It seems in this day and age of postmodern society…the day of anything goes and if it feels good and makes you happy there can’t be anything wrong with it…we are playing a dangerous game with the eternal lives of people around us. Because of the neglect of strong Biblical truth and an end of the era of read your Bible/pray everyday, we have begun to fall into the deception of the enemy’s camp. The Bible warned us that in the last days if it were possible, even the very elect would be deceived (that’s a very deceitful deception, don’t you think?) and we seem to be in those days. Days when it seems impossible to distinguish the light of God’s truth from the darkness of the world’s philosophy. Days when standing on truth and refusing to budge brings accusations of “hater”, “bigot”, “hypocrite”, and “Pharisee”. Days when the pull is so great to give in, to give up, and to give way that often we are exhausted from debating ourselves and wondering if we are really on the right side at all.
In the midst of this, we are called to make disciples… to share our faith… to love others without prejudice. For some reason, the church started calling this “winning people to Jesus”, as if we needed some marketing ploys and some “perks” to make Jesus more attractive…as if we needed to gloss over some of the things in God’s Word so we could pile up converts. Churches began “winning people to Jesus” by becoming more culturally relevant…”look at us! We’re just like you!”…except for that little minor detail of being washed, sanctified and justified in the Name of the Lord Jesus. We have worked really, really hard over the last 20 years to become less separate and more enticing. We have lowered our shirt collars and lifted up our hem lines. “Mainstream Christianity” is evolving as quickly as technology and just about as uselessly.
All the while the wide road is becoming normal to us and the narrow road has been forgotten. I can’t help but think of my relationship with Christ as similar to my relationship with my husband. When I began to get to know David Roberts, I was very attracted to some things about him…but anyone can be attractive for long enough to marry a person, anybody in a bad marriage can tell you that. This is why there was a period of time that I spent getting to know him…getting to know what was true about him and what wasn’t…time in deep conversation with him…and yes, even some disagreements, some things I didn’t like, things that I was unsure I could submit to…and ultimately I chose to commit my life to him. I suppose that he “won” me over in some ways, but truthfully those things that were done only to conquer quickly fizzled out soon after we were married. They weren’t the heart and soul of David Roberts and if I had only married him for those reasons, I was poorly disappointed. And though, I did not know and love David nearly as much as I do today, I did know enough about him and his character to believe I wanted to spend the rest of my life loving him.
So why are we convincing people to accept Jesus without making sure that they know the gravity of the commitment they are making? Do we really think Christianity is an easy faith? We know that Jesus loves everyone and wants them to come to this saving knowledge, but He doesn’t want them to come without saving knowledge. My daughter, Jessica is 14 and she lived 14 years of that life in China. She first heard the Name of Jesus at a summer camp in China when she was 13. Yes, I suppose it would have been really easy for that camp to give a few lines about Jesus, ask who wanted to be saved, and post some numbers about salvations on a blog, but they didn’t. They simply told her the truth. A truth that is very unpopular in a country where being “good” is their salvation. Jessica has been home now for 4 months. She has watched Jesus movies, been to church countless times, reads a Mandarin translation of the Bible and has had it explained to her over and over, yet recently when a Mandarin friend of ours asked her if she was ready to accept Christ, she said “no”. And my heart soared. Why? Because it means that she is taking it in and she is listening and she feels the weight and responsibility of committing her life to God. I believe and pray that she will say “yes” one day, but I want it to be because she has counted the cost and she is saved to the uttermost, not because it is popular around her, or she feels she owes it to us, or she wants to fit in, or she thinks it could benefit her in her chosen lifestyle, or God forbid, because she is American now.
My question for churches and ministries and outreaches today is “what are we winning people to?” As much as I long for souls to be saved and come to the saving knowledge of Christ, I am appalled at how little truth we feel that requires in order for a person to make a life-long sticking commitment to Christ. It’s like we feel we have to hide the offensive parts of the Bible until we “catch them”. If we are careful to know and understand our spouse and their character before we marry them, why do we think that we can say “Jesus loves you. don’t you want give your life to Him and go to heaven?” and expect them to be truly added to the Church (not saying that some aren’t, but hopefully you see my point)? From what I can tell in the New Testament, believers became so only after they heard the message of the Gospel…the birth, death, and resurrection of Christ and why it was necessary. Some may say, but it’s the Holy Spirit’s job to do the spiritual work, we are just called to love…but the Bible says “for “WHOEVER WILL CALL ON THE NAME OF THE LORD WILL BE SAVED.” How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher? How will they preach unless they are sent?” Preaching of the Word required. Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God.
Neither can we make true disciples by removing the offense of the Gospel and focusing alone on the unconditional grace of Jesus’ sacrifice. There was a reason He had to die, and we’re it. We put Him on that cross. It is easy to come to Christ if I believe it is a wide road and anybody and their brother can walk it…that Christ makes no demands on me but an acceptance of a free gift. No we don’t do anything to earn redemption, but it costs us our entire will. We sacrifice our own will for the Will of another. Just as when I married David, I was giving up every other man on the face of the earth and I was giving up my right to live only for myself. We are a slave to whatever we serve, which is why Paul called himself the Lord’s slave. It’s why Jesus said if we don’t lose our life, we will never find it. It’s why many turned back when he said “if you don’t eat my flesh and drink my blood, you have no part in me.” And why the road is narrow and few there be that find it.
Yes, we are “winning” lots of people, but I’m afraid we are winning them to a wimpy Jesus and an accepting Christianity afraid to make anyone uncomfortable…cause if somebody is uncomfortable that means we aren’t really loving them, right? And if someone feels judged and hated by us, that means we aren’t really loving them, right? I know people who feel judged by me simply because I talk about God in conversation and share what He is doing in my life or because I openly refuse to do or say things that dishonor God. I have been accused of hatred for simply repeating things the Bible says. Why? They are convicted by the light. Does that mean I should stop talking about Jesus because it makes people feel judged? Darkness IS judged by the light. That’s just the way it works. My darkness is judged by the light in other people…I’ve had just as many moments as the next person of being convicted by light in another person…and there are only two ways to deal with light…run toward it or hide from it. Until a person is faced with this decision, they have not truly met Jesus. When the Bible says that we pass from darkness into light, it must mean that we recognize we are in darkness, otherwise why would we have need for light? And how do we recognize we are in darkness unless a light shines into that darkness? We are the light of the world. Whether we want to believe it or not, we do have a God-given responsibility to shine light into other eternal souls.
Why do I even undertake the writing of something like this? Because I am tired of watching people carry around a “Jesus card” in their back pocket and thinking that makes them “safe”. They were given this card by somebody who told them that it makes them a Christian. So they basically live however they want, but they will swear to you that they are a Christian because somebody gave them this card. They know a couple of Bible verses like John 3:16 and John 10:10 and of course, Matthew 7:1, but they could count on one hand how many times they open their Bible in a month. Every now and then when times get tough, they will pull this Jesus card out and lay it on the table for all to see. They will tell everyone that this card will get them out of their mess (usually caused by the sin that they are still comfortably living in). The other time they pull out this Jesus card is when they are being convicted by light… the card says “Judge not.” in really big letters on the front of it. They tell everyone that this gives them the license to live any way that they want and still claim the sacrifice of Jesus. They are crucifying the Son of God afresh and putting Him to an open shame…and the worst part about it is…it isn’t really their fault. This is what we have won them to…and they don’t know any different because no one has told them that part of being a Christian is living by every Word that proceeds from the mouth of God and part of loving Jesus is keeping His commandments…and once they are won to this kind of “Christianity”, they are very resistant to the offense of the Gospel. “I am saved. Leave me alone. How dare you judge my salvation!” And the world loves this kind of “Christianity” because it is powerless against sin.
Can you imagine a Pastor entitling a sermon “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” in this day and age? Yet this was the typical sermon of the Great Awakening. If the Church is ever going to experience another awakening like it did in the past, it will come with the preaching of the message of truth…every offensive word of it. Because it is only when we recognize that we are deceitfully wicked sinners that we will recognize the weight and importance of the death of Jesus on that cross. It is only when we see ourselves for who we really are inside that we can see Jesus for Who He is. And ironically, it is only when we are face to face with our own depravity that we can come face to face with the kind of Love that would stoop Himself to care to deliver. . This is the message of Love…God hates sin. One thing put Jesus on the cross, our sin. He loves us despite our sin. When we truly love God, we will turn from sin. Once we are His, we no longer have to serve sin. We will spend the rest of our earthly lives battling sin. One day sin will be defeated for good. This is the message that wins in the end.