“You cannot have the true and loving God without the bloody death of Christ. God will not love you without the gruesome spectacle of His Son’s corpse. God cannot accept you except through the naked, bloody, dead Savior on Golgotha. That is the theology of the cross.” –Klemet Preus
This quote by Pastor Klemet Preus reminds me of what the evangelistic mission of the Church is: to preach Christ crucified for sinners. It is very tempting for Christians to present extra-biblical incentives to unbelievers as to why they should become Christians or come to church. “Who wants to hear about a bloody execution? Who wants to be told how sinful they are?” We reason ourselves out of proclaiming the full “bloody” Gospel because we don’t think it will be appealing to those who are outside of the faith.
Rather, we try to bait-and-switch. We provide incentives and reasons apart from the Cross in order to bring people in, all the while justifying doing it by telling ourselves that we’ll give them the Gospel later–we’ll tell them about the Lamb of God, sacrificed to pay for our sins later.
But do we?
We tell people that the Church can give them the power to be more confident in life, more purpose driven, more successful, and happier–but at what point do we switch to showing them their sins and need for a savior? Where does that transition take place?
The sad reality is that in churches where material things or emotional highs are the focus of preaching and outreach, the Gospel is largely taken for granted or forgotten.
The unfortunate thing about false evangelism methods is that everyone is guilty of doing them. Everyone at some time or another has presented the treasure of the Church as being something other than the Gospel of Christ. Whether it be entertaining worship, interpersonal fellowship, beautiful liturgy, or rich history, when we put forth anything other than the bloody corpse of Christ as being our highest valued possession, we are being deceitful–we are lying.
How terrible is it that we do not trust God to do what He has promised to do when His Word is preached?
How terrible is it that we are embarrassed by or devalue the crucifixion of our Lord so that we do not share it with other people?
It is indeed terrible and damnable before God that we would replace the message of how He has freely reconciled Himself to us with a message of our own making.
But, we take heart!–For these great sins against our Lord Jesus have been forgiven in the very body that we would withhold sharing with others. His body–His beaten, bloody, and sinless body–is where our very sin of being ashamed of it is placed and forgiven. The “naked, bloody, dead Savior on Golgotha” is where our unrighteousness has been atoned for and forgotten by our loving God.
And for that free gift, we give thanks.