Evangelism and church growth strategies have gone off the rails in an attempt to close the sale.
Enough. The church has been failing far too miserably for far too long in one specific area—dressing up Jesus.
This tragedy is rooted in movements that refuse to embrace the severity of God. Their infatuation with emotional love, intimacy and connection to the exclusion of an inner tremble and utter brokenness that can only come from a revelation of the terror of the Lord has compromised a generation.
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This puppy dog, cuddly Jesus that so many yearn for is a fantasy. If the extent of your relationship with God is enjoying his kindness and goodness to the exclusion of his terror and severity, you actually may be developing intimacy with an angel of light instead of the lover of your soul.
The church has knee-jerked away from the bold, passionate street preacher declarations in favor of a message that presents Jesus in a softer, more affirming light. The problem? Jesus is both a lamb and a lion.
“Aslan is a lion- the Lion, the great Lion.” “Ooh” said Susan. “I'd thought he was a man. Is he-quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion”…”Safe?” said Mr Beaver …”Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn't safe. But he's good. He's the King, I tell you.”― C.S. Lewis, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
The answer to mean-spirited street preachers is not to change the message, but to change the spirit. Unfortunately, today’s Christian culture has surrendered to the accusations of hate and intolerance that have been hurled by many. So, instead of a potent, burning and convicting message, we are hearing little more than “Jesus loves you,” and “You are special.”
This methodology and theology has infected much of today’s church growth strategies and even worship. Take note of how many songs we sing today in churches all over that are about how great we are instead of how great God is. The focus is on how irresistible we are as opposed to how desperate we are—and how holy, perfect and magnificent God is.
Today’s church has dressed up Jesus, almost as an apology to the world for previous generations staying true to the truths of repentance, holiness and eternity. This new fashioned “jesus” stays well away from the topics of hell, brokenness, our depravity, surrender and anything that has even the faintest scent of negativity.
IT’S TIME TO GOVERN!
I’m disgusted at how the world has so successfully neutered so many in the church. We have been on the defensive for far too long as liberals, homosexual activists, atheists, pro-abortionists and others have continually hurled accusations of intolerance, convincing many that we don’t truly love as they do. Our response has been mostly pathetic. The church has shrunk back as the world has painted us into a corner, demanding WE repent for a lack of love, tolerance and affirmation. No more!
My job isn’t to get you to like Jesus. It’s to get you to admit he is God and you are not and your only hope is full surrender to this magnificent, fearful deity.
Of course we should all continually check our hearts, and we must be driven by true love. But, let me tell you, the love of God looks little like what we are seeing today. Yes, his love absolutely can be tender, caring and gentle. It can also fuel his anger, wrath and judgment.
The church must repent, not to the world, but to God for allowing it to be disempowered, neutered. The threat of revival is fading every day. We must stand firmly and decree without a hint of apology or political correctness, sin is sin! God is holy. The Bible is true. We need prophets not wordsmiths.
The church’s job isn’t to convince the world that Jesus is a really great guy. Our job is to expose darkness, preach truth, allow the love and terror of God to explode into lost souls and allow the Holy Spirit to move. We are to govern with great authority and immovable resolve to stand for truth. Do it with a right spirit, but, please, finally, just do it.
WATERED DOWN EVANGELISM
11 And if any place will not receive you and they will not listen to you, when you leave, shake off the dust that is on your feet as a testimony against them.” 12 So they went out and proclaimed that people should repent. Mark 6:11-12 (ESV)
Yes, there are some evangelists who are mean spirited. Others have great intentions but poor delivery. However, as I stated above, we cannot discard the message. Simply address the spirit and then proclaim the offensive truth with explosive anointing.
Today, so much of evangelism looks little different than fortune telling and New Age mysticism. Instead of soul-piercing, convicting messages being shouted at camp meetings and through the streets like were heard in generations past, today the messages are centered around how wonderful everybody is.
We need preachers behind the pulpits and in the streets who unapologetically and with great burden shout, “Repent! For the kingdom of God is at hand!”
I find it fascinating that John the Baptist, as the forerunner, made this decree famous (Matthew 3:2). Then, when he was arrested, look what happened:
17 From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Matthew 4:17 (ESV)
This is the model of evangelism. John the Baptist started it and Jesus confirmed it.
Evangelism that encourages people to consider following Jesus because of his benefits and how special and amazing he thinks we all are deviates from that model to serious detriment.
SINNERS IN THE HANDS OF AN ANGRY GOD
Theologically deviant evangelism and powerless preaching from the pulpit have resulted in millions of people filling churches who are apathetic, lukewarm and who are following Jesus in an unsaved condition.
It’s time the church repents for attempting to dress up Jesus in order to make him more appealing to a resistant culture. Somehow we’ve been duped into believing that we can’t preach cutting and dividing truth without also loving the people we are delivering it to. The enemy has done well in his attempt to convince us that we need to be soft, casual and emotionally sedated in order to sell our religious goods. The problem, of course, is that we are not salesmen. We are prophets! While we all don’t hold the office of prophet, we are all called to carry the mantle of Gideon who, without apology, tore down altars. We are to be like Elijah who confronted culture like no other. We are to be like Paul confronting the magician:
8 But Elymas the magician (for that is the meaning of his name) opposed them, seeking to turn the proconsul away from the faith. 9 But Saul, who was also called Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked intently at him 10 and said, “You son of the devil, you enemy of all righteousness, full of all deceit and villainy, will you not stop making crooked the straight paths of the Lord? 11 And now, behold, the hand of the Lord is upon you, and you will be blind and unable to see the sun for a time.” Immediately mist and darkness fell upon him, and he went about seeking people to lead him by the hand. Acts 13:8-11 (ESV)
Jonathan Edwards delivered what many consider to be the world’s most famous sermon, Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God. Consider these points from his message and then consider the messages that are being preached in the streets and behind pulpits today:
So that, thus it is that natural men are held in the hand of God, over the pit of hell; they have deserved the fiery pit, and are already sentenced to it; and God is dreadfully provoked, his anger is as great towards them as to those that are actually suffering the executions of the fierceness of his wrath in hell, and they have done nothing in the least to appease or abate that anger, neither is God in the least bound by any promise to hold them up one moment; the devil is waiting for them, hell is gaping for them, the flames gather and flash about them, and would fain lay hold on them, and swallow them up; the fire pent up in their own hearts is struggling to break out: and they have no interest in any Mediator, there are no means within reach that can be any security to them. In short, they have no refuge, nothing to take hold of; all that preserves them every moment is the mere arbitrary will, and uncovenanted, unobliged forbearance of an incensed God. ~Jonathan Edwards
Evangelism and preaching must include the truth of mankind’s condition and position should they refuse to repent. Love demands we do. If God’s wrath, anger and vengeance is directed at someone, and they are a breath away from falling into an eternal abyss, how could we not reveal that to them with tearful urgency?
36 Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him. John 3:36 (ESV)
THE TERROR OF THE LORD
The fear of God, the terror of the Lord, the power of his wrath and his violent assault against the forces of Hell both at the cross and coming soon at the end of the age must be acknowledged as key, foundational truths. We can’t ignore them. We shouldn’t want to.
11 Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men; but we are made manifest unto God; and I trust also are made manifest in your consciences. 2 Corinthians 5:11 (KJV)
As a result of knowing the fierceness of God and the soul-shocking terror of the Lord, we persuade men. We evangelize. We preach. With tears in our eyes and fire in our veins we boldly reveal the ferocity of God and the love that has driven him to reach out to mankind.
Make no mistake, when the fear of the Lord is mentioned in Scripture, it doesn’t always mean respect as some teach. No, the terror of God is just that—pure terror.
The Greek word may sound familiar to you: phobos
This word literally means:
alarm or fright :- be afraid, + exceedingly, fear, terror, “that which causes fright, a terror,” “fearful sights”.
We need to preach in such a way that terror lands on the hearers.
17 And this was known to all the Jews and Greeks also dwelling at Ephesus; and fear fell on them all, and the name of the Lord Jesus was magnified. Acts 19:17 (KJV)
In the above scripture, the word “fear” translates the exact same way it did in 2 Corinthians 5:11. Terror. When the terror of the Lord lands on the people, the name of the Lord Jesus is magnified. We cannot dress Jesus up and hide his terrifying attributes. Remember, He is not safe, but he is good.
We see terror striking Paul as well:
3 And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling. 4 And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man's wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power: 5 That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God. 1 Corinthians 2:3-5 (KJV)
He live a life driven by the terror of the Lord, marked by much trembling, and he preached from that place. the power of God, and not man’s wisdom, brought the results that we are feeling 2000 years after his ministry on the earth ended.
Consider the following verses that all translate to mean terror:
20 Them that sin rebuke before all, that others also may fear. 1 Timothy 5:20 (KJV)
11 And after three days and an half the Spirit of life from God entered into them, and they stood upon their feet; and great fear fell upon them which saw them. Revelation 11:11 (KJV)
27 What I tell you in darkness, that speak ye in light: and what ye hear in the ear, that preach ye upon the housetops. 28 And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. Matthew 10:27-28 (KJV)
I’m certain that many who read this are thinking about the verse that reveals that perfect love casts out fear. I’ve met many wonderful people who have been mightily confused about this. They unwittingly evaded all fear, even the fear of the Lord.
The truth is that perfect love does not cast out the terror of the Lord. If that were the case, God would be working against himself and we would have to deal with contradicting truths in the Word.
I’d encourage you read my article, Should we reject fear in all forms? Does God affirm certain types of fear? It will answer a lot of questions for you.
I know many who are fully invested in the “happy Jesus” movement have probably stopped readying by now. If you are in that camp, and you’ve made it this far, please read just a little further. Your passion for intimacy with Jesus is good, but make sure it’s not incomplete. Deep, transforming intimacy with Jesus is a core message of mine. Without that vulnerable, close and otherworldly relationship with Jesus, I’d give up. Knowing God in this way is something that can never be described or replaced. However, several times in my life, God provoked me to something deeper. He didn’t allow me to stay in that sweet, tender place. He changed the way he was manifesting and I was faced with his severity.
I’ll never be able to forget my experience with the forces of Hell. My life was forever changed that night many years ago when God allowed me to experience the feeling of being taken to Hell. His severity was vivid and terrifying, yet it in no way contradicted my intimate heart connection with him. Knowing him as both lamb and lion is critical, and I’m personally desperate to have a greater revelation of him in his fullness. I pray you are too. Jesus will one day shock us all as we see him as he truly is:
15 From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. 16 On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords. Revelation 19:15-16 (ESV)