Why is it that the gospel message seems to gave gone on deaf ears in our culture? Could it be that it’s not compelling enough to move people from their distractions? I personally think so. I’ve been reading a book that I highly recommend by Frank Viola titled, Insurgence: Reclaiming the Gospel of the Kingdom. He addresses this very thing.
As Viola points out, we have not really heard the gospel that was preached in the first century: a radical message that was heralded throughout the Roman Empire in the face of severe persecution that turned their world upside-down, eventually transforming the culture itself from the inside out. I think the following quote from his book sums this up very well:
“What captured the twelve disciples to forsake everything and follow Jesus? Simple. They saw His glory and were captured by it.
14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14 NIV)
“…It is the sight of His glory that causes you and me to abandon all else. It is the experience of His grace that causes us to forsake everything for the Lord. Just as God the Father rules the kingdom of heaven in the heavenly realm by His glory, Jesus Christ rules the kingdom of God on earth by His glory.” (Insurgence, p.46-47, emphasis added)
Ironically, the current problem isn’t that we’ve watered down the message too much, but that we were already given a watered-down message to begin with. It’s certainly not a message that compels people to abandon everything for Christ and change the world.
And it’s not because we need to rub people’s sin in their faces with threats of hell (which, by the way, Jesus’ disciples never preached). That method was effective in the guilt-ridden post Medieval world of the Reformers, but it certainly doesn’t work now. And we need to question whether it’s even a biblical way to preach the good news in the first place.
We’ve reduced the gospel to arguments, altar calls, reciting sinner’s prayers, going to church, and waiting for heaven when we die. While this may be a good start, and being part of a local church is important to our continued growth, none of these things will captivate people’s hearts in the long run.
No, I agree with Viola. We are changed by the glory of Jesus Christ. This is what changed Paul on the road to Damascus, what Isaiah encountered when He saw God’s glory, what the adulterous woman experienced when she met Jesus when faced with her accusers, and what happened to the Samaritan woman at the well that made her evangelize a whole city.
When I think about it, this is what changed me.
Glory is the manifest goodness of God. And when glory invades our world we understand what Paul meant by the following:
13 If we are “out of our mind,” as some say, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you. 14 For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. 15 And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again. (2 Cor.5:13-15 NIV)
What Paul is saying is that encountering the glory of Christ makes us seem like we’re “out of our minds” to those who only know boring and dry religion. It’s like being madly in love; you can’t think of anything else but being with that person. You would do anything for them, live or die for them, No one has to give you rules to obey when your heart is so stricken.
This is how the Kingdom of God works. The King of Glory compels by His love.
This is why legalism and being religious is a very different thing altogether, nothing more than powerless counterfeit constructs invented by zealous adherents who keep their distance from God while trying to assuage their guilty conscience with ritual obedience.
Beloved, I’m talking about a radiant beauty and overwhelming goodness that makes you blush and go weak in the knees. When you catch but a small glimpse of it, you can only bow your heart in holy awestruck reverence. Every part of you resonates with His love in passionate adoration, and you know that nothing else will ever satisfy you again. You’re wonderfully ruined, being changed from glory to glory.
That, my dear reader, is what makes all the difference.
All Hail King Jesus!