The Puritans often used a phrase which I love to describe the Gospel call to sinners – – “Fly to Christ!” This is the urgent plea you will find on the lips of John Bunyan and Thomas Watson, George Whitefield and Charles Spurgeon. Though I think this call to the unconverted is marvelously faithful to the Biblical model of Gospel proclamation, I do not think I have ever heard the phrase used by a preacher, even in an impassioned post-sermon invitation. I think we are the poorer for it, and I have already begun an effort to recover it in the Gospel conversation at my own church. Why? Here are four reasons.
The call, “Fly to Christ!” is so descriptive of the peril of our plight in sin. Man apart from Christ is but a heartbeat away from an eternity in torment for rebellion against his Maker. John 3:36 tells us that the righteous wrath of God burns against the sinner right now, hanging over our heads every second that he rejects God’s Son. It is simply impossible to overstate the grave danger in which every sinful human being finds his or herself. They are not simply living below their potential, settling for a second-rate existence, or missing out on love and acceptance: they are literally in danger as they sit and listen because they have so brazenly and repeatedly violated the law of God. Though it is neither popular nor pleasant to make listeners feel uncomfortable and disturbed, this is precisely how they ought to feel in their unconverted state, and how they must necessarily feel if they ever are to be roused from their indifference toward God. We must fly to Christ.
The call, “Fly to Christ!” is also descriptive of the urgency of our need to flee. Though as preachers we should shun all tactics which manipulate people into performing some ritual like walking an ailse or praying a prayer, nevertheless we must make clear the urgency of the plight of the lost. Much like televison meteorologists who set aside their calm, professional demeanor and begin shouting and begging for their listeners to take cover during a destructive tornado, so must the herald of this Gospel call alert his hearers that we are not promised one moment longer. They must and we must never take the proclamation of the Gospel lightly, delaying our repentance for a more convenient time. Scripture tells us instead that Now is the acceptable time! The armies of the Kingdom of God, as it were, are on the march against all those who oppose the great King. The King has published terms of Gospel peace which will allow enemies to lay down their arms and bow to his rule, but his armies continue to steadily advance as the treaty remains neglected. And so, while there is yet time, we are urged to fly to Christ.
The call, “Fly to Christ!” is descriptive of the necessity of repentance in salvation. Fleeing to Christ necessarily means nothing less than fleeing away from sin and rebellion. Perhaps the most vivid image of what this looks like can be found in the opening pages of Pilgrim’s Progress. Here we are told that a young man is holding a book in his hands, weeping loudly because of the conviction under which the Word has brought him. Then, a man named “Evangelist” instructs him in what he should do: “flee the wrath to come!” He must run, as fast as he can, to the wicket gate at the top of the hill, allowing nothing to stop or slow him. He must flee his home in the City of Destruction if he is to find life in the Celestial City. So must we run away from our sin and our defiance of God, precisely because we are dwelling in a city whose destruction is sealed. It is no true Gospel call that does not clearly and earnestly plead with listeners to repent and believe upon the Lord Jesus – – to flee from sin and flee to Christ.
Finally, the call of, “Fly to Christ!” is so descriptive of the object of our faith: Christ himself. Though this may seem obvious, I believe it is often obscured in many of our invitations today. We more hear the call to “make a decision,” turn over a new leaf and, though rarely put in so many words, ‘save ourselves’ through our own efforts. The object of faith becomes our own response – the walking of an ailse, the praying of a prayer, the overwhelming emotion felt during a service. But the Gospel demands not that we put our trust in any of these things, but in Christ himself. We are not saving ourselves, but fleeing to a Savior. We are running as fast as we can to a person, to a crucified and risen Lord Jesus Christ. We come to Christ, convinced of his sufficiency to save us from the judgement and wrath of God which we so rightly deserve, believing that he has laready borne our punishment and come through it in resurrection victory. We flee to him the way the Israelites in days of old would flee to a city of refuge when the avenger of blood was pursuing them. We flee to him and only him – quickly, desperately, and we take shelter in all that he is and all that he is done. We fly to Christ, so that Jesus himself becomes the chief object of trust and affection and joy for the saved sinner, for all eternity. We must fly to Christ!