For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ...2 Corinthians 8:9a MEV
We've been in an ongoing series looking at the life lived abiding under the Grace of our Lord Jesus. We are examining practical aspects of the Christian life. This examination comes in the form of a question. Are we abiding under Jesus' Grace, or foolishness (pseudo grace), or legalism (man's traditions and attempts to earn favor and love)?
Recently, many churches and ministries have been sounding the alarm concerning ear-tickling, positive, feel-good messaging. The concern is that the Gospel is being too diluted and made too appealing to the lost. This begs the question, does the Gospel of the Grace we proclaim have too much goodness?
The Gospel is the Good News of the Grace of God pledged in the life, substitutionary death, and triumphant resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. The old gospel hymn perfectly sums up the message of Grace. Living He loved me, dying He saved me, buried He carried all my sins far away, (forgiven forever). Rising He justified ( made those who believe Righteous), freed me forever, one day He is coming back, what a glorious day!
Some warn that the message some proclaim is ear-tickling. It makes light of sin and has no conviction. It doesn't proclaim to sinners how wicked and evil their sin is. It doesn't tell them about eternity in Hell. It doesn't command that they repent, turn around and cease their wickedness.
I recently read about one of those ear-tickling, "fluff", feel-good, happy preachers. This minister was speaking with a woman whose theology first and foremost was clearly unbiblical. She also had been divorced five times. She was currently living with a man she wasn't even married to. They were living in open sin and rebellion against God's clear command of purity before marriage.
So did this "preacher" correct her? Did he show her sinful she was, and had broken and violated God's commandments? Did he open the Scripture and line by line reveal to her how sex outside of marriage was clearly sinful and rebellious?
This divorcee and open fornicator, shacking up with a man never even got one word of "conviction" and telling her about Hell, and the need to repent of her sins. All this "preacher" did offer her was eternal life. This feel-good, ear-tickling, happy, preacher is named Jesus Christ. Be sure to watch out for Him and His happy message. Too much Grace is obviously dangerous. We need to make the sinner uncomfortable and show them how wicked and dirty and unacceptable they are before God.
This is the account of Jesus and the woman at the well from John 4. This is a powerful illustration of the Gospel proclamation. Yes her theology was clearly incorrect, Jesus affirmed that. Yes, she was living in sin, Jesus revealed that. Yet in all this, she never felt condemned, she never felt worthless, she never felt unworthy and unwelcome.
Grace reveals the truth in love without compromise, but it's not a harsh, condemning proclamation. Grace magnifies what Christ has done, not what our sin has done. The Gospel is the proclamation of the answer to the problem, the antidote for the ailment, the light that reveals the way out of the darkness. It's the heralding of the Good News that God has reconciled lost sinful man. It's the glad news that God isn't mad at you, He is mad about you!
I trust you're tracking with me that it's the legalist that is sounding alarm bells about a feel-good gospel. The legalist feels that if the lost aren't made to feel unworthy and wretched they won't really be saved even if they do respond to an invitation to trust in Christ. They magnify sin and guilt and minor on God's Love in their messaging.
When I was a young boy, I remember being raised in church. I heard the gospel regularly, that is the basic message that Jesus came, died and rose again, and is coming back. I simply believed that. I never believed we came from monkeys or evolved by accident. Yes, as I got older I rebelled and sinned. I still believed though, and as I got old enough to fully understand, God revealed to me all are guilty before God that's why Jesus' work was so needed, and why it was so powerful in its working and accomplishment.
In all this, I never once felt condemned, unworthy or unwelcome. Legalists can't seem to grasp that we as individuals grow in our understanding of the Gospel and all that Jesus did for us. This includes progressive changing in actions and thinking. We don't need pointed fingers and wagging tongues of condemnation to guide us.
The Gospel is Good News. It is not a message of shame and guilt. It is not a message of hellfire and wrath and an angry God who wants to punish all. Grace simply reveals the Good News of the Father's Love expressed by the Lord Jesus Christ. Trust in Him alone and receive New Life. Receive His free gift and pass from eternal death to eternal life.
The error of the foolish is they, once having been freed from religion, set their eyes again upon the stones they had relinquished. They again clutch these stones in their hands that used to be hurled at the sinful, and now turn them towards the legalists. They foolishly embrace bitterness at the legalist and began throwing stones at them.
This isn't the Gospel way. The same Grace we now give the vilest sinner is the same Grace available to the most legalistic among us. Grace is gracious and loving to sinners and saints alike. Remember, the legalist may call us their enemy but that doesn't mean we have to count them as our enemy.
In summation, the Gospel is a happy, feel-good, positive, and pleasing to the ear proclamation of glad tidings and hope. Grace proclaims the truth in love. Grace isn't denying the existence of future judgment or an eternal hell for those who callously reject the love of God, it's just that this isn't the message of the Gospel. It isn't what we proclaim to the lost. There is no bad news in the Good News, and the Gospel is Good News.