The Plan of Salvation. The steps to salvation. The Roman Road. Personal testimony. Are these familiar to you? As people who are already Christians, we memorize these in an attempt to learn to share the gospel with our friends. All churches seem to have one version or another they stick to. When I was a kid, I even had a bracelet with different colored beads to help me remember. While none of these things are wrong, I recently read a book that challenged me to believe that many of these methods of evangelism don't go far enough in letting people know what being a Christian is all about.
In his book The Gospel According to Jesus, John MacArthur explores the way that Jesus evangelized and compares it to modern church evangelism. While I must say that there is a whole host of things I disagree with the author about in this book (he is a staunch Calvinist), he made a strong argument that our simple plans of salvation don't come to the heart of conversion as Jesus taught it: someone who becomes a Christian must acknowledge through their actions the lordship of Christ.
The New Testament is replete with the image of slavery, the idea that a Christian is a slave to Christ. Our culture doesn't like to speak of slavery, most likely because of our relatively recent history with slavery in the Unites States. Many versions of the Bible even omit the word "slave," exchanging it for the more politically correct word "servant." But Mr. MacArthur points out that the Greek work doulos isn't talking about a hired man. "It describes someone lacking personal freedom and personal rights whose very existence is defined by his service to another. It is the sort of slavery in which 'human autonomy is set aside and an alien will takes precedence of one's own.' This is the total, unqualified submission to the control and the directives of a higher authority -- slavery, not merely service at one's own discretion."
Jesus himself is the one who began to use this term, and he never softened its edges (Matthew 10:24-25; Matthew 25:21; Luke 9:57-62). In fact, many times his hard teachings drove would-be followers away because they were unwilling to follow them. The rich young ruler, for example, put his money before Jesus and would not follow Christ if it meant giving up his wealth (Matthew 19:16-22). How many times have we made absolutely sure our Seekers know the cost of following Christ before they make a decision? Jesus told a whole crowd of people exactly what they would have to give up.
Now large crowds were going along with Him; and He turned and said to them, "If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple. Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple. For which one of you, when he wants to build a tower, does not first sit down and calculate the cost to see if he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who observe it begin to ridicule him, saying, 'This man began to build and was not able to finish.'" (Luke 14:25-30)
No simple plan of salvation I've seen has ever contained the enormity of these words, yet Jesus over and over again let people know that he was calling them to a changed life. Not just a life of salvation, but a life of obedience to Him above all else.
There is a man in my life whom I love dearly and pray for every day. Because he intellectually believes everything about Jesus, he thinks his soul is secure. I was understandably concerned because he had not put Christ on in baptism. I thought if he would only do that, then I would be able to sleep at night knowing his salvation is secure. But his refusal to be baptized is a sign of something much deeper. He is unwilling to submit to the Lordship of Christ in any way, and because of the "easy believism" prevalent in the church today, he thinks he is safe. My letter urging him to be baptized should have been a long conversation urging him to become a slave of Christ.
What about you? What do you think of when you think of evangelism? An easy, five step process? A path through the Scriptures? That's the way I used to think about it, but The Gospel According to Jesus has challenged me to share my faith the way Christ, the Author of that faith, did. In turn, I challenge you to do the same.
Melissa Morris Baker
- See more of Melissa’s writings at: http://www.maidservantsofchrist.com/