Theme: What Is the Cost?
This week’s lessons show the price that must be paid to follow Christ, as well as the blessings that come when we do.
Scripture: Luke 14:25-35
I was talking with a distinguished doctor who was commenting on missionary practices in his area of the world. According to him, there is much valuable work being done, and the people doing it are certainly earnest and dedicated believers. But there is one thing lacking. “We want so much to win the people to Christ,” he said, “that we are watering down the gospel to the point where believing in Christ hardly means anything. There is no repentance, no change of life. It is easy to become Christ’s follower.” I was interested in this man’s opinion, because, as I assured him, the same thing is true of much “gospel preaching” here.
One person who has seen this and challenged what he calls today’s “synthetic gospel” is Walter J. Chantry. In Today’s Gospel: Authentic or Synthetic? Chantry examines Christ’s encounter with the rich young man, recorded in Mark 10:17–27, and concludes that his approach was radically different from what most evangelicals do in similar situations today.
The man was clean-cut and earnest. He wanted to be saved. In that kind of encounter most of today’s evangelicals would give the inquirer a three- or four-step presentation of the gospel, ask him to make a “personal commitment to Jesus Christ” and then send him away with assurance of salvation. Jesus did nothing of the sort. He challenged the young man in regard to his conception of God: “Why do you call me good? No one is good— except God. . . .” He confronted him with God’s law: “Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, do not defraud, honor your father and mother.” Then He called for repentance and faith in Himself: “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” Chantry points out that Jesus “demanded this turning from everything to himself as a condition of discipleship for everyone.” Because it fails to declare this cost, much of today’s church “isn’t preaching Jesus’ gospel!”1
When a person becomes alerted to the teaching about cost in Christ’s utterances, he is amazed at how extensive it is. Jesus just did not make following Him an easy matter. On the contrary, following Him involved radical life-changes. Everything He said about discipleship implied this costly change. It was “denying” oneself, “taking up a cross,” and “following him” (Luke 9:23).
From the story of Jesus’ encounter with the rich young man, what elements are necessary in a true evangelistic presentation of the gospel?
When Chantry writes of a “synthetic gospel,” what important part of the gospel is being left out?
Reflection: What tends to characterize gospel preaching today? How faithful are these expressions to the Bible?
1Walter J. Chantry, Today’s Gospel: Authentic or Synthetic? (London and Carlisle, PA: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1972), p. 55.