The whole thing really began with myself. I was supposed to preach at a school last thirsday night, it has since been postpone to this coming thirsday evening. Its a whole other story! I don't preach publicly at all. I last preached at the same school for the very first time about two or so years ago.
Anyway, my other buddy, one of the leaders from the same school (DK), had asked me to speak on, "The previlages of being a Christian", from an evangelistic point of view. Being a very controvesial individual, I immediately had a problem. In essence I was being asked to show the non-Christians the previlages of being a Christian inorder to, as it were, entice them into becoming Christians. Unfortunately, or fortunately rather, Christianity doesn't work that way. Its not like convincing or luring someone into changing political parties by telling them the advantages of doing so!
Christianity comes from true repentance, being contrite. And thats where all the problems emanated from with my buddy.
If you agree with the above statement, "Christianity comes from true repentance", you may want to look at the statement alittle more thoroughly! If you don't, let me try to convince you otherwise.
When my buddies and I go out evangelising, we tend to parallel the relationship between our hearer and God as that of the relationship between a son/daughter (who has wronged their father) and his/her father. It is very useful, as it knocks out certain potential problems when we preach the way of slavation.
For example, It knocks out good works as a way of salvation. We say, suppose you have wronged your father and you, perharps, are no longer on speaking terms, would you sending him a gift to rectify the situation? Will your buying him a gift, putting fuel in his car or washing his car or preparing him a great meal or doing anything good for/to him, will any of those things reconcile you to your father? Ofcourse not! You fathers interest is your coming to him and repenting, i.e. saying you are sorry and stopping to do that which upset your relationship in the first place. If anything, he will reject those gifts because things are unwell between you. In the same way, going to church, tithing, giving to the poor, singing in the choir, even getting baptised doesn't reconcile one to God, those "good deeds" only please the father when things are right between you, i.e. when you repent!
Alright, now to convince those who may not agree with the statement, "Christianity comes from true repentance". Using the above principle, A son wrongs his father. We've already seen that sacrifice or gifts don't help the situation. Would you say the son is truely sorry if he decided to make things right because, for example, he hears that his father is contemplating removing him from his will or his father is prosecuting all those who owe him money and jailing those who can't pay. He remembers that he owes his father money and thus rushes off to make things right lest he end up behing bars. Would you call the son truely sorry for what he did? ...I don't think so either! Why? Because fear is driving his apology and that is not true repentance! Well then, if you agree, what would you say about those who say, I became a Christian because I feared that I would go to hell? Is that really being sorry for sin? Is that really someone who has realised his sin and God's love for him inspite and despite his sin? Is that one who truely regrets the life he once led? Or is it someone driven by fear? Well, I leave it to you to decide.
When, then, is a son who has wronged his father truely repentant? As my dad says, "no prize for guessing". It is when one realises that he has sinned against God and that God loves him and will take him back if he genuinely confesses his sin and stops doing that which he used to do, 1 John 1:8-9, Romans 10:9.
I don't cry much. I really don't cry at all, but I remember the day I got saved, 10 years ago this month, I wept like a baby. I sat down to ask myself why I cried like I did that late evening years later, I realised that I was really moved by my sin. I was truely sorry for my sins. I saw myself as one who had wronged a God who did nothing but love me. I'm not saying, if you didn't cry, you aren't saved, by no means! I'm saying if you were not sorry for your sins, you may not be saved. To disagree would be to refute the earlier mentioned example.
As I pondered these thoughts while preparing my sermon, in my heart, I discovered that, I could not for the life of me remember any true christian say that they decided to become a Christian because they were scared of hell. I've probably heard a true Christian say they did become a Christian for fear of hell but as I said, I can not remember any.
I decided to test this on my buddy. He is a christian. I asked him how he got saved and what led him to salvation. It was clear from what he seemed to be saying that it was for fear of God's wrath-hell. Well, from what he said, I really think even though he says it was fear, he definately seemed to have realised he was a sinner when he recieved Christ. That is why in the paragraph before last, I state that you may not be a christian, its because, I know someone who is and yet says he was in essence driven by fear.
How then do I explain my buddy's case? Well, the first thing that trigered his thoughts of God was his watching a graphic movie about hell. He was so scared, he rushed home to pray! But according to him, he says he became a Christian some time later through Christian literature. If you ask me, through that literature he came to faith by true repentance.
In terms of application, I think it is wrong to share the gospel as christians by scaring people by speaking of hell because that is not the gospel. The gospel is, You are a sinner who has wronged a holy God, God loves you despite and inspite of your sin, Repent and believe because he wants you so bad-he really, really loves you! It was good enough for a wretch like me, it should be good enough for the world!