I still remember going to pick out my wife’s engagement ring back in 2001. It was a tough choice. My heart wanted to get her one that was a big as a golf ball and had few hundred facets to it, but unfortunately my wallet could only secure a few sparkles. Nevertheless, she loved it, and said “yes.”
To our great joy, our God is not limited to my budget, so to speak. He has delivered to us a very precious and costly diamond that is multifaceted. It creates a different sparkle with every turn. It’s big, and it’s beautiful!
Yet in our gospel-tract, decisional-evangelism age, we often present a block instead of a multi-faceted diamond. In our bite-sized gospel presentations, we end up with a less appealing gospel. Imagine the difference in beauty between a diamond cute in the shape of a block with six facets and a diamond with a hundred facets.
When we present a less-facetted, truncated gospel, we tend to miss some important things by either emphasizing one thing and downplaying another or by simply leaving aspects of the gospel out. In the end, we present an reduced gospel, which fails to communicate the fullness of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Notice, I didn’t say that we fail to communicate the gospel. I believe we usually accomplish this, but I fear that we fail to communicate the fullness of the gospel.
There are two tandem concepts in my own evangelism where I see this shortcoming. Perhaps you struggle with them two. They’re the tandems of love & judgment and lordship & liberty. Due to their seeming polar opposites, we tend to emphasize one side of the tandem while downplaying or forgetting the other in our gospel presentations. Therefore, we often give an unbalanced gospel. Both parts of these two tandems are important pieces of the fullness of the gospel that we should be communicating.
Let’s look at what happens when we don’t hold these tandems in balance.
Emphasizing Judgment to the Neglect of Love
The other day I saw a bumper sticker on a car in a nearby town that read, “Stop, drop, and roll won’t work in Hell!” Lot’s of judgment there. Little love.
Without a doubt, our gospel presentations have to include the concept of God’s judgment. People must understand that they are sinners who stand liable to endure forevermore God’s righteous wrath. They must be told to flee the wrath to come.
However, in our gospel conversations, we must balance God’s judgment with God’s love because they are both equally important. It was love that motivated God to supply the provision the gospel communicates. That’s the truth of John 3:16 and Ephesians 2:4. We know that we who love God love Him because He first loved us (1 John 4:19). Furthermore, we are told that the kindness of God leads people to repentance (Romans 2:4). Love is a major part of the gospel!
If we emphasize judgment to the neglect of love, I believe that we are likely to produce “converts” who are simply trying to get fire insurance. They’ll want to run from Hell, but will they really want to run to God? It’s the love of God that leads people to fully run to God as they are running away from Hell. It’s perfect love that casts out all fear of God the righteous judge (1 John 4:18). So, be sure to strongly share the facet of God’s love through the gospel.
Emphasizing Love to the Neglect of Judgment
There are Christians who have a hard time communicating the judgment of God. They want to focus on the seemingly positive aspects of God hoping to catch more flies with honey, so to speak. They invite people to Jesus, who will heal their hurts and make their life more fulfilling. They say things like, “Jesus loves you so much. Don’t you want to love Him back?”
While it’s true that Jesus can heal hurts, make one’s life more fulfilling, and loves people very much, we end up obfuscating the entire reason Jesus came when the gospel is presented judgment lite. As Paul tells us, “It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all,” (1 Timothy 1:15). People must understand the predicament they are in, and it’s a dire one. Their only options are to pay for their own sins forevermore in Hell or be forgiven of their sin by grace through faith in Jesus. Therefore, they must believe on Christ now before it’s everlastingly too late.
If we emphasize love to the neglect of judgment, we will fail to bring persons to the ever important crisis of decision. If Jesus is just going to make my life better, I’m not sure I need him because my life is pretty good right now already. That’s one reason why evangelism in industrialized, modern nations has waned, I believe. When a pretty good life meets a gospel presentation that has no crisis to it, rejection is likely to ensue. We must keep I mind that while it’s the love of God that draws men to repentance, it’s the impending judgment of God that gets their attention! So, be sure to strongly share the facet of God’s judgment through the gospel.
Emphasizing Liberty to the Neglect of Lordship
One of the most beautiful concepts in the gospel is the fact that Jesus gloriously sets us free when we come to Him. As Jesus himself told us, “So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed,” (John 8:36). This truth is so attractive and must be proclaimed, but we cannot neglect to share the aspect of lordship when we share the gospel. People must understand that the gospel is not an invitation to just “accept” Jesus and move on with our life. The gospel is an invitation to give our life to following Jesus in glad obedience. Jesus clearly commanded those who would come to Him, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me,” (Mark 8:34).
In a very real sense, the gospel is an offer to trade one form of slavery for another. Paul touches on this truth as he gives praise to God for the Roman Christians, “But thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed, and having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness,” (Rom 6:17-18). Furthermore, he has no problem calling himself slave of Christ (Gal 1:10; Phi 1:1; Tit 1:1). Paul traded his slavery to sin for slavery to Christ, which is slavery to righteousness, and we are to do the same.
This trade is a glorious one, but it’s costly as well, and people need to understand this upfront. Not only is it unfair to the evangelee to neglect this aspect, it’s deceitful. They must be able to calculate the cost as Jesus illustrates in Luke 14:25-33 before they can truly say “yes” to Jesus.
If we emphasize liberty to the neglect of lordship, we’ll likely produce “converts” who’ll develop buyer’s remorse when Jesus tries to lead them somewhere they never signed up for. So, be sure to strongly emphasize the facet of lordship to Christ through the gospel.
Emphasizing Lordship to the Neglect of Liberty
It’s true that God calls us to unflinchingly surrender to the lordship of Jesus Christ. As I just stated above, the gospel is an invitation to trade one slavery for another. Nevertheless, we must unabashedly proclaim the joy of the freedom found in Jesus Christ if we are going to share a balanced gospel.
Liberty is one of the central messages of the gospel. Often those who love their sin see the Christian life as being in bondage, but the truth is that they are the ones in bondage, and if they would only come to Christ, they would be freer than they ever thought possible. Through Jesus, they are set free from sin and death (Rom 8:2). Through Jesus, they are set free from self-righteousness derived through the Law (Acts 13:39). It’s an awesome thing as William Sleeper wrote in 1887:
“Out of my bondage, sorrow, and night,
Jesus, I come, Jesus, I come;
Into Thy freedom, gladness, and light,
Jesus, I come to Thee” (in “Jesus, I Come”)
If we emphasize lordship to the neglect of liberty, we run the risk of not illustrating the stark contrast between following sin and following Jesus. The difference is staggering and oh so alluring if we’ll only paint it for them! So, be sure to strongly emphasize the facet of liberty in Christ through the gospel.
The gospel of Jesus Christ is stunningly beautiful. Be sure to do your best to share all of its beauty so that the more may be won to Christ!
Now it’s your turn to respond. What’s one of your favorite facets of the gospel? What facets of the gospel do you tend not let sparkle by overlooking or deemphasizing it? How can we work to present a fuller gospel with all the sparkle?