What Happens When We Shrink From the Bad News of the Gospel?


Charles Spurgeon once said, “If your sin is small then your Savior will be small also. But if your sin is great, then your Savior must be great.”

Actually I believe that is Derek Webb’s catchy gloss of this Spurgeon quote:

When men talk of a little hell, it is because they think they have only a little sin, and believe in a little Saviour; it is all little together. But when you get a great sense of sin, you want a great Saviour, and feel that, if you do not have Him, you will fall into a great destruction, and suffer a great punishment at the hands of the great God.

Spurgeon (and Webb’s contemporizing) are true, our level of awe for the Savior is directly proportionate to our understanding of our sin. If we think we’ve only been rescued from a few little sins then we aren’t going to be shocked by the scandal of our salvation.

Preaching Like Edwards

It is because of this truth that I believe we need more preaching like Jonathan Edwards. Imagine sharing something like this to your unbelieving neighbor:

The God that holds you over the pit of hell, much as one holds a spider, or some detestable insect, over the fire, detests you, and is dreadfully provoked: His wrath towards you burns like fire; He looks upon you as worthy of nothing else, but to be thrown into the fire…and yet, it is nothing but His hand that holds you from falling into the fire every moment. It is to be ascribed to nothing else, that you did not go to hell last night; that you were allowed to awake up again in this world, after you closed your eyes to sleep. And there is no other reason to be given, why you have not dropped into hell since you arose this morning, but that God’s hand has held you up…Yes, there is nothing else that is to be given as a reason why you do not this very moment drop down into hell.

We are tempted to mock such a presentation in our day. It feels so outdated and needlessly offensive. We’ve adopted an approach to evangelism that focuses on God’s love and His wonderful plan for the sinner. Such talk like Edwards is too off-putting. We’ve applied my dear grannies advice to our evangelism: “You catch more flies with honey”.

What Happens When We Shrink From the Bad News?

Meanwhile, professing Christians feel as if their relationship with Jesus is languishing. Their affections for Jesus are dim and they no longer feel the depth of his love.

Is it possible that part of the reason for our lack of proper affections is because the way that the gospel was told to us began at the wrong spot? Is it possible that we haven’t really grasped the depth of our sin and felt even a bit of the weight of being under the wrath of God?

Here’s my point. When we share the gospel with people (and when we preach the gospel from the pulpit) let us not pretend that our sin is small. Don’t shrink from telling people the bad news and the awkward truths. If they come to know Christ they’ll have a much better foundation from which to build and be discipled.

Lastly, if your relationship with Jesus seems to be languishing and you are struggling to feel and believe the depth of his love, consider going back to the cross and the wrath of God. You’ll naturally want to study his love and the feel good passages. But they won’t shine as bright as they really are unless they are shone with the backdrop of God’s fierce wrath. Then you’ll be amazed!

Today in Blogworld 10.29.14

Beautiful Beyond Our Control

I appreciate my friend Lore’s reflection on beauty.

Are You Smarter Than a 19th Century 5th Grader

Probably not, thanks to Google.

Believing the Wrong Story

Powerful illustration on the power of the gospel story.

What Led You to Become an Atheist?

David Murray looks at a recent survey of atheists and considers how the church should respond to these answers.

Something in me wants to try this extreme wheelbarrowing. Also I want to invent Extreme Rickshawing:

Review of Hidden in the Gospel by William Farley

Some have questioned the idea of preaching the gospel to yourself, because it has no biblical basis. Paul, they say, never preached the gospel to himself. Others (such as Jay Adams) have critiqued the discipline as having a “kind of Monkish mysticism” to it. As if by preaching the gospel to ourselves we will be magically sanctified.

I believe there is validity to these criticisms. I have seen the “Monkish mysticism” that Adams is talking about. But when I’ve seen these things it has been from a complete misunderstanding of what it really means to preach the gospel to oneself. And to those who say the term isn’t biblical, fair enough, I could care less what you call it…but the admonition to remember truths of God and His gospel is all over the Scriptures.

It is because this term is often misunderstood and misapplied that I was happy to see William Farley’s latest book, Hidden in the Gospel, hit the shelves. In this book Farley explains that preaching the gospel to yourself is simply reminding yourself of precious gospel truths on a daily basis.

But what does he mean by “gospel”? Using a more broad definition than those that have gone before him, Farley defines the gospel as, “the good news about all that God has done in Christ to save sinners and redeem the cosmos from the effects of sin” (12).

Farley then spends the remainder of the book exploring eight precious doctrines from election to the new creation. Essentially he shows how from before the foundation of the world into our eternal home of the new creation, God redeems sinners. In each of these chapters he explains the doctrine and then closes with giving an example of how to preach the gospel to yourself.

I love way that Farley has structured this book. He shows how to take big doctrines–like the penal substitutionary death of Christ—and from these work that truth into every day life. It’s an excellent model that I believe shows that this discipline of preaching the gospel to yourself isn’t some magical incantation but it is an attempt to remember what the Lord has accomplished on our behalf and respond accordingly.

This is a great book for anyone who wants to know how to make the precious truths of the gospel practical in their own life.

You can buy it here.

Today in Blogworld 10.28.14

New Hannah More Biography

Tony Reinke has helped get me excited about this book release.

Evangelism is Fueled by Knowing God is at Work

Amen.

Don’t Rescue Jephthah

David Murray and Miles Van Pelt have recently written articles on Jephthah’s foolish vow. In this article Jesse Johnson argues that we should stop trying to rescue Jephthah and celebrate grace. What do you think?

Stop Apologizing for God

In the middle of this article are 5 consequences to our boredom with God. I found those helpful.

Total mind blow: