What are the big questions most people are asking? What are they most concerned about?
Given my job, I have a biased opinion. Grace Evangelical Society has a razor sharp focus on two issues: the promise of eternal life and assurance of salvation. People who contact GES are very interested in and have many questions about, those two issues.
But are most people concerned about that?
In his book Christ Esteem: Where the Search for Self-Esteem Ends, Don Matzat says no. We are dealing with a generation of people who are asking questions the church is not prepared to answer:
“They are not asking, ‘How do I get saved from sin and go to heaven when I die?’ but rather, ‘How do I find meaning and purpose in life today?’ Rather than dealing with forgiveness and eternal life, people today are concerned with personal identity and the meaning of their present existence” (Christ Esteem, 27).
I didn’t like this quote at first. I feared Matzat was going to advise that, instead of preaching Christ, we should preach a half-baked message drawn from pop-psychology and trickle-down existentialism.
Then he surprised me.
Matzat pointed out that Paul also asked and answered the same questions about personal identity and present existence. And the answers he gave were entirely Christ-centered:
“The personal identity of the apostle Paul was completely immersed in the person of Jesus Christ…As far as Paul was concerned, God provided a singular answer to all human problems: the person and work of Jesus Christ. The identity and life of the apostle Paul on this earth was the result of his relationship with Jesus. He said, ‘For me to live is Christ!’” (Christ Esteem, 28).
I thought Matzat was going to downplay preaching Jesus. Instead, he argues that we’ve already been downplaying Jesus by not preaching His full sufficiency. So the church needs to step up. We need to proclaim how Jesus is the answer to all of life’s deepest felt needs:
“Are there human needs and problems not specifically addressed and answered in a relationship with the living person of Jesus Christ? If such needs exist, what are they? Since the essence of Christianity is found in the person and work of Jesus Christ, any claim that the Christian faith falls short in providing answers for the needs of hurting people is, in fact, a criticism of the sufficiency of Jesus Christ” (Christ Esteem, 29-30).
Modern people may not be asking about how to be forensically justified before God. They may not be wondering how to avoid going to hell. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t open to Jesus, or that He has nothing to offer them. Jesus is still the answer to their most pressing questions. Hence, we need another Reformation to recover the truths about Christ’s sufficiency:
“As the Reformation of 1517 was ignited and fueled by the enlightened discovery that Christ is our righteousness, today we need our eyes opened to the reality that, in addition to being our righteousness, Jesus Christ is also our identity, our life, our fulfillment, our pride, our hope, our peace, our joy, and our ultimate worth. While we most certainly must not discard the truth of the past, we need a new reformation that will open our eyes to the full, complete salvation that God has provided for us in Christ Jesus” (Christ Esteem, 30-31).
I took these quotes as a personal challenge. Do I believe that Jesus is fully sufficient? Is that what I preach and teach?
If you think Jesus is only good for justification, then unless a friend is asking about that, you may never tell her about Jesus. You might write her off and think to yourself, “She doesn’t care about justification? Well, obviously she isn’t open to God and not ready to hear and believe the gospel!”
But don’t be so quick to judge!
By contrast, if you believe that Christ is fully sufficient for all of life’s needs, then no matter what your friend may struggle with, you’ll always have reason to tell her about Jesus. If she has questions about life’s meaning, purpose, or direction, Jesus is the answer. Whether she is struggling with emotional troubles, regrets about the past, scars from bad relationships, or feeling a lack of belonging, Jesus is the answer.
When Christ is all-sufficient, you’ll always have reason to talk about Him. He is the ultimate answer to every real need. And sharing Jesus in any situation can, and should, always lead back to sharing His promise of eternal life.
In other words, a fully sufficient Jesus doesn’t obscure evangelism; He opens up many more avenues to have evangelistic conversations with hurting people.