"They're Aware of Their Sin, Why Beat Them Up?"
That sounds reasonable, doesn't it? I mean, after all -
who would honestly say that they've never sinned?
Probably nobody. And since unbelievers already feel guilty enough over they're past mistakes, then it goes without saying that we should spend the vast majority of our time preaching a positive message of Good News to them, rather than dwelling on the negatives. In this post, we'll actually go inside of a prison and test-out this theory on convicted felons. If anybody ought to understand their own guilt and sinfulness, it would be real/live rapists, murders, and thieves, right?
Warning: Understanding the things in this video could
challenge your entire view of 'relevance' in evangelism.
I've mentioned before my experiences in the church that I used to attend which, over time, transitioned into a model based on what is prescribed by Bill Hybels and Rick Warren. If I were to pick out one key reason why I left that church when I did, this would have been it. I knew there was something wrong when a year of time passes with very little mention of sin. Oh sure, bad habits were talked about, and how Jesus might help you to get free from those. And yes, there was the "nobody's perfect / we've all made mistakes" talk. But there wasn't much more than that.
There were always a few that would approach the pastor and question him on these changes in our church. His answer typically went something like this:
"People are plenty-aware of their sin and there's no need to keep reminding them of what they already know. What I want to share with them is the positive message of Good News of what God has done for them and the purpose he has for their lives."
Let's examine the dangerous incompatibility between the seeker friendly "everyone is aware of their own sinfulness" theory and the bible, specifically in Luke 7 this time. In the immediate context leading up to this passage, there is a self-righteous Pharisee who seems to be lacking a grasp of his own sinfulness; his focus is only elsewhere. Jesus continues:
| Luke 7:41-48 |
"A certain moneylender had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. When they could not pay, he cancelled the debt of both. Now which of them will love him more?" Simon answered, "The one, I suppose, for whom he cancelled the larger debt." And he said to him, "You have judged rightly". Then turning toward the woman he said to Simon, "Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not ceased to kiss my feet. You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven -- for she loved much.
But he who is forgiven little, loves little."...
When you read that, don't you see the problem with an approach to preaching that minimizes, renames, redefines, or simply doesn't mention sin? It always amazes me how often we have Seeker Sensitive pastors visit OldTruth.com and leave comments to let us know how they think WE are "Pharisees". The truth is, their whole system of church has a design-flaw that would have prevented any attempt at dislodging the Luke 7 Pharisee from his self-righteousness. The content of their sermons have the deadly side-effect of passivity towards the large debt owed to God by "seekers" who believe and behave as though they have little debt. Therefore we so often find that the people in these churches have little love for the moneylender.
What does this have to do with 'relevance'?
Since the debtors love the moneylender little, they see lesser relevance in having their debts forgiven, after all - it doesn't seem to them that they owe that much. A new type of value must then be found and assigned to the moneylender, otherwise today's debtors will not find Him very relevant. Other forms of relevance are employed to keep debtors coming back to hear more about what else the moneylender can do for them.
I can almost hear the response to this now, saying "you only want to preach hellfire and damnation and make people feel lousy about themselves". But that's less than accurate; what we really want is for debtors to understand how very much is owed to the moneylender, so that they will value Him and see relevance (the real relevance) in Him. We want them to understand the valleys of sin so that they will understand the mountain peaks of grace.
If you've had your fill of cotton candy preaching that softpedals the truth, and churches that don't deal with the reality of God seeing man as being sinful, then here are some resources that will give you the pieces of the puzzle that you've been missing. The fact that a true modern equivalent of these books is non-existent makes a statement about the times we live in:
There are many pastors today who, although not being as extreme as Joel Osteen in avoiding any sin talk, yet share some of his fear of speaking the truth. Today these "positive-only pastors" seem to come from the same cookie cutter template; here for example is Osteen himself in a Larry King interview:
KING: You don't call them sinners?
OSTEEN: I don't.
KING: Is that a word you don't use?
OSTEEN: I don't use it. I never thought about it. But I probably don't. But most people already know what they're doing wrong. When I get them to church I want to tell them that you can change. There can be a difference in your life. So I don't go down the road of condemning. (full transcript)
Where have I heard that before?
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