The modern message of the gospel is “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life.” However, our idea of “wonderful” and the world’s may be a little different. Take a sinner through the pages of the Book of Acts and show him the terrifying scene of boulders breaking the bones of Stephen. Then smile and whisper, “Wonderful…” Listen together to the sound of a cat-o’-nine-tails as it rips the flesh off the back of the apostle Paul. Follow together the word “suffering” through the Epistles, and see if you can get the world to whisper, “Wonderful!” After such a ride down Honesty Road, they may think the pleasures of sin are a little more attractive than the call to “suffer affliction with the people of God.” John MacArthur said, “We need to adjust our presentation of the gospel. We cannot dismiss the fact that God hates sin and punishes sinners with eternal torment. How can we begin a gospel presentation by telling people on their way to hell that God has a wonderful plan for their lives?”
“If you study the New Testament you will see that God’s love is almost always given in direct correlation to the cross.”
Who Will Listen?
Who in the world is going to listen if we are so blatantly honest about the Christian life? Perhaps not as many as are attracted by the talk of a wonderful plan, however, the answer to our dilemma is to make the issue one of righteousness, rather than happiness. This is what Jesus did. He used the Ten Commandments to show sinners the righteous standard of God (Luke 10:25,26; 18:18–20). Once the world sees the perfect standard by which they will be judged, they will begin to fear God, and through the fear of the Lord, men depart from sin (Proverbs 16:6). They will begin to hunger and thirst after the righteousness that is in Jesus Christ alone.
The Key to Reaching the Lost
If you study the New Testament you will see that God’s love is almost always given in direct correlation to the cross: herein is love, for God so loved, God commended His love, etc. (See John 3:16; Romans 5:5,6,8; Galatians 2:20; Ephesians 2:4,5; 5:2,25; 1 John 3:16; 4:10; and Revelation 1:5, among others.) The cross is the focal point of God’s love for the world. How can we point to the cross without making reference to sin? How can we refer to sin without the Law (Romans 7:7)? The biblical way to express God’s love to a sinner is to show him how great his sin is (using the Law—see Romans 7:13; Galatians 3:24), and then give him the incredible grace of God in Christ. This was the key to reaching so many on the Day of Pentecost. They were “devout” Jews who knew the Law and its holy demands, and therefore readily accepted the mercy of God in Christ to escape its fearful wrath.
“The cross is the focal point of God’s love for the world.”
When you use the Law to show the world their true state, get ready for sinners to thank you. For the first time in their lives, they will see the Christian message as an expression of love and concern for their eternal welfare, rather than of merely proselytizing for a better lifestyle while on this earth.