We live in a postmodern world in which moral relativism is the rule of the day. Some may even assert that the time for presenting absolute truth is passé, that we can no longer give hard answers; we can only ask questions. But I disagree.
It is always time to present the truth of the gospel, regardless of the trends of contemporary culture. “Truth is truth, and lies are lies,” as my friend Dennis Agajanian says.
That is what we need to remember. And we also need to remember that God’s Word will never return void.
As a church, we face a huge challenge in taking the gospel to our generation. Technology is exploding before our very eyes, generating unprecedented opportunities. Doors are open for sharing the gospel that will not necessarily stay that way. Opportunities must be seized or lost forever.
Billy Graham has said, “The evangelistic harvest is always urgent. The destiny of men and nations is always being decided. Every generation is strategic. We are not responsible for the past generation, and we cannot bear full responsibility for the next one. But we do have our generation. God will hold us responsible as to how well we fulfill our responsibilities to this age and take advantage of our opportunities.”
We are all called to bring the gospel to our culture today. There are no exceptions. But many of us, if we were honest, would admit that we are not doing that.
There may be a number of reasons, maybe even excuses, as to why we are not sharing the gospel, ranging from a fear of failure to a lack of concern. Some may feel they do not know how to start or finish such a task.
In Acts 17, we find a page out of the playbook of the greatest evangelist of all time, apart from our Lord himself. The apostle Paul was a master communicator of the gospel. Here we see him bringing the message of Jesus Christ to his culture in the first century.
But things really are not all that different from where Paul was and where we are today. Despite our dramatic advances in technology, the essential needs of humankind remain the same — as does the answer to those problems.
Paul was the right man in the right place at the right time. He was well-prepared and well-educated for the task at hand. And though he used his oratorical skills, at the same time, he always arrived at the same simple message. If he was speaking to a soldier or a Roman governor or possibly to Caesar himself, Paul never really changed his message.
For the gospel to be the gospel, it always will come down to the simple, though not simplistic, message of who Jesus is, why He came, how He died, and how He rose again.
Now Paul could have stood around all day and cursed the darkness. But instead, he decided to turn on the light.
Acts 17:16–17 tells us, “Now while Paul waited for them at Athens, his spirit was provoked within him when he saw that the city was given over to idols. Therefore he reasoned in the synagogue . . . and in the marketplace daily...” (nkjv).
In the same way, we can wring our hands and talk about the state of affairs in our world all day long. Or we can do something about it.
We need to proclaim the gospel, because the root of the problem is that people are separated from God. Paul’s spirit was stirred, and he took action.
Not only did Paul take action, but he also took the time to learn about the people he was speaking to. He examined their idols. He read their poets. He understood their culture. He wanted to build a bridge to them.
That is because the way to change a culture is to invade it. It is to go out where people don’t typically hear the gospel, enter their world, and tell them about Jesus Christ. That is what Paul did.
Having said that, let’s remember that it is all in the hands of God. We are foolish if we congratulate ourselves for great successes. And we are fools if we condemn ourselves for times when our message doesn’t resonate.Our responsibility is simply to proclaim the gospel accurately, faithfully, lovingly, clearly, and understandably, and then to let the Lord do His work with His message as it has been given out.
The story of Johnny Cash’s life and spiritual struggles offers hope to anyone who has had trouble staying on the straight and narrow path—and reminds us that God redeems broken lives and makes them whole again. My new book, Johnny Cash: The Redemption of an American Icon is a fascinating look at a unique and talented musician and follower of Christ!