Mosby’s medical dictionary defines inoculation as:
(medical term) the introduction of a substance (inoculum) into the body to produce or to increase immunity to the disease or condition associated with the substance.
I heard an interesting theory this week: that we in the west have been spiritually immunized to the truth of the Gospel. We have heard little bits of the truth in such a way that it has numbed us, built up a resistance to the truth. We have seen (or allow our culture to see) just enough of the Truth to ensure a distaste, or immunity to it, such that if we ever do hear the glorious fullness of the Gospel, we do not want it because of our callousness to it.
Captivating, is it not? It is easy to observe our culture and similar cultures experiencing trends away from the Gospel and devise explanations for our hardness, and completely ignore the simple fact of sin.
Years ago I heard a missionary to a closed country – a country where it is illegal to share the Gospel, meet in groups or convert to Christianity – say that it was their spiritual assignment to go into this country to help push away the boulders from the field before it could ever be planted unto harvest. Drawing on Paul’s illustration that he planted and Apollos watered (1 Cor 3.6), this helped excuse the apparent lack of spiritual interest and deadness of the land. This country, a mere 3 years later, became the host of one of the fastest growing Churches in the world.
Salvation does not make logical sense. There is nothing that I can do or say to convince you of your need for a savior, and there is nothing you can do to convince me of mine. The problem is that I am a sinner. Scripture says that before salvation I was spiritually dead (Eph 2.1), I was an enemy of God (James 4.4), I was lost and wandering (Matt 9.36).
So let me ask a simple question. If I am spiritually dead before the Holy Spirit breathes life into me, can my soul be turned against the truth? Can a dead person love or hate? Can a corpse have tendencies?
Dead people are dead. Whether they live under the guise of false religion, atheism, an oppressive government who forbids the truth to be preached or religious freedom. If you are not breathing, you cannot start breathing on your own. This is why we hear testimonies of people who grew up in the Church and even though they knew the story of the Gospel for decades were never truly saved until the day God called them and breathed life into them. It went from a story to a reality; from a moral code to a relationship with Almighty God.
And this is the role of the Holy Spirit: “And He, when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment” (John 16.8). Through Him we will be born to Spiritual life (Jonn 3.3).
So what then about people hearing? And believing? This is what Jesus says:
“The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest. Go; behold, I send you out as lambs in the midst of wolves.”
– Luke 10.2-3
There is an abundance of people in whom the Spirit is working and is ready to breathe life. They need only to hear. The problem is not inoculation – that they are hearing too much – it is that they are not hearing.
“How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher? How will they preach unless they are sent?”
– Rom 10.14-15a
Paul planted, Apollos watered, but God caused the growth (1 Cor 3.6).
So can preaching the Gospel turn people away? The Gospel should leave everyone with a decision. It cannot be a neutral. Jesus said, “Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword” (Matt 10.34). Most Westerners are unwilling to hear that we are sinners. Most Easterners do not want to hear that we must rely on a power outside of ourselves. But unless we understand our sin and God’s hatred for it, we cannot realize our need for a savior. The Spirit alone can convict us of this truth and bring us to repentance and belief. But there are multitudes around the world, in every single culture, in whom the Spirit is working the conviction of sin, the hopelessness of humanity apart from grace and bringing to new life. But a dead person who hears this truth cannot be made more dead. He can only be made alive. He can know the facts, but one day God can breathe life into his soul. Let us proclaim unashamedly, to any who will listen, to the end that we might be the mouthpiece that delivers the truth and watch as God miraculously gives birth to Spiritual Life!