Words such as "sin" and "judgment" are taboo in our politically-correct, post-modern world that refuses to acknowledge the reality and gravity of sin and evil. Many Christian leaders, in seeking to be acceptable and relevant in this culture, refrain from addressing these Biblical issues and, instead, keep to a positive "I'm OK - You're OK" sort of message. In their attempt to be positive toward everyone, some have even removed the word "wretch" from the song Amazing Grace. Instead of grace that saved a "wretch" like me it is now grace that saved "someone" like me. Sadly, in their preaching, Jesus comes across as a nice addition--like a 70 inch flat screen TV in your home or satellite radio in your vehicle--nice to have but not absolutely necessary.
If America is to see anther Great Awakening, we must recover the true Gospel message that shows how far mankind has fallen and how desperately we need Jesus Christ. A politically-correct message that refuses to acknowledge the extent and gravity of sin cheapens God’s grace, undermines commitment to missions, affirms people in their sin and provides fodder for heresies such as universalism. Such culturally-acceptable preaching may stir the feelings but will never change hearts. Such preaching may lead people to follow the preacher, but it will never produce disciples committed to follow the Lamb where He goes (Revelation 14:4).
All Have Sinned & Stand Guilty Before a Holy God
The Bible is very clear that, as a result of the fall, every person on planet earth was born into a fallen and rebellious human race and that all have sinned (Romans 3:23). There are numerous Scriptures that refer to this, such as Isaiah 54:6, which says, All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way. In his letter to the Romans Paul makes this point by quoting passages such as Psalm 14:2-4, which reads, The Lord looks down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there are any who understand, who seek God. They have all turned aside, they have together become corrupt; there is none who does good, no, not one.
Paul shows that Jews are guilty because, although they have God’s law and boast in it, they do not keep it. He argues that the law, in the end, serves to demonstrate the sinfulness of humanity and intensify the guilt. As a committed Jew seeking to keep every letter of the law, Paul realized the law was good and spiritual, but I am carnal, sold under sin (Romans 6:14). The law, Paul says, was actually given to bring about the knowledge of sin and humanity’s sinful nature, that every mouth may be stopped and all the world may become guilty before God (Romans 3:19).
What about Gentiles who do not have the law? Are they off the hook? Paul shows that Gentiles, although they do not have an outward written law, they do have an internal law of conscience that accuses or excuses their behavior; which law they have not kept and are, therefore, also guilty. This is why he can say of both Jews and Gentiles in Romans 3:9b, they are all under sin. The well-known theologian, Millard Erickson has said, “To the question of who sins, the answer is apparent: sin is universal. It is not limited to a few isolated individuals or even to a majority of the human race.” As Paul says in Roman 3:23, For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.
In other words, a sinful and rebellious humanity stands guilty before an infinitely holy and just God. This is why John, the Apostle of Love, would say, He who believes in Him is not condemned; but He who does not believe is condemned already (John 3:18). Condemned already! In other words, before Christ came, the verdict had already been given for the human race; and the verdict reads “guilty” and “condemned.”
This means that God would have been just and righteous in sending the entire human race to hell. That is what we deserved, for in the blazing light of an infinitely just and holy God there is no insignificant or trivial sin. There would have been no protests in heaven if God had so chosen. Every angel and heavenly creature would have agreed that it was the right and just thing to do.
God’s Amazing Grace & Love
But God, in His sovereign grace and amazing love, chose to make a way for lost humanity to be saved. In an act that staggers the imagination, God Himself came to earth as a human being, lived among us and then died a horrible death on the cross that we might be saved and spend eternity with Him. By this mind-boggling act He made it possible for poor, condemned sinners to be completely redeemed and become a part of His royal family. No wonder so many countless sermons have been preached and songs have been written about God’s amazing grace. No wonder this message is known as the Gospel, i.e., the Good News!
God Confronts the Human Race
Through this amazing act of grace, God was not only demonstrating His love, but He was confronting rebellious humanity. The Gospel message is not something to be dismissed or treated lightly. It demands a response. This is what Paul was referring to when he told the pagan philosophers and intellectuals at the Areopagus in Athens;
God overlooked people’s ignorance about these things in earlier times, but now he commands everyone everywhere to repent of their sins and turn to him. For he has set a day for judging the world with justice by the man he has appointed, and he proved to everyone who this is by raising him from the dead (Acts 17:30-31; NLT).
The Motive for Missions
The question is often asked, “What about those who die without ever hearing the Gospel.” Now, there is only one Judge and it is not you or me; it is Jesus Christ. We are merely messengers. We do not assign people to heaven and hell. We must, however, be faithful to the message and it is clear from Scripture that those people are condemned already because of their sins.
This understanding is why Paul was willing to suffer shipwreck, imprisonments, beatings, stonings and deprivations in order to preach the Gospel to his lost and condemned generation. This is why C.T. Studd gave away his inheritance and a promising career as a professional athlete in order to give his life as a missionary to the condemned masses of China and then to Africa. This is why Lough Fook, a Chinese believer, sold himself into slavery; so he could be take the Gospel to the lost Chinese slaves toiling in the mines of South Africa. Christian history is filled with stories of such people who, moved by the love of Christ for a lost world, gave up their own lives to reach this world with the Gospel message.
Key to Revival Among Native Americans
This was the message David Brainerd preached to the Native Americans of New England where he saw such amazing awakenings in the 1740s. In his Journal Brainerd tells about a medicine man, well-known among the Delaware for his supernatural powers, coming into one of the meetings and being powerfully convicted by the message of his lost and condemned state before God.
This medicine man later told how for days he argued and fought with the Almighty over the idea that he deserved hell. He said he finally stopped fighting and told God that he was willing to be sent to hell, for he could now see that it was what he truly deserved. He said that when he yielded himself on that point and stopped fighting, an incredible peace came into his heart. Brainerd tells how he loved being in the meetings, listening to God’s word and fellowshipping with other believers, even though he was convinced that God would send him to hell (the key was that he had totally resigned himself to the will of God).
Brainerd showed him that, although he did deserve hell, he did not have to go there for God had provided a way for him to be saved through Jesus Christ. This former witch doctor was completely transformed and became a powerful evangelist for Jesus Christ. Interestingly, he lost the powers he had known and practiced as a medicine man. His testimony was, “When the word of God came into my heart, the powers I had known went out.” He found a new power in the Gospel of Jesus Christ that is able to transform the very worst of humanity.
Key to the Great Awakening & the Birth of America
This is the message the early church preached and it is the message of the preachers of the Great Awakening of whom the late Harvard professor, Perry Miller, said, “The Declaration of Independence of 1776 was a direct result of the preaching of the evangelists of the Great Awakening.” Their message of Adam’s fallen race had a democratizing effect on American society for it put everyone, rich and poor, slave and free, in the same terrible predicament with only one remedy for all—Jesus Christ.
Their message had a leveling effect on society and destroyed the class conscious aristocracy of the Old World. It was as Isaiah the prophet had said of the coming of the Messiah, Every valley shall be filled and every mountain and hill brought low (Luke 3:5). The extent of the impact of their message is shown in Section 9 of the American Constitution where the Founders forbade the American government from granting honorific titles of nobility to anyone and forbade anyone holding a government office from accepting a title or office from a foreign king or state without the consent of Congress.
It is time for another Great Awakening in our land and we must not flinch from showing both the gravity of sin and its effect on the human race, and God’s amazing grace that has been made available through Jesus Christ.
Eddie L. Hyatt is an author, historian and biblical scholar. He is also the founder and director of the "Revive America" Project, dedicated to seeing another Great Awakening in America. His books on "revival" and "spiritual awakening" are available from Amazon and and from his website at www.eddiehyatt.com/bookstore.html