“Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.“” – Mark 1:14-15 (Emphasis mine)
According to any good dictionary the word ‘mandate’ is defined as an official order or commission to do something. We are told in the Gospel of Mark that after Jesus was tempted in the wilderness, and after John was arrested, Jesus entered Galilee proclaiming the gospel of God. We are even given the words of Jesus’ initial proclamation:
“The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”
Here we have Jesus saying at the beginning of his earthly ministry “repent and believe in the gospel”. Since Jesus said it, let’s agree that it’s ‘official’. Since Jesus is telling listeners to ‘do’ something, let’s agree that what we have is an ‘order. Therefore, the gospel mandate is simply to repent and believe it. That’s it.
Interestingly, and perhaps sadly, most of today’s evangelism no longer follows Jesus’ simple mandate, but we have substituted all sorts of other ‘methods’. We have hand raisings (with all eyes closed of course) an altar calls. Have you ever wondered why everyone is asked to close their eyes but everyone is watching and applauding folks heading toward the altar?
To spark their interest in Jesus we tell people that God loves them and has a wonderful plan for them. Cool! Well, I love me to and have a wonderful plan too! God and I are on the same page!
Since God has such wonderful plans for folks, we ask them if they wouldn’t like to ‘ask Jesus into their heart’ or we ask them to just ‘give their heart to Jesus’. Those two seem to get great results at any Christian kids’ camp or VBS. For older types who might be more thoughtful about the whole thing, we tell them that Jesus is ‘knocking at the door of their heart”, pleading to get in and the only doorknob is on their side, Never mind that the passage in question has Jesus knocking on the door of the church.
We might even pull out our little cards or Bibles and walk them through the Romans Road, ask for a simple ‘decision’ (and perhaps a signature in the little Bible), and pronounce them ‘saved’ when a decision is made and a dated signature properly inserted.
No matter what method we use, and we use them all, we hardly ever use the simple ‘mandate’ that Jesus used. We never begin where Jesus began. Why do you think that is? Is it because the word ‘repent’ is outdated and politically incorrect? After all, it might make someone feel bad. Are we hesitant about telling people to ‘believe the gospel’ because we are uncomfortable explaining it, or because we ourselves don’t know or aren’t sure what it is? ,
Whatever the reason(s), we needn’t be afraid of just proclaiming what Jesus proclaimed. After all aren’t we fond of the expression “What would Jesus do?” Although I can think of occasions when WWJD becomes rather cliché, this isn’t one of them. At the same time, we need only remember that God saves his sheep and we can’t/don’t ‘help’ God save anyone. Remember Jonah and what he proclaimed after having been tossed into the sea, after being swallowed by a great fish and being barfed onto the beach?
“…with the voice of thanksgiving will sacrifice to you; what I have vowed I will pay. Salvation belongs to the LORD!” – Jonah 2:9 (Emphasis mine)
Our mission isn’t to obtain ‘decisions for Jesus’, it’s to be faithful in prayerfully presenting the gospel. Our prayer is that God will open hearts to hear and the gospel is that Christ died for our sins. There is great encouragement in knowing that all I have to do is be able to discuss what it means to repent and believe. And if I have faced my own sin head on and believed in the One who took my place on Calvary, it’s not a hard thing to do.
A wise man once said:
“Long ago I ceased to count heads. Truth is usually in the minority in this evil world. I have faith in the Lord Jesus for myself, a faith burned into me as a hot iron. I thank God, what I believe I shall believe, even if I believe it alone.” C.H Spurgeon, October 16th, 1887