One of the serious problems we face in the modern American church is the notion that we should encourage non-believers to simply “trust Jesus” or “open their hearts to Him” or repeat some magic words or, worse yet, “give Jesus a try.”

The most important element of the Gospel left out of these false and counterproductive shibboleths is repentance – or a sincere turning away from sin. Without that critical requirement, many in the church are, I am convinced, leading non-believers into an empty, false conversion experience. It’s probably worse than not witnessing at all to give non-believers a phony picture of what it means to be a Christian.

That’s why I was shocked and appalled to learn what Rick Warren said on Fox News Channel’s “Hannity & Colmes” program Dec. 3.

Alan Colmes, the lovable antagonist to Sean Hannity, asked the Southern California mega-church pastor and the man who will deliver the invocation at Barack Obama’s inauguration Jan. 20, about the fate of those who do not follow Jesus.

Here’s what Rick Warren said: “I’m saying that this is the perfect time to open their life, to give it a chance. I’d say give him a 60-day trial.”

To which Colmes responded: “Like the Book-of-the-Month Club.”

Warren: “Give him a trial. See if he’ll change your life. I dare you to try trusting Jesus for 60 days. Or your money back guaranteed.”

I have to tell you, folks, this is not sharing the Gospel.

Sharing the Gospel means explaining that we all are in need of forgiveness, because we have all fallen short of the perfection God requires. That’s what Jesus came to offer the whole world.

There is no eternal life with God if we don’t accept that offer.

But this is not something you can “try for 60 days.” It’s a lifelong commitment. Repenting once and continuing on with our sinful lives doesn’t cut it. Trusting Jesus means being obedient to Him – forever, not for 60 days.

Furthermore, non-believers need to understand the Christian life is no picnic. The Scriptures promise us persecution. (2 Timothy 3:12)

Jesus Himself warned that we will be hated for His name’s sake. (Matthew 10:22, Matthew 24:9, Mark 13:13, Luke 21:17)

Too often, I hear Christian evangelists suggesting that choosing to follow Jesus will lead to a life of peace and happiness.

In fact, believers need to be prepared for a life of trial.

Here are more of the actual words of Jesus in Matthew 10:33-40:

But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven.

Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword.

For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law.

And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household.

He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.

And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me.

He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it.

He that receiveth you receiveth me, and he that receiveth me receiveth him that sent me.

Trust me, Jesus never said to give him a try. He never said it would be easy following him. He never suggested life would be a bowl of cherries if you just accepted Him into your heart.

Is there good news in the Gospel? You bet there is. That’s what the Gospel means. But we should never soft-pedal it. We should never offer cheap grace when that unmerited favor came at such a heavy price – the cross. We should never suggest that being a Christian is a lifestyle in which you can dabble.

In fact, it’s the biggest commitment anyone can ever make in his life. And they need to know it going in.

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