Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Judgment As a Marriage Proposal

My roommates recently told me about this preacher. He’s on television. His church is massive. His books become bestsellers, I guess. I’ve never read them. Like I said, I just heard about this guy. The roomies said he was on Larry King Live so I watched a few clips on YouTube. The guy didn’t want to offend anyone (any potential readers, maybe?) so he wouldn’t say whether or not anyone would go to Hell. His whole message is thick with positivity. He insisted that he believed in Jesus. Jesus, and some good deeds. When asked if Jews or Muslims would go to Heaven without believing in Jesus, he said, “It’s not my place to judge”. He said that other faiths “love God” and are very sincere, so he didn’t want to impose his beliefs on them.

A lady from Minneapolis introduced me to the term “Easy Gospel Church”. This kind of church is the feel-good, non-confrontational, theatrical sort of place. Lots of people come, but many of them don’t have a strong relationship with Jesus. I wonder if the preachers don’t want to offend anyone by saying a judgmental thing like “Jesus alone brings salvation to mankind.”

What do you say we talk about the gospel today? Let’s start with John 3:16, a well-known verse thanks to people with poster board signs at stadium events. But instead of leaving it with the one verse, I’m going to tack on verses 17 and 18. “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.”

The word judgment, in a religious sense, gets a bad rap. We’re told not to be judgmental. Don’t judge lest ye be judged, and all that. If you take John 3:16-18, judgment is given objectively. Jesus is asking, “Do you trust me or not?” God didn’t do this to bring condemnation, but offer the choice. He allows people to accept or reject Him and then people are objectively held to their choice. In one sense, that is easy, and it does appeal to seekers. Circle “yes” or “no”, right?

A woman once told me, “I can’t believe in a God that would send people to hell.” I replied, “Think about it like this. God wanted to spend the rest of eternity with a person. Jesus was kind of like the marriage proposal. If the person accepted the proposal, then he and God would begin to develop an ongoing relationship. But if that person rejects the proposal, God honors that person’s wishes and remains separate from him. And separation from God is Hell.”

That’s the true “easiness” of the gospel. It’s not about a good feeling or the show, or even the eternal security. It’s about putting your trust in Jesus and developing a relationship with God through that trust. But that decision is crucial, and if we don’t present the gospel as such, then what are we doing?

Let’s go back to the mega-preacher. I wrote a post several weeks ago about people who preach the message of Jesus for selfish reasons. I’ll ask the question again. Wouldn’t it be great if that preacher heard his own gospel message and came to really know Jesus as the only Son of God? Instead of image and sales and a feel-good ministry, what if he used his gift of influence to spread the truth?

It’s needed more now than ever. There is a highly debated statistic that predicts 4% of teenagers will be Bible-believing Christians by the time they reach adulthood. Those numbers may or may not be accurate, but it wouldn't surprise me to find that Christianity is dwindling among young Americans. I have to wonder, has the feel-good ministry approach worked? Have the stadium signs brought droves of people to Jesus? Are the safe answers and non-confrontational messages enough? Or are kids starting to see that something doesn’t line up? But what if we developed that deep relationship with God through Jesus, then lived it, and then told people about it?

If that makes you nervous, don’t sweat it. God’s the one proposing to them, you’re just His messenger. Or maybe you’re like the glass of champagne with the ring inside of you. If the person rejects the proposal, you haven’t imposed judgment on them for it. Judgment, like the wedding ring, was theirs to accept or deny.

No comments: