See my previous post for a summary of the rest of the conference. In the final session Dr. DA Carson was tasked with speaking on the “Gospel Shaped Mission.” For well over 2 decades Christianity in general has been following a course of adjusting ministry to speak to our rapidly changing culture. In one sense this resonates with us… Paul preached on the acropolis, right? But in another sense terms like “missional” and “contextualization” seem over used and short lived. Frankly many pastors are tired from reading the latest ministry books and chasing the fads of Western Christianity. Well, at least I am.
I have to say that I am not big on fads. I don’t like reading books on ministry. There are too many. They won’t stop publishing them. I am fundamentally persuaded that the gospel hasn’t changed, though culture does. All that to say, I was expecting to hear Dr. Carson speak on how to contextualize the gospel message without compromising it. He opened by asking us, “what causes the church today her greatest difficulties?” Culture shift! Contemporary music! Politicians!
Then he said, “open your Bibles to Revelation 12.” In case you didn’t do your devos in Rev. 12:1-17 today you should check it out. There John describes his vision of a dragon (Satan) waiting to eat the child of a woman upon its birth. The child escapes, and Satan is defeated and thrown to earth. He is enraged and fights against her other descendants.
Dr. Carson explained that this is essentially a visionary presentation of Satan’s war with God, the Messiah, and those who put their faith in him. We know the child is the Messiah from 12:5. The woman is not Mary, but likely represents the “Messianic community.” Satan is, of course, thwarted. After failing to destroy the Messiah, he spends the rest of his limited days in spiteful hatred fighting against those who put their faith in Christ.
Thus Rev. 12:17 is a picture of what is happening right now in the world. An enraged, defeated Satan is making war on the church. What causes the church today her greatest difficulties? Satan. There is much more going on than battles over whether or not we should have coffee shops and contemporary music in our churches. Satan is raging, battling against believers.
John specifies in Rev. 12:11 how Christians overcome Satan: by the blood of the Lamb (nothing they did), by the word of their tesimony (talking about the blood of the Lamb), and by a willingness to die (because of the blood of the Lamb).
He said if we analyze our problems in the church sociologically or historically we will tend to seek sociological solutions. But our problems are much greater than culture, they are theological and epic. He said we must use the only weapons we have against Satan- the blood of the Lamb, the Gospel.
This message resonated with me deeply. We don’t need fads. Yes, think purposefully about ministry. Yes consider your context. Yes be purposeful in the great commission. But in all this we cannot forget the main reality: only by the blood of the Lamb can we overcome. Only the blood of the Lamb redeems sinners.