Mez had been taking us through the book of Hebrews in our Tuesday night Bible study. It had been so challenging, but one evening he spoke about being confident in the gospel. Even though it hadn’t been the main theme for that night’s study, it had a massive impact on my thinking.
This obviously wasn’t a new thought, but it plagued me. In a just a few months, several family members and friends had died and the question of their salivation was running round my head. For days I reflected on this, asking myself: When it comes to my family and friends, am I really confident in the gospel? Questions scrambled my brain as I thought about my witness, how I faithfully prayed for those I cared about and the question I didn’t want to face—Did I really believe God could save them? Or, deep down did I think it was impossible?
Do You Believe?
Now before you start leaving a ton of comments, I know God is the God of the impossible. He has the power to save any He chooses. I know this but, in my heart was I confident of this? With these thoughts flying round my head, I started reading the book by R C Sproul called Willing to Believe: Understanding The Role of The Human Will in Salvation. Well, to be honest, I was listening to it on audibles as I walked the dog. I had this book on repeat (I was doing an essay and it was helpful for me to hear and think through his first two chapters.) I must have listened to the introduction four times, and every single time, I was struck by something Sproul said on page 18 (specifically the last sentence).
The mythical element is the naïve assumption that one can build bridges that move in one direction only. Bridges are usually built to allow traffic to move two directions. What often happens when we relate to others is that we become the influencees rather than the influencers. In an effort to win people to Christ and be “winsome,” we may easily slip into the trap of emptying the gospel of its contents, accommodating our hearers, and removing the offence inherent to the gospel.
Even now as I write this, the same line is challenging me. In a bid to witness to my family and friends, have I softened the gospel to make it more palatable for the hearer? Have I removed the offences and watered down the truth? Sproul describes it as “emptying the gospel of its contents.” Ultimately, this led me back to Mez’s challenge—Am I confident of the gospel? And if I am, how is this evident in the way I witness Christ to those around me? This is a question for us all.
Face the Truth
It may be hard for us to face the truth. In reality, if we have, it’s not like we woke up one day and suddenly decided to tone down the gospel. To tone down how we live and the opinions we share. It may have happened over a long period of time as we make small compromises along the way. Perhaps we haven’t even realised we’ve been making these comprises. Maybe the years of sharing the gospel and being on the receiving end of snide remarks or hurtful treatment is at the centre of why we’ve changed, got jaded, and toned down our words.
Perhaps we tell ourselves that we’ve simply matured from the zeal, or ‘sledgehammer approach’, we once had of sharing the gospel when new to the faith. What we call ‘mature’ may really be watered down truth. Other times we may excuse our behaviour, saying to ourselves: I don't want to cause offence, hurt them, they may not talk to me again, they may get angry, etc. . . . But when we think those excuses through, at the core, we are really worrying about ourselves and not really loving them well at all. If we were driven by love we’d be desperate for them to avoid hell no matter the cost to ourselves. We’d share to the whole offensive truth.
Secondly, how confident are we of the gospel? I mean I know if I asked you outright, the answer would be yes. But, is there a tiny bit within that thinks someone is too far gone, that they are too hostile, that salvation for them seems impossible? If I’m being completely honest, on reflection, there are people, well one person, that I’ve prayed for for over 30 years who, without realising it, as time has gone on, I look and think—It’s just impossible. They are too far gone—God can never save them. I mean if you asked me, I’d have said the right things, biblically I know the truth, but my sinful heart doubted. I was stunned to recognise the reality of my thinking. I know I’m not the only one who thinks like this. Obviously, I’ve repented and I’m praying with renewed zeal.
The challenge is there: “In an effort to win [your friends and family for Christ have you slipped] . . . into the trap of emptying the gospel of its contents, accommodating [the hearers], and removing the offence inherent to the gospel.” Who are you really loving and serving when you tone down the gospel in an attempt to make it more palatable?
We must be confident in the gospel, proclaiming the truth out of love for the Lord and others, no matter the cost to ourselves.