I like the idea that God is forgiving, as well as compassionate, fair and just. I also really like the fact that Yeshua gave His life so that I can have a chance at eternal joy in the presence of the Lord of Lords. When I was told that God and Yeshua love me for who I am, as I am, and they want me to be with them, forever, well, that was the best news I have ever received.
All of the above is wonderful, and I thank the Lord, every day, for what He has done for me in that He sent His son to die for me. Not just for me, alone, but for everyone….but still and all, even if I was the only sinner left in the world, I believe wholeheartedly that Yeshua would have done what He did, just…for…me.
That being said, I find it difficult to deal with the people who teach and preach exclusively about how much Jesus loves you.
I was told the other day about a preacher with a very large congregation, who said that when he gets calls from other religious leaders asking how he gets so many people to come, he said, “Just preach Jesus.” What that tells me is this: he is reaching the multitudes of people who need to know that there is hope for them, but that may be all he offers. If that is the case, then he is bringing them into the fold, but sending them nowhere. The love of Jesus is something that we all need to be made aware of, and accept, but that is just the start. Hearing the word is not living the word, and preaching about how loved you are is not going to give people what they need when they go back into the world.
Strengthening your faith is a process. Yeshua told us, in the parable about the sower of the seed (Matthew 13), that the word will be accepted by many, but then they are distracted and drawn away by the enemy or simply by the cares and Tsouris (troubles) of the world. These people need more than just hearing the word- they need careful gardening, they need empowerment, and they need to be told the truth about what it will mean to be a follower of Yeshua, because the truth is necessary to steel oneself against what will come after accepting Messiah.
My ministry is a teaching ministry: the quote from Hosea at the footer of the Home page is exactly what I am trying to avoid. So I give the truth as I understand it from my reading, my experience and the guiding of the Holy Spirit. I also look to others who have gifts, asking them for feedback in case my “flesh” gets in the way (which I am sure happens now and then.) So, the truth is not JUST that we are loved, and it is not JUST that we are saved, but it is that we CONSTANTLY have to fight against the enemy and ourselves to maintain the proper faithful attitude of obedience and righteousness. That is the battle, that is what is coming, and to tell people only “fluff” (as I call it) about being loved and accepted, well…you are sending them into a pack of wolves with lambs blood spread all over their bodies. They need the armor of God (Ephesians 6) and they also need lessons in how to use it. When David went to fight Goliath, he didn’t use Saul’s armor because he wasn’t used to it- smart kid. He knew what he was doing, and his faith was already strong enough to guard him against anything that came better than any old suit of armor. But new Believers don’t have that faith, and they don’t have the armor, and they don’t know how to fight.
Telling them how much they are loved is not going to get them past the problems they will face. We need to get them strengthened, we need to teach them not just what armor they have available, but how to wear it and how to use it.
If you are hearing someone tell you about Jesus and all they talk about is how loved you are, just as you are and how you don’t need to change, recognize that this is a way to attract you (and others) to the church but it isn’t enough to save your soul. It is not much better than that commercial for business receipt management software. You know the one, right? They show a disheveled, morose man sitting at a desk overflowing with receipts and papers but then, suddenly after he buys the receipt management software, he is clean-shaven, wearing a tie, and the desk is spotless. WOW!- where do I get that? It’s so foolish- someone who is that disorganized would never be able to use that software because they need to install the software, read how to use it, create the separate business accounts, organize the existing receipts (which is the problem they haven’t been able to overcome), feed them through the scanner, save them where they need to be saved, and once they have done all that (which, again, they have never been able to do), THEN they can easily manage the paperwork. But wait!- not being disciplined enough to manage the paperwork was the problem in the first place, wasn’t it? The software isn’t the cure- the resolution is to teach this person how to be an organized and self-disciplined manager. Telling them how helpful the software is is a waste.
That’s what it is like when we talk only about the love of Christ- it is good, it is right and it is what saves us….but it is not enough. We need to teach what will happen going forward, we need to train how to exercise our faith and we need to learn how to use the armor of God. In my opinion, that is the most important thing any religious leader can do.