Our son-in-law Roy is a wizard with electronic devices. For the past 20 plus years he has assisted me with setting up laptops, iPhones and tablets as well as various online accounts such as iCloud, One Drive and Apple ID amongst others. If there is one thing I have learnt about Roy over these years is that he has two sterling characteristics apart from a willingness to help. They are patience and grace. I would say those are needed to help anyone (especially one like me as I can be so thick headed at times) when it comes to technology required to drive all the latest programs and apps.
Today he spent a good few hours helping me. One of the tasks was to do video recording straight from my cellphone onto my laptop. To do this, we needed a program loaded onto the phone with a “driver” loaded onto the laptop to make it work. Both the picture on the phone and the laptop looks great. The audio works, but the camera does not. It did not matter what Roy did, he could not get the camera to work on the program. It works on his setup but will not work on mine. It’s strange … he will research and troubleshoot and we’ll try in a few days to get it to work. It’s almost heartsore that after so many hours of trying, one cannot get the required offerings of the program to function correctly.
It’s almost like people trying to get the Gospel to work in their lives and for some reason it just won’t work! When one loads a program onto a cellphone or computer, you do so in faith that it will work … and mostly it does. The Gospel needs to be applied to your heart through faith. When you do, it works … but sometimes it does not. Why would it not work?
Well, sometimes people want what the Gospel offers for the wrong reasons. They might be in trouble with the wife or husband or parent. They might be having difficulties in a relationship with their boss, colleague or neighbor. It might be that they are having problems with the law. Maybe there is a pending court case or perhaps the bank wants to foreclose on their bond or motor vehicle. Maybe they have committed adultery or got drunk and did something foolish. Maybe they experienced a terrible accident that was their fault. Any of these reasons should drive a person to seek help from a church, pastor or friend.
What they want is Jesus to help them. They are in a mess and they can’t do anything about it, so they turn to the Lord Jesus for help. The problem very often is that they want a solution to their mess not their sin. The pastor or counselor is unlikely to identify that they only want temporal help. When trying to help someone, you can’t see their heart … meaning that mostly their motives are unclear … even to the most seasoned counselor.
So, what happens as this person is counselled is that they readily receive Jesus as Lord and Saviour for the benefit of some miraculous intervention that … they think will sort out their relational, financial, family or career problem. They have gone through accepting Jesus as Lord and praying and being prayed for. Immediately there is a spark of hope in their heart … a spark that their problems will be sorted … but something is seriously wrong. The Gospel just does not work. The relief does not come, the depression remains, the unhappiness is still dominant. It’s like that program we installed onto the cellphone and the driver install onto the laptop. It must work, but it does not. On paper it’s all good to go, yet it refuses to work. What has gone wrong? Does the Gospel fail? Is it faulty?
When a program or file on an electronic device does not work, often it is related to some form of corruption or error that needs technical assistance to sort out. Spiritual issues are far more difficult … because faith could amount to temporal faith and not saving faith. One of the first things a counselor needs to ascertain from counselees is whether they are genuine or not. The way to do this is to present the Gospel accurately so that they understand exactly why Jesus came to planet Earth so that there is no mistaking what Jesus is offering. It is vital that the individuals grasp that Jesus’ main purpose for dying on the Cross was to deal with their sin. If they can’t understand this, they will be like that program or those files that won’t work properly! Jeremiah got it right when examining the heart:
Jer 17:9 “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?”
The counselees cannot understand their hearts. When they are in a mess, they can’t really understand their motive for wanting the Gospel other than to get out of their predicament. This is why once the Gospel has been presented correctly, the Gospel’s requirements need to be explained carefully and, although done gently, with authority. You see, the corruption of a program or file prevents correct usage … the same is true when the counselee offers halfhearted commitment. That is, corrupted surrender. The fundamental Gospel requirements are repentance and new life. One can confess sin extensively, but unless there is repentance, the confession is meaningless! Without proper repentance there is no life change and there is then no heart change. You see, true repentance leads to willingly living under Jesus’ Lordship and Reign. This is where “life change” is proved, because a new life means “being born again”. So, the true Gospel can be shared properly, but without genuineness of heart the commitment is corrupt and the Gospel will not function properly … just like a corrupt computer file or program!
2 Cor 7:10 Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.
Pray for pastors and counselors, that they always go the extra mile to present the true Gospel to prevent anyone from trusting in error. Pray for souls hearing the Gospel, that they will respond with godly sorrow so that their repentance will be genuine, leading to true salvation.
Dear God, help people responding to the Gospel to do so with spiritual eagerness, seeking a real change of heart. O God, grant to all Christian workers such an understanding of the human heart that they will lovingly guide those with wrong motives to understand that their strategy conflicts with Your grace in Jesus Christ. Amen.