Wherever the Word comes without power its essential content is missed. For there is in divine truth an imperious note, there is about the gospel an urgency, a finality that will not be heard or felt except by the enabling of the Spirit. We must constantly keep in mind that the gospel is not good news only, but a judgment as well upon everyone that hears it. The message of the Cross is good news indeed for the penitent, but to those who “obey not the gospel” it carries an overtone of warning. The Spirit’s ministry to the impenitent world is to tell of sin and righteousness and judgment. For sinners who want to cease being willful sinners and become obedient children of God, the gospel message is one of unqualified peace, but it is by its very nature also an arbiter of the future destinies of men.
This secondary aspect is almost wholly overlooked in our day. The gift element in the gospel is held to be its exclusive content, and the shift element is accordingly ignored. Theological assent is all that is required to make Christians. This assent is called faith, and is thought to be the only difference between the saved and the lost. Faith is thus conceived as a kind of religious magic, bringing to the Lord great delight, and possessing mysterious power to open the kingdom of heaven.
But let man and beast be covered with sackcloth. Let everyone call urgently on God. Let them give up their evil ways and their violence. Jonah 3:8
The gift element in the gospel is held to be its exclusive content, and the shift element is accordingly ignored.
We don’t desire religious magic, Gracious Father, but Your Self as our hope and salvation.