Today my mind rests on how we Christians regard those who do not know Christ. The newly endorsed approach by many evangelicals makes a priority out of removing all uncomfortable confrontation concerning human sin and the righteousness of God. It’s molasses evangelism and it’s sweet going down but unhealthy when it settles. Much of modern Christianity intentionally removes any and all sharp edges and supplies a smooth, comfortable substitute. While I am not one who operates in obnoxious, unkind jackhammer-Christianity, I wonder how reasonable it is that the modern message of Jesus Christ does not resemble the message of Jesus Himself or His apostles. Is it not appropriate 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 being unloving or are we being true if we employ communication, methods or techniques which might arouse a dreadful sense of culpability for sin in people with whom we are sharing the Gospel message? 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 churches and preachers 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 subtle, but perhaps unintentional, message is that Jesus makes you, well, cool. The happy, hip 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 or her bible. The teacher has chosen a non-stroking passage which realistically reveals the fallen nature of man. People shift in their seats as the teacher’s unpolished words fall on ears which rest on either side of a mind being challenged by Holy Spirit to believe. Only sixty people have arrived to hear the message this morning but something that the teacher 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. The message from the Bible communicates their personal guilt and some of them feel resentment rising up in their hearts. Now the teacher pulls back, lowers the volume, and softens the tone as the Son of God who loves them in spite of their rebellious hearts is presented in grace and truth. 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. Then God then calls them to bow. Through the teacher God tells them that they must decide what to do with the message they have just heard about His Son and their sin. God makes it impossible for them not to make some decision – either to surrender or resist. Something has happened on the inside as they heard an unvarnished Gospel which highlighted their own need and God’s gracious offer of salvation; 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. Many church leaders have bitten into the apple of modern day tactics which bring visible results but little lasting spiritual fruit. My comments should be viewed here as simple observation. I am not angry. I am not envious. God is blessing the ministry in which I serve and I am blessed to co-pastor with other men who are not ashamed of the biblical Gospel. 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 soothing their flesh all the way up until the 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. Please don’t expect me to ignore the reality of my judicial guilt, what I rightly deserved in my rebelling against God’s holy authority. And don’t expect me to apologize for telling you that you were no different than I. Our salvation is not given to us so that we might ignore all sense of former culpability. The fact that our guilt is now gone is such fertile ground which allows gratitude to eagerly thrive. Those who easily dismiss their guilt (and are encouraged to do so by religiously diluted 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 formerly 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 you dare live in guilt but don’t dismiss the enormity of 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.
Now, let’s go and be honest with people who deserve to know the truth and also deserve the respect for us to allow them to decide for themselves what they will do with it.