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  • Writer's pictureMark Bocanegra

Tongue-burning spice, Face-cringing sweetness

Updated: Jun 24, 2021

So what does it take to get people to let go of their citizenship of this world, and partake of the citizenship of heaven? The first step, I believe, is stomach-satisfying hospitality. Hospitality is a radical, unimaginable, generous love of the stranger within our church.

What is the second step? We need to invite non-Christians inside the house of God. But what's inside? In the "inside" of the Church is a dining table where the Word of God is served. It is a room where Christians feast upon the Word of God with Christ as the head of the table. It's a festival and a feast. I have explained in the previous sermon that the only reason why we can bear fruit is because we are devoting ourselves to the Word and enjoying our fellowship with Christ; however, that doesn't answer the question of what we should do when we bring non-Christians to the Dining Table.

"Want a sample?" Sampling is the first step of Evangelism.. The easiest answer is have them taste the Word of God/ Many people think that means "teaching" the "Word of God" is just data you need to download; but I like to compare the Word of God to a "cuisine." Yes, the Word of God is "food" but "food" isn't just a bunch of calories you need to input into your body. Food creates a certain mood, certain interaction, certain lifestyle, and a certain culture around it. You don't just 'learn' the Word of God--like Pythagorean Theorem. You experience, taste, sample, the Word of God like being introduced to a new cuisine.

But what is "Gospel cuisine"? Building off the Ezekiel 47 analogy, we see that the river that flows out of the Temple is the Holy Spirit. And I have argued the Holy Spirit always works with the Word of God. The Word of God and the Holy Spirit is what the Christians "eat and drink." But what does it taste like? How is it different from what the world consumes? The Gospel is always Sweet-and-Spicy and shock-inducing.

Very simply--Gospel cuisine, or the Word of God, has two very key 'notes.' The tongue-burning spice of the Law and the face-cringing sweetness of the Gospel. The Holy Spirit always cuts people's hearts (Acts 2:37) with the conviction of their sin (John 16:8) and then teaches about the wonderful work of Christ (John 14:26). When we prepare the meal of "the Word of God" we need to make sure to shock people with the sweat-inducing spiciness of the Law and the smile-creating sweetness of the Gospel. And actually, the Law and the Gospel work together--the spicier the Law, the sweeter the Gospel. And the sweeter the Gospel, the spicier the Law. Without the Law and the Gospel, you can't have Christian cuisine.

And often, the first bite of the Law and the Gospel is a shock to the system. But as they eat more of this Christian cuisine as many people serve it to them, the hope is that they become more and more accustomed to it. To the point that they don't like the food of this World and they can only eat the food of the Gospel. Getting someone accustomed to enjoying the Word of God is like, getting an American person to enjoy Japanese food. It takes time. It takes immersion. You need to show the different kinds of dishes. You need to show how children, young people, families, and old people enjoy the Word of God. And it takes a whole community to show this wonderful "cuisine" of both Law and Gospel.

When Gospel cuisine is no longer Gospel cuisine.

However, in the process of introducing Gospel cuisine to people, we often make two mistakes. The first mistake is that we mess up the secret sauce.

Sometimes, with good intentions and in the name of contextualization, when we serve the Word of God--we over-adjust the spiciness of the Law and the sweetness of the Gospel to match the culture. Some think this is "contextualization"--however, I think this is messing up the secret sauce of the Gospel. I think of American Japanese food. If you want an American to be a Japanese citizen, do you give Americans California rolls, spicy tuna rolls with Sriracha sauce, and American instant ramen? No! Because those dishes don't exist in Japan. Then again, you also don't want to give overly exotic Japanese food like Nattou (fermented soybeans) or some sort of exotic seafood dish; however, you'd give them the best and most delicious Japanese food that you know an American would like--Ramen, Sukiyaki, Oyako-don, Tonkatsu Curry--but without adjusting the secret sauce. (I'm getting hungry now!) The whole point of Gospel cuisine is to to SHOCK them. You want them to think two things: 1) "I have never ever tasted this kind of soup in my American culture!" and 2) "This is the only place I've tasted this before." Of course, there will be people who will say "Yuck! I don't want any of this." but you will also have people who will say "I want to have more of this. I cant get this in the US. Do I have to go to Japan for this?" The point is not to accommodate/assimilate the cuisine but to show its shocking distinctiveness in a palatable manner. Without the shock, people won't understand why they have to leave their country for the heavenly Kingdom!

Forgetting to enjoy the spice of the Law and the sweetness of the Gospel.

The second and more fundamental mistake is this--perhaps the reason we serve a bland Law and a bland Gospel is because we ourselves don’t like the taste of the Gospel. Perhaps we don’t like the spiciness of the Law when it cuts our hearts. Perhaps we don't like the sweetness of the Gospel when God loves us unconditionally and not for our works. We don't like getting "shocked" by the 'wild' and 'exotic' Gospel---we want a 'tame' Gospel. Furthermore, when a whole community enjoys this 'wild' Gospel--both the sweat-inducing spicy parts and the face-cringing sweet parts-- it induces others to try it and enjoy it as well. My friends, if we are not shocked by the spice of the Law and sweetness of the Gospel, non-believers will know. When was the last time you were shocked by the Word? When was the last time you were cut by the Law by the conviction of sin and sewed back up by the balm of the Gospel?

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