Most churches don’t preach fire and brimstone anymore. Some of you may not even know what this is or what it sounds like. In some old movies, like Pollyanna, you can get a taste of what it was like to sit in the pews and be scared to death of going to hell. Even though most sermons don’t sound like this, many sermons, books and devotionals are filled with subtle legalism, causing people to think they aren’t good enough, aren’t doing enough and need to work harder at being Christians.
Jesus didn’t operate that way – he loved people into believing, rather than trying to scare them. Paul knew this. In Romans 2:4, he tells us it’s the kindness of God that leads us to desire him and his kingdom, not images of devils, flames and torture. In The Passion Translation, Paul asks, “Do you realize that all the wealth of his extravagant kindness is meant to melt your heart and lead you into repentance?” The footnote says the Aramaic word for kindness can be translated sweetness! The New Living Translation puts it like this: “Don’t you see how wonderfully kind, tolerant, and patient God is with you? Does this mean nothing to you? Can’t you see that his kindness is intended to turn you from your sin?”
Even though most people don’t have to endure the scare-them-to-death strategy of evangelism anymore, we still need to beware of anything less than the total grace Jesus offers us through his saving sacrifice. Dr. Daniel Thimell, in Trinitarian Conversations Volume 2: Interviews with More Theologians (You’re Included), reminds us that “Grace is the basis for our life in God, not our works” and “The gospel invites us to look away from ourselves to what God in Christ has done.”
God’s kindness, sweetness and patience may not be as gripping and attention-getting as fiery, angry preaching, but it’s much more effective and more soothing to broken, hurting souls. May his kindness and sweetness envelop and comfort you.
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The Good News is expressed in God’s love and grace to all humanity in Christ! ALL are included! Thank you for this truth of God’s Grace!