Provoking Provocative Questions with our Generosity

January 6, 2020

Question: How are you interacting with "new people" in your world, living in ways that align with the gospel and provoke questions from those who don't know Jesus?

In this clip: Pastor Jon Tyson asks us what would happen if we had a provocative vision to generously share our lives.

Question: As we begin 2020, what decisions can you make to live a provocatively generous life?


In the video clip, Jon Tyson cites this quote from Lesslie Newbigin, the late British theologian and missionary to India:

“We must live in the Kingdom of God in such a way that it provokes questions for which the gospel is the answer.”

Pause and read that again. Slowly. Newbigin is challenging followers of Christ to live in such a way that those who observe our lives are provoked to ask questions about our actions. But there’s more. He says we’re to live in such a way that when people are provoked to ask us about our actions, our answer is the gospel.

“We must live in the Kingdom of God in such a way that it provokes questions for which the gospel is the answer.” [Tweet This]

The Contrasting Reality of the Kingdom of God

People who live in the way described by Newbigin are rarely people who live in conformity to the dominant culture. They are people whose lives have been impacted by the gospel—the good news about Jesus. They are alive in Christ, having taken on his identity, enlivened by the indwelling of the Spirit of Jesus.  Paul writes, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, behold, the new has come!” (2 Cor 5:17, RSV).

"Christians should be provocative because they are part of a new reality—the Kingdom of God—which is in contrast to the dominant culture’s pattern of living." [Tweet This

How does this lead to a lifestyle that provokes questions? When Paul says “the old has gone, the new is here,” he’s referring to a fundamental shift in one’s orientation from self-absorption (idolatry) to receiving your identity from the new life Christ gives us. This orientation challenges a lifestyle of acquiring and consuming (fueled by self-absorption) which largely goes unchallenged in our culture. Instead, for those whose lives and identity are linked to Christ, “the new is here.” The new orientation is patterned after Jesus himself. Paul describes it this way in 2 Corinthians 8:9:

“For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.”

A community of provocative generosity

In Acts 4:32-37, the first Christians were known for liquidating and sharing, instead of acquiring and consuming. Motivated by their encounter with the generous grace of God manifested in Jesus, they became a community of compelling generosity. That became a pattern of their lives, not simply a sporadic exercise. They embodied generosity patterned after Jesus’ own generosity.

As a result, the surrounding culture could not simply ignore the conduct of these Christians. Their generosity was provocative! Around 120-130 AD, the Athenian philosopher Aristides wrote to Hadrian the King describing the early Christians:

“When they see a stranger, they take him in to their homes and rejoice over him as a very brother; for they do not call them brethren after the flesh, but brethren after the spirit and in God…And if there is among them any that is poor and needy, and if they have no spare food, they fast two or three days in order to supply to the needy their lack of food.…And verily, this is a new people, and there is something divine (lit: "a divine admixture") in the midst of them.”

People you can’t just ignore

God’s vision for his church is that we together might be people who others can’t simply ignore—not because we’re offensive, but because Jesus is alive in us through the Spirit, motivating and empowering us to live compelling lives of faithful love, sacrificial service and abundant generosity.

Follow up: 

Begin to pray for God to reveal to you the people in your circles of relationship toward whom you might be intentionally generous.
How might you be provocatively generous toward those people? Your neighbor? Coworker? The barista at your regular coffee stop?

[Tweet this article]

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