The Appeal: Turn To Jesus And Be Saved!

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.

Timothy Keller, Center Church, pp. 114-115.

shane lems


5 comments on “The Appeal: Turn To Jesus And Be Saved!

  1. kevinmccue says:

    All of these 6 points presume that man can come to Christ for whatever reason he cites. Where is total depravity and the essential need for regeneration? The natural man is in Rom 3:10-18 and there he stays unless he be “quickened” Eph 2:1


    • This is an interesting comment; I am having a little trouble identifying your theological persuasion from it, although I don’t know how important that really is for me to do. Now of course both we and Keller assume total depravity and the essential need for regeneration and “quickening,” but my read on your comment is that you believe a list like this is not consistent with those assumptions. How would you edit these 6 appeals in a way that you feel makes them reflect these scriptural doctrines more consistently?

      Also, as a follow up; do you believe in “the free offer of the gospel”?



  2. kevinmccue says:

    I believe in “the free offer of the gospel but not in the free offer of salvation, for that is applied to the person of God’s choosing, see “Redemption accomplished and applied” by John Murray I would not speak to the unregenerate of meeting his felt needs (this is the man centered gospel of today) but rather the gospel story, that is; God’s plan to save a remnant in Christ Eph 1:4 I’m sorry I didn’t save the 6 points if you send them to me I’ll see how I might respond. Thanks Kevin


    • Thanks, Kevin. Can you help me understand how you’re differentiating the free offer of the gospel from the free offer of salvation? Would you recognize the subjunctive mood (I.e., the word “if”) as it regards this offer? I’m wondering if some of this is a discussion of the ambiguities of English Grammer (I.e., a subjunctive mood being sometimes implied even where an imperative is being given.)

      You mentioned John Murray, are you familiar with his essay “The free offer of the gospel” in his collected writings? (Vol. 4, Pgs 113-132). If you are, I’m just wondering what you think of his conclusions.

      As for the 6 statements, they’re just up in the body of the post. Don’t make it a big project, but I’m just trying to understand how these might be alternatively construed. I can think of how someone like Herman Hoeksema might want to adjust them, but I’m not sure about other approaches.

      Thanks for your interaction!



  3. kevinmccue says:

    The gospel is a proclamation to the whole world of what God has done in the person of his Son Jesus Christ. It’s simply telling the people the story (all without exception) of the “finished” work of Christ in saving a remnant Isa 1:9 Rom cts 16:14, “by one sacrifice he (Christ) has perfected forever them that are sanctified” (called to be saved) Heb 10:14 Now the Holy Spirit will quicken (make alive) those of God’s people that were “dead in trespasses and sins”giving them “ears to hear” 2Thes 2:14 God will open their hearts Acts 16:14 giving them the New Birth, the gift of Faith Titus 1:1 and repentance Acts 11:18, the indwelling Holy Spirit (sanctification) then glorification Rom 8:30 This will happen of a certainty in time to all of God’s elect. You see Andrew, the churches today are presenting faith as a self conjured effort by the sinner, being told that God did his part now it’s up to you, that is a works gospel and that salvation would be conditional on the sinners faith and another spoken of in Gal 1 which brings damnation. Salvation is unconditional this is beautifully shown in 2Tim 1:9 saved first in election then called (effectual calling to salvation)


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