Saturday, July 22, 2023

A half-strength, weak kind of gospel


*This blog does not necessarily represent the official position of The Salvation Army.

I spoke to my mother the other day. She says when she goes to the coffee shop she orders a skim-milk, half-strength, extra hot coffee. One day though, the coffee she ordered was so weak, she called it dishwater.

I'm going to lay it out straight for you right now:

I think sometimes the gospel we present to the world is like dishwater. 

We have the love of Jesus, but not the power of Jesus. 

We seek to have 'presence' but fail to have 'proclamation'. 

We adopt a watered-down version of the gospel, where we feel enamored by creating community-focused gatherings, without ever a call to salvation. In fact, some Christians today don't really think there's anything to be saved from. We kind of just live, and feel good inside, making sure we help others just live and feel good inside. It's humanism dressed up as friendship evangelism. 

It's one wing of a bird.

We are called to love others and live in community with them. But if all we do is 'help people feel welcome', we have missed the mark. It has to be both evangelism and social justice. 

Though, I admit, it does make us feel good. In fact, it might help us with government funding. It looks good in the eyes of the world. People celebrate us. Friends share our facebook posts. We feel puffed up by our own self-importance. 

A Salvation Army without full salvation through repentance towards God, faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, and regeneration by the Holy Spirit, is a weak, dishwater kind of expression of the Christian church. These keys elements are 'necessary to salvation'.

The gospel without a call to repentance, an opportunity for forgiveness and an invitation to holy living means we fall short. It's almost like we believe in universalism; an idea that Jesus died on the cross for all of humanity and that's it. Jesus paid the price. All is finished. Nothing more for us to do here. 

I think Paul would disagree. He's always calling for those he writes to, to have faith in Christ; to choose to put our trust in him.

I think William and Catherine Booth knew all too well, that preaching the gospel and calling people to salvation, was hard and persecution and kick-back would occur. One only needs to remember why the bonnet was first worn; and it wasn't for fashion. It was so it could protect one's head from the projectiles that were being thrown when Salvationists were calling people to follow Christ on the streets of East London.

I'm not calling for every program, every initiative and every cafe gathering to have a soap-box with a raving fundamentalist preaching it hard. I'm saying, without ever 'proclaiming' the gospel, we miss critical opportunities to call people to faith in Christ.

We end up with nice social gatherings, with a flag and shield in the corner with a nice, warm cuppa tea.

And no one will critique us. We will all feel good inside. 

But all we would have served up is a skim-milk, lukewarm, half-strength kind of gospel, that won't ultimately have an eternal impact upon those we serve.

If you're the evangelist I'm speaking to today, I want you to take a moment and consider the words of Isaiah 6:6-8:

Then one of the seraphim flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar. With it he touched my mouth and said, "See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for." Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, "Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?"

And I said, "Here am I. Send me!"  

If you're reading this, and your heart is beating and you say, 'I think Pete is talking to me right now,' then I want to pray with you:

God, in the name of Jesus, touch my mouth and anoint me with the Holy Spirit's power, that I might speak about the incredible salvation that is available, through the death and resurrection of Jesus. Open my mouth to speak your truth to the world around me. Use me in incredible ways and help me to boldly live out and proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ. Amen.

If you prayed that prayer today, please message me and I'd love to encourage you on this journey of serving Jesus. God bless you today.

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