The Love of God and Evangelism

“Nothing is more common, and certainly nothing more fatal than self-deception. The number who are ruined by false views of religion is doubtless great even when compared with those who perish in avowed infidelity or careless indifference. And it is an act of kindness not less than an imperious duty to expose the delusions into which our fellow-men are liable to fall”

– Self-Deception by Jacob Helffenstein, reprinted by International Outreach.

This is a monumental statement made by a man written when things were better concerning biblical truth than they are now. We live in a day when it seems as if God has utterly abandoned us. We live in a day where much about religion still goes on but there is little of the true Christianity that is centered upon a God-centered God and therefore resides in the hearts and loves of a people in which the God of love lives and manifests Himself.

One sign that demonstrates our shallowness of theology and true views of God is how we practice evangelism. If we are doing evangelism with a God that is man-centered rather than a God that is God-centered, it will be man-centered and give a false view of God. We must remember that men must be turned from their sin of self-centeredness to one that is God-centered. If they only hear of a God that is man-centered, then they will never turn from themselves in reality. They will go from being self-centered in their outward sin to being self-centered in their religious practice. This is not a change of heart, it is just a change in practice while the heart remains in its enmity to God. The practice of evangelism in the modern day is focused on human beings and a man-centered view of God, which is for God to be man-centered. Evangelism, even among the professing Reformed, is done from a man-centered view. The biblical God is not in the heavens begging and pleading with men to make a choice for Him. We must go to the biblical God and ask Him to change our hearts.

In modern evangelism we think that by going to a human being and presenting some facts to the person and then asking the person to pray or make a choice is enough. Even people who profess to be Reformed have that as a basis for evangelism. It is abominable at best. It matters not the form of theology that is set out before people if they do not understand something of the true God. These people must know that they are opposed to God and are at enmity with Him and they need to have their hearts changed from being self-centered to loving God. They need to know that the only hope they have of having the love of God in them is if God puts it in them.

I am not asserting that we must teach each and every person that God loves Himself as His primary love. I am asserting that the truth of that must be behind the evangelism we do or we will practice a false evangelism. The goal of evangelism must be primarily out of love for God and the display of His glory and not the salvation of souls. This sounds terribly heretical to some, but if we do not love the glory of God more than people, we do not love the people in truth either. We are not going to human beings and trying to make God acceptable to wicked haters of God, we are going to tell them that they are dead in sin and that God alone can give them a new heart and save them. Even if we do not tell them that God is more concerned with His glory from His triune love for Himself than the whole world, we must operate on that basis. God does not need them and they are totally in need of Him.

Without the basis of the truth of God loving Himself within the Trinity we will not tell men what they need in order to be delivered from self-deception. If men continue to think that God’s love is all about them, they will never understand that they must have a new heart in order to love God and that He does this totally from grace. As long as men think that God loved them and sent His Son to die for them from a human-centered perspective they will not understand that God saves to the glory of His name and out of love for His Son. The man-centered teaching about the cross has led to a man-centered way of evangelism that leaves men in their self-centeredness and pride rather than seeing how opposed to God they really are and how badly they need grace for a new heart.

Modern evangelism teaches men that God so loved them that He gave His Son who made a great sacrifice and came to die for them. The Gospel is said and thought to be all about them. Some are moved by this because they think they have a great benefit by it and so they think they love God when in fact all their love is really for themselves. But until man repents from himself (self-love, pride, self-focus, self-motivation) and is turned to a true love for God man is not saved from the bondage of sin, the dominion of the devil, and the rule of his own heart. If God is so focused on man rather than Himself, then why can’t man be focused on Himself? Without a God-centered God we have no true Gospel and many are deceived. Many are ruined by a false gospel based on a false view of God who is focused on them rather than on Himself. This is true in Reformed circles as well.

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