"God didn't send me out to collect a following for myself, but to preach the Message of what He has done, collecting a following for Him" (1 Corinthians 1:17)

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Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Gospel of Peace

Scripture to reflect upon for Wisdom Wednesday: Ephesians 6:15
And your feet sandaled with readiness for the gospel of peace.

Hell fire and brimstone. Is that what we’re preaching now?

That, my friends, is not the gospel of peace that we are to be conveying. Some are arguing that “it’s the truth” and we need to make people aware that if they don’t get saved they are going to hell.

Take it from someone who has been there and was told I was going to hell if I didn’t “listen;” it will only lead them further away from the Truth. The truth of hell is not a guiding point that believers should try to use to guilt non-believers into surrendering their lives to Christ. We need to be spreading the gospel, which is translated as the Good News, not the bad, terrifying, scare-you-into-salvation news!

What’s the Good News then? That Christ died to save us from hell. That by dying on the cross, He sacrificed His life by taking on our sin and shame so that we may have freedom and a full, abundant life.

Love is the key. When we present the Truth of Christ to people, we need to do it in love, as Christ did. Christ didn’t go around using guilt and condemnation as a means to get people to follow Him; instead it was His love, kindness and gentleness that drew sinners to His ministry. Jesus never shouted at every sinner that came near, “Follow me or go to hell!” He simply forgave them and healed them. It was through love, grace and mercy, not shame, guilt and condemnation.

“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death” (Romans 8:1-2)

That’s what we need to keep in mind when we set our feet out into the world, ready and willing to tell people of the gospel of peace (notice it doesn’t say the gospel of guilt). Our message cannot be one of fear and urgency that will get us—and them—nowhere.

NOTE TO SELF: Speak God’s Truth in love and mercy. Be kind and gentle in your approach. Using fear to bring anyone to Christ will only make them run away from the cross.

If you have landed here because someone sent you a link, or you’ve just been curiously browsing the web about God’s love and mercy, but have been told time after time that if you don’t give your life to Christ you will go to hell, let me reassure you that God will never give up on you! When you heard the message of hell, you probably ran towards hell with the notion that there wasn’t any hope for you; that if you were so bad, or so inflicted by guilt and shame, that God had no room for someone like you. But that is the farthest from the truth. Jesus sought out the worst of the worse. He hung out with prostitutes, tax collectors, thieves and Gentiles. Those who were too religious to get it were the ones who were doomed, because their demands to always “do” things to be right  before God would never work for those who fell far from the grace of their standards. They were setting people up for failure, and God came to rescue those who were being cast out by religious leaders. He sought out the very ones that the religious people scorned. 

Jesus’ message is not based in fear. Hell is a reality, but “I will not set aside the grace of God” (Galatians 2:21). Salvation is not meant to be used as a way to escape hell, but instead it’s a way for you to know the love of God in the absolute fullness while here on earth and in the afterlife. God saves us so we can be equipped and used to help others know His Truth, too.

If someone has talked to you about Jesus, but has used hell as a way to convince you, please know that their intentions were good. They truly do not want to see anyone perish. But also understand that the real purpose of God’s message is redemption, salvation, peace, happiness, love, and most importantly grace. The Good News is true, that by being saved you will not go to hell—that’s GREAT news!!—but the reality is that God calls us to be a light on earth for others to see, for when they see the Light in us, they too, will want what we have. And you can have that Light, too.

If you feel God nudging you, but you have been afraid or worried about hell, God tells us to be anxious for nothing, because He has taken care of it all (Philippians 4). Don’t be scared of hell, or think you’ve gone too far that God can’t forgive you. The worse off you think you are, the more God desires to have you near Him.

Surrender to Jesus today not because you fear hell, but because you desire God. Jesus died on the cross for the sins that could send you to hell, but His dying wasn’t for one, but for ALL, and that includes you and your heavy burden of guilt and shame. Come to the cross and tell God exactly how you feel. Tell Him what you’ve done and how sorry you are. Ask Him to give you a fresh start, and release you from the chaos in your life (Psalm 51:10). When you come to the cross real and bold, He is faithful to answer.

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