Friday, December 07, 2007

The Coercive Nature of Evangelism

The Gospel itself (properly speaking) is good news. Evangelization, however, is more than simply presenting the good news itself. There is more to the message than that.

A simple evangelistic presentation is this:

1. There is a God.

2. God has a moral law.

3. You have broken the moral law, by failing to perfectly love God and your neighbor.

4. As things stand, you deserve the punishment God has appointed for those who break his moral law.

5. Death is not the end.

6. The punishment you face, as it stands, is essentially unending torture in the life to come.

7. If you die today, as it stands, you will receive the punishment you deserve, and - frankly - even if you feel fine you could die today.

8. God is Just. He cannot simply ignore the fact that you broke his law.

9. Take immediate measures to stop sinning. Repent of your sin. Do what you can to avoid breaking the moral law, and beg God for assistance.

10. Repentance is not enough, though, for you are still guilty of past sins.

11. God is also merciful. He has appointed a priest who has offered a sacrifice that satisfies God's justice. That priest and sacrifice is Christ Jesus.

12. You do not deserve to be one of those for whom Christ offers himself as a sacrifice to satisfy justice, even if you have repented.

13. Throw yourself on God's mercy, repentant from your sin. Call on Christ Jesus, asking him to be your priest. Go to God and ask Him to accept you on the basis of Christ's sacrifice.

14. If you do so, trusting in Christ, you will not be refused.

15. But you cannot throw yourself on God's mercy and continue to sin willfully - repentance means turning from your sin and serving God.

16. If you trust Him, Serve Him, Love Him, and Bow before Him.

17. If you love Him, do what he commands. Be baptized. Learn from the elders. Give to the poor.

18. Go on from these basics and grow.

(Compare this similar, and even - perhaps - more brief example [link])

This is an offer that can be cast in various lights. Give up the pleasures of sin, for the glory to come. Give up now for the future. Sell everything that you count precious today for the riches of heaven.

At its root, though, it is not just a nice offer of a "free benefit." It is a free gift, but that's not all it is.

It is fundamentally coercive, which is why it is powerful. To those who believe, whose eyes God has opened, how can they resist his commands to repent and believe? What choice do they have? The pleasures of this world are fleeting, and the torment that will follow is not. On the other hand, persecution in this world is fleeting, but the pleasure in the life to come in the presence of God is not.

It's like the old joke, where the man hears, "Your money or your life," and says "I'll take the money!" ... except that here that's really what's meant. There is both a carrot and a stick. If you repent and believe, you will live in the riches of heaven forever, but if you don't hell will be your place for eternity.

The offer is an offer you can't refuse - but it's not an attempt to rob you. You'd be a fool to turn down heaven for hell.

But people do, because they do not believe either the threats or the rewards. They cannot be coaxed or cajoled, because they are blind to the truth.

Dear Christian readers, be a light to them. Open their eyes to the truth. The law is written on their hearts. They know they sin and somewhere, perhaps buried deeply, they know they need a Savior. Show them the truth as best you can.


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