I receive your emails and I do read them, I listen to your voice mail, and I do hear to what you say unless it is laced with profanity and threats. I don’t often respond, but it is good to hear other points of view.
One message I get from time to time is, “we never hear you preach on the love of God.” They often say that my message is always doom and gloom and judgment and fear, etc. I want to respond to the question, “Why don’t you preach on the love of God?”
I started giving my reasons for not spending more time on this last Friday. I got an overwhelming number of responses, most of them very positive and I want to thank you for letting me know what you think. I understand that I will not get everyone to agree with me.
If you listen to preachers who preach on the love of God to the exclusion of the judgment and wrath of God, you need to hear the other side. There is no doubt that the love of God is a biblical message. The most famous verse in all of the Bible teaches God’s love for the world.
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. (John 3:16)
Many people lead with the love of God in their preaching and their evangelism, and this often does not make real true converts. I will talk more about this in a moment, but let me start by quoting some well known preachers of the past to show that I don’t stand alone on this.
John Wesley said:
Before I can preach love, joy, and peace, I must preach death, sin, and judgment.
He went on to explain that you won’t understand the love of God, you won’t understand the joy you have when you have the Lord as your Saviour, and the peace that passes all understanding, until you first understand your desperate situation before God. You must understand how terrible your state is and how glorious God’s salvation is.
On another occasions, when he was talking to young preacher boys and admonishing them, he said:
Preach 90% the law and 10% grace.
We should spend the majority of our time preaching the law of God, the Ten Commandments. If you spend the majority of your time with this message, you won’t need much time to preach the grace of God because they will be ready to accept it with open arms.
The preaching of the law, sin, judgment, and the wrath of God is what man needs to understand. When they fully understand this, the Holy Spirit can work conviction in their hearts and they will be willing to receive the grace of God.
John Wycliffe said:
The highest service to which a man may attain on earth is to preach the law of God because it will drive sinners to faith in the Saviour, to everlasting life.
The highest duty of a man to God, and the greatest service to our fellow man, is to preach the law of God because it will drive sinners to the Saviour and to everlasting life.
Martin Luther said:
The first duty of the Gospel preacher is to declare God’s law and to show the nature of sin.
We must start with the law of God.
He also said:
If you do not use the law in Gospel proclamation, you will fill the church with false converts.
If you don’t use the law to bring heavy conviction upon their consciences because they have broken God’s holy law and are deserving of God’s judgment and wrath, you will fill the church with false converts.
He also said:
Satan has raised up as sect, such as to teach that men should not be terrified by the law, but gently exhorted by the preaching of the grace of Christ.
This was well understood by the great Gospel preacher, Charles Spurgeon, in England who said:
I don’t believe than any man can preach the Gospel who does not preach the law. The law is the needle, and you cannot draw the silken thread of the Gospel through a man’s heart unless you first send the needle of the law to make a way for it.
The truth he is expressing is that the law shows a man his guilt and his desperate state before God. If you don’t preach the law, you will not really pierce the hearts of men with the Gospel.
Charles Finney, the American revival preacher of the 1800’s said:
Evermore the law must prepare the way for the Gospel. To overlook this in instructing souls is almost certain to result in false hope, the introduction of a false standard of Christian experience, and to fill the church with false converts. Time will make this plain.
These preachers of the past understood something that seems to be forgotten today. This explains the condition of most churches of our day.
In 2003, I began to discover how essential it is to use the law in evangelism. For a number of years in my church planting we would labor to present the Gospel message to people using the “Roman’s Road.” It is a very clear Gospel presentation. It starts by establishing that everyone is a sinner. We would get them to agree that they had sinned, and then we would move on to the next step. We would show that the penalty for sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life. We would move on through the Gospel message.
Then I started changing the questions I was asking to see if they truly understood what their sin meant before God. I started bringing the law, the Ten Commandments, into my evaluation and the results were remarkable.
Before we did this, we would see people “say the prayer,” become a “Christian,” and even be baptized, but there was no change in these people’s lives. God has never saved a person that He did not change. God says that when someone gets save they are a new creature.
Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.3 (2 Corinthians 5:17)
You don’t get something new, you become something new.
The message that is being preached today that says God is love and God will enhance your life, It results in false converts.
When I was new in the ministry I was told by all of the gurus that I should not tell people what they are, but tell them what they could be. We were told to take the offense out of the Gospel. People don’t want to come to church to hear that they are dirty, rotten sinners. We were taught that if you can learn to sell Jesus like soap, you will build a big church.
The Gospel message has been turned into a life enhancement gospel. It says, put on Jesus, He is going to make your life better. Who doesn’t want a better life? They “put on Jesus,” but they haven’t had a life changing salvation. They haven’t humbled themselves before God and admitted that they deserve God’s wrath. They don’t see themselves as a bad person, a person guilty of breaking God’s law and deserving punishment.
Romans 2:4 tells us that the goodness of God leads us to repentance.
Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance? (Romans 2:4)
You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink. The Bible tells us what works, or causes, repentance. The love of God will lead a person toward God, but it doesn’t work repentance. We find that which actually causes repentance in 2 Corinthians 7:10:
For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death. (2 Corinthians 7:10)
When a person comes to the point where their heart is broken over their sin, and they have “godly sorrow,” a sorrow before God because they have sinned against Him, that is when repentance is worked in the heart.
A broken and contrite heart is necessary.
The LORD is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit. (Psalms 34:18)
Humility is necessary.
But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble. (James 4:6)
We need to understand that the love of God brings us a Saviour, but a person will not see his need for a Saviour until he understands his desperate state before a holy God. This is why we must begin our evangelism with the law of God.
When we preach the law, we preach directly to the conscience. This is where they feel guilt and pain in their hearts for their sin. We must strike the conscience with their sinfulness before we can successfully communicate the glorious message of the love of God and His sending His Son to lay down His life and shed His blood for the remission of our sins. We do not deserve salvation and we can praise God that, in His love and mercy, He has provided His Son as an all sufficient sacrifice to pay our sin debt.
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