In today’s world, where “fake news” abounds and social media rules imposing “cancel culture” are ever-expanding, there does not seem to be much space for the gospel. Certainly, older ways of practicing apologetics, such as the rational evidences favoured by conservative Evangelicals, and the miracles preferred by classical Pentecostals, are increasing irrelevant or unintelligible.
I think we need to be much simpler and more foundational in our God-assisted efforts to reverse the decline in conversions to Christ in Australia. It must be crystal clear to every regenerate conscience that love is the key to revealing the reality of God in a world in which everything is doubted. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John chapter 3 verse 16).
Coming to Faith
My personal testimony heralds the victory of Christ’s all-illuminating love. As a 20-year-old university student I was daily plagued by deep depression. It was only when a New Testament surprisingly appeared on our kitchen table, and I secretly snuck it to my room to read, did the gloom start to dissipate. I saw through the pages of scripture that the God revealed in Jesus had always loved me, but I had never loved him.
The inner pressure to do something about this, i.e. to convert to Christ, became overwhelming. Whether in the ancient, modern, or post-modern world the brightening light of love has not lost its power. “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” (John chapter 1 verse 5).
The Greatest Commandments
You can probably recite these words of Jesus by heart, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbour as yourself.” (Matthew chapter 23 verses 37-39).
But today I want to challenge us to consider whether the love of God and the love of others aren’t meant to be symmetrical. The apostle John thinks so.
Easier to Love?
“he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen”. (1 John chapter 4 verse 20). I suspect that where many believers profess to love God for his own sake, they in fact “love” him expecting that this will lead to a happier life. This isn’t unconditional “agape” love, it isn’t the love of God revealed in the cost to God of the cross!
The contradiction between what Jesus prophesied and how Christians are regarded in our culture suggests what we profess to be” love” is actually often selfishness. “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. 35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”” (John chapter 13 verses 34-35).
What an outstanding prophecy, that all people, people of every place, time, race or culture will be able to identify we are followers of Jesus because of our love for each other.
Love looks like Sacrifice
According to the New Testament there’s something tangible about love. “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans chapter 5 verse 8). From a gospel viewpoint love always looks like sacrifice. I suggest that if we want to influence the non-believers around us for Christ, family, friends, work colleagues etc., we ask the Lord to grant us opportunities to sacrifice ourselves on their behalf.
This could be as simple as taking an uncomfortable shift to help out a workmate. Or something as big as donating a kidney. The greater the sacrifice the greater the revelation that God’s love in the cross is the realist real reality.
“The gospel comes to us not like a plane seeking a suitable landing strip in our cultural consciousness, but like a bomb which clears its own space to land.” I think this radical image accurately describes how powerful God’s Love in Christ truly is. This Love is never limited in its power to convert; the problem is that so few of us Christians are willing to suffer for the lost.
The Rev. Dr John Yates is an Anglican minister in Perth and has 5 children and 7 grandchildren. He spends time in praying, mentoring and writing.John Yates’s previous articles may be viewed athttp://www.pressserviceinternational.org/john-yates.html