I have the privilege of serving in Kingswood, where John Wesley preached his first out door sermon, pioneered by his friend George Whitefield, who led a Church here in this area. Yesterday I found this quote on twitter from George Whitefield…
“Believe me, I am willing to go to prison or death for you; but I am not willing to go to heaven without you” said George Whitefield.
This phrase has been rattling around my head for a bit and wanted to share a few thoughts with you…
Firstly, I love the passion of George Whitefield, I love the tenacity of a man who defied convention and took the message of Christ from the Church to the miners of Kingswood -his local parishioners, and a tough and unreached people group by simply preaching in the open air and the locals came out to listen to him. He was the forerunner and trailblazer of John Wesley, if there had not been a George Whitefield probably no one would have ever heard of John Wesley.
Do we preach great evangelistic sermons to the already saved?
Do we share great Bible truths with those who already know them?
Are we like the clerics of their day stuck in a Churchy Christian bubble?
Secondly, I love the lengths he is prepared to go to in order to share the good news of Christ, “I am prepared to die for you or go to prison for you” when many of us struggle to even give up an episode of “Britain’s Got Talent”
There is an old phrase from the world of Youth Work which says “people don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care”…
I think if someone showed me that extravagant sacrificial love that risked prison or death for me, then I want to know what they thought about things that they thought really mattered.
I wonder if our lack of this awesome Christ-like love is the missing ingredient in our evangelism? If we loved like this, it would hurt, it would be costly, but I bet we would see people come to faith like Whitefield and later Wesley did.
Also, alongside this great and costly love, comes a real belief in heaven and eternity. I sometimes wonder if we as Christians ACTUALLY BELIEVE our great and glorious Gospel?
Sometimes as Christians we can get so apathetic or overly familiar with this amazing good news. I love the story of the pearl of great price, a prize worth giving up everything for, it challenges me afresh every-time I read it!
The author of the hymn ‘When I survey the Wondrous Cross” grasped this incredible truth when he wrote “Were the whole realm of nature mine, that were an offering far too small, love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all”.
We are in essence saying in this parable, that we found in Christ -God with flesh on- something so wonderful that we want everyone to experience it.
I love too that Whitefield doesn’t rant and rave about the horrors of hell (as sadly I feel too many preachers do sometimes) but rather is focus is on relationship and the joy of eternity.
I worry when a ‘gospel message’ is simply a “Christ has given us a way of escaping hell”. This perversion of the gospel is a message of fear and of death when Christianity is about hope, life and eternity. Fear is to do with punishment, and yet perfect love should cast out all fear, for the punishment has fallen on the shoulders of Christ. Scripture urges us to choose life, and only one who is ‘the life’ and gives life is Christ himself.
Often the vehemence of our rhetoric on hell is often used as a litmus test on our ‘orthodoxy’, and yes I do believe hell is real and exists yet I think the call is about choosing God himself and relationship with him forever rather than attempting to bribe or scare people into the Kingdom.
Instead, let us let people know that we love them, we want the best for them, and best thing that anyone can receive is God himself and in him is forgiveness, grace and relationship with him for eternity.
Let the world know that we believe in life beyond the grave, that we are serious about eternity… and we want to be with those people around us for eternity.