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Preaching a Weak Gospel


Preaching a Weak Gospel

Recently,  I read the book, AHA, by Kyle Idleman.   There’s one section about the people of Nineveh and their response to Jonah’s message, and that they didn’t minimize what he said but took it serious.

“Instead of minimizing, the people of Nineveh were honest with themselves about themselves. They recognized that their sin was a big deal, and they responded to that truth with confession, repentance, and brokenness.”

This is a far cry from some weak incantation of “accepting Jesus in your heart/life”.  Their response was the correct response to the discovery of one’s sinfulness and the realization that it is indeed a big deal and that there are dire consequences for that sin.  But we don’t lead up to that point with a message like Jonah’s.  We don’t tell people that unless they repent, they will be eternally destroyed by their own choice.  Jonah didn’t talk about repentance.  Peter didn’t either in his first sermon, and in both cases, thousands of people got saved, either temporarily or eternally.  These two preachers just gave the sense of their listeners desperate state and the Holy Spirit did the rest.  But in these modern days, we don’t give the Holy Spirit anything to work with.

A weak Gospel does not save anyone. People are broken, way more than they could ever know and yet we don’t try to convince them of their desperate situation and where it will ultimately lead.   Sin may be mentioned once in the “sinner’s prayer” incantation, but there is no honesty, no confession, no brokenness, no contrite heart.

I read this recently in Jeremiah 6: 13b, 14

“prophets and priests alike, all practice deceit.
They dress the wound of my people as though it were not serious.
‘Peace, peace,’ they say, when there is no peace.”

Are we in danger of doing the same thing when we don’t call people to true brokenness and repentance and cry out about their desperate state?  We don’t treat sin as the soul killer disease it is; we treat sin like it’s no big deal, give them a bloodless, Cross-less invitation,  just a little prayer to “accept Christ” and it’s all swept away. Then we assure them they are saved because they said this little prayer, when nothing of the kind has happened.  We pronounce them to be saved, “peace peace”, “when there is no peace.”

We need a John the Baptist to stand up and declare that the day of the Lord is coming (which He is) and that people need to repent before it’s too late.  He would be an example to all preachers everywhere as to what message to preach but also to the cost. (Whether many today would be willing to pay the cost is another story.)

For Jesus is indeed coming back, and just as John was the one to prepare the way for the Lord, so we are commissioned to do the same. But we aren’t  using the same message he did, so neither the way nor the people are being prepared.

We all are susceptible to this and fall for a weaker easier Gospel.  But it’s happened to me, this brokenness repentance thing, and I no longer can tolerate a weak bloodless Gospel.  Jesus didn’t die and suffer and pay the penalty for the sins of all humanity of all time so we could lamely proclaim “accept Jesus in your life”.  True repentance involves sorrow and brokenness and this is the only fitting response to what He has done for us.

The people during the Great Awakening understood this.  When Jonathon Edwards preached the famous sermon “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God”,  he didn’t even get to finish his sermon (the most important part about grace and forgiveness) , because people were under such great conviction that they disrupted the service.  And he had a boring delivery!  But Hell became a real place to them.  The message got through.  But today,  there is no more preaching on the destiny of the lost, no more regular preaching that hell is a real place and real people go there.  It’s all about the perks you will get, with heaven thrown in at the end.  But if Jesus never did another thing for you, never answered another prayer, your salvation is enough, and should cause you to throw yourself at Jesus’ feet and proclaim, “My Lord and My God, have mercy on me.”

I’d like to write a script someday about treating the presentation of the Gospel like a half-hour late-night infomercial,

“….And if the saving of your soul isn’t enough, we will throw in all these great perks and benefits to entice you, and if you respond right now, we will pronounce you a Christian.”

But Jonah just pronounced judgment and the people repented.  Peter just accused them of the horrible thing they had just done (killed Jesus, their Messiah) and they begged for what to do about it.  But we give an altar call and no one comes forward…..hearts have not been challenged to think about their eternal future and the judgment they deserve, so there is no conviction, no repentance, no brokenness, no contrite heart, no sorrow and thus no conversion;  none of this was preached on, so folks don’t get a sense of their totally desperate state.  So they decide to put it off for a few more weeks because there is always another Sunday to think about this…. after all, “it’s not convenient right now, I have a lunch in the oven to attend to, there is the big game coming on soon and I have to get home and get the BBQ going.”  I would say there is more to be said to the lost in those hot coals in the BBQ than in whatever sermon they just heard.

We should be running up and down the aisles of the church and sidewalks of our neighborhoods, begging the lost to be saved from an eternal hell, that their eternal destiny hangs in the balance.  But we are not desperate, so they aren’t either…..




From → Repentance

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