I recently read this line in David Wells’ new book, The Courage to be Protestant, “The gospel is a message of death before it is a message of life.” It’s hard to understand the “good news” about Christ’s death and resurrection if one has never understood the bad news man’s sinfulness and God’s Holy response. Why should a man care about being born again to a living hope if he has never recognized his own hopelessness?
Several years ago as I finished preaching to our students I was approached by a mother with some suggestions. I had begun my sermon with a lengthy section on sin and God’s wrath leading to the question, “What are we saved from?” Her assessment of my message was simple, “You’re never going to win the students with all that talk of sin and wrath.” She went on to explain the importance of making them feel loved and accepted.
I am amazed at how many people think that God’s message of salvation begins and ends with love and acceptance. The result is that untold thousands call themselves Christians who have never repented of their sins because they don’t know why they should. They believe in a Heavenly Father who, like their earthly parents, wishes they behaved better but understands how difficult it is to persevere over sin and temptation. This God does not demand that we be Holy as He is Holy. Today, the way has become wide and everyone but the atheists find it. The only thing that is narrow is the mindset of a Christian who would dare suggest that sin should be avoided and holiness sought.
Before there is good news there must be the bad news. God must punish sin because He is holy and we are sinners. Without Christ this is truly bad news. Only once we have understood our terrible predicament can we see that what Jesus did on the cross is truly good news. There is no better news in the universe.
We need more preachers willing to preach all of the news: the good and the bad. God has taken the time to tell us everything we need to know in the Bible. Who are we to pick and choose what we think people want to hear?