Many people today are terrified of talking about their faith with others – especially when they know that the listener does not share a common faith. We have been indoctrinated by society to believe that faith is personal, it should be kept separate from the workplace and schools, and since religion is only a crutch everyone should find what works for himself and we are all right in our own way. This worldview has paralyzed many believers who truly do care about other people,their Spirituality and eternity by handcuffing them from being open in conversation and able to communicate truth.
But this worldview has developed a greater evil and danger within the evangelical community: we have rewritten the Gospel such that very few – if any – would ever reject it. Paul and Pascal eloquently argued that if Christians are wrong about Jesus we have only wasted our lives – but if everyone else is wrong about Jesus, then they have wasted their eternity. We have skillfully manipulated that logic to our advantage, urging people to simply “give God a chance” or “say the sinners prayer”, just in case. Cover your bases. Get baptized so that when you die, if Jesus happens to be the judge, you will know the right answer to get into Heaven.
Unfortunately, that is not what Jesus had in mind when He introduced conversion and Spiritual life. Jesus gave radical warning about admittance into Heaven:
“Again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”
– Matt 19.24
“Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I came to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man’s enemies will be the members of his household.”
– Matt 10.34-36
“He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me.”
– Matt 10.37
“And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me.”
– Matt 10.38
Jesus promises Spiritual peace and peace with God, but He also promises to set family members against one another. He promises to bring a sword. He promises that anyone who follows Him will suffer and be hated, just as He was.
We, however, have candy coated the Gospel. Campus Crusade for Christ’s four Spiritual laws begin with “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life”. The prosperity Gospel states that God desires for us to be happy, healthy and wealthy – we only need to claim it and have enough faith. We use logic to convince people to “give Jesus a chance”, and “If I am right then you have wasted your eternity” – just to get people in the door.
The Gospel, however, is offensive. Jesus had entire towns come out to meet Him and follow Him, and when He preached the hard truths, everyone went away except the 12 (John 6.67). He regularly made people so angry that they sought to murder Him – even in the wake of healing their sick (John 8.59, 10.31). And Paul teaches us clearly that the Gospel is foolishness to those who are not being saved:
– 1 Cor 1.18
So we must ask ourselves, is our Gospel the power of God to some and to others foolishness? Or is it palatable to everyone? Do outsiders examine your life, your habits, your finances and think you are crazy? Or do we look just like the world, with a few major vices exempted from our lives?
Salvation and godliness is not avoidance ethics or covering our bases. Being a Christian is a having revolutionary and all encompassing God-centeredness whereby we draw our daily strength to live from Him and pour out our everything before Him to His glory and for the salvation of all people. Yes, that is undoubtedly rooted in the truth that God loves us and has a wonderful plan for our lives – and also that God causes everything to work together for good for those who love Him, but it is so much more than that. It is our soul wrenching understanding of the fact that we are desperately wicked and deserve damnation, but Jesus loved us enough to take our place on the cross and in Hell so that we might become His righteousness before God. When we believe that and accept it into our lives, Jesus begins the process of purifying and perfecting us, causing us to look foolish in the eyes of the world.
In short, we cannot take the forgiveness offered by the cross and resurrection without being transformed and made righteous by it. John Piper says we cannot have Jesus as our “pardoner and not as our purifier”. If we are not being purified, we were never pardoned.
Apologetics and logic are good. God has given us science, reason and philosophy – and those disciplines should all be utilized to His glory and honor, and those disciplines will all point us back to Him and His praise when understood rightly. But our evangelism technique must be so much more than systematic argument. It must be the power of God. If your Gospel has no power, it is not the Gospel at all.
So let us reflect today. Have we known the power of the Gospel? Or did we buy in on a logical argument aimed at securing our salvation without impacting our lives? Has the Holy Spirit taken up residence in our lives, giving us new, Spiritual life? Or are we going through the motions hoping to make ourselves better people? Is the word of the cross the “power of God” in your life? And if so, let us start boldly proclaiming it as such. Let us lay aside the minimization of the Truth, let us expect that people will have bold and profound reactions to the Gospel. If some people do not hate it, if others are not radically transformed by it, then we are not proclaiming it.