Though still early in my sixty gospel books in 62-weeks challenge (I’ve read through two Puritan books and the Explicit Gospel and Death by Love), a pattern is clearly emerging.
This on the heels of knocking out the Monster Cheat Sheet for John Owen’s Mortification of Sin in Believers, which holds to the pattern.
So far, each book articulates the gospel as a clear call to preach the judgment and punishment of God that awaits unrepentant sinners. And each book (Explicit Gospel being an exception) lays it on thick.
And this got me thinking.
One, all the non-believer has to do when confronted with this gospel is turn off the noise. Brush it away with the notion that there is no God. Another way of saying it: if you want to shut down the argument that sin leads to eternal punishment, then don’t believe in God.
Everything the preacher says after that is nonsense.
Does that mean we ditch those elements in our gospel call? Mold it for easy swallowing? Absolutely not. Sin, judgment and hell are essential to a proper gospel call. Anything else is blasphemy.
The gospel is for all mankind. No matter his state of wickedness or level of belief. Just for kicks, let’s break down the stages of belief. Who are these sermons really for? Let’s take a peek:
Stage 1: Does Not believe in God Nor Fear Him
This is your run-of-the-mill atheist. They do not believe in any kind of God. It is all material. Nothing to fear.
Stage 2: Believes in God but Does Not Fear Him
This could include a pantheist. Deist. Unitarian Universalists. Or even your average so-called evangelical.
For instance, the God of the modern evangelical movement is a God of love with outstretched arms. He does not hate sinners–just the sin. This puts God’s exact nature in dispute, which happens when portions of God’s word is neglected or glossed over.
Stage 3: Believes in God–and Trembles
You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder! James 2:19
This could include false converts in the Protestant or Catholic church. And this puts the evangelicals above in a unique position.
Why do demons fear when sinners shouldn’t? Is it because God loves them–but hates demons? What is the difference between a fallen angel and a fallen human? Why redemption for one but not for the other?
Stage 4: Believes in God, Trembles and Repents
This is your true convert. The one who hears the nature, necessity and motives of conversion and the marks and miseries of and directions to the unconverted–and responds in repentance and trusts in Jesus.
He believes in a just and holy God. Trembles beneath the weight of the judgment that abides over him. And begs for mercy as he grows in love for his Saviour.
Up to this point in the best gospel book challenge, the conclusion is this: a true statement of the gospel includes an ample amount of evidence that rejection of the work of the cross will lead to a horrorific end. Clearly what is missing from our modern gospel call is both the finite and infinite miseries that confront the non-believer.
We’ll discuss this more when I publish my review on Sure Guide to Heaven on Thursday. And as the year progresses, we’ll see if this pattern remains over the rest of the books.
Let me know what you think. Brutal and all.
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