Unlike John, Jesus preached a gospel of blessing and prosperity that was far more likely to win followers and expand his influence rapidly. Jesus decided the best place to start his ministry was Galilee, as the region’s inhabitants were exposed to other cultures meant they were far more open to new ideas.
Not the Bible: The Ungospel of Matthew 4:12-17
When it comes to presenting the gospel, the church has been infected by the world’s corporate view of marketing.
However, what the customer perceives as their need and what is actually their true need are often two very different things. Paul says that:
“For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.” (2 Tim 4:2-4)
And this is so easy to do in Christian circles even if we try and package it in Christianese.
We need to speak truth in love which is why Jesus actually preached “repent for the Kingdom of God is at hand”. Please understand I’m not saying go to the other extreme and preach damnation – because God is patient not wanting any to perish.
The message Jonah had for Ninevah wasn’t so that God could destroy the city but so that they would repent. The purpose of truth isn’t a desire to be right, it’s a desire to see lives saved and transformed and he who wields truth should do so with fear and trembling.
A more subtle version of this error is that with prophesy we should “only pull out the gold” and never give any negative. Whilst this sounds great and loving it’s worryingly close to the false prophets of old who spoke of peace when actually a disaster was just about to overtake the people (eg Jer 14:13-16, Lam 2:14).
When I was a student in college I had got myself into some serious deception where I was seeing demons everywhere – it consumed me. I didn’t have the balance right at all. I remember a brother whom I loved came to see me after I had woken from my latest dream where I’d been battling demons. What I wanted was him to sympathise and pray for me to overcome. But when I began telling him, he interrupted me to say something along the lines of “John, you’ve got it wrong – you’re seeing demons everywhere but not the power of God.” I can’t quite remember the exact words as I was shocked by this statement which I felt was condemnation. Looking back, I am so grateful that he spoke truth – which was the beginning of the journey out of darkness into the light.
If he had told me “John, God loves you and is for you and believes that you will overcome these trials” it would have made me feel nice but not correct the error I was in.
Preach the whole gospel and nothing but the gospel, don’t tone it down or edit it to make it more palatable. Don’t aim for a slick presentation – God chooses to work through the weak to show that it’s Him and not us. God doesn’t need our help – it’s the Spirit that causes people to be born again. All we can do is play our part by being obedient.