Fear Tactics, or just Plain Reality?
Before we begin, please take a moment to watch this excellent video from Living Waters. Ray Comfort does an excellent job of sharing the truth with this young lady, even if the details of the truth seem harsh.
Julie, a lady we met at the Shamrock Run this year, is a woman who, in her mind, is saved because she prayed the “sinner’s prayer” at a VBS program as a kid. She shared with us about her faith in God in between taking swigs from a flask (and by her slightly slurred speech, glossy eyes, flushed cheeks, and general inebriated condition, I am led to deduce that it wasn’t water in there). She had volunteered at Christian camps and taught Sunday school classes to kids in the past, but confessed that she had been “backsliding” for a while and had not been to church in a long time.
The conversation was going swimmingly well while she was doing all the talking, until I began to talk and mentioned the mere words “sin”, “judgement”, and “hell”. I hadn’t even gotten to the point yet of using the Law to make those things a reality and a personal matter for her before she reacted to it. Immediately her silly, giddy disposition changed to something of a scowl as she accused us of using sin and hell as "fear tactics."
Most people at this point would probably think that I said something wrong and that I had lost a potential convert and turned her away from the Gospel forever. But I really believe that God was already at work in her heart before we met and was using our message to prepare her for the Gospel. What is my evidence? I hadn’t even taken her through the Ten Commandments yet and she was already displaying clear signs of deep guilt, as evidenced by her immediate reaction to my mere mention of the word “sin.” I didn’t address her sin yet. I just said the word “sin” in a sentence.
Listen, the reality is that we are going to be judged, every one of us, and if our names are not found in the Book of Life then we will be cast into the lake of fire. Those are the facts, and one's refusal to accept those facts doesn't make them less factual. All that people are doing is burying their head in the sand like an ostrich and hoping that when they die they don't stand before God in judgement.
When we teach our children about crossing the road and why they must wait for mommy or daddy, look both ways, and stay together, they sometimes ask us why they need to do all that. My wife and I are rather practical (sometimes to a fault, it’s innate in most engineers), and so we tell them plainly that they could get run over by a car, their body would be crushed and they would die.
Now, I write this with caution knowing there will be some parents out there reaching for their phones right now to dial CPS as they read this simply because we are straight forward with our kids about safety matters. But while many parents would probably tell their kids that they would “get a big boo boo from a car”, that’s not entirely effective. Neither is telling the kids “Do it because I said so!”
The reality is that if the kid really wants to run into the path of an oncoming car, he is going to find a way to do it. He needs a change of heart and a change of mind about the cars so that he understands what will happen if he runs out into the street, thereby developing a healthy fear and respect for traffic which leads him to obey mommy and daddy because he understands the natural consequences if he does not. And since he now understands that mommy and daddy are trying to save him from death, he also develops a deep, sincere love for mommy and daddy knowing deep inside that we care for him and teach him so that he will enjoy a long and happy life.
Now you tell me: is this a fear tactic? Or is it just plain reality?
Given the “grave” consequences of sin (yes, pun intended), I cannot find any reason why we should not adopt the same sincerity in our preaching of the Gospel, nor do I see how any of us can justify being lax in talking directly with people about their sin (disobedience to God), judgement (the car), and hell (death).
Since judgement is a reality, and the fact that we have committed capital offenses against the Almighty Sovereign God of the universe is also a reality, we should fear God and fear His wrath. It is very real, even if it is delayed for now until Judgement Day. It is a lot more comfortable to brainwash yourself into thinking that God does not exist, or that He is a giant, cosmic teddy bear and there is no recourse for sin. But that is wishful thinking and is detrimental to the soul. God is real, and He will judge the whole earth in righteousness on Judgement Day.
But the buck doesn't stop at "we deserve judgement and that's it." Jesus died in our place.
"But God demonstrates His own love for us in this, that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." Romans 5:8
God could have told us that “sin will keep us from enjoying life to the fullest”, or He could have simply said “Just do it because I said so”, and He would have every right to simply because He is God and He does not have to explain Himself. But one of the things I absolutely love about God’s character is that He does explain things to us, very bluntly and very plainly. He doesn’t sugar coat the facts. Instead He tells us all throughout His Word what sin is, about the coming judgement, and the reality of both Heaven and hell. He also tells us plainly about the sacrifice He made on our behalf so that we would not have to suffer the consequences of our rebellion against Him.
People must understand their sin, the exceeding sinfulness of it, and accept that they deserve punishment, and all of that requires sincere humility. If they can call a spade a spade, understand who they really are, and accept that they deserve hell, then the sacrifice that Jesus made for them will be all the more amazing and awesome. Jesus did not die on a cross and be crushed under God's wrath so that we could have a better life now. It was because we deserved it, but
"God is not willing for anyone to perish but wants everyone to come to the knowledge of repentance." 2 Peter 3:9
Jesus' sacrifice on the cross doesn't make sense unless we understand the nature of our sin and our condition before a Holy and Righteous God. And when we juxtapose the reality of what we have done, and what we deserve, with the fact that God stepped out of eternity and became one of us, lived the life we were supposed to live (satisfying God’s righteous requirements for us), and then died in our place (satisfying God’s justice, again for us)... WOW! For me, that just makes God's amazing grace infinitely amazing! That really is Good News indeed! In fact, that is simply the greatest news ever!
If God is not a God of justice, judgement, and wrath as well as a God of love, then why did Jesus suffer on the cross? If God is all hugs and kisses and no justice, then how can you explain the cross? Or all the scripture that tells us plainly that Jesus is our propitiation? Jesus, the Righteous One, died for the unrighteous, the Godly for the ungodly. We could not earn Heaven, nor pay our debt to God for our rebellion against Him, so Jesus did it for us. This is the Good News.
"I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!" Gal 2:21
Neither should we set aside God’s grace, thinking that we can bribe Him with church attendance, teaching Sunday School, or doing volunteer community activities. Rather,
“Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you—unless, of course, you fail the test?” 2 Corinthians 13:5
Take some time now and evaluate the fruit in your life. The consequences are too great if you don’t, and the gift of God’s love, mercy, and forgiveness through Jesus Christ is just too great to miss out on. Humble yourself, admit your guilt before God, and call out to Him to save you.
“All who call on the Name of the Lord will be saved.” Romans 10:13
Yes, that means you too.