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Sunday, July 15, 2012


The story of the frog in the pot of water increasing in temperature to the boil would not have a fatal outcome were it possible for the frog to, as it were, to have understanding and take the temperature of the water in stages. In so doing the frog would realize something abnormal is happening and take evasive action. Likewise the church should be gauging, at times, where it has been, where it is now and where it is heading.

Although he was speaking of evangelicals in the USA some forty years ago, Walter Chantry, in his book "Today's Gospel - Authentic or Synthetic?" identifies a problem with the 'Four Spiritual Laws' approach to evangelism which has its parallel in approaches to evangelism in other parts of the world. We are forty years on and the church in Western Society is in declension. I suggest Walter Chantry was on the money in the following extract from his book:

"Evangelists today are making the dreadful miscalculation that sinners know who God is. The sad truth is that our age knows less than the Jews of our Lord's day. Nevertheless, evangelicals plunge right in with 'five things God wants you to know.' They all centre upon the man's eternal fortunes and utterly ignore the question, 'Who is God?'. The sinners thus treated never realize the gravity of their plight. They don't know whom they have offended. This is tragic.

Jesus spoke to the rich young ruler of God's holiness because it showed him what great trouble had come upon him. It is the invariably pure God who is your Judge. The note of holiness was particularly pertinent to bringing a proper fear of God into this fellow's soul. He realized before that God was a Judge. Now Jesus impressed him with the holiness of that Judge, a holiness that 'will by no means clear the guilty' [Ex 34.7].

Today, we are told that witnessing is to begin with, 'God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life.' Love is set before sinners as the foremost characteristic of God. But Jesus didn't begin that way. And the Bible as a whole speaks more often of God's holiness than of His love. This is probably because men readily remember all attributes that might favour themselves and totally forget those which threaten or alarm them.

Thousands of sinners think of God as having only one attribute - 'love'. Though that is part of the truth, when it is taken for the whole truth it becomes a lie. When you tell a stranger, 'God loves you,' his mind registers something like this: 'Yes, He loves me and would never harm me. He loves me with forgiving and merciful kindness; so, all is well with my soul.' In the concept of the average American, there is no idea that God is holy; only a perverted concept that He has a gushy, all-embracing kindness. Modern evangelism is helping to foster this misconception of God by its silence and vagueness.

To say to a rebel, 'God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life,' is terribly misinforming. The truth is that God is holy. Thus, He is angry with the sinner at this moment. His sword of wrath already hangs over the head of the guilty and will forever torment him unless he repents and trusts Christ. This plan is not so wonderful. God's redeeming love for sinners is found only in Christ, and the sinner is out of Christ. The modern approach is diametrically opposed to Jesus' method with the young ruler. He did not soothe him in his ignorance, but stirred up fear by preaching that God is essentially good.

Men today will readily use the name of God as would the rich man. But it is disastrous to assume that men are speaking of the same person as we are. When we say 'God' we mean 'Creator'. When our contemporaries say 'God' they are often speaking of one who has little to do with the world we see. When we say 'God' we mean 'One who is sovereign in creation, providence, and in the redemption of His creature, man.' When sinners say 'God' they usually refer to one who has committed himself to honouring the sovereign will of man at any cost to himself. Above all when we say 'God' we speak of One who has unflinching holiness, 'Who will by no means clear the guilty.' Sinners frequently think of 'God' as flexible so that He will by no means punish wonderful men.

Do you declare in your witnessing that God is holy? Every part of your message rests upon the character of God. If you rush into four easy steps to heaven with a man who has a defective view of God, you will deceive him and yourself. You may lead him to pray after you, and you will be praying to the God of glorious holiness. But when he repeats 'God' in his prayer, he will be praying to another god, or at best to his 'unknown god'.

'How shall they believe on him of whom they have not heard ?' [Rom 10.14] is a pertinent question for today's evangelist. Sinners must know Him upon whom they must call to be saved. 'Salvation is of the Lord' [Jonah 2.9]. His power and His grace alone can deliver from destruction and lead to eternal life. Eliminating the doctrine of God from evangelism is no innocent shift in emphasis, but is cutting the heart out of our message.

'What must I do to inherit eternal life?' asked the religious youth. You must apply to Jehovah for it. But before you rush into His courts, let me tell you that He is so holy that if one ray of His glory were to meet your eye, you would be cast at His feet with a dreadful sense of uncleanness. He is a consuming fire, and you must cry out to Him for mercy. Do not think that you do Him a favour by 'accepting Jesus'. The Holy One has done you a great favour in commanding you to trust his Son.

Preaching several easy steps to heaven is not evangelism. Preaching the whole counsel of God is. Preaching the radiant truth of the unique goodness of God especially is. Telling men that God is their Creator may embarrass you with intellectual evolutionists, but it is essential to the Gospel. Telling men that God is holy, wise and sovereign is also vital.

These are not unnecessary trappings.

Someone no doubt objects: 'My mission board calls such doctrines 'unessential' because they are divisive. Serious conflict would arise if I suggested that dwelling only on the love of God misleads sinners. And the pressure to get results doesn't allow time for such preaching.'

Where did any group of theologians or administrators get the audacity to relegate the character of God to the category of the unessential? When liberals said that the virgin birth was an unnecessary truth, men left their churches and schools in droves. If 'evangelicals' say that the holiness and sovereignty of God are subjects too sensitive to preach, perhaps it is time to instruct others boldly at all costs, even though it involves conflict and exclusion from their fellowship.

Paul was a missionary evangelist, not a settled pastor. He could say to the Ephesian elders 'I am pure from the blood of all men' [Acts 20.26]. How could Paul make such a claim? Not because he had given each person four spiritual laws. That was not the New Testament method of evangelism. The next verse substantiates his claim. 'For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God.' In his itinerant ministry Paul preached a thorough-going theology, not a denuded four steps to eternal life.

Today mission boards are asking their missionaries to keep the blood of men on their hands: 'Don't rock the boat by clearly teaching anything that another evangelical will object to, even if it is in the Bible. Don't cause trouble by demanding the clear notes of the Gospel from those who labour by your side as fellow-missionaries. Stick to the main issues.'

If someone cheapens the Gospel by boiling it down to a five-minute sales pitch, that is fine. If another insists upon preaching the attributes of God, that is doctrinaire. Surely something is gravely amiss in the church.

It is time to break with the neo-traditionalism of the evangelical world. The mass of poor dying sinners need preaching like Christ's. The world perishes for lack of a God-exalting declaration of His nature. Let us follow Jesus' example with the rich young ruler

I do not apologize for continually reciting people and statements from the past because they serve to highlight error when the mist of present surroundings blur the distinction.

Sam Drucker

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