Jesus, often; us, ever?
Let’s not mislead people by what we tell them about Jesus.
A number of years ago I saw a technically skilled but theologically hideous painting on the wall of a Christian bookstore. It depicted one businessman in a suit introducing Jesus in His Jesus garb to another businessman in a suit. The two being introduced were shaking hands. The intent of the artist was that evangelism consisted of introducing people to Jesus. But what was depicted (I’m certain, unintentionally) was that Jesus and the clean-shaven businessman were equals. There was no shame or repentance on behalf of the businessman. He was simply being introduced to another person on equal terms, despite Jesus being dressed differently: Jesus was white, had a blondish beard and long hair and was dressed in a white robe. There was no real sense of Jesus being the risen, glorious, and reigning Lord of the Cosmos.
In folk theology, we are to invite people to accept Jesus. There is invitation, but Biblical evangelism involves something much, much more than just mere invitation. Biblical evangelism involves proclamation! We are to proclaim Jesus as Lord and Savior. Receiving Jesus acknowledges that He is the Sovereign One. A popular statement once said, “Make Jesus Lord of your life.” If one is born in England, one doesn’t make Elizabeth Queen of one’s life. She is the Queen. One can be an obedient subject, or not. That is the choice. Evangelism involves declaring that people have the choice of being obedient to the King or disobedient. Receiving Jesus involves acknowledging Jesus as He truly is. A number of people don’t know this, but Jesus reigns overall.
So much evangelism only involves offering people “fire insurance.” Receive Jesus, and you won’t go to hell. In this limited “gospel,” one can decide to accept Jesus as Lord, or not. That decision is optional. One is “saved.” In this limited view of evangelism, proclamation is lost.
Evangelism involves reasoning with people. It involves using Scripture. It involves revealing how out of whack with their own standards most people are, how by their own standards they really are not good people, much less how out of whack they are with God’s standards. This is what sin truly is. It is a breach in relationships. But true evangelism involves the Holy Spirit convicting people of sin, righteousness and judgment, of their need of a change their commitments, a restoration in their relationship with the Triune God, a change that involves conversion from a self-centered life to a Christ-centered life. Conversion involves recognizing and following the Monarch of the Universe, the perfect union of man and God, Who once walked in our midst, Who as such died for our sins, and Who now sits at the Father’s right hand. Evangelism involves proclamation, and, when invitation is involved, it is not inviting one equal to accept another equal, but it involves the One who is Superior in all things inviting those who are in desperate need to acknowledge and receive Him as He truly is, the Sovereign One, the Caesar of the Cosmos, the One who loves us and offers us eternal fellowship and joy in Him.