Attitudes of Faith
Ever notice that the first three gospels (the synoptic gospels) never explicitly speak of salvation through faith in Christ (except for Mark 16:16). In fact in those gospels when Jesus is asked the question, "What must I do to have eternal life?" he responds with the Law - a performance based concept of righteousness. But in the gospel of John Jesus speaks explicitly of the gospel of grace which is a faith based righteousness, which is also found in Paul's writings as in Romans. Why the difference?
It is not that the synoptics are contrary to the gospel of grace as clealy laid by John and Paul. For consider that Luke, who was one of the writers of the synoptics was Paul's traveling companion and was devoted to him all the way to the end. (2Tim 4:11) The synoptic gospels were primarily to prepare people to hear the gospel of grace, rather than actually presenting the gospel message explicitly. They were focussed on the attitudes and applications of Biblical faith so that when salvation through faith in Christ was presented, people would understand what was meant by "faith". They would understand and be prepared to exercise the quality of faith that saves.
The Stumbling Block of Calvinism
This idea of preparing people to receive the gospel of grace has been largely neglected in much of historic post-Biblical Christianity even up to the present. Part of this neglect has been due to the Calvinistic theology that man in an unredeemed state cannot receive spiritual truth and that no cooperation is involved on the part of the unredeemed to be saved. This in contrast with, for example:
But rather they propose that God in puppet-like fashion simply causes people to believe - there being no actual "choice" involved on their part. This the Calvinists label "irresistable grace". But if this is the case, then there is also no prolonged process of conversion. For if we are but puppets, then immediately upon the Holy Spirit leading us, we believe. I've had Calvinists tell me that one is first born of God and then believes. The idea being that one must first become regenerate to receive spiritual truth (the gospel) before one can believe it. But the Bible speaks of belief coming first.
One does not even receive the right to become a child of God until one believes.
Notice "having believed" - you then received the Holy Spirit.
When I pressed some on this point with these kind of verses, they propose that everything is simultaneous. This being the case, there is no gradual process of believing. Thus those with a Calvinistic theology tend to make very little effort at preparing people to receive the gospel of grace.
This has spilled over to evangelical circles in which the gospel has been condensed down to "4 spiritual laws" or "The bridge illustration". And while these are useful in presenting the gospel of grace clearly, these tend to be the only thing presented even in a first-contact situation. Jesus didn't do that. It is unlikely for a person who knows nothing of Christ, that you can save that person in five minutes though a simple gospel presentation. This is the presumption of much of modern Evangelicalism. What you end up having is a bunch of nominal Christians, some of whom go on to be saved as they learn more of Christ, and others fall away.
The truth is that those who are products of the gospel of "easy-believism" have not necessarily ever been born of God, never having accepted nor even understood the complete gospel. For example, they may have accepted Christ as Savior, but not as Lord. They may have misunderstood the faith that saves to be merely superficial. They thought all there was to it was simply a matter of technique - like "praying to receive Christ". But believing in Christ the way the Bible speaks of it is not the same as going through the mechanics of praying to receive Christ - as if in some experimental fashion. I myself had "prayed to receive Christ" after a simple gospel presentation. But I don't perceive that I understood the significance of the gospel (let alone believe it) until about a year later, even though having been brought up in a Catholic background I had knowledge of the basics. Realize that Jesus was even speaking to "pre-churched" people in a sense. For these were Jews raised on the scriptures, having knowledge of God. Yet he didn't give them a simple presentation. He had to break down their theological presumptions and he often spoken in allegorical forms - as parables - so as to forced people to infer what he was saying with their spirit. He didn't make it easy for people to understand. One reason he did this was to filter out those who were not serious. In fact if you were to ask the apostle John what the Gospel is, he may go on for 21 chapters.
When you present the gospel, realize that God wants converts who have more than simply an understanding of the gospel. For many today say that they believe whereas they really mean that they understand. Make sure that people get the complete picture. Biblical "belief" is not a trivial thing, as many treat it today. Jesus was not interested in producing "nominal" believers, but rather disciples whose convictions dominated their lifestyle.
How does Christ present the gospel? How is it presented in the Bible? Much differently than in the "easy-believistic" fashion of Modern Evangelicalism. Leading people to Christ is not a trivial process. In the synoptic gospels, Christ speaks much about "attitudes", not dealing so much with the object of faith, but rather with the manner in which (or attiutude with which) one should believe. The following is a list of some of the attitudes and ideas which dominate Christ's teachings particularly in the synoptic gospels. While substantive of themselves, the primary purpose of these is to prepare one to respond properly to the gospel of grace.
Prerequisite Character Qualities
Humility - This is the most essential of character qualities particularly because it does two things.
Conviction of Sin