It has been suggested that there are two views of the purpose of Christianity. One is "a field hospital caring for wounded souls" and the other is "a firewall against the moral corruption of the age." I subscribed to neither. I don't believe the problem is "wounded souls", but spiritually dead people in need of new life (Ephesians 2:1). And I don't call attention to sin to be "a firewall", but to point out the problem.
Some time ago I saw a news item on Heaven and Hell. In the CBS story, two thirds of Americans believe in both heaven and hell. Higher than I would have thought. Then, the kicker. Two percent believe they're going to hell.
You see, that is why I point to sin. Someone somewhere is not doing their job. Jesus Himself warned, "The gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it." (Matthew 7:13), and yet, the current perspective is "2% is 'many'." The Bible tells us, "Jews and Greeks are all under sin" (Romans 3:4), and yet very few think it's a problem. Paul wrote, "All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23) followed by "the wages of sin is death" (Romans 6:23), and 98% of Americans are pretty sure that's not a problem. It would appear that there are very few "wounded souls" and, in fact, the "moral corruption of the age" is pretty much moot. Someone somewhere is not doing their job.
Where do we fall down on this job? There are actually several possibilities.
Satan in the Garden asked Eve, "Did God say ...?" That was the first assault and that continues to be the current favorite. Don't trust the Bible. Don't claim to know. Don't stand on "God said". And don't, by any means, go to that whole, stupid notion that God could possibly intend, superintend, and accomplish the writing of an inerrant, infallible text that can be read and understood today with the help of the Holy Spirit. Nonsense. Don't go there. "Did God say ...?" No! So we embrace a fallible, faulty "Word of God" and carefully explain that it has a lot of errors, myth, legend, and outdated material where they were largely wrong and we know much better now. You know, like that whole "sin" and "hell" thing.
The next problem in the same line is the whole "rightly dividing the Word of truth" dilemma. We trip over the King James's "dividing" and think we're supposed to cut up the Bible "rightly". No, that's not it. It's not "dividing" as much as "handling". So let's handle the Word correctly. "Oh, no," they'll assure you, "there is no 'right way'." Or they'll say, "Read it the way Jesus read it" by which they mean, "There is really no right way; go with your gut." And, building on that previous "Did God say ...?" problem, they're pretty sure that even if you could "rightly handle the Word of truth", it would change with the times. So, there's that.
One of the really big errors is what I term the "Rodney King error"--"Can't we all just get along?" Like that whole "Jesus is the only way" thing. That is way too confrontational. Let's not go there, okay? And the day of the "fire and brimstone" preacher is long gone. Jonathan Edwards's Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God is simply no longer acceptable. Let's tell 'em that God loves them all and edge out this "hell" concept. It is, after all, the most offensive issue, isn't it? I mean, we're pushing a friendly God and warning about hell? How does that make sense? No, no, we need to get along. We need to be liked. We need to avoid any unnecessary conflict. And by no means should we offend the current, progressive, wiser modern sensibilities. So let's just tone down that whole "hell is for sinners" thing.
And, of course, that's not really that difficult because we have also toned down the whole "sin" thing. We're all about grace and mercy, not sin. We aren't supposed to make the world a better place; we're just supposed to tend to hurting people. The Bible is not a rule book; it's all about grace. (Interesting how it seems to keep coming back to "Did God say ...?)
In fact, isn't it entirely possible that the old "Gospel" thing of "repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand" (Matthew 4:17) is too ... overbearing? Maybe there's a better gospel. Why not stick with the "Jesus loves everybody" and "Neither do I condemn you" and a more universal-salvation kind of message? Surely that will play much better.
So we ignore Jesus's words warning about eternal torment and ignore God's constant explanations about what displeases Him ("That's Old Testament, man. Come into the 21century!"). We mix the message and suggest that Christianity is, after all, just another "let's be nice" religion that tells people to be moral rather than confront them with their sin and the constituent hopelessness without Christ. We seek God on our own terms, offer a different gospel, ignore "all that I have commanded you" let alone the need to obey it (Matthew 28:19-20). We try to entice people with good news and remove any bad news that would make the good news good.
When we arrive at the place that 2 out of 3Americans have heard about heaven and hell and say they believe in it, but only 2% think hell is any threat to them, we in the church are falling down on the job. It is our job to sound the warning, to get out the Gospel. Remember that the first message Jesus took to His world was "repent and believe in the gospel." (Mark 1:14-15). We don't improve on His message by questioning the validity of Scripture, wrongly dicing up the Word of truth, or seeking to become friends with a world that Jesus said would hate us and our message instead of telling them the whole truth. Paul classified "another gospel" as no gospel at all and a distortion (Galatians 1:6-7). The bad news about sin and hell precedes the good news about salvation by faith in Christ (not salvation by being good). If we skip it, we've skipped the message. And from the statistics, we're skipping the message. That's not being good and faithful servants. That's a failure to deliver the message we were sent to deliver.
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