I never want to convince someone that they need Christ. If I lead someone to Christ, I want it to be because I presented the Gospel to them and the Holy Spirit convinced them that they needed salvation. That is the only way a person can come to true repentance, “For no one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws them to Me, and at the last day I will raise them up.” (John 6:44). No matter how convincing my words may be, they will never pierce someone’s soul. Convincing someone of my beliefs will not serve as the daily spiritual food that they need. Only Christ can be the spiritual food we need, because only Christ can take up residence in a person’s heart and make the changes in their understanding and perceptions that are necessary to transform a person, “Then Jesus declared, ‘I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to Me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in Me will never be thirsty.” (John 6:35). Christ must take precedence over all things, including the way we present the Gospel.
When you read the Gospels, you become aware that Jesus never persuaded anyone to believe in Him. Jesus didn’t woo, entice or lure people to follow Him. He presented the truth, sometimes in all its naked glory and sometimes He made it relatable in the form of a parable, but either way, He simply presented truth and allowed the person to become fully convinced in their own mind. One thing that becomes starkly apparent when you read the Gospels is that Jesus never chased anyone, but on the contrary, many times He made it seem difficult, at times even impossible, to be His disciple and follow Him:
-“On hearing this, Jesus told him, ‘You still lack one thing: Sell everything you own and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow Me.'” (Luke 18:22)
-“Then He said to them all: ‘Whoever wants to be My disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow Me.'” (Luke 9:23)
-“If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple.” (Luke 14:26)
-“In the same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be My disciples.” (Luke 14:33)
-“Indeed, it is easier for a camel to pass through an eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” (Luke 18:25)
-“You will be betrayed even by parents and brothers and relatives and friends, and some of you will be put to death. And you will be hated by everyone because of My name.” (Luke 21:16,17)
-“Then will they hand you over to be persecuted and killed, and you will be hated by all nations on account of My name.” (Matt 24:9)
You see, Jesus wasn’t looking for half-hearted, lukewarm commitment. Scripture says, “The eyes of the Lord search the whole earth in order to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to Him.” (2 Chron 16:9). Jesus was looking for those who were hungry for righteousness and thirsty for truth. Jesus sought those whose hearts would be fully committed to Him, who were willing to leave everything, just to be in His presence and learn from Him. He made it clear that following Him wasn’t just a one-day-a-week commitment. He made it clear that those who wanted to follow Him must be willing to forsake this world and everything in it. Jesus didn’t cheapen the message of salvation by making it seem appealing to those who didn’t want to come out of the world.
The Gospel of salvation has eternal implications, saving those who receive it from eternal spiritual death. The Gospel is serious business and Jesus took it very seriously. This is something the church today, as a whole, seems to have lost. Many churches today try to appeal to the culture by mimicking it. They think they need to attract the world by using the things of the world. They attempt to use a bait-and-switch tactic by dumbing-down the Gospel and try to present It in a way that seems non-threatening, when the whole premise of the Gospel message is indeed threatening– death to self, admitting you are a sinner, carrying your cross, coming out of the world, perpetual repentance and turning away from sinful desires. We shy away from telling the culture we are trying to reach that they must forsake sin and that they must repent. Without forsaking sin and without genuine, daily repentance, there can be no transformation by the Holy Spirit. The Gospel is not for the faint of heart. It is not for those who want Jesus to meet them halfway. Truly, a person can choose salvation no matter what depths of depravity and sinfulness they may be at in their life, but they cannot stay there. The moment the Holy Spirit takes up residence in the soul of a human being, they are propelled forward, out of the slimy pit and the mud and the mire, God graciously setting their feet upon the rock of salvation, Christ Jesus. Yes, the Gospel is a threatening message to sinners, but it is a message of hope and redemption to those who choose salvation through it.
“I waited patiently for the LORD; He turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; He set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear the LORD and put their trust in Him.” (Psalm 40:1-3)