If Jesus Gave an Altar Call
HOW DID JESUS EVANGELIZE? Jesus may be the founder (to use the language Hebrews 12:2) of Christianity, but by today’s standards, He would have failed in making a seeker-friendly church. If you went to Jesus First Church, you would not find coffee, as well as sugar-coated sermons. Consider the plainest call to follow Him found in Luke 14.
Luke 14:25 Now great crowds accompanied him - that is Jesus - and he turned and said to them,
What would you do in this moment, Christian? Billy Graham passed away awhile ago. His passing made me look up a few videos, and I came across one from 1971, a packed out arena in Chicago. The biggest gathering, said Billy, they had had to date besides a gathering in Houston. Graham gave a good sermon, couldn’t disagree with a bit of it!
Great crowds were accompanying Christ. This is an opportunity, this is! The Son of God, inarguably the best preacher and literally the best person suited for the best possible “You need to be a Christian,” sermon ever. No argument there, right? Jesus, the Son of God, with a great crowd! Only great things should happen here! Play “Just as I am,” and if Jesus wanted too, He could have the whole crowd coming to the front for an altar call. He knows the hearts of people. He could say exactly what needs to be said, to bring them to repentance.
He turned and said to them:
26 “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. 27 Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.
What in the world Jesus?!?!?!
Give me the scientific evidence for God’s existence! I want to hear the benefits of lifetime membership in Jesus First Church! Let’s hear the joys of walking the streets of gold and the no-more-tears-in-heaven bit!
Jesus means business! Jesus is personal! Jesus is blunt! Following Jesus doesn’t mean, “Sunday mornings: you’re in church boy! Tithes, I want some! Put the 'I believe in the big bang, God spoke and bang it happened,' bumper sticker on your car! Vote for Jesus in the elections!”
LOVE GOD MORE
“If anyone comes to me,” what were you doing when you came to the altar or when you prayed to Jesus after reading the Bible, “Come into my heart.” What are you saying when you say, “I’m a Christian,” you’re saying - “I was coming to him, and I’m following Him,” okay, looks like this is for you, this next bit:
“If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters,” wait, I thought Jesus is all about love?! He is. This is an idiom, "hate" in this sense means, “Esteem less,” as Matthew 10:37 records this saying, “Whoever loves Father, Mother, wife, children, brothers and sisters more than me.” What this means is, Jesus is saying “I need to be first in your life. I need you to die to me. I need you to be crucified with me by being in me.” This means that by your obedience to Christ more, it’s going to rub non-believers the wrong way. It might rub your family the wrong way, even among believers. I met a guy at a men's retreat some time back. He’s married to a non-believer. He got married to her when both of them were from nominally High Church Christian backgrounds. He got more serious, got into a different church, had a real sold-out-for Jesus conversion, and she went the other way. He said, “I told her that she will always have second-place in marriage. God’s first. She didn’t like to hear that.”
You come to Christ and you follow Him, it will have implications. Relational implications. Familial implications. The hope is, is that your family is all saved and so when you say, “Christ is calling to do this radical thing,” you will be encouraged not resisted. “Christ has told me that I spend too much time and money on TV, and not enough on His Kingdom. The TV has to go,” And some might balk, “Oh, what are you, Amish? Holier than us?” You could respond, “No. I’m just obeying Christ in what He’s directed me to do here. Can you fault me for that?”
“Christ has told me that He wants me to board a plane and go serve at a mission field for a few weeks.” “Oh, you know the mission field is in our community too. Don’t get over-zealous.” I don’t think one can be over-zealous for Christ. Maybe misplaced zealousness, but not over-zealous.
You have the Holy Spirit's permission to be completely over-zealous for Christ. Dream big, do big, be big, if it’s all in obedience to Jesus Christ. People might resist you, even believers. I’m not saying because they’re unbelievers. I’m just saying “Love God more.”
Kevin Davis is pastor of a small rural church in another Gospel-parched part of the continent, the Pacific Northwest. He is humbly blessed by his wife Christy, his son Calvin, another son arriving in September of 2019, and their two dogs Rocket and Tess, and his gracious congregation.