Have you ever been to a church service where the preacher (or professional story-teller) asks you to “Now close your eyes and bow your heads.” He’s getting ready to pray, right?!? I mean that is exactly what we do to pray…and often times he even says “Please close your eyes and bow your heads for prayer.” But then he goes on talking to you. I can even guess the next words out of his mouth will be, “If you are here today…”
I mean if a pastor asks us to bow our heads, shouldn’t he talk to…God?!? And not me. I mean, if he really wants me to quiet down and give him my full attention (which is what I thought I was doing for the entire talk), shouldn’t he just be honest and come out and say, “I’m going to have you close your eyes, bow your heads, so I can tell you something so that you will feel really spiritual and in tune with your emotions.” But why do it anyway? Why not just talk to me with my eyes open and head up like a man? Why do I have to close my eyes and bow my head? And why is the guitar player quietly playing “Just as I am over and over again?
I can tell you exactly why the speaker does this. It is because they do not truly understand regeneration. They do not understand that it is God who does the saving and it is the preachers job to simply give the full gospel, unadulterated – both bad news and good news. The entire reason to get you with head bowed and eyes closed is to manipulate your inclinations so you can “begin your relationship with Christ.” Manipulation is not their intention (always), but it is the result.
I guarantee – listen to the preacher when this happens next time – you will never hear the word judgment or Hell or repentance or blood or payment or atonement or born again. Those are nasty words in the modern church – it has been proven by marketing experts that those words make people feel bad about themselves. You probably won’t even hear the words sin or cross unless it is spoken so fast you would have to slow down the video to hear them. However, the terms sin and cross should be the focus of a gospel presentation. It is about our sin and our accountability and the cross and Christ’s sacrifice for our sins.
I can also guarantee – at the end of this watered-down, insufficient gospel message (that is no gospel at all), the speaker will say, “If you did that, if you _________ (fill in the blank with ask Jesus into your heart, prayed a prayer, raised a hand, ie. a “do”), then congratulations, you began your journey with Christ here today.” This action by the speaker is a false assurance of salvation of someone who has not even demonstrated any fruit of keeping with repentance. The result sadly is often another false convert.
The next step – fill out a card, check a box, attend a class, another “do.” What we have turned the gospel into in the modern church is just like every other man-made religion in the world, a “do.” It’s a “do” this and you’ll get “this” from God.
I can give one last guarantee – you ask any youth group member, any attendee, any person that just signed the card, checked the box, or is now on his journey immediately thereafter whether they think they are a good person – they will say “yes.” This demonstrates they have no clue what the gospel means.
The gospel is about grace – unmerited favor from God. We are worthless, vile, wretched sinners who are accountable to the God of all Creation for our sin. We deserve Hell in eternity for our crimes against Him. But He, Jesus Christ, became a man and lived a perfect life, died a gruesome death on the cross, taking our penalty upon His righteous back, and was raised on the third day defeating death. And this actions by Him, this action of loving-kindness, propels us to respond in repentance or a full turning from our sin that we now hate and put our trust in the Savior, Jesus Christ, for salvation. It compels us to respond, “Lord, have mercy on me a sinner.” And then and only then, because we have been shown this mercy and grace and been born again do we continually turn from sin and live by faith alone giving Him the glory with our words, thoughts, and deeds through His power.
That is the gospel. And that beats any “close your eyes and bow your heads” presentation, hands-down.