We live in a day when eloquent preachers teach principles that help sinners live life to the fullest. They have become Tony Robbins in the pulpit. The famous, tall, and ever-smiling motivational speaker parades testimonies from Lisa Gibbons, Quincy Jones and other celebrities, who earnestly testify that his self-improvement techniques work. No doubt they do. You set goals, have a vision, a positive outlook, and believe in yourself. You can do it, and make it to the top.
Tony Robbins leaves out God. Modern preachers put Him in. But the message is basically the same--principles for success in life.
For years, I have tried to witness to my dentist. He is very likeable, incredibly intelligent, and the most foul-mouthed man you could ever want to meet. He's no moral hygienist.
Whenever I mention sin, he steps backwards and quickly changes the subject. Yet he loves a certain famous preacher. This persuasive pastor is perhaps TV's most popular preacher. His huge congregation loves his interesting stories and his motivational principles.
I decided to listen closely to the admired minister to see why my dentist loved him, and was interested to hear the pastor tell his congregation that God loved them. He told them that God valued them. He cared about them. They were special to Him. He approved of them. He wasn't at all mad at them. They were made in His image. They were God's own masterpiece. There is no one like them. God accepted them. He had a plan for them. He would never give up on them. He wasn't concerned about their weaknesses, their faults, or their mistakes. If they messed up, it didn't matter. They needed to simply ask God for forgiveness. They were of great value to Him.
In a thirty-minute sermon, fifteen or twenty times he said that God accepted them. He was like a preaching thesaurus, saying the same thought (that God approved of his hearers) a hundred different ways. Obviously every pastor should regularly speak of God's love to his flock, but something wasn't quite right with this sermon.
Why does any congregation need to be reassured of God's love? Why do they need to be told again and again of God's approval? The answer is clear. They have never seen the love of Calvary's cross.
At the end of his sermon, he said that he never preached without addressing the unsaved. His challenge to them revealed why his congregation were so evidently insecure about God's love. He simply said, "Make Jesus Lord of your life. I'm not talking about religion. I'm talking about life and peace and happiness." During a quick sinner's prayer, he did pray, "I repent of my sins," but there was no mention of the cross. Not even a hint of it. Neither was there any reference to Judgment Day, no moral Law, and no Hell. No wonder my dentist liked him.
There is a big difference between those who understand the cross and those that don't. The understanding comes because of the knowledge of the personal nature of sin. Those who have seen their own sin in all its horror have seen the cross in all its glory. They whisper with the apostle, "God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ . . ." (Galatians 6:14).
If my father was terribly injured by crocodiles, after jumping into infested waters to save me from a certain and terrifying death, I don't need anyone to reassure me of his love. I don't need someone to try and convince me that my dad cared about me. I have his love graphically evidenced by what he did for me when he jumped into crocodile infested waters.
In fact, if someone told me a hundred times that my dad really did love me, I would wonder if he had even heard about my father's incredible act of heroism.
In his entire thirty minutes of reassurance, not once did I hear this man even mention Jesus, let alone preach the blood of the cross. Yet, if he simply took the time to open up the moral Law as Jesus did (the Ten Commandments), and preach that God was angered by sin, but His great love drove Him to become a Man to save us from wrath and the terrible fate of Hell, then he wouldn't have to constantly repeat to his congregation that God loved them. They would know of His fathomless love because they have seen Jesus Christ evidently set forth and crucified. Eternal Justice put Him on the cross and infinite love kept Him there, and there is no greater place of security, than at the foot of that blood-stained cross.
This column has been exerpted from the new book, What Did Jesus Do? (soon to be published by Genesis Publishing Group).