What’s changed in the proclamation of the gospel in the last hundred years or so? It’s the presentation of the gospel that’s changed.
Come into my Heart
What’s happened to the presentation of the gospel? Where have repentance and faith gone? What about Jesus’ saying, “whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (Matt 16:25). Jesus did not come to give you or me a more fulfilling life; He demands our life! If we live for ourselves, we’re dead to Christ, but if we’re dead to self, then we’re alive to Christ. Jesus said, “Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life” (John 12:25). I’ve heard the phrase, “Let Jesus come into your heart” a few times, but exactly what does that mean? I’m not sure Jesus would like my heart since Jeremiah wrote, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it” (Jer 17:9)? Besides, Jesus doesn’t only want our hearts…He demands our life and that we seek Him and His righteousness above all things (Matt 6:33). We must die to ourselves before we can live for Christ, so a plea to sinner to “Let Jesus come into your heart” is neither biblical nor effective.
Jesus Loves You
Yes, Jesus loves you, but He is also asking you to repent and believe (Mark 1:14-15). The saying “the universal fatherhood of God and the universal brotherhood of man” is not found in the Bible. Whoever is not of Christ is not a child of the Father. You are either for Him or against Him (Matt 12:30). There is no neutrality with Jesus, so to simply walk up to people and proclaim, “Jesus loves you” or “God loves you” is never going to bring about the knowledge that they are sinners and they need the Savior. Yes, God is love, but He is also holy, and dwelling on only one attribute can be to the others. You cannot separate one attribute from another. The only attribute of God that’s mentioned three times is that He is “Holy, Holy, Holy.” That is the greatest emphasis possible in Jewish literature. One man walked around the park with a sign that said, “Jesus loves you.” Well, that’s nice, but a lot of people would answer, “Well, my wife loves me too and so do my children and my mom.” Can you imagine Jesus or Paul going up to the Pharisees, Scribes or lawyers and say, “I love you?”
Many years ago when I was saved, maybe I said, “I have accepted Jesus,” but a few years later I thought, “Does Jesus really need my acceptance?” I would be more concerned about Jesus accepting me! It sounds a bit condescending to Christ to say, “I have decided to accept You, Jesus,” almost as if He needed our acceptance before we could be saved; almost as if we’re saying, “He needs me to accept Him in order more for me to saved, so I guess I’ll just have to accept Him.” If we had to “accept” anything, it was the fact that we sinner in the hands of an angry God, and that our sins had separated us from Him, so we must put our trust in Christ, not accept Him. Actually, He is the One Who grants repentance (2 Tim 2:25) and draws us to Christ (John6:44), and we only love Him because He first loved us (1 John 4:19).
Give Your Heart to Jesus
There is the phrase, “I have given my heart to Jesus,” and I’m not sure where it came from, but it somewhat recent. I know people are saved by donating organs, but what does it mean to say, “Give your heart to Jesus.” Once more, Jesus doesn’t want one part alone…He wants all of us. I realize this is a common expression, but God is the one Who quickens the dead, not the dead quickening themselves (Eph 2:1-4), so we cannot give anything to God, particularly our heart, until God quickens us to eternal life by His Spirit. It’s not about giving our heart; it’s about what God gave (John 3:16).
Don’t Lose Heart. You’re Awesome
Don’t Lose Heart. You’re Awesome. This was on a church sign and it just struck me as wrong. Only God is awesome. In fact, the word awesome should only be reserved for God Himself. No, I am not awesome. I would only say that I am awful…a wretch and not deserving to be saved. The truth is, there is not one that is righteous, and not even the one who thinks he’s the exception (Rom 3:10). There are none that do good (Rom 3:12). I’m awesome? Really!? It’s a nice pithy statement, but I’d like to see the chapter and verse for that one.
The Sinner’s Prayer
God alone saves, so salvation does not come by repeating a sinner’s prayer. Jesus Christ is the only way to be saved (Acts 4:12), and God is the one Who draws people to Christ (John 6:44), and even though He may use this prayer as a means to save someone, it’s not the prayer itself that saves anyone. It takes the Word of God with the Spirit of God to create the children of God. If you are repeating a sinners prayer or even filling out a decision card (not biblical either), you may be giving someone false assurance or creating a pseudo conversion. Even walking the isle doesn’t save you. Again, God alone saves (Acts 16:30-31). When someone asks what they must do to be saved, we don’t say, “Here, fill out this decision card, walk the isle or repeat this sinners prayer.” Jesus says we must repent and believe the gospel (Mark 1:14-15).
In the last century or so, the church has become more seeker sensitive, but until we tell people the bad news about sin, judgment, and God’s wrath upon the unrepentant, they’ll never see the importance of God’s mercy. His mercy is only relevant until His wrath is revealed. That makes Christ’s atonement all the more precious. It is only through Christ that we can be seen as having His righteousness (2 Cor 5:21). Until a person sees that they’ve got the death penalty hanging over their head, they will never seek the Advocate (1 John 2:1). You cannot preach the gospel without preaching about repentance, just as John the Baptist said, “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matt 3:2). The Holy Spirit convicted the consciences of those who were witnesses of and responsible for Jesus’ being crucified. The Apostle Peter said, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ” (Acts 2:38). When Jesus Christ began His earthly ministry, He said, “The time is fulfilled and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe the gospel” (Mark 1:14-15). You cannot leave out repentance and faith when presenting Christ. In fact, conversion cannot occur apart from the Holy Spirit and the presence of both faith and repentance. That He is “mighty to save” (Zeph 3:17), is mighty good news.
Article by Jack Wellman
Jack Wellman is Pastor of the Mulvane Brethren Church in Mulvane Kansas. Jack is a writer at Christian Quotes and also the Senior Writer at What Christians Want To Know whose mission is to equip, encourage, and energize Christians and to address questions about the believer’s daily walk with God and the Bible. You can follow Jack on Google Plus or check out his book Teaching Children the Gospel available on Amazon.