Over the past weekend, I spent my time working a DNOW weekend in the Dallas area. Sunday morning we drove down to Downtown and volunteered at S.O.U.L. SOUL is a homeless ministry that provides food and clothing in tandem with having a service for those in attendance each Sunday. We went to help with distribution and participate in the service. The youth guy at the church spoke. The weekend band played. There was a dance party featuring “Happy” by Pharrell Williams. It would be a different post entirely to give my thoughts on that ministry as a whole.
Instead, this post is one to expose two different but similar idolatries from two different people. The first comes from me. A friend and I went to talk with at least one person in attendance about the gospel. The kids had learned a certain gospel sharing method that they were instructed to share and so we were all mingling with the crowd. For an introvert, this was my worst nightmare. But while I am an introvert I must correctly identify the main problem I had that morning: the fear of man. I just kept walking around. I looked and tried to find someone to talk to. How hard it was to pull the trigger. This was not my introversion, but pride. I didn’t want to look foolish. The cross is foolishness to those perishing and I was just hoping they didn’t shoot the messenger. That is evil. First, it shows a lack of concern with the glory of God. God is glorified by saving people to be satisfied with all He is for them in Christ. An enemy turned worshipper is powerful and shows the all-sufficient, powerful God we serve. Only this vision of God will sustain missions and evangelism. We must long for the name of God to be made great among the lost. Our great end is Revelation 5 or 7, where we will bask in the radiance of Christ forever with the host of the redeemed. But I was afraid to open my mouth. That exposes a second evil. I thought it depended on me. Yes and of course, the spoken gospel is the only thing God uses to save in evangelism. But my trepidation showed that I was placing the power of God in my hands not in the gospel itself. I forgot that I am a clay pot and that it is the message that is the treasure of surpassing worth.
David Platt describes not sharing the gospel with those around us as “the epitome of hate.” We know their state. We know their fate. If they don’t turn from their rebellion and trust in the finished work of Christ they will be subject to the just wrath of God forever. That is hell. And so how could it be so easy to be silent. How desperately wicked a believer’s heart can still be! These things drive me to the cross, my salvation. This is sin. But sin has been ended by Christ, God’s wrath poured on the Son and not me. Hallelujah, what a Savior! It is nearly as easy to soft pedal the offense of the gospel. I went through the gospel with a man and asked if he thought that was the gospel. He said, “yes.” Then he went on to say that the gospel was all about living right and giving back. I felt the urge to just leave the conversation. But he didn’t get it. What he said and what I said we totally opposite. He was still looking to himself not outward to Christ. So I pressed again, by the grace of God. We do no favors to anyone by keeping our Lion King in the cage. The offense of the gospel can only be overcome by the sovereign grace of God. In this work of the Spirit alone may we trust.
Now to the second person and the second idolatry. The second idolatry came from the man I ended up sharing the gospel with.This is man in his natural state (Ro 1:18-3:20). The same state that you and I were in (Eph 2:1-3). This man was once homeless and had come back to participate in the service. He did not have a church and upon talking to him I have no reason to believe that he is in Christ. You see, this man’s main problem is his rebellion from God, his hatred of God and God’s hatred of him and his sin. The wrath of God stands over against him. It is popular to paint the poor as victims and in a sense they certainly are. Don’t hear me saying not to help the poor, especially those in the household of faith. I enjoyed getting to serve but I was not “doing the gospel” or “living missionally.” I was loving my neighbor. But true love for neighbor shows itself in telling them the only good news they need: Christ and Him crucified. The poor, oppressed and the like have one main problem. That is sin. And that sin is bad news in light of the holiness of God. The poor need the same gospel as the rich. They need to hear of Christ our ransom and the justification that is by faith alone.
This man did not love God. The root of sin is dissatisfaction in God, in wanting to be God and have the glory due Him. This man wanted a god. He wanted to get out of poverty. He wanted a job. But he did not want Jesus. He wanted alleviation, not salvation. He wanted to trust in God for good stuff, not for righteousness. The problem with the rich is that they love their money more than they treasure Christ. They trust their money to justify them before God and not the merit of Christ credited by faith. This man hated God, just as we once all did. These poor people were surely in brokeness. The world is proof of the folly of sin. But his main problem and the chief problem addressed in the gospel was not his brokenness but his sin and the wrath of God due it. Brokeness is good sometimes. After all, this is what Matthew 5:3 means when it says, “blessed are the poor in spirit.” Namely, in spirit. There is no spiritual advantage to poverty. It is poverty of spirit, that looks in and sees the moral and spiritual bankrupcy within the human condition. It is a hatred of sin and a thrusting of one’s self on the mercies of God in Christ. The real miracle of the gospel is not that the poor become rich. The real miracle of the gospel is that the rich in spirit become poor, trusting and treasuring Christ alone.