To be convicted of sin is not to make someone feel like an all around flop in their dysfunctions and shortcomings, but to show how they have offended God, flouted His authority and defied Him. Reaching people with the gospel is not to soothe a hurt or a lack of peace in their life. -J. I. Packer (Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God)
“God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life”. How often have you heard this phrase used? In many churches across the country the typical verbiage before an altar call is simply this. Sometimes it’s coupled with “do you feel guilty?”, “are you experiencing loss?” or “is there no one there to comfort you?”. We fill the hearts and minds with a promise of mending, happiness and prosperity in Jesus Christ. That if we “accept Him into our hearts” He will come and live in us and we’ll spin around in a field of daisies for eternity.
Then reality sets in, the momentary excitement of relief of guilt and sin is gone and tragedy strikes. Someone close to us dies, we can’t pay our bills and our kids tell us they hate us. “Where is God and His happiness?” we ask ourselves. “This Jesus thing doesn’t work” is what we conclude. We sell an experience at many churches today, a magical fairy version of Jesus, a snake oil healer. This isn’t who Jesus is.
When Paul preached the gospel he didn’t fancy it up with words or debate. His calling was simply to reach the lost with the Good News of God’s plan. He even admitted to us in his letters that he didn’t come with convincing speeches, often saying he wasn’t very good with words. He simply proclaimed that we were separated from God because of our sin, and that Jesus’ death on the cross was the solution to bring us into right standing with God.
We have to assist people into realizing that they are torn apart from God because of their sin. They should realize with an understanding that they live in a separation from Him that they cannot do anything about. Their own good works are feeble attempts at earning God’s love or at least appeasing Him. The reality is that even our good works are filthy menstrual rags to God. If you were to take a dirty hand and rub it across a clean mirror, will that mirror’s cleanness make the hand clean? Certainly not!
Life with Jesus isn’t candy and butterflies. It’s wrought with conviction of sin, discipline and instruction. It can be incredibly rewarding and satisfying but only to those who realize the world is against them because it is against Christ. Our reward is eternal, to which we should be grateful for. Which also gave Paul the confidence to say “to live is Christ but to die is gain”.
The Westernized Gospel has given us a false idea of what a Christian life is supposed to look like. Most Pastors we see today are put well together, have nice hair, clothes and look like they rest pretty peacefully in their clean homes. Though the Bible doesn’t mention Paul’s home, we do know that Jesus didn’t have one (Luke 9:58). Where are the Pastors tending the field, getting dirty with the congregants? Where are the Pastors who are disheveled from late nights working someone through repentance?
We continue to offer fake promises to non-believers in hope that they may fill a quota or at least make us feel good that we are evangelizing. We tell them of a God who is simply love, then wonder why the church can’t agree on homosexuality. We have watered down the gospel to a point where it’s simply a motivational speech and hardly anything more. We must do better!
If we taught people to look to an imaginary Christ, we should have no grounds for expecting that they would find a real salvation.