Today's Battles, Yesterday's Weapons
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Okay, whether you're a Yankee or Confederate at heart, you can't take much joy in what happened at what is called the "High Water Mark of the Confederacy." If you're a Civil War buff, you know that's where the Union Army turned back Pickett's Charge at the Battle of Gettysburg. Some 15,000 Confederate soldiers marched courageously across a field in a tightly packed formation, advancing on 40,000 Union soldiers. Only 150 of those Southern soldiers made it. General Lee had made an honest but tragic mistake. See, he'd been trained at West Point in Napoleon's war tactics - masses of men, advancing against imprecise, short-range weapons until they could overwhelm the opposing troops in hand-to-hand combat. Unfortunately, things had changed since that kind of strategy had won battles for Napoleon. Recent technology had greatly improved the range and the accuracy of the rifles that the Union Army was using, which meant those masses of men were brought down long before they could ever reach enemy lines.
Robert E. Lee, the great general that he was, made the fatal mistake of fighting today's battles with what used to work. A lot of us are still making that fatal mistake when it comes to fighting the battle for which Jesus gave His life - turning people from the death penalty of their sin to the eternal life that only Jesus can give them. When we lose that battle, a soul is lost forever.
The message that Jesus died for our sin and came back from the dead to be our living Savior: that's a message that never changes. The Good News about Jesus always has been and it always will be the unchanging "power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes" (Romans 1:16). That message is always relevant, always powerful, never to be tampered with, watered down, or compromised.
But the methods by which we present His message are always subject to change. And, frankly, many of us haven't changed our methods for a long time. We're still trying to reach people with what used to work. But today's lost people don't know the Bible, they don't understand the "Christianese" words we use to explain what Jesus did, they don't ever plan to come to a religious meeting to hear a religious speaker talk on a religious subject in a religious place, which describes a lot of the ways we try to reach them.
The Apostle Paul, who never compromised the message, was the same one who said in 1 Corinthians 9:22, our word for today from the Word of God, "I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some." In terms of method, Paul tells us to be willing to do whatever it takes, within Biblical boundaries, to rescue the dying.
Which today may mean going to where they are instead of them coming to where we are; doing outreach in places where they feel comfortable instead of in our religious building; communicating Christ in non-religious words that a lost person can understand. Delivering the message in music that is their musical language instead of ours; and realizing that it's going to be the everyday believer like you that we'll have to depend on to rescue the lost more than those programs we keep creating. The program of God for rescuing the dying is the people of God.
If we insist on fighting today's battle for the lost with what worked yesterday, we'll keep on reaching who we've already been reaching, while most of the spiritually dying people around us live and die without God and without hope. We can't lose them because we insist on doing what we've always done, sticking to what we're comfortable with. The eternity of people all around us is at stake; this is a battle that is too costly to lose.
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