by Paul Benson
Although most major evangelistic ministries boast large numbers of ‘converts’, statistics show the actual number of those who ‘make a decision for Christ’ through their crusades that are found to be truly serving God at a later date is frighteningly small. Why has modern evangelism become so seemingly ineffective and unfruitful? And, more importantly, is there a cure for this? I believe there absolutely is!
The ‘Come As You Are’ Gospel
Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the LORD, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. Isaiah 55:7
I could not possibly calculate how many times I have heard the expression ‘come as you are’ used in regard to evangelism, or as an element of Gospel preaching in general. It’s prevalent in our preaching and teaching, in our books and articles, and even in our Christian music. You would almost think those words are an addendum to John 3:16!
But, is this truly the Gospel of the Bible?
How many times have you heard a preacher declare to the unconverted that: “God loves you and accepts you just the way you are!”? The problem with that declaration is that although it carries a vital element of truth (God’s love), it is also part lie. And that lie is a taint that needs to be removed or it spoils the Gospel; just like a rotten potato, if ignored, will spoil the entire bag.
Wonderfully, and beyond our comprehension to grasp, God very much does love his creation, with mankind at the top of his list. The depths of God’s love for us are clearly seen in the fact he sent his Son to die on that Cross to redeem us from our sin. Is it any wonder Paul referred to that sacrifice in the manner he did when he wrote the words: Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift! (2Cor. 9:15)
And every person, saint or sinner, needs to know and embrace the truth of God’s great love. And also his desire that we would all know the communion he knew with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden before sin caused the breach of all breaches, and brought death into the world (as well as a necessity for sin to be punished in an eternal fashion).
He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy. Proverbs 28:13
Yes, God does love the sinner just as he is. But what a horrible perversion of the truth, and a damaging declaration, to tell a sinner God accepts them ‘just the way they are’. This kind of man-pleasing and sin-pacifying preaching undermines, and works contrary to, the true message of the Gospel (and the convicting work of the Holy Spirit). Is it any wonder people living unsanctified lives don’t seem to change when they listen to a backslid pulpit telling them they are acceptable to God just the way they are?
The crux of the true Gospel message is that mankind is NOT acceptable to God in a state of sin and rebellion, and that God DEMANDS repentance! This unacceptable condition must be dealt with through true repentance (turning away from sin in genuine sorrow over its offense to God) and receiving the true gift of grace which enables us to live in victory over sin.
Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord: Hebrews 12:14
Embracing the message of the Cross of Christ in true repentance is the ‘on-ramp’ to the highway of holiness that leads to eternal life. This is the true and only way to enter into the salvation offered by God; and this experience will produce a new life and new behavior.
Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. 2Corinthians 5:17
The Folly Of Planting Rotten Seed!
From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. Matthew 4:17
It should be evident to anyone who even casually reads the New Testament that repentance preaching was a major focus of the ministry of Jesus, and also his apostles and disciples. The record of this truth is undeniable! The first mention we have of the preaching of our Lord was a demand for the people to repent! How is it so many today claim to be preaching the Gospel of Christ but do not follow the example he gave of what that message truly is?
This discourtesy to the truth is nothing less than a shirking of duty, and it has had devastating results in regard to the effectiveness of modern preaching. The cause for this perversion of the Gospel is nothing less than preachers giving more regard to man’s opinion of them than that of God himself! People being more afraid of offending the listener (or possibly being persecuted for taking a stand for the truth), than the more reasonable fear of someday giving an account of their compromise. And that accounting will come; although most seem to give little thought to that certainty.
I love this quote by Keith Green on the folly of ‘modern’ Gospel preaching.
Can’t you see what fools we are? We preach a man-made, plastic gospel. We get people to come forward to `the altar’ by bringing psychological pressures that have nothing to do with God. We `lead them’ in a prayer that they are not yet convinced they need to say. And then, to top it all off, we give them `counseling,’ telling them it is a sin to doubt that they’re really saved!” – Keith Green
Preaching designed to win man’s approval and increase offering size (or build names, buildings, or organizations) is not the substance that builds the Kingdom of God, but instead the kingdoms of men!
And preaching designed to woo the largest number of people to ‘respond’ (or return next week) instead of designed to confront folks with a call to turn from their sin, and get cleansed of it, is not the ‘good seed’ of the Gospel. It is little more than a sterile hybrid that does not produce the life of Christ in the heart of man. Today’s repentance-less preaching has produced a generation of unconverted converts!
Bad seed will never produce a good crop!
The Good Seed Presents A Fork In the Road!
I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish. –Jesus Christ
The true biblical Gospel message lays a foundation of repentance for the faith of a person to be built upon. It manifests a ‘fork in the road’ in the heart of the sinner, and demands the proper choice be made to come into true communion with the Creator. It is not an option, but a vital requirement which cannot be neglected without short-circuiting the entire process.
The ‘come as you are’ preaching we hear today sounds so loving and inviting to the undiscerning; but these are not the ‘words of life’ preached by our Lord or his followers. The standard they lifted was a demand that one would turn from sin and self (and lay aside the sins and defilements of this world) to follow Christ,
Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness? 17 But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you. 18 Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness. Romans 6:16-18
The ‘come as you are’ Gospel fosters a ‘stay as you are’ lifestyle; an empty shell of mere religiosity. And such a compromised and backslid message will never produce the end result the genuine Gospel does.
But, oh what an amazing transformation can take place in the life of a sinner who, confronted with the vileness of his sin and rebellion against God, turns from that sin to truly follow the teachings of the Scriptures. A path which leads to the forgiveness of sin, newness of life, and wonderful fellowship with the Father through the presence of the Holy Spirit. Only the uncompromised preaching of the ‘Good Seed’ of the true biblical Gospel message can produce that fruit!
If you truly care about the lost with whom you are sharing the message of the Cross do the loving thing:
Preach them a Gospel that will place a fork in their heart!
It’s the only message that saves.