Saturday, December 20, 2014

"Just" a Four-Letter Word

"I am under obligation both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish. So I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome. For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, 'The righteous shall live by faith'" Romans 1:14-17).

The gospel is the power of God for salvation. Such power is given to nothing else in the Word of God. Love, hope, faith, kindness, service, helps, compassion, friendship, understanding, acceptance, trust, non-judgment, patience, community, relevance, church, baptism, communion, support, counseling (good, bad, or ugly), healing, prophecy, knowledge, gold dust or neo-necromancy, discipleship: none of these emotions, none of these actions, none of these nouns, adjectives, or verbs is the power of God for salvation. The gospel and the gospel alone is given that magnificent designation.

You, my Christian friend, are not the power of God for salvation. If you think God needs you to save souls, get over yourself and move on. If you think God needs your personality, abilities, charisma, care, kindness, ability to establish no-strings-attached, non-judgmental relationships to win people to Christ, again, get over yourself. Repent of your arrogance and pride, and move on.

The gospel is the power of God for salvation.

Now, does God use His people (Christians) to communicate His powerful gospel to call sinner's to repentance and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ? Of course. The gospel is a communicated message, either in writing or verbally. You, my Christian friend, are not the gospel. A spiritually blind (1 Corinthians 2:14), spiritually dead (Ephesians 2:1-3), hater of God (Romans 1:32; 3:10-18) cannot see Jesus in you. Without the written or verbal proclamation of the gospel, you don't look any different to an unsaved person than a nice Roman Catholic, Mormon, Muslim, Jew, Hindu, Buddhist, Jehovah's Witness, or professed atheist.

Be encouraged! The salvation of souls is not contingent upon your personality or abilities!

The gospel is the power of God for salvation.

Like Paul, as a follower of Jesus Christ you are under obligation to all kinds of people to proclaim the gospel. The Great Commission to make disciples as one goes about the daily life-work of gospel proclamation is a command for every Christian. Some will do that by distributing gospel tracts. Some will engage people in gospel conversation--friends, family members, co-workers, fellow students, total strangers, or any group I failed to mention. Some will thunder the gospel to the masses through open-air preaching. Some will do so from their sick beds via the computer. Some will combine two or more of the before-mentioned gospel vehicles, or communicate the gospel (again, in written or verbal form) in ways I have not considered.

The gospel is the power of God for salvation.

Here's the problem. Segments of American Evangelicalism have marginalized, even vilified the simple, straightforward, biblical proclamation of the gospel. Others within American Evangelicalism's ranks have established evangelistic pyramids with modes like "friendship evangelism" or open-air preaching as the pinnacles of evangelistic endeavor. As a result, many Christians negatively apply the word "just" to their evangelistic efforts.

"I just hand out tracts."

"I just mail tracts back to banks who send me credit card applications. They are kind enough to provide a postage-paid envelope so I can do it."

"I just engage in one-to-one conversations."

"I just share the gospel online. Because of my medical condition, I don't get out of the house much, so this is the best I can do."

I hear this kind of talk from Christians all the time. They make statements like the ones above as if they are confessing a sin. They make their confession with a forlorn tone in their voices, with their heads cast down. I begin to encourage them by first rebuking them.

"'Just' is a four-letter word you should never use when talking about your evangelism efforts. Knock it off!"

To use the word "just" in a minimalistic, apologetic, embarrassed way is to deny the true power of evangelism--the gospel. To say you "just" hand out tracts is to say that the mode you've chosen to communicate the gospel somehow strips the gospel of its power. If the gospel is the power of God for salvation (and it is) then any manner in which you choose to communicate the gospel is empowered not by the mode or methodology, but by the content of the message--the gospel.

Since God is sovereign; since salvation is the monergistic work of Almighty God; since gospel proclamation is the manner God has chosen for drawing to Himself those He has chosen and regenerated, then the power (all of it) lies in the gospel itself.

If you distributed gospel tracts, stop saying you're "just" distributing gospel tracts. If you engage people in conversation, stop saying you're "just" engaging people in conversation. And so on. Think biblically about your evangelism efforts. Distribute every gospel tract, whether into people's hand or on the windows of their cars, with Romans 1:14-17 in mind (with emphasis on verse 16). Enter every conversation the same way. Climb atop a box or park bench to herald the gospel motivated by the same, great truth.

And stop using "just," that four-letter word, when talking about your evangelism efforts. The gospel, the power of God for salvation, deserves better.

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