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The Gospel is Offensive

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I have been in more situations than I can count where an invitation was given for people to ‘make a decision for Christ’.  And I have heard almost every method for persuading people to make that decision:

Begging – “Please don’t leave this place tonight before getting right with God.”

Scare Tactics – “You may die before you make it home tonight just like so-and-so did that I mentioned earlier.  Don’t be like them.  Don’t spend an eternity in hell.”

Wait-Them-Out – “We are going to keep the altar open while we sing through this emotion inducing song about 7 or 8 more times. ”

Peer Pressure – “If you are standing by a loved-one that doesn’t know Christ, look at them and ask them if they need someone to take that first step with them.”

The Bribe – “Heaven is just a prayer away.  Yours can be the street of Gold with the biggest mansion on YOU street.”

Maybe you have heard them too.  Maybe you have sat in an audience while someone recited the Romans Road or the ABC’s of salvation.  Maybe you have heard that all pervasive question, “What are you waiting for?”  Followed by the answer, “Today is the day.”

Maybe there is something wrong with me – something that has broken that cannot be easily repaired – because anymore I just can’t understand these methods.

Last night I watched a program at a local church that was put on by the children.  The program was enjoyable and the children did a great job.  At the end of the program something happened that I didn’t understand – the pastor lead the congregation through the ABC’s of salvation.  It went pretty much like this:

  • “A – Admit you have a need.”
  • “B – Believe in Christ.”
  • “C – Commit your life to Him.”

And then a prayer was given that presented these 3 points again.

This method isn’t new either.  It’s the “we can deal with this matter easily and quickly’ method.  Welcome to the family.

I wanted to stand and ask a question – “What about repentance?”  I stated as much in a tweet last night which created two interesting and beneficial  conversations. At the end of one of those conversations with a godly young man who has a big heart for Christ, I believe we were able to come to this conclusion.

The ABC methodology fails to present an adequate view of the Gospel.  It is meant to be a method for RESPONDING to the Gospel.

And I think there-in lies the issue behind many of the methods used to ‘win souls for Christ’.  The Gospel is never adequately presented.  But here is the thing, the Gospel message is offensive because it cuts to the heart of the hearer and DEMANDS a response.

For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

And what is that response?

Now when they heard this, they were pierced to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brethren, what shall we do?” Peter said to them, “Repent…”

Maybe I am wrong in my doctrine.  Maybe I don’t understand the full intricacies of systematic theology, but this I believe; when God, though the prevenient work of His love in ordaining our lives, in sacrificing His only son, and orchestrating conviction via the work of the Holy Spirit and His word makes Himself known to a person, they are presented with an overwhelming knowledge of their condition before a living and holy God.  There is a time when a person must deal with their sin condition before God before the victorious love of Christ’s sacrifice can come to bear in their life. In that moment they must choose to repent – to submit – to recognize God’s sovereignty.  They must deal with the offense of the gospel – that there is a God and they are not Him.

It is in that moment that we recognize that it was God who chose us – chose us in spite of our depravity – chose to die for us because we could not overcome our sin on our own.

Without that moment orchestrated by God, there is nothing that we can do to ‘help people with their decision’.  In fact, I believe we may be doing more harm than good with our methods.

The Jews who had heard the Gospel message were pierced to the heart and they instigated the question of ‘what must we do?’

Paul spoke with Lydia “and the Lord opened her heart to respond to the things spoken by Paul.”

The jailer in Philipi when presented the living witness of the gospel in Paul and Silas asked this question, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”

In each of those examples, it was the work of the Holy Spirit that evoked a response in the recipient.  They were active in their response to the gospel.. they weren’t waiting around to be lead through a 3 point catechism of self.  It wasn’t about them making a decision but responding to the gospel.  They didn’t choose God out of their need… but instead God chose them because of their need.  There is a clear distinction that we should not miss there.  It is not by our own works that we are saved.

If people aren’t responding on their own to the service it may that we need to do a better job of presenting the gospel instead of invitations.  We don’t need to soften it or try to help it in anyway.  We just have to be faithful to it… but that means we have to allow it to be offensive.

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  1. May 3, 2010 at 6:59 pm

    Tony: thank you thank you thank you! I tire of hearing the easy way given to “accept Christ by saying this prayer” but no mention of repentance at all. What about a public confession of Christ as well? I realize that can come later at baptism but what about a public confession made on the spot? but the bigger issue with me is repentance. Until we see repentance taking place-heartfelt, humble repentance-we will continue seeing the easy-believism so prevalent in the church today. We also see so many “decisions” and very few disciples. My .02 worth

  2. May 3, 2010 at 7:10 pm

    Such great points! Totally agree with you!

  3. May 3, 2010 at 10:43 pm

    that’s how john the baptist, jesus and the disciples did it…i dont see any reason why we should water it down.

    REPENT and be baptized.

  4. May 4, 2010 at 7:32 pm

    Good article addressing important points on giving the the gospel.

    See my British website What Is The Gospel? for more on this.

  5. May 5, 2010 at 11:40 am

    Great points. I pray we show the love of Jesus and get engaged in the lives of others so they witness the gospel and their hearts are prepared to receive. May we focus more on spreading the seeds of the Kingdom than adding a notch in our belts.

  6. May 5, 2010 at 3:02 pm

    Thanks all for your comments to this post. I was afraid that it would come across as too much of a rant.

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