What are flies more quickly drawn to (than vinegar)?
How might sinners be more enticed to leave their life of sin and follow Jesus?
There’s a wonderfully respected ministry that says the best way to ensure bona fide converts is to start any gospel presentation with the Law. (There are many, but I’m thinking primarily of a particular one right now) They explain it’s impossible to fully understand and appreciate the need for mercy without a recognition of helplessness.
Sinners, they contend, have to know first and foremost they’re sinners, hopelessly condemned and suffering in that permanent condition. Then and only then can sinners be shown the great grandeur of mercy that forgives and pardons.
I just finished that paragraph and feel myself saying ‘yeah, that’s right, so what’s to argue?’
But – stay with me here – what if there’s a better way to invite your friends into the faith?
An author I’m reading of late used the illustration of a dated advertisement on television. A guy walks out in a clean white t-shirt and feels pretty good about himself, all dapper and fresh. Until a second guy comes in the room and stands next to him. The second dude’s tee was recently washed in a brand of detergent that boasts the whitest whites you’ve ever seen! The first guy obviously washed his in a good, but sub-par, detergent – and next to the first guy, his shirt looked almost gray. His face fell at the realization.
The author went on to say this is how sinners are more readily drawn to the beauty of salvation. They know (for the most part) they’re sinners but are mostly okay with it because they’re not bad sinners (translation: I haven’t killed anybody!).
Start them off with their vile, sorry, no-good derrières and your friends might close you down. I know what you’re thinking: the gospel is offensive! If they’re offended it means I’m preaching the foolishness of the cross! That’s on them!
The offense of the gospel is the appeal to submit to King Jesus as the only hope of reconciliation and renewal, not whether or not they’re sinners.
Hear me, once you introduce them to the Jesus of the Gospels and take your time revealing in those vignettes His heart for mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, forgiveness, social justice, and unearthly compassion – in short: His unrivaled beauty – you might just see them frantically looking for an aisle to run down and an altar to fall on!
You still have to get to the part about submitting to Jesus as the only true authority in their lives. None of this ‘Jesus plus your stuff’ business. Pardon the grammar, but He ain’t no add-on or co-pilot.
However, after an adequate presentation of Jesus as we see Him in the Gospels (b.t. dubs, we’re talking more than a two-minute elevator speech here), there’s a powerful chance they’ll say:
I CHOOSE HIM.
I’LL FOLLOW HIM ANYWHERE.
Peter preached the first truly it-is-finished gospel sermon by appealing to the crowds this way:
“Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know—
See what he did there?
He held up the Beautiful Man Jesus as a visual right up front and reminded them of His willingness to make a Way of rescue – even though He was utterly and comprehensively INNOCENT!
Fast forward a few ticks and you’ve got the mass assembly clawing at the doorway for a way into this Life (Acts 2:37)…which Peter, not missing a beat, obliges with an appeal to
wait for it
wait for it
SUBMIT to the Christ by repenting (Acts 2:38) of their own self-ruled kingdoms and slavish proclivities. That’s the part that often becomes a offensive to earth-dwellers. I’ll take your heaven, but not a new government. WE DON’T WANT THIS MAN TO RULE OVER US (Luke 19:14). ‘Gospel Jesus’ is okay but not this ‘King Jesus’ fellow.
Nothing you can do at that point. You’ve preached “Jesus and Him crucified” and it’s on them. Like the rich millennial who met Love Himself and still walked away, tripped up by his unwillingness to let Love have rule over his riches, yeah, our hearts’ll break like Jesus’s did, but we shared the Beautiful Man Jesus with them. We win some, we lose some.
Oh! Those glorious times we encounter a career fisherman willing to drop his nets, leave comfort in his wake, or a well-off woman in the household of Herod himself (Luke 8:2,3) who risked life, limb, and breath, to follow a redemptive path for no other reason than they can’t possibly entertain any other option, because, well,
Let’s start there.
He’s the whole point, after all.