Wednesday, June 07, 2017

The Good News Is About God's Goodness in Christ

Many evangelicals feel it necessary to convince a sinner of his guilt before sharing the Good News of God's grace in Jesus Christ.  The starting point for many who share Christ is man's inherent sinfulness and the danger of hell-fire judgment. This is why many pastors and leaders of evangelical churches focus on the Law and yell about sin.  The church believes the Law must condemn before the Lawgiver can save. 

This philosophy often leads preachers and soul winners to avoid proclaiming the goodness of God for sinners until sinners are worked over good with the Law.  For this reason, the message often heard in church shows more concern with convincing sinners of sin than sinners of the grace, glory, and goodness of God in the person and work of Jesus Christ.

Some reading this blog so far might be thinking - "What's wrong with convincing sinners of sin? You can't lead a horse to water without thirst. A sinner will never know his need of God's salvation without knowledge of his condemnation and need for salvation."

Not so fast.

In our zeal to deliver sinners from judgment, we often miss the beauty and simplicity of preaching Christ. Jesus said, "I have come that you might live life more abundantly." (John 10:10). Proclaiming the goodness of God in Jesus Christ breathes life into those who don't know themselves dead. To yell and scream at a dead person with a boulder on his chest does no good in removing the boulder. Likewise, for Christians to yell and scream at sinners about their sin does no good in changing a sinner's lfie.

Gospel-preaching never requires the sinner to feel his sin before coming to Christ by faith. Only God can awaken the dead, and the evangelist's job is to simply preach Christ, not sin and the sinner condemned.

18th century Baptists held to a radical emphasis on simply preaching and proclaiming Jesus Christ--leaving the work of conviction and conversion to the Spirit. These 18th century Baptists were supremely Christocentric.They were not as concerned that the sinner knew and felt his sin as they were the sinner heard the goodness of God in the person of Jesus Christ. This is how they put it in their First London Confession of Faith (1644):

Article 25 of the 1646 London Confession of Faith

The preaching of the gospel to the conversion of sinners, is absolutely free; no way requiring as absolutely necessary, any qualifications, preparations, or terrors of the law, or preceding ministry of the law, but only and alone the naked soul, a sinner and ungodly, to receive Christ crucified, dead and buried, and risen again; who is made a prince and a Savior for such sinners as through the gospel shall be brought to believe on Him. John 3:14,15, 1:12; Isa. 55:1; John 7:37; 1 Tim. 1:15; Rom. 4:5, 5:8; Acts 5:30,31, 2:36, 1 Cor. 1:22,24.
The starting point for these 18th Century Baptists was the goodness of God in Christ, not the sinfulness of man. The Law and the prophets in the Old Testament all pointed to Christ. The Law was never given to drive a man to be righteous in himself, but rather to drive the sinner to faith in the One who fulfilled the Law for sinners and provides a righteousness that comes from outside the sinner's own obedience.

The feasts, the Sabbaths, the festivals, the sacrifices, the laws of Israel, the Temple, the priesthood, and all the other important features of the Old Covenant fulfilled in Christ. With the establishment of the New Covenant, signed and sealed with the blood of Christ, the Old Covenant faded into oblivion because it possessed a fading glory, but the goodness and grace of God in the person and work of Jesus Christ has an eternal glory (I Corinthians 3:7-18).

So the next time you hear a preacher berate the sinner with words of judgment and condemnation, please know that he is neither speaking in a manner that focuses the listener on the centrality of Christ's goodness which leads to repentance.

If one objects, "But Christ spoke harsh words of condemnation to the Pharisees in Matthew 23!"

Yes, but notice that Christ always reserved His words of condemnation to the religious who deemed themselves superior to sinners.

If we are biblical evangelists, we will do two things:
(1). We will always proclaim the finished work of Christ for sinners, and emphasize the grace, love and kindness of God in Christ, for we recognize that is it the goodness of God in Christ, combined with the work of the Spirit, that alone leads sinners to repentance.
(2). We will refrain from constantly complaining of sin and peoples' sinfulness because we recognize that only the Good News of God's goodness in Jesus Christ will ever lead a sinner to change his ways. 
Isn't it odd how the modern evangelical church get things reversed? We preachers tend to yell and scream at the world for sin, and the world screams and yells at us for yelling at them.

Maybe if we simply loved sinners and proclaimed Jesus Christ at least some of the yelling would stop.


Rex Ray said...


Good post; good post!

Reminds me of the comedian when he was a small boy recalling a preacher yelling over and over, “What will we do with sin?” Finally when no one answered, the boy yelled, “Nip it, nip it, nip it!”

My father’s favorite subject as a young pastor was, “Whatsoever a man soweth that he shall also reap.” (Galatians 6:7 KJ) In his older days he changed to lifting up Jesus.

I noticed you quoted Article 25 of the 1646 London Confession of Faith, but your line above referenced the one written in 1644.

I haven’t read them but I hope they’re not as conflicting as the 1963 BF&M and Page Patterson’s 2000 BF&M. :)

Pege' said...

Hmmm.. Wade, If we are to imitate Christ as believers and Pastors are believers...Did Jesus ever yell, spit and scream when He taught the people? Now he did get righteously angry at the religious people when he turned over the tables et al. When Jesus taught people... he was honest and direct. Any shame came from the response of a person's heart to the truth not the vocabulary or manipulation of Jesus. If we and teachers of the word simply speak of the Gospel THE GOOD NEWS, the Holy Spirit convicts the heart of sin, not the presentation. Anger, loud voices, harsh words from the pulpit nullifies the "GOOD NEWS". They are vocal tools of manipulation., (IMHO). In Sunday schools and children's churches the old testament it taught predominately. When Jesus is taught the teachers speak of the crucifixion and children are scared and afraid of what happened to Jesus. I know we need to use the O.T. as a schoolmaster for instruction, however, I see so many children scared into salvation instead of wooed by who Jesus is and the GOOD NEWS. Again when we see Jesus interacting with children and we are to be like Jesus, he loved them and spoke the truth to them. A little off topic, I even see this in the Lord's supper. The LAW. When we observe the Lords supper it is like a funeral. Heavy contemplative organ music, soft voices, sober atmosphere. Jesus taught us " DO THIS IN REMEMBRANCE OF ME". Yes, we are to prepare our hearts and examine ourselves, restore broken relationships and give forgiveness to others. I personally think this should be done BEFORE the service and the service a time of THANKFULNESS AND LOVE in the Spirit of worship. JESUS IS ALIVE! JESUS IS GOOD! JESUS is full of MERCY and LOVE!! Do we not REMEBER this about him?? Instead of a time of emotional fluctuation and shame, why can't the Lords supper be filled with love, gratitude and a time of sweet happiness for who our Savior is? Just some thoughts that came to mind after reading your post Wade, :)

Pege' said...

WADE....HAHAHAHAHAHHA!! It was supposed to be EMOTIONAL FLAGELLATION.....not fluctuation.

Victorious said...

Oh...Amen and Amen, Wade!

Jesus said, "Come to Me all you who are weary and heavy-laden and I will give you rest."

Jesus said, "I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger...and he who believes in my will not thirst."

Jesus said, "I am the door; if anyone enters through Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture."

Jesus said, "I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep."

Jesus said, "Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you."

Jesus said, "Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls."

After 353 scriptures prophesying His birth as the Messiah, some would still rather focus on mankind and our humanity than on Him and His love for us.

Thanks for this post! Excellent!

Rex Ray said...

Peg, I remember one Lord’s Supper that was not like a funeral.

After the ‘bread’ was served, the preacher was unable to remove the cover of the punch bowel. Two deacons tried then three, and then four. No one laughed but more than one giggle was heard. After a couple of minutes there was success. To make matters worst the preacher was not our pastor and had a hard time keeping a straight face.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps balance?

I've sat in churches where the love of Jesus was so emphasized folks would strenuously object to the idea they needed any saving. Now I'm told that denomination has removed all references to the Blood of Christ from their hymnal.

And I've sat under fundamentalists on steroids, apparently, who paint a picture of a horrible, mean God no one would follow.

But ah--the joy of a man of God opening the whole Word. Yes, teaching us what constitutes sin. Yes, telling us the wages of that sin. AND oh the joy when he presents Jesus, the answer to our need!

In our day of "I'm ok--you're ok" and "all we need is love" I would shudder to see sin and hell not preached, just as I would shudder to see them preached apart from a tender Jesus who bravely bore our punishment and Who ever offers us redemption.


Victorious said...

Hi Linda,

Your words are well taken and certainly no one could disagree with the need for balance in our understanding of the Word.

I would just add that since Christ is central to the "good news," He and His love for sinners should be central as well. I have mentioned here previously, that I had no idea I was a sinner prior to my conversion and even (embarassed here...) shut the door in the face of one door-to-door "sinner salesman" who tried to convince me I was. I was beyond a shadow of a doubt empty, hungry, lonely, searching for something and desperately wanted to believe there was a God. He responded to my heart's cry and it wasn't within the confines of a church. It was in my living room after I was sure my husband and the children were sound asleep. And at the time had never even owned nor read a bible. Just read the prayer in the back of David Wilkerson's book, "The Cross and the Switchblade."

We can trust the Holy Spirit to do the convicting of sin in one's life with or without the tools and/or methods we think are absolutly necessary.

Just my two cents....

Mary Ann

Rex Ray said...

Someone may wonder why I referred to the 2000 BF&M as belonging to Paige Patterson.

These are the facts:
The 1962 the SBC operated under the 1925 Baptist Faith and Message (BF&M). They felt the BF&M should be updated and they adopted a motion that Presidents of ALL State Conventions would be a LARGE committee to do so. They were to present their work to be voted on the following year. Any group or individuals may approach this committee to be of service. This allowed all messengers to know the desire of the church they represented. Their changes were approved and became know as the 1963 BF&M.

In contrast, the 2000 BF&M ‘committee was formed and passed the same year, and is known as the 2000 BF&M.
In contrast 15 men were ‘handpicked’ by the President of the SBC, Paige Patterson.
In contrast this committee met behind ‘closed doors’ and were not allowed to tell anyone of any changes. They said, “We can’t tell you, but you are going to it.”
In contrast, SBC churches could not instruct their messengers how to vote.
In contrast, there was little time for messengers to study what they were voting on.

I believe the 2000 BFM made women ‘second class’ Christians:
“The office of pastor is limited to men.”
“A wife is to submit herself graciously to the servant leadership of her husband.”

The 2000 BF&M did away with the “individual priesthood of the believer” by changing to “priesthood of believers”. (Your priesthood depended on you believing like the majority believed.)

This was removed from the 1963 BF&M: “The criterion by which the Bible is to be interpreted is Jesus Christ.” [Paraphrased: “The Bible is to interpreted through the eyes of Jesus.] It was replaced by: “All Scripture is a testimony to Christ.” I believe that statement is so dumb it doesn’t deserve a reply.

A confession of faith becomes a creed when people are forced to sign or obey it. Baptists have never had ‘creeds’. The 2000 BF&M became a creed when the ‘powers’ in the SBC required everyone they had control over to sign it or be fired.

Many long term missionaries took early retirement rather than sign. 15 were fired in one day. I believe when Wade was on the ‘International Mission Board’, he had to sign the 2000 BF&M, but he did so with caveats.

Pege' said...

The voice warbling and quivering. The "raised voice" and volume. These are manipulative communication strategies practiced and practiced by many a preacher boy. Are they really necessary in preaching? I can understand the passion and true emotion reflected in a presentation. I am thrilled to hear someone with that passion of the truth. How could there not be emotion in speaking of God? I do not want a wishy-washy "God is love" presentation. Linda, I agree it would be awful to be taught about God outside of the truth of who He is. When the Gospel is preached, the whole spectrum of humanities need for a savior and salvation is in it. For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

RB Kuter said...

We do need reminding to not beat people on the head with the "you're a bad person who needs redemption" line.

At the same time, people I meet are ravaged by sin and broken, hopeless and spiritually destitute as a consequence. Very often I hear them attribute their misery to being "God's fault"; "Why did God take my child!?!/Why did God make me lose my job!?!/Why did God let my teen die of an overdose?!? Why did God let my husband leave me?!?" I do explain Ephesians 6 and point out the misery is the consequence of sin and that Jesus is the only remedy to get them past the crisis and into the abundant life.

Point is, I think, it is appropriate to point out that "our" being spiritually destitute and with a sense of being abandoned by God is due to "our" sinful choices. But I do try to also group myself in that category prior to Christ.

Anonymous said...

Mary Ann--you raise good points. But I go out daily to minister in a town where truly people are totally unaware they could by any stretch of the imagination be considered a sinner. Therefore they have no need of a Savior. Only once they realize they are not all that and a bag of chips do they need Jesus. Salvation isn't being made happy, or being made whole, although those may be side effects. It is being forgiven of sin, washed in the blood of Christ, and heaven bound.

I disagree a whole bunch with Way of the Master evangelism, but one place I agree is to gently--key word gently--make sure people understand that unlike grade school, everyone doesn't get an award. Once people realize they have lied, committed sexual sin at least mentally, dishonored God and their parents, stolen, or whatever their list is--and we all have one--and know the penalty, they often are ready to hear about Jesus.

But in the day of Oprah and feel good religion, distasteful as it is, there is a valid use of the law to bring the person to understanding they must repent. I'm not in agreement we need to go all John MacArthur and expect sinless perfection to be saved, but rather that we are bringing them to agree with God as to what is sin, their own guilt, and throw themselves on His mercy and grace.

Unfortunately today, many want to be told they can have a relationship with Christ while still rebelliously clinging to sin. I'm not talking about folks in bondage to some particular sin, or struggling against it and failing. I'm talking about those who adamantly refuse to name it as sin.

We worshipped for time with some Lutherans who have a Brief Order of Confession and Forgiveness weekly in the liturgy. Amazing how quietly and gently converting it sometimes was. Only time I ever saw an amputee weeping and sobbing and crawling to the altar for communion, then joyously telling everyone around the mercy he found at the feet of Jesus.

RB Kuter said...

When I consider the very, very extreme lengths that Almighty God, The Creator of everything in existence, did for the purpose of providing His remedy to humankind's separation from Him, I'm reminded of just how extremely devastating, vile, repulsive, evil, and destructive is my sin. Of course, the convicting power of God's Spirit is the only way anyone can be awakened to this reality, but surely it is our responsibility to attempt to be used to convey the message. I need that same Holy Spirit to give me the words.

Victorious said...

.... but surely it is our responsibility to attempt to be used to convey the message.

RRR, your comment saddened me with the words you used of your sin... "extremely devastating, vile, repulsive, evil, and destructive." Jesus did not see people that way. He approached them with a servant, kind, and compassionate heart. He came to bring good news to the afflicted; bind up the brokenhearted; to proclaim liberty to captives and freedom to prisoners; to comfort those who mourn, etc. He was emotional...He cried...He got lonely...He felt the pain of being rejected and misunderstood.

The Jesus I see in the gospels reached out to sinners and forgave them without making them confess their sins first. He didn't expose their sins or instill guilt and shame. The parables He taught reflected His love for sinners and He even ate with tax collectors and sinners much to the dismay of the self-righteous Pharisees.

Perhaps we need the Holy Spirit to help us know the difference between those who need strong words about repentance and those who need compassion, comfort, freedom, etc.

That way we may see sinners the way Jesus did and reach out to them with His love that will lead to their repentance in His time and in His way.

Wade's ministry to the man he met in prison was compassionate and fruitful as the result. I've no doubt some of those homosexuals who were picketing in front of the church received the seed he planted by offering them food and lodging.

I know many disagree with me, but if we are truly concerned about the condemnation of sinners, why not introduce them to the One who came specifically to save them and set them free.

I know I'm preaching to the choir...forgive me.

Wade Burleson said...

All, I've been at our annual youth camp and been unable to respond - however, these comments are pretty amazing. Even when there is disagreement, I'm learning from everyone.

Thanks for taking the time to comment and teaching me from your wisdom and experience.

On my way to Phoenix for the Southern Baptist Convention.

RB Kuter said...

You obviously missed my point. Although obviously inept in my attempt, I was trying to say that the extreme measures that God took to remedy the brokenness of humankind due to sin, display how extreme our sinfulness is compared to the righteousness of a holy God. Before I was re-born, I was a sinner, condemned unclean and justified to be eternally separated from God. Of course, God loved me, even then, otherwise, He would not have gone to the extreme measures to provide a way for me to be redeemed. Fortunately, someone was bold enough to explain this to me and lead me to understand why I was so miserably separated from my Creator, would-be, Father, God.

My fear is that we have gone so far to the extreme of avoiding being offensive to people that we imply to them that they are just fine being in the condition they are in. I also attribute this attitude as being one key aspect as to why our churches are seeing fewer people won to Christ and saved, much more than being attributed to our offending them by straightforwardly pointing out their lostness without Christ.

Christiane said...

what I am getting is that it looks like soon the BF&M will be changed again to reflect another political agenda: that the ESS doctrine will have to be affirmed for employees of the SBC to continue to be a part of it ....

all this 'pressure' from people to bow to human 'authority' ..... lately we witnessed a 'morality play' work itself out in our nation's politics and a high point was when in Congress the phrase 'will no one rid me of this meddlesome priest' was uttered :)

There was a film in the sixties 'Becket' where the King and his friend whom he had appointed to head the English clergy were in conflict, when the friend had a genuine conversion and could no longer serve his king when it involved a conflict with God's 'honor'

There is a scene in the film where the king and his friend meet and what is being played out today in our modern time is portrayed in the dialogue between these two men:

saying 'no' to those who oppose the honor of God can lead to a loss of worldly power and position,
but it is one of the finest examples of our humanity rising to its potential in the face of temptation and opting for the 'good' over earthly rewards such as 'authority' and 'power'

strange days, these, but we are seeing in real time some classic confrontations between 'power' and 'conscience' and I'm encouraged that conscience is alive and well on planet Earth in high places :)

Headless Unicorn Guy said...

This philosophy often leads preachers and soul winners to avoid proclaiming the goodness of God for sinners until sinners are worked over good with the Law.  For this reason, the message often heard in church shows more concern with convincing sinners of sin than sinners of the grace, glory, and goodness of God in the person and work of Jesus Christ.

This is what I call "The Witnessing Beatdown."
And I can attest it breaks any bruised reed.

(And then there's the inspiration for all these beatdown sermons, Edwards' "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God"....)

UplayOnline said...

I believe when Wade was on the ‘International Mission Board’


Scott Shaver said...

The 2000 BFM is a sub-standard, shoddy document that wrote Christ completely out of the picture as the criterion of biblical interpretation. Worst document ever produced under the SBC banner. Most southern Baptists I know above the age of 45 reject it outright. Rex is right about this being primarily a result of Page Patterson's ego and quest for "power". Consequently, the SBC is a continual gag reel for Christianity on a global scale.

And its getting worse...not better. Visit thw SBC Voices website for poignant illustration