witness or go "door-to-door", I feel myself get hot and sweaty all over. There are phobia-like symptoms.

The gospel isn't a prayer, it isn't a trip to the inner city, it isn't a sermon, it isn't an altar call, it isn't a questionaire, it isn't a diagnostic test, it isn't a list of specific verses memorized in a calculated order, it isn't John 3:16 plastered on a poster and held up at a sporting event, it isn't cold turkey conversation with a perfect stranger on an airplane...though these are the things that initially come to mind for many. It's more like the aforementioned verse...a life of healing, caring, loving, listening, restoring, enjoying, ennobling, impassioning, freeing and befriending. It's a life of feeding, clothing, housing and counseling. It is above all relational and real. You shouldn't even know you're sharing the gospel when you are, because it's so much a part of your everyday routine. People shouldn't feel like you're pawning something off or pitching a product or selling a trinket...they should feel like they just had a conversation with someone who has a peculiar passion for life. They should feel like they just encountered something contagious, infectious and inviting.

That's what people felt when they bumped into Jesus...I wonder why?


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