Here’s how the story goes: It begins with a sham king sitting upon a sham throne, convinced that all glory and rule are his. That’s all of us in our fallen nature. Then an ambassador for the real king enters the cardboard throne room and speaks a simple word: “The real king is coming. He’s willing to forgive. Surrender.”
This is the all-important moment. This is where the battle is won or lost. Truth is staring Untruth in the face, and everyone watching wants to know, Will the sham king listen or won’t he? If the Spirit electrifies his ears, eyes, and heart so that he can hear, see, and love, then yes, he will listen, repent, and believe. He’ll climb out of his paper chair and bow with unfeigned love and worship (see Phil. 3:3). If the Spirit doesn’t, then he won’t. Period.
Suppose, however, the ambassador decides to soften the real king’s words. He doesn’t tell the sham king to surrender. He tells him instead that he can offer him “a great opportunity for an alliance” with the true king. Meanwhile, he plays a little mood music. He tells sweet stories. He does everything he can to flatter the imposter with affirmations of his humanity. Would the ambassador make any progress this way? Maybe. He might even get this pathetic and naked emperor to declare himself a friend of the real king. Of course, the whole affair would only reinforce the sham because there would be no real surrender. The ambassador will have succeeded only in creating a nominal Christian.