What are some of the worst ways to present the gospel? What is the biblical method?
Let Jesus Come into Your Heart
Imagine a young mother hearing her young son rummaging through the kitchen drawer and when she comes in, she screams because the young boy is standing there with a long knife pointed at his chest ready to plunge the knife into his heart. She grabs the knife and cries out, “What are you doing?” The young boy said, “I wanted to let Jesus into my heart.” The young boy had gone into the kitchen after he asked his mother about Jesus and how he could to go to heaven. She had told him to “Just let Jesus into your heart.” A young child might have a hard time understand this presentation, and besides, it’s unbiblical and could have cost her son his life.
Jesus Loves You
Yes, Jesus loves you but He is also asking you to repent. The saying “the universal fatherhood of God and the universal brotherhood of man” is not in the Bible. Whoever is not of Christ is not a child of the Father. To simply walk up to people and proclaim, “Jesus loves you” never mentions the need for the Savior because of the wrath of God. It is written, “God is love” but what may be God’s greatest attribute is that He is holy. In fact, the only attribute of God that is mentioned three times is that He is “Holy, Holy, Holy.” In Jewish literature, to repeat something two times is to give it great emphasis, but to say it three times is to stress it to the highest degree. Telling someone who is not saved that Jesus loves them may bring them to say, “Well, my children love me too…and so does my wife, and my…” Can you imagine Paul going up to the Pharisees, the tax collectors or even the Greeks and saying “Jesus loves you?”
I’ve Accepted Jesus
I have seen so many of these signs that ask us to Accept Jesus” or asking, “Will you accept Jesus today,” but does Jesus need our acceptance? I would be more concerned about Jesus accepting me! To “accept Jesus” is like saying, “If I have too, I guess I will accept Jesus,” as if He needs us to accept Him. No, it is we who desperately need Him! If you’re going to “accept” something, accept the fact that you and I are sinners and we needed saving. Our sins have separated us from a holy God, so for me, I didn’t accept Him, but I pleaded with Him for forgiveness and repented of my sins. Nowhere in the Bible does it say that we are to accept Jesus.
Give Your Heart to Jesus
Not loving this one either. To ask someone to, “Give your heart to Jesus,” is to offer God something that He doesn’t want. He wants all of you, heart included, but to offer a heart that still has a sinful nature, is to offer Him something far short of what He wants. I know it’s a common expression to say, “I gave my heart to Jesus,” but that expression doesn’t mean anything to someone who is not saved, so to ask, “Have you given your heart to Jesus” doesn’t make sense because the heart is deceitful and desperately wicked, and only God can really know it (Jer 17:9). Jesus never asked anyone, “Let me into your heart.”
The Sinner’s Prayer
God alone saves, so even repeating a sinner’s prayer may not save them. God grants repentance, and then that person trusts in Christ. That’s how they’re saved. They see their sinfulness and the need for Christ, and are compelled to pray for forgiveness. A canned or “Follow after me” prayer is a manmade formula. That’s like saying everyone who came forward and filled out a “decision card” were saved when the turned in their paperwork. Coming forward at services, repeating a sinner’s prayer, or filling out a decision card doesn’t save a soul; God alone does (Acts 4:12). God may use those as a means to save some, but they are not in themselves able to save. If you are repeating a sinners prayer or even filling out a decision card (neither are biblical), you may be giving someone false assurance or creating a pseudo conversion. It’s very easy to unknowing create tares among the wheat when the right gospel is not presented and people come to Christ for the wrong reasons. When the Jailer asked, “what I must do to be saved,” (Acts 16:30), Paul didn’t say, “Well, here fill out this decision card,” or “walk down the aisle,” or “repeat the sinner’s prayer.” No, the Apostle Paul said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31).
The Real Gospel
Can we get rid of these church signs which say, “Come to Jesus,” “Jesus needs you,” or “Need Jesus?” Yes, we need Jesus, but tell them why (John 3:18). We love to read John 3:16 about God’s great love, but neglect the following verses, which are linked, and where John writes, “Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already” (John 3:18). I don’t see that on church signs. Why? Because this is such a seeker sensitive time we live in and the soft-sell, easy believism draws nice crowds but just doesn’t work, and God alone knows how many are there for the wrong reason and may not be saved, and most importantly, not even know it! People so often come to Christ for the wrong reason, so until we tell people the bad news that if they step out of this life without Christ as their Lord and Savior, they’re going straight to hell because their sins have only earned them eternal death (Rom 6:23). The lost need to know that they are separated from a Holy God by their sins and they need to repent (Isaiah 59:2), and that only Jesus can become sin for them and through Him alone can they be seen as having His righteousness (2 Cor 5:21), but also that ever one of us fall infinitely short of God’s standard (Rom 3:23), and that none of us are not without sin (1 John 1:8, 10). If they don’t know that, then they may never see the need for repenting or even know what repentance is. It is the wrath of God that makes God’s mercy relevant. God’s righteous wrath makes the good news of God’s mercy and forgiveness like water for a dying man in the desert.
You cannot present the gospel without mention repentance. That’s why “John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, ‘Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matt 3:1-2). Peter pierced the conscience of those who were witnesses of and responsible for Jesus’ being crucified, and he told them all, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ” (Acts 2:38). Jesus preached the necessity of repentance, saying, “Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:14-15), not, “Let me into your heart” or “Will you accept Me?” Even though repentance is granted by God (2nd Tim 2:25), you cannot separate turning from sin (repentance) from having faith in Christ. You cannot turn to God without turning from sin. In fact, conversion cannot occur apart from the presence of both repentance and faith. Only a brokenness or conviction of sin can ready the fallow soil for the seed of the Word of God. Only when the soil’s broken up can the seed take root.
Article by Jack Wellman
Jack Wellman is Pastor of the Mulvane Brethren Church in Mulvane Kansas. Jack is host of Spiritual Fitness 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.