Beautiful takeoff. Wonderful flight. Crash landing.
Unfortunately, that’s what I’ve witnessed toward the end of many preachers’ evangelistic sermons.
These well-meaning communicators of God’s Word often have great opening illustrations that capture the audience’s attention. Their takeoff is flawless and inviting.
Many times their beautiful takeoff is followed by a wonderful sermon. The preacher unpacks a Bible passage that clearly lays out the “flight plan” of salvation. Hearts sore to 35,000 feet as the passengers encounter the shockingly good news of God’s grace in God’s Word.
But all too often, as these preacher-pilots start putting down their landing gear, cracks begin to appear in the fuselage. Wires cross, lights flash and the smoke of works-based righteousness begins to slowly fill the cabin, choking the passengers with legalism.
This is followed by severe turbulence in the hearts of the passengers—not the kind that comes from genuine conviction but from a brand of “grace” that is loaded with conditions and qualifications.
As the preacher points the nose of his sermon toward the landing strip, he uses phrases that focus on what the audience must do to be saved rather than on what Jesus has done to save them.
Many of these terms have been handed down from generation to generation and are preached in churches worldwide, so they seem acceptable. But these seemingly innocuous terms rob the gospel of its power because they put the onus “on us” instead of on the finished work of Christ.
Like angry flight attendants, these terms point fingers of judgment at the pewbound passengers, scolding them of their need to “turn," “commit" and “surrender.” If they refuse, the pilot and crew threaten, they may never make it to their final destination.
But these self-glorifying terms veer away from the reality that it was Jesus who turned, committed and surrendered. He turned from all the riches of heaven to become a human. He committed Himself to live the perfect life we could never live. He surrendered Himself on the cross as a sacrifice for our sins.
The true gospel is not about what we do for Jesus but what Jesus has done for us.
As these preachers make their final descent, oxygen masks drop and people hold on for dear life. But the sermon inevitably crash-lands shockingly short of the runway of salvation. The people that survive stumble out of the plane like the walking dead, wondering if they’ll ever be good enough to make it to heaven.
OK, enough with the plane analogy. Preachers, youth pastors, Sunday school teachers and evangelists: Keep the gospel clear from beginning to end. Beautiful takeoff. Wonderful flight. Textbook landing.
Speaking of textbook, what does the Bible say we must do to make it to our final destination? Acts 16:31 tells us the simple flight plan: “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved.”
Now that’s a flight I’m thrilled to invite others to take!
Greg Stier is a husband, a father, a preacher, an author, a twitchy revolutionary and a fanatic for Jesus. He's the president of Dare 2 Share Ministries, which has led thousands of students to Jesus and equipped thousands more to reach their world with the gospel. He blogs at GregStier.org.
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