Saturday, February 28, 2009

How Should We Present the Gospel?

by Bruce Mills

Last week when I was teaching my Sunday School class about some of the things included in the previous post on "The Law and the Gospel," one of the ladies there made the observation that "you don't hear any 'fire and brimstone' preaching anymore," and then she followed that statement with the question, "Why do you think that is the case?"

My response was that she is correct, such preaching has fallen into disrepute in our culture. It is considered insensitive and intolerant to confront people with their sin and what God's law has to say about it. And while I do not subscribe to the ranting and raving that characterizes much of what is commonly known as "fire and brimstone" preaching, I do believe that the gospel we present must confront people with the fact that their sin has offended an absolutely holy, just, and righteous God who must punish that sin. And we must call them to turn from their own self-righteousness, repent, and turn in saving faith to Jesus Christ who died as the propitiation for every sin of every person who ever trusts in Him.

How we present that gospel truth will vary from one situation to the next. Sometimes when we present that message, we should do so with passion and fervor. Other times, we should present it with persuasive gentleness. But regardless of the style we use, we cannot and must not water down, diminish the importance, or leave out such critical issues as God's holiness, man's depravity, the seriousness of sin, the necessity for repentance, and the exclusivity of Christ as the only answer.

Sometimes the Holy Spirit draws unbelievers to Christ through a gospel presentation characterized by passionate pleadings such as those of a John Piper. Sometimes He draws unbelievers through the in-depth exegesis of a John MacArthur. And on other occasions, He uses the confrontational style of a "fire and brimstone" preacher. Regardless of the style of the presenter, it is the content of the gospel message which is the crucial issue.

If you want to read more along these lines, click the link to the Pyromaniacs blog in the right column and read Phil Johnson's Friday post titled "James 4:4." Phil is a great writer and he really got my thoughts going on this issue. I hope he gets you thinking also.


Ethan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ethan said...

My father, Jim Beaver, told me about your blog. Just wanted to let you know I appreciate your insight.
I am struggling with presenting the Gospel at work. I would appreciate your prayers. The guy i sit next to claims to be an atheist. i pray for him often but have never verbally presented the Gospel. i assume he knows what we believe and hope my life reflects some of that. i feel like if i come out and just present the Gospel it would be forced. i want it to be presented out of my passion for God and His grace in my life. i also struggle with my testimony as well. i have let a few words slip that i should not have said and have been slack in my work at times. i struggle because i know the beauty of the Gospel and his desperate need for it as well as mine. any prayers or insight would be appreciated. there are also others around me who i pray for that mock religion. i dont confront their mockery or misconceptions of the Bible and our faith. i feel like it would just lead to a pointless argument and i fear my own anger coming up because of my passion for the truth. Basically as you can tell from this i seem to worship fear of man in a way. Anyway, let me know your thoughts. i would appreciate your thoughts on my blog as well Rodents Review and Digital Disciples. God bless.

Bruce Mills said...

Ethan, thank you for your comments. You obviously have a heart for the Lord and to honor Him, even though like all believers, you struggle in your walk with Christ.

I think you have diagnosed your problem with witnessing as well as anyone could--your fear of man is greater than your fear of God. We all struggle with that, myself included. But the more you immerse yourself in the Word and seek to walk in obedience to it, the more you will find yourself sharing the gospel within the context of everyday life. But make sure that your Christian walk is worthy of your calling in Christ (Ephesians 4:1). That way no one will be able to throw any criticism back in your face for how you have lived in front of them.

Many of those who reject the gospel will always seek to find some aspect of your life that they can criticize as an excuse for their rejection. If their criticism is valid, then confess that sin and remove it from your life. If it is invalid, then ignore it and just continue to be faithful to the Lord.

Also, if those who mock religion know you are a Christian and still do it, they are probably looking for a reaction from you. Don't give them the pleasure of seeing you respond negatively. But if they don't know you are a Christian and they mock religion, you have a wonderful opportunity to open a door to a potential witness to them by asking them why they believe the way they do. I guarantee you that they don't have a sound, rational reason for their beliefs. In many cases they simply don't want to confront their sin, because if a person admits that he is a sinner and admits that there is a God, then he knows he is accountable to Him, and unbelievers don't want to be accountable to anyone.

Hope this is helpful to you, and thanks for reading and commenting!