There's an interesting discussion raised by by Michael Spencer and Kiwiandemu about preaching the love of God during gospel presentations.
Let me admit one thing before I go further - I did not listen to the sermon by Francis Chan and nor have I read in any great detail what Michael and Ali have written. So please understand that I am writing this as a response to the impressions that I received from both bloggers. Also understand that I'm not taking any sides on this debate - or if I am it is only incidental.
One of the things that I am continually aware of is our gratefulness to God for everything we experience. I had toad in the hole for breakfast with a French blend coffee - an exquisite combination that brings a small amount of joy to my day. This is an experience of God's free love - his grace. I don't deserve to enjoy it, but I do because God graciously allows it.
This sort of Grace is called "common grace". It is about the love that God has for all mankind. All of mankind can enjoy the benefits of creation that God has given them, even when most of them rebel against him. That God does not take away these benefits from sinners is an act of gracious love that is unequalled...
..except, of course, by the cross. The gift of eternal life through the death and resurrection of Christ is the ultimate form of God's graciousness, and the only thing in God's grace that guarantees salvation. Heaven cannot be attained by eggs and coffee, no matter how enjoyable they may be.
So I've decided recently that one way into a gospel presentation is to communicate just how much we owe God, and how much God owes us. In simple terms - we owe God everything and God owes us nothing. I think it is a way for people's belief in self-autonomy and freedom to be challenged - but challenged in a positive way. It's not so much telling people that they should bow down and worship God, but it is a realisation that we are in God's debt.
That, I think, is a good reason why box #1 on Two Ways to Live can be so important. Not only does this gospel presentation start off with God, but it also communicates the fact that all creation is in God's hand.
Once God's love for us in creation can be established, then we can communicate the issue of our rebellion and sin far more effectively. We are not just ignoring God or resisting a petty tyrant, we are being supremely ungrateful for everything that God has given us. We are freeloaders and moochers in the world.
I think presenting God's "passionate love" for sinners is a wonderful way to bring people not just to understand grace and faith, but also the fact that such love drives us to submission, to repentance, to falling on our face before God in realisation that we have squandered and resisted against his just rule.
In a sense, preaching God's passionate love is part and parcel of what some American Christians call "Lordship salvation". A proper presentation of God's love and grace will always drive us to humbly submit ourselves before God.
From the Theosalient Department
© 2006 Neil McKenzie Cameron, http://one-salient-oversight.blogspot.com/
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