by Bryant Neal
As I begin this contribution to the blog project for the “Naked Gospel”, the first thing I have to say is WOW!! Reading through this book was like standing outside in the direct line of a fire-hose gushing out ice cold water, but in an awesomely refreshing way. I felt like King David must have after his dance before God as the ark of the covenant was brought into Jerusalem and he had stripped himself of his kingly robes and garments, humbling himself before the glory and majesty of God…standing there, naked, without preconceptions of who he was, what he was or what other people thought he was…simply spiritually naked before God.
I have been actively involved in the evangelistic efforts of the churches that I’ve been a member of, as well as the work of my local Baptist association for many years and as a result, I have been a part of several “evangelism training strategies”. While I must emphasize that I do not condone any one particular evangelism “program” over another; neither do I condemn any of them either.
I do, however, find one specific “hole” in each of them that I have been thinking about and wondering over for quite a while now. That “hole” is the issue of the moralist question or approach that many of these strategies present. What I mean by that is what this blog will revolve around because it just so happens to be what my section of “The Naked Gospel” is about. (I must note I didn’t know that when I got my assignment). In most of the evangelism training strategies that I have gone through the training for, they all eventually lead up to a key question, or point of crisis or whatever they choose to term it and it usually centers on the question of “what does it take for a person to have eternal life” or “how does a person become saved” or even “how does a person come to know God” or some other such question. The natural response by the person is usually a works related answer like: be a good person, go to church, read my Bible or any number of other responses.
This is the point of the moralist question. The person being presented with the Gospel is now trying to justify themselves into a position of relationship with God through works: “I’ve been a pretty good person”. One evangelism strategy that is very prominent on Christian TV right now presents the Gospel through confronting the sin in a person’s life through how many of the Ten Commandments they have broken, showing that the person is a sinner because of what they have done in the past. The problem is that all strategies do the same thing…present the message that we are sinners because we have sinned (we are what we do). The “hole” then is what Andrew Farley has addressed in his book. That is, we sin because we are sinners (we do what we are) without Jesus Christ. Very few evangelistic strategies address the original sin nature that mankind has; and which needs to be changed in order for us to have a relationship with God. Like Farley, I believe that this hinders the unbeliever from truly understanding their fallen nature.
To illustrate, I use this analogy when describing the need for Jesus to my congregation or to someone I am sharing Jesus with:
Think of two children in a sandbox. They each have identical dump trucks. The same color, size, shape, everything is the same. At some point, one child will reject his own dump truck in favor of the one that his friend has and what ensues is utter chaos. One child will end up with dirt in his eyes, crying and calling for his mother; the other child will walk away triumphantly with both dump trucks. When asked what happened, the victorious child will say sheepishly “nothing”. In this one scenario, you have greed, oppression, anger, violence, lying, theft, idolatry, covetousness, and a host of other sins. Who taught them that??? No one had to; it was something that was a part of their nature at birth.
Because this is never fully addressed in most presentations, many unbelievers are left thinking that they are separated from God because of what they have done, and not because of who they are at heart. They have only heard and received half the Gospel and leave thinking that they must simply ask for forgiveness for what they have done and never cross the point of realizing that they are in desperate need of a heart transplant, as the psalmist cried out “Lord, create in me a clean heart” (Psa 51:10) because he had realized that his heart was “wicked and deceitful” (Jer 17:9).
Another side effect is that people never understand their new nature through Jesus, or as He called it: being born again. I’ve heard too many preachers tell their people that they are sinners, saved by grace and too few telling people that they are a new creation in Christ Jesus and that the true power to overcome sin is the work that God is doing through them by abiding within His children in the person of the Holy Spirit. When a person sins, they excuse themselves by saying “well, I’m only a sinner saved by grace” when Farley points out that the Bible says that we have been transformed from “Sauls” into “Pauls”. I have to wonder if we are in fact giving people license to sin, because they think that they are only the sum of what they do…not because of who they are. It is a shame that we keep our spirituality superficial and fleshly; when it should be spiritual where the heart of God resides within us… that to me is the Naked Gospel…
About the author:
Bryant Neal is a pastor, mentor, life coach, chaplain…but more importantly a follower of Jesus who loves to see others come into a life journey with the Savior and relish themselves in His presence in their lives. You can contact Bryant through his myspace and facebook pages as well as through email at firstname.lastname@example.org