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How to Motivate Change with the Gospel vs the Law

One of the most challenging aspects of gospel-centered preaching is motivating change with the gospel rather than with the law.

Pastor's typically know how to talk about justifying grace.

However, we struggle to communicate sanctifying grace.

We know that God changes us, producing the fruit of the Spirit in our lives.

We know we can do nothing apart from abiding in Jesus.

But I'm not so sure we trust our theology at this point.

Consider evangelism.

What are the options for a pastor motivating his congregation to share their faith with folks in the community, friends, family, neighbors, coworkers, and the coach on their daughter's little league soccer team?

There are two options: a law option and a gospel option.

First, let's consider the law option.

What does this look like? Well, we might not know what it looks like but we know what it feels like.

Law motivation feels like being beaten up... or maybe better, beaten down.

We're left feeling shamed and guilty for our failure. What failure? Not keeping the law of evangelism, which is what we SHOULD be doing it but we're not.

And so the preacher exhorts us with more "shoulds" and shames us by asking, "How many people have you shared Jesus with this week?"

  • If we have shared about Jesus, we're counted as righteous.
  • If we haven't, we're treated as unrighteous and looked down in shame.

Now, let's consider gospel motivation.

In my opinion, the best example of gospel-motivated evangelism in the Bible is the woman at the well in John 4.

After her encounter with Jesus, she spontaneously runs back to her town and shares her experience with everyone.

A woman considered to be the biggest sinner in town becomes one of the most prolific evangelists in the New Testament!

What is notable is that Jesus doesn't tell her what she "SHOULD" do next or shame her for hesitancy.

In fact, never tells her to go evangelize her neighbors.

He doesn't have to.

She has tasted the living water of grace and can't help tell others, wanting them to drink for themselves that they might share her joy.

Until it sadly and tragically closed, my wife, Kristy, and I spent every weekly date night going to the same restaurant.

It was called Tam's Tupelo.

Whether it was a double date with friends or family coming to visit from out of town, if they had not been to Tam's Tupelo, we would take them.

And if they had been, we'd go again!

Now, it is important to emphasize, I did not get a commission or kickback from Tam's.

I didn't introduce friends to the restaurant because anyone told me to, guilted, or shamed me.

I simply loved the atmosphere and the food. I wanted to share the joy with others, hoping they would be as delighted by the experience as I was.

So, what's the lesson for preachers?

Believe that if you help folks taste the sweetness of God's grace in the crucified, risen, and reigning Jesus, they will begin to bring folks to Jesus like the woman at the well.

You will never have to use the word "SHOULD" again.

You'll never have to beat or cojole, guilt, or shame anyone into sharing the good news of God's grace.

You won't have to.

Like my experience with Tam's Tupelo, they will be compelled to invite others to share in their hope and joy.

If folks are not eager to share about the grace of God in Jesus, the source of the problem may be that they are being motivated by law more than by gospel.

  • Duty-driven evangelism simply doesn't work.
  • Delight-driven evangelism is a different story altogether.

This leads us to the need for tethering every sermon, message, Bible study, and devotion to the cross of the risen Christ, where sinners not only discover the hope of justifying grace but experience the motivating, life-changing power of God's sanctifying grace.

Trust the theological dynamic of helping folks abide in Jesus as their perfect righteousness.

Help them drink deeply of grace.

Help them rest in the finished work of the cross.

Try that. And see what happens. 🙂

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