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How we preach the Gospel
During this past century, there seems to be a shift in the way we approach our evangelistic methods. I believe that we have abandoned the Biblical emphasis in favor of that which seems to be more effective and practical. We are gaining larger numbers at our altar calls, but the present state of spirituality among our church members is the sad result of the usage of these current methods.
You may be wondering as to what point I am trying to get at, but I beg your patience as I lay a foundation before us.
The Bible, The Gospel, The Method
"No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him" Jesus is quoted as saying in John 6:44, and speaking of the Comforter, "And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment", John 16:8. God draws us through the convicting and convincing of the Holy Spirit. The Scriptures are consistent in its portrayal of the Gospel. We hear of appeals to the work and death of Christ, and statements of Jesus about the horrors of spending eternity where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
All these appeals to the veracity of the Gospel deal with mans predicament of being dead in trespasses and sin. The atonement of Christ is more than a covering for past sins, but deals with the removal of the sin itself from the believers life. Conversion requires several elements to be genuine. There must be 1. A calling (or drawing) of God, 2. Conviction for the personal sins that we have committed, 3. Repentance towards God.
The problem today is that many are using an approach that emphasizes the eschatological. Appeals are made to listeners to accept Christ so they do not miss the boat on the second coming. "Jesus is coming soon! Get saved tonight for He may come back tomorrow!". This I believe to be a dangerous and humanistic substitute for genuine Gospel conversion. People are "getting saved" without any conviction for sin! They repent only to ensure that they are safe from the imminent doom that will befall the world, but not because the Holy Spirit has convinced and convicted them. If there is no conviction, then what are they repenting of?
Jesus is not looking for the acceptance of mankind, he is looking to recover and reconcile sinful man with a Holy God.
This "gospel" uses fear, and not conviction to reach the sinner. This approach is the result of an unhealthy fondness for speculation concerning Bible prophecy.
You may ask "So what is the difference between this approach and the way that Jesus preached the fear of everlasting torment and hell?" Namely, the torments of hell and the motivation to avoid such a place is connected to sin. Sin is the cause of this doom, and deliverance from sin is the Gospel answer that frees us from this fate. The modern gospel of fear makes salvation possible without Holy Spirit conviction or calling.
My complaint is not that the modern church spends to much effort on prophetic issues, but that in the name of prophecy, we have substituted fear mongering and manipulation for the work of God.
Terror tactics may yield large results for the church ledgers, but it yields little if any true conversion. I question whether prophecy was ever given to stimulate evangelistic efforts. It is of the most value to the one that is already saved. What we need is not deliverance from the future, but deliverance from sin and its deadly results.
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