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by Jacob Ninan
The greatest news anyone can proclaim is that God has sent His Son to save all the people of the world from sin. Evangelists are the ones God has empowered and entrusted with the key task of making this proclamation. The reality of salvation that people actually receive depends very greatly on how clearly and powerfully this message of salvation is preached. The way salvation is presented determines how well people understand the good news and how clearly they see the way to receive salvation. It is easy to see that if this process of bringing sinners to be born again through faith in the Saviour Jesus Christ is not carried out properly, underdeveloped babies or deformed babies can be born, spiritually speaking, and miscarriages can also take place.
Yet, look around at Christendom, and this is exactly what is happening. Many who think they have become Christians in response to the Gospel are only imagining so. Even after years of such an experience, no real change has taken place in their heart or mind. The only change is that they have learnt a few new external customs and practices. Many have come to know certain Christian doctrines and to believe them, but this remains merely as knowledge in their heads without translating significantly into their lives. Many are still following a path of ‘works’ even while talking the language of grace, hoping that God will finally accept them. They don’t have any assurance concerning what God thinks about them.
As a result of such people occupying the churches and even taking on responsible positions there, in many cases there is not much difference between the lives of Christians and those outside in the world. Like the apostle Paul had to say about the Corinthian Christians, “For since there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not fleshly, and are you not walking like mere men?” seems to be a fitting question to modern Christendom (1Cor.3:3).
Why did it develop like this? It is not that we have not had examples of great evangelists who have led countless number of people to a truly saving faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. It is not that now there are no more such godly people to proclaim the Gospel. But it is easy to see that in quite a large number of cases of evangelism of these days the message has been compromised. The ‘gospel’ that is being preached by many these days is not the Gospel that was preached by Jesus or the apostles.
Jesus came to save us from our sins (Matt.1:21;1Tim.1:15), and His way of preaching the Gospel was by exhorting people to repent of their sins and to turn to God (Matt.4:17). How often do we hear preachers these days talk about sin or repentance? Both subjects are being avoided in order not to hurt the sensitivities of people. On the contrary, preaching is considered to be successful if it draws people by catering to what the people want to hear (2Tim.4:3).
Now in the place of salvation from sin we have the ‘prosperity gospel’, the ‘healing and deliverance gospel’, the ‘blessing gospel’, ‘the gospel of the anointing’, etc. The problem is not that in these types of preaching there is no truth at all, but that these subjects have taken the full stage, and salvation from the guilt, punishment and power of sin is not there at all or it gets only a notional mention. As in the days of Jesus, multitudes follow such preachers because “you seek Me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled” (Jn.6:26). In other words, the attendance is because of expected earthly benefits and not because of conviction about Jesus being the Saviour. Even after ‘becoming believers’ and coming to the church, what such people are looking for is still earthly blessings. Jesus was not fooled at all, and neither was He impressed by the large numbers.
Some years ago, those who had been born again used to refer to those who assumed themselves to be Christians because of birth or name as ‘nominal Christians’. Godly teachers used to invite ‘believers’ to become ‘disciples’ of Jesus and to follow Him. Nowadays such distinctions have all become very ambiguous by the use of the term ‘Jesus followers’. God alone knows why anyone is following Jesus, whether for earthly benefits or for eternal salvation!
The fruit of an evangelist’s ministry is generally seen by how many people he has brought to Christ. What is not observed is what kind of people he has brought them out to be. In other words, the quality of the conversion, of being born again, is not being looked at. Quantity alone has become the mark of success of an evangelist; if he is employed by a mission organisation, it even becomes a factor on which his livelihood depends!
In order to increase the numbers, the message of salvation has been watered down. In other words, the narrow gate has been made wider so that more people can easily walk in (Matt.7:13,14). Now all that people need to do is to ‘accept Jesus’ (as if He is waiting around hoping to be accepted), ‘ask Jesus to come into the heart’ (not as their Saviour from sin and Lord of their lives but as Someone who will bless them and resolve all their problems), raise their hands, sign a card or to come to the front to be prayed for.
Being born again is a supernatural work of the Holy Spirit in people’s lives. Figuratively speaking, God’s ‘seed’ (sperm) unites with our spirit to produce a new life in us (1Jn.3:9). This is something that God does when we go to Him honestly, sincerely and humbly, recognising and admitting that we are sinners in His sight who deserve to be punished with eternal damnation in hell, and receiving forgiveness freely from Him believing that Jesus has taken our punishment on the cross. There is no shortcut for this, and we cannot accomplish it by following any method or number of steps, accepting certain doctrines, joining any church, taking baptism, etc. A good evangelist will recognise his dependence on the Holy Spirit and help his hearers to come to a proper experience of salvation.
Bible teachers (as different from evangelists) are also not highlighting the proper way to be born again. In many cases, evangelists take on the role of teachers also without understanding the need for all the members of the Body of Christ to work together. When evangelists set up churches by themselves without giving roles to other functions in the church, their wrong methodology gets replicated down the line.
Jesus has told us very plainly that comparatively few are going to find the way of salvation (Matt.7:14), even though the love and compassion of God’s heart want all> people to be saved (1Tim.2:4). It is necessary that we preach the Gospel to all creation (Mk.16:15), while at the same time recognising that all are not going to respond in the right way so as to be saved. An unrealistic goal of getting everyone to ‘be saved’ is another factor that contributes to opening up the narrow gate.
“To accept Christ is to know the meaning of the words ‘as He is, so are we in this world’. We accept His friends as our friends, His enemies as our enemies, His ways as our ways, His rejection as our rejection, His cross as our cross, His life as our life and His future as our future. If this is what we mean when we advise the seeker to accept Christ, we had better explain it to him. He may get into deep spiritual trouble unless we do” (A. W. Tozer).
It is another fact that many of those who ‘come to Christ’ leave Him and go back into the world. One of the reasons is that they did not receive what they were looking for. Their evangelists had painted up an unrealistically bright future for them with all their problems disappearing, all their prayers getting answered and everything going well for them. This is in spite of the fact that Jesus had warned His disciples that they would have trouble in this world (Jn.16:33). He was going to prepare another place for them in the world to come (14:1-3). In the meantime they were to deny themselves, take up their cross daily and follow Him (Lk.9:23). These things are not told to the people either by the evangelists or the teachers after them, and it is no wonder that people are disappointed and discouraged after they came to Jesus.
The distortion of the Gospel is a worldwide phenomenon, and ‘an enemy has done this’. Those who know the Lord have to wake up, stand up and take up the battle so that the Gospel is proclaimed in truth and its full power (Rom.1:16) to all the people so that the Lord can add to His kingdom as many as are saved (Acts.2:47).
-- Editorial in the Light of Life magazine, November 2016
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