When you really boil it down, why do we spread this "needy Jesus" philosophy anyway? I think there are three reasons:
1) It is much easier to share a "soft gospel" with an unbeliever than it is to share a "fire and brimstone Gospel"
2) It is an excuse that we lean on to justify our sin
3) We don't know any better
I know first-hand how tempting it is to water down the Gospel when you are sharing it with an unbeliever (and even more so when it's a confrontational unbeliever). You want so bad for them to believe the truth of the Gospel. In the heat of the conversation it almost seems that winning an argument becomes superior to being factually correct. And it's much easier to do that when Jesus is portrayed as our buddy than when He is, you know, lumped in with all that judgement and wrath and sending "innocent people who have never heard of Him to hell" (as the confrontational unbeliever says). We run into some serious problems when the goal is to get someone to "pray the prayer" as opposed to repent and turn their life over to Christ.
The "soft gospel" does not stick. It may win an argument (with mis-information) and it may even lead someone to "pray the prayer" but when the warm fuzzy has worn off and something goes sideways in the person's life, will the "best buddy Jesus" be the Savior that they can cry out to? Is "needy Jesus" going to be enough when the enemy starts heaping on coals, when suffering is encountered, when trials come? If a soft Gospel is used to convert an unbeliever, more than likely this new believer thinks they just entered into their best life now. "So what's up with all this suffering stuff? No one told me about this part of the deal?" 2Timothy 3:12 says, "Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted." Hmmm....that one won't win many to our team. But it's the Gospel. It's in the book. Now I know that 2Timothy 3:12 is one of the last verses anyone would share with someone they are sharing the Gospel with. My point, though, is Jesus tells us to count the cost (Luke 14:26-35). The Bible is clear on what that cost is. Nowhere (outside of the gift of salvation) does it bring Christ down to our level to make things comfortable for us.
A paraphrase of something David Platt said goes like this: If the essence of Christianity is "God loves me" and "Jesus died for me" than what is the OBJECT of Christianity? Me! While both statements are true, the equation MUST go a step further; "Jesus died for me SO THAT His glory can be witnessed by all people groups". God is the object, not man. God does not bless us (Ezekiel 36:22-23) or even forgive us (Isaiah 43:25) for our sake....it's for the glory of His name (Psalm 23:3).
The "needy Jesus" gospel is an excuse to justify our sin. Sin, in the "soft gospel", is not an abomination against a holy and righteous God, it's just something that holds us back from realizing our full potential. There is little incentive to turn from our former lives and live for Christ. Why would you when your savior likes the same movies you do, talks the same slang you do, and totally understands that you and your girlfriend will get married someday? The "soft gospel" christian has little conviction to join a church and serve because that's lumped in with all of that "religious" stuff that "my Jesus" hates, too. This quote by John MacArthur seems fitting:
"According to Scripture, the Spirit-filled person pursues righteousness with a burning sense of conviction and with a deep awareness of his own sin. No one who has God's Spirit can walk through our world without deep groanings of sorrow and distress."
As for the third point, it seems sad but true; sometimes we just don't know any better. This is where truth and love combined become such a beautiful thing. Some well-intentioned Christians, who love the Lord deeply, just don't know any better. Maybe they go to a church that preaches a watered down gospel. Maybe all they have been taught is soft gospel theology. Maybe they are still drinking milk and haven't moved onto the meat. If we're honest, most of us have been there at some point in our walk with Christ. Hebrews 5:14 tells us that "because of practice" one is ready for the solid food of righteousness and ready to discern good and evil. Practice. That means....discipline, work, striving (1Timothy 4:10). Practice means something doesn't fall in your lap. Practice means you start off not knowing anything and move to a place where you know a little bit more.
I thank God for His incredible patience with me when I looked at Him as my homeboy. I'm thankful for the trials that were sent my way to bring me to the mat so I could see what the Gospel really demands (the conversation was classic...it went something like this; "Jesus, I thought you were my buddy. Why do you have your foot on my throat going for a 3-count?"). I'm thankful for the godly men that discipled me by their commitment to the full Gospel.
I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God. Galatians 2:20
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