Today my mind rests on how we Christians regard those who do not know Christ. The endorsed approach for the last thirty years by many evangelicals makes a priority out of removing all uncomfortable confrontation when it comes to people and their need for the Gospel. The new approach is what I call molasses evangelism – it’s sweet going down but unhealthy when it settles. I believe 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. We are actually being Christ-like when we employ methods or techniques in our sharing the message of God which arouse a dreadful sense of culpability of sin in people. 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.
Many ministries do scriptural gymnastics in order to avoid bible 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 an attractive face anchored below exquisite hair. The message they speak is ecstasy to the carnal soul because it constantly echoes that all is well with the listener, as the messenger repeatedly affirms that 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 bible passage which realistically reveals the fallen nature of man. People shift in their seats as his unpolished words fall on ears which rest on both sides of a mind being challenged to humbly believe what God’s Word says. Only sixty people have arrived to hear him this morning, but something he is saying awakens the listener to a reality different than the one he or she thought upon as they rode to the church meeting place. 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 his tone 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 of them as they have 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 appeasing them into a lasting judgment. 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. Those who easily dismiss their guilt (and are encouraged to do so by the molasses evangelism approach 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. Friend, if you are in Christ then you have escaped judgment! Breathe in deeply the fresh air of freedom 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 prematurely forget it before you realize that it could have owned you forever. May God grant us all the ability to ponder these issues connected to our relationship with Jesus. May He equip us to answer them for ourselves. May He embolden us to share them with those around us until our eyes behold our beautiful King returning in glory and power.