For many Christians the gospel is something for the uninitiated. It is a message of hope and forgiveness for the lost and condemned. The good news of Jesus’ death and resurrection is often laid aside by believers looking to move on to deeper, more profound, and more practical truths. I fear a majority of Christians quickly tune out when an evangelistic message is given based on the idea that they have already received Jesus, thinking such a word is good for others but not necessary for themselves. It’s impractical.
But the real reason a Christian isn’t moved by an evangelistic message is precisely because he thinks he only needs to receive Christ once, believe in him once, turn to him once. This kind of thinking is one of the main reasons so many believers are cold in their affections for Jesus and weak in their obedience to him. They have stopped dwelling long and hard on the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus for them. They have stopped knowing and feeling that the good news of the gospel is good news for them–today!
Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door,
I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.
(Revelation 3:20 ESV)
These words of Jesus are not evangelistic in the sense that they are gospel words given to non-Christians. These words of invitation are in fact given to the church. Jesus tells the church that they must hear his voice, respond in faith, and maintain communion with him. There is a real sense in which we are to receive Jesus again, and again; not for the remission of our sin and guilt, but to maintain a vital connection with him, to abide with him. We are not called to believe on Christ once, but to rest on him by faith continually. We must go to him daily, always turning from our sins and toward him.
Why do some Christians tend toward legalism, either trusting in the merits of their own performance or despairing over their failure? It is often because the gospel has lost its significance to them. Why do some Christians lean into licentiousness, winking an eye at sin without pains of conviction? It is often because they have lost sight of the truths of their own sinfulness, God’s holiness, and Jesus’ atoning death.
Do you feel distant from the Savior? Cold in faith? Has your passion waned? The fundamental answer to your problem, dear Christian, is not new steps or a new program, but the old gospel message. There is no deeper doctrine than Jesus’ love and sacrifice for sinners. There is nothing more practical to hear than this for the love of God in Christ is what defines and moves us.
Your need is to draw near to Christ, seeing the darkness of your sin, marveling at his love toward you in spite of your corruption. Your need is not to agree with these doctrines, but to embrace Jesus through them. You must return to Christ, walk with Christ, dine with Christ, and the one thing that will move you to stay close and cling tight to him is the very message that you believed in the beginning. You still need the gospel. You still need to believe it. You still need to come to Christ. Do not delay.
Joe Thorn is Lead Pastor of redeemer fellowship in St. Charles, IL and blogs at joethorn.net. His book, note to self: the discipline of preaching to yourself, was released through Crossway/ReLit. You can follow him on Twitter @joethorn.