My Negative Church
A number of years ago we invited some visitors to attend the worship service at our church. After the service they voiced their opinion of the sermon saying that it was too negative and focused too much on sin. A question was raised, “How are you supposed to attract people to your church if the gospel you preach is so negative? No one wants to hear about sin. That message was a real downer.”
My Church is apparently a negative church.
Our pastors are apparently negative preachers. Why? Because the gospel they preach shines a light on the sinfulness of man. Like Jesus and the apostles, our pastors are not afraid to preach about who we really are and how sin has radically corrupted us. They are not afraid to tell people that we are helpless without God and can do no good apart from Jesus. That even our good actions, if done outside the will of God, are nothing more than filthy rags.
Does that sound negative?
Let’s be honest, most people don’t like to talk about their messy, broken parts. They don’t want to be told that they are unworthy, sinful, rebellious children. They don’t want to hear that they are totally depraved. They don’t want to hear how they deserve hell and death. No matter how many times Jesus says things like looking lustfully upon another is the same as committing adultery, or that rage is equal to murder, or that coveting is the same as stealing… people would rather be told that they are not sinners and that they are good on the inside. They would rather be picked up with a positive message than face reality.
Recently I went to my doctor for depression symptoms. He laid down the law for me. “You are too fat. You need to lose weight. Stop eating garbage, start eating healthy Get yourself to the gym.” How do you think that made me feel? Did it lift me up? Was it positive? No. He hurt me. He made me feel like garbage.
Imagine if my doctor, told me that everything is fine. That I am healthy person. That I could continue on the path I was on. That I could consume anything I wanted, and never needed to exercise. Imagine if, instead of telling me the truth about how to get healthy, my doctor only told me what I wanted to hear. How beneficial would that message be to me? I would continue on my path into deeper depression. Eventually I would develop other sicknesses like heart disease and diabetes and ultimately end up in an early grave.
I needed to hear the truth of my condition, if I was to do anything about it.
My doctor did not simply say I was fat and depressed and then leave the room. He also gave me a remedy. We don’t stop at telling people about their sin and depravity. We are not to be “Westboro Baptist” types. We don’t simply shine a light on sin, and tell people that they are sinners. We are not to be mean. The true gospel preaches the depravity of man, but also shows the remedy…
Jesus, and his grace.
But one without the other isn’t the gospel. If we only spoke of sin, how could we then understand grace? We would constantly be questioning our salvation and our identity in Christ. But if we don’t know how depraved we really are, how can we ever fully rely on Christ and his completed work on the cross? As Paul Washer once stated, “It is only against the pitch blackness of the night that we see the glory of the stars. And it is only against the pitch blackness of man’s radical depravity that we can begin to see the glories of the gospel.”
Let me clarify…I am not against thinking positively. In fact I am learning to think positively more often. For most of my life I have been a glass is half full kind of guy, and that has gotten me nowhere. I am learning to stop dwelling on negative things. Even though I am learning to be positive, positivity when placed outside of Christ isn’t really positive. But in Christ, we do find the positive…we find the real hope of mankind. Sick men need to be told that they are sick, whether it is physically or spiritually. And they need to be told what the remedy is.
I am a sinner.
Saved by Jesus’ grace.
What could be more positive than that?