Today my mind rests on how we regard those who do not know Christ. The newly endorsed approach by many evangelicals makes a priority out of removing all uncomfortable confrontation. It’s molasses evangelism and it’s sweet going down but unhealthy when it settles. I wonder if it is reasonable that we should aim for allowing for the experience of some level of felt guilt in those with whom we share Jesus Christ? Are we Christ-like in seeking to employ methods or techniques which arouse a dreadful sense of culpability of sin in people that we are sharing the Christian faith with? I believe a more imperative issue is to learn whether or not it is even possible for a person to come to Christ before they sense some level of guiltiness and the dread which should accompany it. Can someone actually be delivered before they sense that they have been enslaved? Let’s think on this.
Mega-ministries do scriptural gymnastics in order to avoid passages which may cause listeners to feel uncomfortable. Great strides are taken to soothe potentially convict-able souls so that the minister gains the prize of a return audience the following week. He or she speaks slickly with a buttery smile radiating from a cosmeticized face anchored below exquisite hair. The message is ecstasy to the carnal soul because it constantly echoes that all is well with the listener because they are good, God is good, and life is good. This is the platform for Crowd Building 101. Then, in contrast, at a different church, you have a prayed up teacher who approaches a nondescript wooden lectern with his bible. He has chosen a non-stroking passage which realistically reveals the fallen nature of man. People shift in their seats as his unpolished words fall on ears which rest on either side of a mind being challenged to believe. Only sixty people have arrived to hear him this morning but something he is saying awakens them to a reality different than the one they thought upon as they rode to the building. They sense that they are being warned. Now they find themselves uncomfortable. He speaks of their personal guilt and some of them feel resentment rising up in their hearts. Now he pulls back, even his voice lowers and softens as he speaks of the Son of God who loves them in spite of their rebellious hearts. They feel torn between resisting the message and thirsting for a remedy to what they’ve heard. They hate it but…they need it. The teacher has made them cringe. God makes them cry. The teacher asks them to stand. God then calls them to bow. Through the teacher God tells them that they must decide. God makes it impossible for them not to. Something has happened on the inside as they heard an unvarnished Gospel which highlighted their own need and God’s gracious offer; now they inexplicably understand that their answer is Jesus Christ. An hour earlier they weren’t even aware that they held the question.
Few people understand expressly how rapidly the professing church is running to the extreme of professional, profitable religion. Pseudo-spiritual leaders have bitten into the apple of modern day tactics which bring visible results but little lasting fruit. My comments should be viewed here as simple observation. I’m no longer concerned with the potential to be viewed as a cranky sour-puss who seeks to hold on to the lost art of biblical exposition. This abandonment of prophet-like preaching is the new undeniable reality for our age. Preachers have avoided the sin of making people uncomfortable and replaced it with the virtue of salving them into a devil’s hell. No, I’m not a seeker friendly preacher but nor am I seeker opposed. I’m seeker-honoring because I love them enough to tell them the truth without slick gamesmanship. I’m seeker-respecting because I leave their decision between them and God. I’m seeker-urgent because I leave them with no doubts that there IS a decision that they need to make.
Too many of us are hasty in rejoicing that Jesus “was slain for me” without pausing to mourn over the truth that He “was slain by me”. I simply cannot get over the fact that I crucified the Son of God with my sin and He responded by…pursuing me in love to tell me that He forgives me. Then He tells me that we will spend eternity together. Again, He cries out that He loves me and has purposed to bless me with the best He has to offer. His grace is both stunning and scandalous. Please don’t expect me to ignore the reality of my judicial guilt, what I rightly deserved in my dismissing of God’s holy authority. My justification is not given to me so that I might ignore all sense of former culpability. The fact that the guilt is gone is such fertile ground which allows gratitude to eagerly thrive. Those who easily dismiss their guilt (and are encouraged to do so by seeker-friendly approaches to the Great Commission) also fail to maintain gratitude to God because they were never aware of the fullness of the charges against them and the resulting guilt. Does the pardoned criminal fail to compare his current freedom with the memory of his cold cell? Does he not rejoice because the judge has set him free when he would have been justified to let him rot there? Friend, if you are in Christ then you have escaped! Breathe in deeply the fresh air but – for the glory of Jesus Christ the Lord – never forget the price of your pardon which He paid. Don’t live in the guilt but don’t dismiss it before you realize that it could have owned you forever. I directly question the reader today: how can I truly believe these things and remain flippant about Him? How can this truth not shake me to my very core until my heart melts as wax and my gut trembles with the admixture of awestruck wonder and holy fear? Finally, why would any of us seek to live and serve in a way that minimizes this component of Christian commitment? May God grant us all the ability to ponder these things. May He equip us to answer them for ourselves.