I had a conversation many years ago with a brother in Christ about the word, “saved”. He was a very active member in a local Evangelical church.
During our conversation, he conveyed his dislike for the word, “saved”, in relation to people who were born again. He found it offensive and too fundamental.
This has stuck with me over the years. Because, it is a growing problem affecting Christians all across the denominational spectrum.
Which is forcing us to defend the language of the scriptures when discussing spiritual things.
The Language of the Gospel
The Billy Graham Crusade, for example, often asks people to come forward “to make a decision for Christ” at the end of a Crusade service. This is often a very vague request. Which could mean just about anything.
Are people going forward to trust the Lord as their Savior? Are they going forward to “re-dedicate” their lives to Christ? Are they going forward to seek help for some sin or temptation or health issue?
Just to be clear, I was one of those people who went forward at the Northern Ohio Billy Graham Crusade in Cleveland, OH in 1972. But I understood the “decision” I was making. I was going forward to openly confess the Lord as my Savior.
In the months before that decision, the Lord had been drawing me deeply into the word of God. And I remember praying on my knees asking God to forgive me on many quiet, summer nights long before that Crusade.
So, I had been prepared by the Lord for what I finally decided that night.
But, over the years, I have become convinced that not everyone who goes forward really knows what they are doing. And this is not to single out the Billy Graham Crusades. The Altar Call is often made in a very unclear way in Bible churches of all types.
Which is why the language of the gospel is so critical. Which is why we need to be very careful how we handle the words of God when dealing with those who are lost.
Listening to What is NOT Said
The trouble is, we each tend to automatically fill in the meaning of biblical phrases based upon our own experience. Such as when we hear a vague gospel message — one that might leave a lot of stuff out.
We tend to fill in the blanks for ourselves. We assume that a speaker meant to say something, when he actually didn’t say something. And, possibly, never intended to say a specific thing.
I understand that this may all sound a bit confusing. And it is.
Because we are living in a day when more and more ministries — Christian ministries — have purposefully become vague in their message. Who, by design, avoid talking about spiritual truth that might not be acceptable to the various spiritual groups from whom they have accepted sponsorship or who support them in other ways.
In fact, the bigger the ministry, or church, the more temptation there is to try to cater to the sensibilities of the crowd. Which often results in trimming the message to avoid offending the hearers. Which means holding back the truth from those who so desperately need it.
While keeping the current attendees happy; which helps to grow the numbers of those who fill the church pews and give money to a ministry.
The Gospel is More Than Just Ideas
Quite simply, the gospel of salvation is based upon specific words of truth which God has given to us. Those words are living words. And they have supernatural power to change lives.
Yet more and more ministries are seeking ever more clever ways to present the truth. To be relevant to the people they are trying to reach. And to place the emphasis of the gospel on intellectual argument, savvy dialogue, and engaging media. While neglecting the power of the actual words of God that are able to save men’s souls.
Of course, it is hard to blame people for honest, legitimate attempts to be “all things to all men” in order that we might win some (I Corinthians 9:22). Not everyone responds to the same set of verses or the same Bible tract or the same type of sermon. That is just basic reality.
But in all that we do, we must remember that God is communicating eternal realities to men. His purpose is to bring men to a personal knowledge of Jesus Christ, to cut through the mist and the darkness of sin, and for men to be born again; His method for doing this is by the power of His words.
So, when we change or neglect His words, we obscure His message, we obscure His character, and we obscure His name.
Regarding the indispensable nature of His words, consider this passage. “Then said Jesus unto the twelve, Will ye also go away? Then Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life.” (John 6:67-68)
We must remember that the gospel is about the Lord, Himself, revealed by His Spirit according to His words.