“Jesus said, ‘If you don’t get born again you’re gonna split Hell wide open,’” The evangelist thundered as he slammed his clenched fist onto the pulpit. His large audience sat piously and nodded their affirmation as the sound of the preacher’s voice reverberated through the auditorium and into thousands of homes via a nationwide television hookup.
I cringed and sat uneasily in my easy chair. I thought, “This man preaches hell as though he can’t wait to see somebody sizzle.”
I call myself “born again;” I call the man on television “brother.” Yet at best he was giving an unbelievably bad paraphrase of Jesus’ words, and at worst he is grossly misquoting our Lord.
Jesus didn’t try to take the bad from our lives by threatening something worse, but by offering something better.
Having been reared in a church environment which provided plenty of “hell-fire-and-brimstone” preaching, one of the most startling discoveries I made as a young Christ was this: Jesus never called anyone a sinner!
Now the Bible clearly teaches that all have sinned and come short of the Glory of God. Jesus knew that. He was familiar with Old Testament texts such as Ecclesiastes 7:20, “There is not a righteous man on earth who does what is right and never sins.”
In truth, Jesus did His share of angry red hot preaching. He didn’t mind calling people “white-washed tombs” and “generation of vipers.” But look carefully and you will notice that such messages were never directed at bald faced sinners – rather they were to self-righteous religious leaders – hypocrites.
To the sinner who knew he was a sinner Jesus had nothing to offer but love, mercy and forgiveness. He saw all human faults, yet he didn’t major in pointing them out. Instead, He specialized in telling everyone what good and wonderful people they could become through faith in Him.
One beautiful example is Jesus’ encounter with the woman at the well. When Jesus met that poor woman, He knew she was living with just about the sorriest man in the town of Sychar. Who else would live with someone who had been married five times and divorced five times? But as sorry as that man must have been, he was all the woman had. When she went to the well that eventful noonday, she had no plans to give him up.
Jesus let the woman know He was aware of her condition, but His only purpose was to reveal to her His supernatural power. He didn’t condemn the woman for the way she was living. He didn’t have to. She already knew she was a sinner. Instead, Jesus asked the woman if she wouldn’t rather have a drink of living water that really satisfies.
She answered “Yes,” and took one deep, everlasting guzzle. Immediately the woman dropped her water pot and ran all the way back to town carrying a well within her. She hit the city limits crying, “Come see a Man!” And the town of Sychar was never the same again.
That has always been Jesus’ style. It always will be. “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” John 3:17.
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This IS the true good-news Gospel! I am so glad to read this, as sermons that try to scare people into the Kingdom have always made me cringe as well. If only the whole church on earth understood this. What a wonderful welcome to all those who understand they are "condemned already" apart from Jesus! Thank you!