If we present a God that the world finds acceptable, then it isn’t God at all.
Dishonoring God in our witness
The gospel has oftentimes been compromised or dumbed down to appeal to Christian Millennials. Low expectations have been set for us in church life, as if we couldn’t be expected to behave or think like mature adults. But we ourselves are also at fault. Whether it’s a result of choosing to just meet the low expectations of our church leaders, or because we are in fact immature and foolish, there are ways we can unintentionally dumb down the gospel ourselves, and in the process, dishonor God in our witness.
For the young person who wants to share the gospel to a lost world, it can be very tempting to adjust the gospel, or at least the way we convey it, so that it is more palatable. We do this oftentimes unintentionally. When we invite someone to church, we talk about the activities and fun things rather than God Himself. We talk about fellowship and “being inspired” rather than coming face to face with the Holy One in repentance and faith.
Yes, we don’t want to scare anyone away, but what message are we conveying? When we’re trying to get someone to attend a church service, what do we put forward as the great, central attraction? Is it the activities, the fellowship, the music, the fun? Or is it God? If we advertise all this good stuff but say nothing of the central, serious substance of worship, then we’re telling the world that God is not the reason we attend church. God becomes a by-product, a bonus, an afterthought, and what He can do for us becomes the central attraction.
We can do this in our witnessing too. Do we tell our lost friends all about “God’s wonderful plan” for their lives, all the happiness they will have, all the prosperity they will see in their spiritual lives, how they can be better people, how they could impact the world, how God just loves them and wants them to be happy if only they just ask Jesus into their heart? Or do we show them how the only Righteous One, Christ Jesus, left perfect happiness in Heaven and became human to be tortured, beaten, crucified and swallowed in the ocean of God’s infinite wrath so that He could save us, Adam’s wretched children?
The gospel is a very serious matter. If our intentions are to entice more sinners to repeat a prayer but not to bring honor to the God who died for us, then we are better off not proclaiming the gospel at all. The gospel is costly; it was written in the blood of Christ. We shouldn’t dare to peddle it so cheaply.
We need to be wary of these three pitfalls that can cause us to compromise the true gospel and dishonor God.
Wanting to be liked.
No one likes to be disliked, especially by people we admire. But if we’re going to be honest with them about their souls, then we must sacrifice our right to be liked. The gospel is not pleasant to someone who hasn’t bowed to the lordship of Christ. They don’t want to hear that their sin separates them from God and there’s nothing they can do about it. They don’t want to acknowledge that they are indeed dead in their sins and not just sick or asleep. They don’t want to hear that they are helpless and need a Savior. But if we love them – if we love Him – that is exactly what we need to tell them. We were promised that we would be hated for His sake. Do not soften the message of God so that you can be liked.
Not wanting to be like those Christians.
We all know of them. We’ve seen them on TV, heard them on the radio and on the streets screaming at people. The protestors, the angry Christians who never show love. We don’t want to be like them so much that we go to extra lengths to prove we’re not like them. We’re so concerned about this that any mention of God’s justice, hell, or sin is either sugarcoated or eliminated altogether. But again, the gospel isn’t about us looking good. It’s about bringing honor to God by the truth.
Wanting to show that God is “friendly” to the world.
The most important thing communicated in the gospel is Who God is. Everything else hangs on this. If God is righteous, then He cannot just excuse sin. If He is merciful, then He cannot just turn His back and leave us to our fate. His perfect justice and mercy were both fulfilled in the Cross. Sin was dealt with and sinners were saved. If we then skew the character of God even slightly, the gospel we present is not the true gospel and nothing more than blasphemy. So when we speak of God to the world, we must resist the temptation to recreate God to fit our audience. The world and God are diametrically opposed to one another. God is the creator and ruler of all. The world strives to “throw off His chains” (Ps. 2). There’s no way they can get along. If we present a God that the world finds acceptable, then it isn’t God at all. We have to give up the idea that watering down the gospel will accomplish the will of God. It will only bring dishonor to His reputation.
The best way to be sure that you aren’t presenting anything other than God as the main attraction is to understand in your own mind how glorious and holy God is. We say that all the time, but really understand it, to live in the reality of God’s glory, waking up every morning with the prayer that we will see Him for who He is. When our hearts are close to God, we won’t have to work up the right things to say or worry about how to convince someone that God is who He says He is. We will simply overflow. That is always the most effective witness. Be near to God and others won’t help but notice something different.
(Check back soon for the series conclusion)