We had a great bible study on a recent Wednesday night on Matthew 7:13-14. We’ve been going through the Sermon on the Mount and seeking to think deeply about how Jesus wanted His followers to understand Kingdom living. But this post isn’t about the Sermon on the Mount. It’s about one aspect of our study where we discussed calling people to Jesus.
In the text, Jesus gives a command: Enter by the narrow gate. This isn’t a suggestion, but an imperative. He grounds this command in the reality of the wide gate and easy way which he further contrasts with the narrow gate and hard way that leads to life and only few will find it.
Our discussion turned to this question: How many times have you heard a person sharing the gospel talk about coming to Jesus like this? Probably not too many. In fact, I would say that if this was shared in a church service or training session, that many people would find this “tactic” offensive and unable to really “work” in today’s age of tolerance.
I am not suggesting that we intentionally be combative or seek to make it “harder” for people to understand what it means to follow Jesus. But I am suggesting that it is ok to use the language of the Bible in calling people to Jesus. Not only is it ok, but it’s quite sufficient. Furthermore, it’s actually when we use language foreign to that of the Bible in calling people to Christ that we cause all sorts of confusion. Consider some examples:
- God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life.
- Ask Jesus to come live inside your heart.
- Admit that you’re a sinner and believe in Jesus.
There is truth in each of those statements. God does love His people (Galatians 2:20), Jesus does dwell in our hearts (Ephesians 3:17), and we are to believe in Jesus (John 3:18). What’s the problem with those sort of statements then?
I submit to you that it is this: No one is ever called to Jesus in Scripture using those phrases. I do think people have been converted in evangelistic encounters that used this sort of language, but I don’t think it was because of such language as much as it was in spite of it. What I’m getting at is that we have actually quite a bit of verbiage to use in Scripture to call people to Jesus.
I think of it this way: You can drive a fence post in with a hammer, but how much more effective is a fence post driver? Much! So too, we can use “extrabiblical” language and phrases at times and see it “work” but how much more effective might our evangelistic practices be if we stuck as closely as we could to biblical language?
But isn’t God sovereign over the salvation of sinners? Absolutely! Yet, God has decreed to bring about the salvation of sinners through the means of proclaiming the gospel, and in our proclamation of the gospel we should seek to invite, plead with, and call sinners to Jesus using biblical language, for the Holy Spirit is pleased to use His own Word to effectually draw sinners to Christ.
I don’t mean to suggest that we cannot use extra biblical language to explain the Scripture with our calling for a response, but I am suggesting that Scripture is replete with ways of leading people to Christ. Consider a few examples (ESV):
- Enter by the narrow gate… (Matthew 7:13)
- Repent and believe the gospel (Mark 1:15)
- Take up your cross daily and follow Jesus (Luke 9:23)
- Believe on the Lord Jesus (Acts 16:31)
- God commands all people everywhere to repent (Acts 17:30)
- Come to Christ, all who are weary and heavy laden, and He will give you rest (Matthew 11:28)
- We implore you, be reconciled to God (2 Corinthians 5:20)
- Call on Christ (Romans 10:13)
- You cannot follow Jesus without renouncing all (Luke 14:33)
Again, depending on our audience, we can and should explain the Scripture in terms that bring difficult truths home to the minds of our hearers. This is vital not only when explaining the gospel but also when telling someone what it means to dedicate their life to Christ. It’s right and good to make ourselves as clear as we possibly can in calling sinners to Jesus. However, it’s not clear when we intentionally muddy up the clear call to faith and repentance by using unbiblical terminology such as “ask Jesus into your heart.”
Don’t we believe that Scripture is sufficient for calling people to Jesus? We should! We must not think that 2,000 years since the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus, that we now need innovative, less offensive, and politically correct phrases in order for people to become Christians. The Bible still works. It is sufficient for the task before us.
Take some time to read the New Testament and consider how Jesus and His disciples told people how to become Christians. Then, endeavor to use this sort of language in your preaching and evangelistic encounters. See if the Holy Spirit might not use it for a great harvest! And even if you don’t see a great many people turn to Christ, isn’t it still satisfying knowing you’re calling people to Jesus the way God would have you – according to His inerrant, infallible, authoritative, and all-sufficient Word?