Never Make The Gospel Appeal to People’s Emotions

John McArthur explains the dangers of making emotional gospel pleas.

Let me tell you something. Never make the gospel appeal to people’s emotions…never…never. That’s why we don’t have some kind of an emotional appeal here and play all kinds of smaltzy music in the background. I don’t want you to do anything because we work your emotions up. Never appeal to people with any kind of gospel appeal that is directed at their emotions. Why? Because you can manipulate people’s emotions. And, frankly, most people have issues in their lives that make them sad and if you work well enough on their emotions, you’re clever enough at it, you can promise them happiness and when they make some kind of superficial step, they’ll have a momentary kind of relief. They’ll be a kind of newly stirred up feeling that they have. “Oh now, God’s on my side. Now I”m going to heaven. This is wonderful and you’ve accepted me and you’ve embraced me.” And that doesn’t signify anything at all.

The world is full of people who would like to be happy. Agreed? The world is full of people who would love to be accepted and loved and go to heaven. If you appeal to the emotions, you’re going to get emotional reactions. Emotional reactions are not necessarily consistent with true conversion. Warm affections, newly stirred up…look, there are so many people who have gone through this route, I’m telling you, this is…this is what we all grew up with kind of in churches, a lot of us, you know, where they play this music…you turn on television, watch how these TV preachers and evangelists deal with crowds. They get an organ, they crank the music up somehow they get these people to a fever-pitch emotionally, then they play at their feelings. This is an illegitimate thing that’s tragic. Don’t ever appeal to people’s emotions.

You know, my approach to evangelism is here’s the truth, you drive it at the mind because all things pertaining to life and godliness, as I read for you in 2 Peter 1, pertain to the true knowledge of Him. So here’s the truth. Shut down the organ. Shut down the humming. We don’t need that. Let’s talk about the truth of your condition and Christ’s provision and emotion will take care of itself. I think you were all very emotional this morning when you were singing those hymns, weren’t you? Was there a lot of joy in your heart? You were lifted up, you were encouraged? But that’s the emotion that comes out of the true conversion, not the emotion that substitutes for it. No, we don’t need to do all that, all that kind of emotional manipulation.

There’s a second thing you never want to do, you never want to appeal directly to people’s will cause the world is full of weak-willed people. Are you aware of that? If you’re not, then you tell me how those phony evangelists get people to send them enough millions of dollars they can buy three jets. You can manipulate people’s will to do anything…anything if you’re clever enough. And if you create enough self-interest, right? Oh, I know what’s going to happen when I send in my money, I’m going to get rich, I’m going to get healthy, I’m going to be successful. God’s going to pour out all kinds of goodies on me.

All that driving self-interest is behind all of that. And if you want to, if you want to go after people’s emotions, you can get them. And if you want to go after their weak wills, you can get them. But if you’re going to proclaim the gospel, you have to go after the mind. And it has to be a true understanding of the gospel. It’s about knowledge and how you respond to the knowledge. The church of Jesus Christ is flooded with…I have to say tares, who came in emotionally and from a weak-willed response. But they’re not the real thing. And it shows up.

Verse 17, “They have no firm root, so they’re just temporary.” Temporary converts, man-o-man, wow, so many that have gone through my life…so many, many, many, many. And even when you preach the gospel to the mind, you still get superficial converts.

What finally does it for them? What chases them away? First…affliction. Well guess what, you told me I’d get rich. You told me I’d get healed. You told me that Jesus would make me successful. Guess what. I have cancer and my husband left me. I’m out. Any kind of pressure, thlipsis is the Greek word. If it’s not real, the pressure will prove it. That’s why Peter says, and it’s so important, that trials prove your faith. That’s why you long for trials because when you come out of a trial and you have experienced an enduring faith, that’s giving you assurance. If you ask me how I know I’m a Christian, I can’t tell you there’s some mystical way. You know how I know I’m a Christian? Because I’ve been through enough trials in my own life and enough trials in the lives of people around me for enough years and I have seen that no matter what the trial is and no matter how it comes, my faith never wavers. That’s not credit to me, that’s the faith that God gives that saves. It’s like a rock. The false faith, when the trial comes and you can’t cash in and you don’t get what you were told you were going to get and Jesus doesn’t do what you thought He was going to do, you’re gone.

Even worse, persecution. You’re not going to take that. That wasn’t in the bargain because you came in on self-interest. People who appeal to the will and appeal to the emotion, appeal on the level of self-interest and self-interest is going to lead you down a very, very dead end street because life’s not going to be like that. God isn’t going to promise you to make you healthy, wealthy and prosperous the rest of your days…no way.

So when the trouble comes, you’re going to bail, or when the persecution comes you’re going to say, “I didn’t bargain for this.” And Jesus was talking to the people right there sitting there with Him named disciples. How do I know that? Because in John 6 it says, “Many of His disciples walked no more with Him.” Gone.

Why? They weren’t going to suffer. He was just talking about the fact they were going to have to eat His flesh and drink His blood. Starts talking about death. They say, “We’re out of here.” And He says to the other disciples, the Apostles, “Will you also go away?” And you hear that triumphant statement of Peter, “To whom shall we go? You and You alone have the words of eternal life and we know You are the Holy One of God.” We’re hanging in here. It’s because they were given the gift of the real faith. And this is like building the house on the sand, isn’t it? If it’s built on emotion and the weakness of the human will, purely predicated on self-interest. Trouble in life, persecution in life will reveal all of that. And we’ll stop there…and have some organ music. (Laughter)

All right, let’s pray.

Father, first our heart goes out to those who may be in our midst who fall into the category of these two soils…hard, resistant, sin-stomped heart, boy, that superficial, only temporarily soft, self-centered, self-indulgent, self-seeking heart. Lord, we pray for those people. We pray that the gospel may come to them, that there still may be time for them to come in true faith in the wonderful work of Christ on the cross and through the resurrection. I pray that there would be nobody here who would fit into that category of those who can’t return, can’t be forgiven, while there’s still time and opportunity, before it’s eternally too late. Would You with Your grace woo them, plow hearts, soften that soil all the way down deep so that the seed can go in and truly produce life.

Lord, we are both saddened by this because it is a judgment, parables mark judgment. But we’re ready to be gladdened by what we are yet to see about how glorious will be the results when the gospel which we proclaim falls into good soil. We sometimes have that privilege of leading someone to true salvation by Your power and then to watch their lives unfold and multiply so wonderful. Give us that opportunity again, Lord, as we remain faithful, to Your glory we pray. Amen.

The complete sermon found here – A Diagnosis of the Soils, Part 1 (Mark 4:1-20) I highly recommend you listen or read it !


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