For a better exposition of this issue, please refer to this post, and play audio track 1.
Legitimate Christian evangelism means a lot of hard sayings. It requires convicting people of their personal sins so that they will turn from them in true repentance. It requires informing people of their total depravity and true helpless condition before God so that they will know that they need to rely totally grace based on what Jesus Christ did for them on the cross and not on works, values, morals, culture, creeds or church affiliation. And it requires telling people what will happen if they do not respond with fear and trembling before the Holy God who is not only Saviour but Lord, Judge and a consuming fire with submission and faith, which is a grotesque eternal punishment.
Now it is no surprise that at this the world stumbles and rejects, for the world is dead to spiritual things, and moreover hates and rejects Jesus Christ, and will continue in their rebellion against Him until all things are fulfilled and they will come before Him not to be redeemed but to be judged for their crimes of wickedness.
Instead, the surprise is that so many people in the church reject this. It is not modern. Market driven. Poll tested. Focus group approved. It is not made to order by folks who want to have it their way. So, they say, we need to find a way to win converts that is more in tune with the times. Don’t change the message, however. No, that would be a different gospel! Instead, alter the packaging. Make it nicer, more sunny and warm, and prettier to look at. Who wants to look at a bloody, gnarled wooden cross, a gruesome method of execution by torture used by the Roman Empire, whose victims often lingered painfully for days before succumbing to dehydration, exhaustion or asphyxiation? Instead, give us a nice shiny pretty golden cross, an icon or idol that kind of represents or points to the real thing, only better!
So, let’s not focus on the negative. Let’s accentuate the positive! Don’t talk about what we are against! Tell them what we are for! Don’t tell them what they are! Tell them what they can be! And once we get them to agree to raise a hand, walk the aisle, sign the card or say a prayer, THEN we can deal with the information that brings down the presentation! We can talk about sin and repentance and eternal punishment and the cross and grace while we rush them through (get them to say) the salvation prayer. Or we can do it when we have them (rote and ritualistically) repeat the apostle’s creed at the start of each church service. Or we can instruct them in it during the new member orientation (that most people don’t attend and the rest daydream through, and that is a good thing because they are often led by people who while well meaning and sincere are incapable of answering any serious doctrinal or scriptural questions anyway).
But have the preacher declare it oft from the pulpit at church? Do that and nobody would come! Train the evangelists to go out declaring it door to door? Do that and nobody would go! Go out and declare it in the streets, in the prisons, in the hospitals, in the homeless shelters, in the highways and byways? Nobody would respond! Or at least … not enough.
So, we have to sweeten the deal a little bit. Talk about family values and strengthening families in the church, not about how Jesus Christ said that we’d often have to forsake our families for the sake of the gospel, not that He came to bring peace but a sword, and that our true brothers and sisters are those who believe in Him and do His word. Talk about Christian money management and wealth accumulation techniques, not about the Jesus Christ who told us not to seek and lay up treasure that rust and moth corrupts and thieves steal. Talk about national renewal and revival and how we can lead our Christian nation back to God, and not how all nations will be judged for their wickedness when Jesus Christ returns. Talk about social action, environmentalism, closing the gap between the rich and the poor and not about the Jesus Christ who said that His kingdom is not of this world, and that our hearts should be on the world that is to come. Talk about our need to stand with Israel and help defend her from her enemies, instead of our need to stand before God and examine ourselves to see if we truly be in the faith, and if we are growing in the faith and bearing fruit the way that Jesus Christ told us to lest our unfruitful branch be pruned off and tossed into the unquenchable fire where the worm never dies and whose smoke from the horrible torment will rise up forever. Talk about the Jesus Christ who is the romantic lover and carousing partying best buddy friend, and not the one who is the Holy God who has existed for eternity, will exist for eternity, performed creation, sustains creation, and one day will judge creation. Talk about the Jesus Christ who said “Let he who is without sin throw the first stone” and “judge not”, and not the Jesus Christ who said “Go and sin no more” and “Woe woe woe” and the Jesus Christ who gave us the most detailed, vivid, graphic and horrifying descriptions of hell and the judgment of sinners that exists in the Bible! Talk about anything, everything but what the Bible actually says!
Why? Because you don’t want to drive the people, the paying customers, away, do you? What’s the matter with you? Are you crazy or something? How are we going to pay the mortgages and utilities on these buildings? How are we going to fund our parachurch organizations? How are we going to pay our salaries?
And if the faith of our believers is challenged because the churches aren’t continually growing and getting bigger, if we aren’t always baptizing more people this year than last year, what will happen to that faith? What will happen if our believers are forced to stop relying on things that they can see and measure, and start trusting in things that they can’t see? And what will happen to our faith? If we have to start living by faith, the faith of Abraham, what will happen to us? What will happen to me? And it is not like we are doing something WRONG. After all, haven’t you heard that you can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar?
Well, yes, that is true. You can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar. The issue, however, is that Christians are not supposed to be out there trying to catch flies! When Jesus Christ restored Peter after Simon denied Him thrice, Jesus Christ didn’t say “catch my flies.” No, Jesus Christ said “feed my sheep!” Those who are predestined to be born again in Jesus Christ, those that Jesus Christ has been Lord of since the foundation of the world, are not flies! They are sheep! SHEEP! Jesus Christ is the good shepherd, the one who came, loves, died for, resurrected for, and protects the sheep! Jesus Christ was given the sheep by God the Father, was obedient and submissive perfectly to God the Father, and for this reason was glorified by God the Father, and therefore is Lord of the sheep because of God the Father!
So then, what of the flies? Well, they have their lord also. And who is the lord of the flies? Satan! Beelzebub! The word Beelzebub literally means “lord of the flies!” And why? Because flies CORRUPT. They carry GERMS. They lay eggs in food, which hatches into maggots and SPOILS IT! Flies go to things that are pure and good and spoil it, making it loathsome, contemptible, refuse, good for nothing except to be thrown out and burned or used as fertilizer or compost! Put a pile of garbage or excrement on the ground and the flies will head right towards it! To the Jews, flies represented corruption (similar to leaven), corruption represented sin, and Satan, the serpent of old was the ruler of it! So those who are out there attempting to attract flies, as Jesus Christ said as recorded in His gospel, God is not their Father!
Instead, Satan is their father, Satan was a murderer from the beginning, and his children – the ones seeking flies – are deceivers, liars, corruptors and murderers just as is he! They are these things because they withhold the truth, the love, the beauty of God’s Word from people and instead give them things to please the flesh! Things to tickle the ears! Things that sound good to deaf ears, that look good to dull eyes, and feel good to hard, cold dead hearts! You give dogs, swine or flies flesh, rotten corrupt stinking flesh, and they’ll eat it! But God’s children, God’s beloved, precious beautiful children, the ones so precious that God sent His Own Son for, will not eat flesh. They need Spirit! They need the Word of Life! If it is flesh, it is not corrupt, fallen flesh that flies want, but it is the Bread of Life that is Jesus Christ! Those children right now are going hungry, malnourished, wanting for true, good holy spiritual food because oh so many pastors, preachers and teachers are withholding it from them. They are withholding it from them because they are captive to the thinking of this world, and this world esteems a huge towering building full of flies – counting it for success – while despising two or three sheep gathered together in the Name of Jesus Christ, calling it a failed dead church that isn’t growing because what the pastor is preaching is irrelevant!
Irrelevant. Relevant. Did you know that there is actually a “Christian” magazine called “Relevant.” Isn’t that something? Go check it out to see what I am talking about. It’s a magazine for flies. They’re far from the only ones. Charisma? Flies. Christianity Today? Flies. Focus On The Family? Flies. Christian Coalition? Moral Majority? Traditional Values Coalition? Family Research Council? Flies. Civil rights movement? Flies. Sojourners? Flies. All who are after the things of this world, who are after the leaven and not the bread … flies.
You know what is real good at getting after flies. Venus flytraps. But do you know what happens? THE FLY DIES! And why are we surprised? The same lord of the flies is the one whose only mission is to steal, kill and destroy. Do not be satisfied with ministries and works that are of the lord of the flies. Instead, seek Jesus Christ’s true ministry. Go, and do it quickly.