During Sunday’s Gospel Conversations class, I quoted a bit from a great book I read over the summer: Questioning Evangelism. The title does not mean the author questions the value of evangelism — rather, he advocates evangelism that is characterized by asking lots of questions. If you want a smart, fresh take on evangelism, I highly recommend this book. (Also see the review at 9Marks.)
Here’s the quote I read during our class, which focused on the gravity of sin and the fact that we can’t really understand the Gospel until we come to grips with the fact that sin is no small matter:
That answer [to the question about Jesus being the only way] must include both of these nonnegotiable truths of the gospel:
- God is more holy than we think.
- We are more sinful than we think.
…The second aspect of the answer, the depth of our sinfulness, needs clarification… Although most people are quick to admit that “everyone makes mistakes,” they can’t see what difference in makes. We must show that making a mathematical error in a checkbook is not the essence of sin; cooking the books or cheating someone is!
It doesn’t help that some Christians have tried to illustrate sin as an archery term.
“Sin is simply missing the mark,” they say. “The same Greek word for sin is used as an archery term, so we’re all just ‘target-missers.'”
Well, the same Greek word might be used, but the two concepts couldn’t be further apart. When the Bible describes the nature of our rebellion against God, it paints an uglier picture than our simply missing a bull’s eye (see Rom. 3:10-18). Rather than aiming carefully at God’s target, we turn our backs and shoot arrows everywhere else. Wanting to please ourselves, we ignore the true bull’s eye and set our affections on seductive targets that cannot satisfy, sanctify, or save. We are not primarily target-missers; we are self-centered false-target worshippers.
I wouldn’t suggest saying any of that to a non-Christian, but I would avoid the archery illustration. Following such faulty reasoning, a thoughtful seeker might wonder why God would go to all the trouble of the Cross simply because we aren’t spiritual Robin Hoods. (pp. 81-82)