A friend recently recommended Timothy Keller’s Center Church (Grand Rapids, Zondervan, 2012). Since I value my friend’s recommendations, since I don’t know much about Keller’s ministry, and since it is good to be challenged in the areas of pastoral ministry and church planting, I’m reading through this book. So far, I have mixed thoughts. Some parts are helpful, some are not; I’ll give a more detailed review later. For now, I’ll point out one helpful part, where Keller talks about “motivations to use when appealing to non-Christians to believe the gospel.” Here Keller summarizes a list given by D. A. Carson in a Themelios article. The question is, “What are some biblical ways to persuade unbelievers to flee to Christ in faith?”
“1) Sometimes the appeal is to come to God out of fear of judgment and death. Hebrews 2:14-18 speaks about Christ delivering us from the fear of bondage and death. In Hebrews 10:31, we are told it is a terrible thing to fall under the judgment of the living God.
2) Sometimes the appeal is to come to God out of a desire for release from the burdens of guilt and shame. Galatians 3:10-12 tells us we are under the curse of the law. Guilt is not only objective; it can also be a subjective inner burden on our consciences (Ps. 51). …The Bible offers relief from these weights.
3) Sometimes the appeal is to come to God out of appreciation for the ‘attractiveness of truth.’ Carson writes: ‘The truth [of Scripture] can appear wonderful…[they can] see its beauty and its compelling nature….’
4) Sometimes the appeal is to come to God to satisfy unfulfilled existential longings. To the woman at the well Jesus promised ‘living water’ (John 4). This was obviously more than just eternal life – he was referring to an inner joy and satisfaction to be experienced now, something the woman had been seeking in men.
5) Sometimes the appeal is to come to God for help with a problem. There are many forms of what Carson calls a ‘despairing sense of need.’ He points to the woman with the hemorrhage (Matt 9:20-21), and two men with blindness (Matt 9:27), and many others who go to Jesus first for help with practical, immediate needs. …Their heart language is, ‘I’m stuck; I’m out of solutions for my problems. I need help for this!’
6) Lastly, the appeal is to come to God simply out of a desire to be loved. The person of Christ as depicted in the Gospels is a compellingly attractive person. …There is an instinctive desire in all human beings to be loved. A clear depiction of Christ’s love can attract people to want a relationship with him.”
This is a helpful summary (of a summary) that gives us several biblical ways to call people to repentance and faith in Christ.