Wednesday, March 26, 2014
A Fearful Thing
There is a pervasive trend that has developed within American Christianity, or at least a segment of professing believers. The development is terrifying. What is it? The lessening of sin and dismissal of any such notion in the Bible that God deals with sinners. It seems the gospel message has become all about the love of God with the absence of any warnings and set standard which God upholds. The idea is that God just loves you as you are and you are free to continue living as you do.
Where does this idea creep in? Well, it usually begins by making claims that the way of Jesus is to welcome and accept sinners. So we immediately throw out Old Testament passages which highlight God's judgment and we go only to Jesus, as if we can pit them against each other. Yet, interestingly, if you examine the Gospels close enough, you will notice Jesus is no pushover on sin. He does not dismiss it or ignore it or lower God's standard one bit. In fact, he warns that anyone who lessens even the least of the commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of God (Matt. 5:19).
Then if you look at other prominent stories that many like to highlight to paint a pushover Jesus, such as the adulterous woman and the woman at the well, you find interesting facts. Rather than being examples of Jesus flippancy or ignoring of sin, they are the opposite. Jesus tells the woman caught in adultery (John 8) to "go and sin no more." He confronts and brings up the sin of the woman at the well (John 4). He is the one who highlights her continuous failed marriages and live-in boyfriend. If sin was of no matter to him, why would he do this?
The reason sin matters, and the reason we should not lessen or lighten it up, is that it shows us our rebellion and separation from God. This in turn shows us our need for a Savior. There is a reason Jesus goes into this woman's sin with her before revealing to her that he is the Messiah. People need to see the reality of their sin before they will understand their need for a Savior.
This is why any "gospel" void of discussing the reality of sin and God's righteous judgment against it is a false gospel. The Good News of the gospel is good news in response to very bad news. The bad news is that sin separates us from God and we are sinners. The bad news is that we are not good people who do bad things, we are rebels against God. We willingly sin and often try to lessen its heinous nature. The bad news is that God is holy, so holy that he cannot ignore and look past sin, and we are sinners, so sinful that we stand condemned before God. But the good news of the gospel is that God so loved us, and desired to ransom us from this condition, that He sent His Son to bear our sin and the punishment attached to it. If you strip away the bad news of the gospel, the good news doesn't really make much sense.
So back to my original issue. The trend currently in fashion is to lessen sin and God's view of it. The narrative is that God is loving and accepting, and we Christians should not warn people about their sin or their persistence in it. We seem to forget that Jesus warns that a tree is known by its fruits (Matthew 7). So if we see people living in habitual sin, we should rightfully warn that it is not the way of God, and to continue unrepentant is to reject God, which will incur judgment.
Many will scoff at such sentences, so narrow-minded and Old Testament-like. Yet the Hebrew writer (New Testament, by the way) says in Hebrews 10:31 "It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God." That is a terrifying sentence. The writer sees falling into the hands of God in judgment as a fearful and dreadful thing. But what is the context of this verse? What provokes the writer to make this statement? Answer: "For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins." (Hebrews 10:26). Who runs the risk of falling into the hands of God in judgment? Those who know and have been told the truth, yet go on sinning deliberately.
The Hebrew writer wasn't as cultured and in-the-know as many Christians today are, but he seemed pretty convinced that sin will damn people. So while the trend today may be to lessen the talk about sin and talk more about love, we may find the love they are speaking of has no backbone to it, it is shallow emotionalism, the kind that damns people because it deceives them into thinking sin doesn't matter to God and they can keep living how they want.
Oh, what a fearful thing.
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