It would seem as though the Gospel message is losing its potency here in the West, but let us not be deceived. The Gospel is just as powerful as it has always been, but it is people’s tampering with it that weakens its effectiveness. People are told that God “loves us as we are” (implying there is no urgency to respond or change). And behaviors and attitudes the Bible declares as sinful are often passed by as not really being all that bad, let alone sinful and evil. Mind you, I am not talking only of the supposed “big” sins of the world, but the cradled sins in the church too (e.g., pride, presumption, idolatries, apathy, desire for control or prestige, etc.).
Oswald Chambers notes, “There must be a sense of need created before your message is of any use.” The Gospel of Jesus Christ is very useful and relevant, but how can it be received as such when many would-be messengers state otherwise? Or put it this way: why do I need a Savior if I can simply come as I am, I’m loved as I am, and my disposition(s) are not bad?
Indeed, we are loved. And we are to come as we are (we can come no other way). However, we are to come with repentance and an expectation to be changed by God’s transforming grace. Our pride, gossip, lying, hypocrisies, idolatries, immoral thoughts and acts, drunkenness, blasphemies, etc. are all bad—really bad.
But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear. ~ Isaiah 59:2
For the wages of sin is death. ~ Romans 6:23a
But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death. ~ Revelation 21:8
Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. ~ Luke 13:2-3
Elsewhere He says,
Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. ~ John 3:18-19
We tend to think we are “good” because we have not done this or that, yet we think nothing of the way we have spurned God’s holiness and rejected His ruling over our lives. We pride ourselves in not killing anyone, but oblivious the hundreds we have wounded by our razor-sharp tongues. We do not see ourselves as idolaters, all the while refusing to bow to the authority of the King of kings and to His eternal Word.
Consider also the ingratitude and sense of entitlement of our society, and the way these reflect in people’s perception of God.
For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened…. Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen. ~ Romans 1:21, 24-25
The message of the Gospel, indeed, is powerful, but God’s love can only be appreciated when it is not taken for granted. Grace is amazing only when we realize our depravity and helplessness. Jesus will only be adored when we realize our sinful passions keep us enslaved but He has come to set us free. The Gospel is not simply spiritual vitamins. Rather, it is radical heart surgery.