Nobody can come under Christ’s lordship until he faces the demands of the cross of Calvary.

I realize this truth every time I stand up to preach. Each week as I gaze out from the pulpit into our congregation, scattered among the faithful believers I face nonbelievers who’ve walked in for the first time. Some are successful, self-made, hard-driving businesspeople. Others come from all kinds of walks of life. Yet all are laden down with secret sins. These people are living as they please, not under any spiritual authority, but they’re empty and disillusioned. They’ve become sick of pursuing pleasures that never satisfy.

I could preach all kinds of sermons about principles and rules of behavior, or how to cope with stress, or how to deal with fear and guilt. But none of this kind of preaching gets anyone “out of the world.” It doesn’t change anybody’s heart.

I simply have to tell the nonbeliever that his self-will, self-reliance and stubborn struggle to do everything his way will destroy him. And, in the end, it will bring him everlasting torment.

If I don’t give him this message, then I have forever shut up the heavens to him. And I have made him a twofold member of hell. His condition will be worse than before he came through our doors.

I have to bring that man face to face with the message of being crucified to his independence. I have to show him that he must come out of his deluded world of self-goodness. I have to tell him there’s no way to peace in this life except through full surrender to King Jesus.

Otherwise, I have deceived this man. And I’ve committed the horrible sin of the worst kind of pride: I have counted him as a “convert” to make myself look good. May it never be!

As a minister of the gospel of Jesus Christ, I am obligated to speak His truth to everyone who truly repents: “All that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution” (2 Timothy 3:12).