How do we go about telling this wonderful story we have been thinking about? How do we get people to see how much they need to know and to become part of – to share in – this “Wonderful Story of Love?” How do we get people to see their need of changing their direction in life in order to share in the work and the hope God gives us and then move them to do it?
The approach used depends to a very great extent on the understanding of the one telling the story, the evangelist, the “teller” of what is supposed to be the good news of God’s love and His desire for all people to come to Him for the blessings He offers. Often what they tell is anything but good news.
Some will pound the pulpit telling sinners how horribly sinful they are. They dwell on the statistics that show how bad the world is today and how far away from righteousness our nation has fallen, painting bleak pictures of a world gone wrong. Their message is “You’re a sinner and on your way to hell. Here’s how to escape the consequences of your sinful life.” They then delineate some “simple steps” or a prayer to pray or some other “easy” way out of sin and into the good graces of God.
Some apparently think the way to convert a person is by scaring them out of hell – or scaring hell out of them! They will dwell on the horrors of eternal flames and warn people about how much they don’t want to go there. They tell about all the glories of heaven and why people should want to go there.
Some people apparently think that people must believe in things like the “rapture” and the thousand year reign of Christ on earth. So they begin there and dwell at length on the battle of Armageddon, world events that are “fulfillment” of Bible prophecies that “prove” their contentions and get people ready for some supposed period of “tribulation.”
And there are still others who begin with the church – or their version of it as though the church were the savior. They will tell about what all is right about their church is and how wrong other churches are. They will emphasize the friendliness of the people, the excellence of their “pastor” and their evangelistic outreach, the beauty of their building and on and on and on, etc., etc., etc.
But according to the apostle Paul, the most important thing to dwell on when we attempt to tell the story of God’s redeeming love is “Jesus Christ and Him crucified.” If we wish to evangelize the lost we must be like him. That approach seemed to work quite well in the first century.
“And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.” (1Corinthians 2:1-2).
After all, the story is about Him. From the first words of Genesis 1 to the last words of Revelation He is the central figure. A person must catch a vision of the loving God as reflected in the person of the one who came into the world as the “Son of man,” the perfect representation of what God intends for man to be. When they do, they will see themselves as sinners. They will see themselves as failing as a genuine human being and failing to contribute to God’s purpose of justice, mercy and love for the present creation.
When people really understand why they need to be saved and respond to God’s love poured out on the cross of Christ, they won’t have to be begged, browbeaten or shamed into “conversion.” They won’t have to be berated regularly to be “faithful” and attend all the “services” of the church, or to “give of their means” to the church. If Christ remains central to their lives there will be no need of all that that now seems so essential to so many preachers and churches.
And they won’t be ashamed of what they are. People who are drawn to God by His love and who respond to Him with an “all-your-heart, all-your-mind and all-your-strength” kind of love can be seen by anyone who looks at them that they are different from the world. They will see the likeness of Christ in us as God always intended.
“For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.” (Romans 8:29).
People need to be brought to see that being a child of God is more than an alternative lifestyle – a “so much better way of life.” They need to see that that it is the natural life of the genuine human being. It is the life God always intended that human beings live. When people learn so much of God as seen in the person of Jesus Christ that they respond to Him as a child to a loving Father, there will not be the necessity of a continual harangue about people being “more faithful,” doing more or giving greater service. Neither will there be the “necessity” entertaining people and catering to their likes and dislikes.
Their response to Him will be out of a heart so filled with love that they would not think of doing anything else than to obey Him in all He says. There is nothing else in this world that will bring a person to that point. Threats, fear, “exciting,” sensational preaching may move some – but even that soon wears thin and the “convert” is gone because there was no genuine love there. Only by bringing people to understand the love of God for them to the point that they love Him in response will truly convert and hold them in the love of God.
“For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died.” (2 Corinthians 5:14).