Tuesday, August 31, 2004

The Purpose of Parachutes

Imagine yourself getting on an airplane. As you board, you see the stewardess attempting to hand out parachutes to the passengers and instructing them that parachutes are important and they will enhance their experience of the trip on the aircraft. Most of the passengers reject the parachutes, but when you reach the stewardess, you are persuaded by her arguments and take one.

You struggle into the harness and lower yourself into the airplane seat and buckle yourself in. The bulk of the parachute prevents you from leaning back comfortably in your chair, but you trust what the stewardess said – this will make the ride better than if you hadn’t been wearing it.

Pretty soon the airplane takes off and you find yourself unable to just relax the way the other passengers are relaxing in their chairs. You shift one way and then another, but the buckles stick into your back and hurt you. Not only that, some of the other passengers are eyeing you with amusement and snickering at you. Finally someone asks you why you believed that tale the stewardess told you, in a tone of voice that conveys clearly they they consider you a fool.

Finally in disgust you get up and rip the parachute off and throw it away.

Now imagine yourself getting on the airplane again, only this time the stewardess tells you that you need to wear the parachute because it will save your life. You sit down in your seat, and though it is a bit uncomfortable and people are looking at you strangely and mocking you for wearing it, you know that having that parachute on your back will be the means of saving your life when it is needed.

The first analogy is meant to contrast typical mainstream evangelical presentations of the Gospel, while the latter represents a more Biblical approach as taught on a series I have been watching lately called, “The Way of the Master.”

Most Christians are afraid of offending people and so they want to sell the Gospel as a means of enhancing your experience here on earth. “Come to Jesus and get your marriage fixed.” Or “Come to Jesus and be healed.” Or “You have a God-shaped hole in your heart that only God can fill.” Jesus is the big need – meeter.

What does the Bible tell us can be the reality of the Christian life? “Blessed are you when men shall revile you and persecute you and say all manner of evil against you falsely for My sake.” When Christianity begins to cost something, those who came to Christ to have their ride through life enhanced will bail, because we are called to suffer with Christ, and no one told them that.

Those who are looking for a more Biblical approach that allows you to give the Gospel to a person in less than 10 minutes, and does so in a way that is Biblical would do well to look into this series. This is not an unqualified endorsement, however. There is a bit of Arminian teaching to be found in it. If you can spit out that bone and the creedo baptist position, it is a worthwhile series for learning to share the Gospel with sinners.

A typical conversation with an unbeliever in the on-street interviews goes like this:

Christian [to man on the street]: Hi! Mind if I ask you a few questions?

Mr. T: No, I guess not.

Christian: My name’s Christian, what’s yours?

Mr. T: “Mr. T.”

Christian: So, Mr. T., do you believe you are a good person?

Mr. T: Yeah, I think so. I do a lot of good stuff. I look after my wife and kids. I pay my taxes. I give to charities.

Christian: So tell me, have you ever told a lie?

Mr. T: Hmmm. Well, yeah.

Christian: What do we call people who tell lies?

Mr. T: Liars?

Christian: Right. Now, tell me, have you ever stolen something, even if it was something small?

Mr. T: [shamefacedly] Yeah.

Christian: What do we call people who steal things?

Mr. T: Ummm. Thieves.

Christian: Mhmm. Jesus said in the Bible that whoever looks on a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart. Have you ever done that? I have.

Mr. T: Doesn’t everyone?

Christian: Yes, I haven’t met anyone who has said they havent’ done that. Now here’s the last question: Have you ever used God’s Name as a cuss word?

Mr. T: Yeah, I have.

Christian: That’s called blasphemy. Now by your own admission, you are a liar, a thief, and adulterer at heart, and a blasphemer. If you died tonight and had to stand before God who will render judgement, will he pronounce you innocent or guilty?

Mr. T: Well, I think God is a loving God and he’ll overlook those bad things.

Christian: Tell me, Mr. T. If there was incontrovertible evidence that a man had committed murder and was, without a doubt, guilty, would the judge who judged him be a good judge or a bad judge if he let him go without any punishment for it?

Mr. T: Well he’d be a terrible judge!

Christian: But what if the murderer pleaded that even though he had murdered, he had been a faithful provider for his wife and children and had given money to starving orphans in Africa? Should the judge let him go free on the basis of those other things?

Mr. T: No!

Christian: So how can God be a good judge, and we know He is good, and let you off from the things you confessed to being guilty of? You said yourself you are guilty of just four of the commandments I mentioned. I didn’t even bring in the other six. If you died tonight and were judged, would you go to Heaven or Hell?

Mr. T: I guess I would deserve hell.

Christian: Does that concern you?

There is more but that is the kernel of the Gospel presentation. Short, sweet, uses the Law to directly affect the conscience, and bypasses all the intellectual arguments that people like to raise and throw at you.

The Gospel is not meant to make this life easy or to enhance our “ride.” It is meant to save the perishing from destruction.

Show people the real purpose of the parachute, and they won’t mind the discomforts of the ride so much while wearing it.

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