I find it interesting how so many people explain to me that the reason they are not Christians is not so much that they dispute the truth claims of Christianity, but rather that they have never been persuaded of the need for Christ. How many times have you spoken with people who have said, “It may or may not be true, but I personally don’t feel the need for Jesus,” or, “I don’t need the church,” or, “I don’t need Christianity”? When I hear comments like this, my spirit groans within me. I tremble to think of the consequences if people persist in such an attitude. If we could persuade people of the identity of Christ and the truth of His work, it would become instantly apparent that every person in the world needs it and that without it there would be no salvation from God.
While in a shopping mall not long ago, I wandered into a large bookstore. It was a secular bookstore with rack after rack of books for sale. Various divisions of the bookstore were marked prominently with labels such as fiction, nonfiction, business, sports, self-improvement, sex and marriage, and so forth. All the way back in the rear of the store, there was a section on religion. This section had about four shelves. It was the smallest section in the store. The material on those racks was hardly compatible with orthodox, classical Christianity. I asked myself, “What’s wrong with this store that all they sell is fiction and self-improvement, and they don’t seem to place any value on the content of biblical truth?” Then I remembered that the store owners are not there as a ministry. They are there for business. They are there to make a profit. The reason they don’t have many Christian books for sale is that there are not many people who come in and ask, “Where can I find a book that will teach me about the depths and the riches of the atonement of Christ?”
Then I thought, Perhaps if I go to a Christian bookstore, I’ll find such an emphasis. But no, Christian bookstores offer precious little literature on the cross of Christ. I thought about that while sitting in the mall and watching people walk back and forth in front of me. I got an impression. It was a scary impression that these masses of people walking back and forth were not concerned about an atonement for sin because they were basically convinced that they had no need for such an atonement. Such an atonement is simply not a “felt need” for people today. People are not pressed by the questions: “How can I be reconciled to God? How can I escape the judgment of God?”
One thing that indisputably has been lost from our culture is the idea that human beings are privately, personally, inexorably accountable to God for their lives. Imagine what would happen if suddenly the lights came on and everyone in the world said: “Hey, someday I will stand before my Maker, and I will have to give an account for every word that I have spoken, every deed that I have done, every thought that I have thought, and every task that I have failed to do. I am accountable.”
If everyone were to wake up to that fact instantly, a couple of things could happen. People could say, “Well, yes, I’m accountable, but isn’t it great that the One to whom and before whom I am accountable isn’t really concerned about what kind of life I lead, because He understands that boys will be boys and that girls will be girls?” If everyone were to say something like that, maybe nothing would change. But if people understood two things—if they understood that God is holy and that sin is an offense against His holiness—then they would be breaking down the doors of our churches, pleading, “What must I do to be saved?”