God doesn't want us to feel better about ourselves, but to have a realistic view of how sinful we really are. If we could see how undone and wretched our heart is without Jesus, we would understand the dire circumstances we will face for all eternity. Jesus is coming back soon to judge an unrepentant world. The reason many people don't repent and ask for forgiveness is that they are unaware of their true condition before a Holy God. Unfortunately, many people are being led astray by churches and leaders who are presenting a different Jesus.
The Jesus being presented in many churches today is different because He is not the One we find in the Bible. The popular Jesus being presented is the one who fills churches to the rafters with fans and not disciples. People are following a genie in a bottle that will grant them all of their hopes and dreams. He is a Hallmark card version of Jesus who is willing to overlook sin and just be a good friend to pal around with. He never makes us feel bad or consider ourselves less than number one.
Obviously, the Jesus that is being widely presented isn't the real Jesus, but people are following a counterfeit anyway. Many are being lulled into spiritual apathy by self-esteem seminars masquerading as biblical sermons. So-called worship songs that play upon our felt needs instead of focussing on God are everywhere now.
Many of our modern churches focus on self-improvement instead of dying to self. This is works based nonsense and basically, the same thing practiced among many pseudo-Christian cults including Jehovah's Witnesses and Mormonism. The logic is if you work hard enough and be good enough, you can earn eternal life.
Instead of lovingly warning people about fleeing the wrath to come, we decide we know a better approach. We attempt to woo people into the Christian life by presenting its features and benefits much like a good salesman. This isn't the biblical model of how to present the gospel and it is certainly not the way to make disciples.
If we are to present the real Jesus and the gospel, then we need to stop watering down what He said about Himself and eternity. I understand it might not fill churches or be popular in our seeker-sensitive environment, but presenting the real Jesus will produce fruit and bring God glory.
Some will call this article unloving or fear-mongering. We throw around phrases such as fire & brimstone preaching at anyone who would rock the boat of spiritual apathy and make us feel uncomfortable. In all biblical reality, it is a loving thing to warn people about the holiness of God, coming judgment, and repentance if our motives are pure.
It is a certainty that Jesus is a gentle Shepherd who is merciful, kind, and loving. But it's wrong to put people at ease who are in eternal danger. Getting them plugged into a church, a small group, and fellowship is a good thing. Doing so without preaching the gospel to them is an eternal tragedy waiting to happen.
The local church's main purpose isn't to help people improve their financial planning skills, have a better marriage, or to get them connected into activities galore for the whole family. What people desperately need is to hear the gospel to come to the end of themselves and be truly born again. We don't want to present a different Jesus who is a cosmic genie who caters to our felt needs and desires.
How do we begin to present the real Jesus? We must begin by presenting the need for Him through the gospel. I often engage people about their thoughts on eternity and what they think about life after death. Most people believe they are good enough to go to heaven. When people realize their goodness is worthless before a holy God, some will understand the absolute need for Jesus. John 14:6
Trouble begins when seeker-sensitive hirelings who are not shepherds water down the gospel. They present a different Jesus and this is a deception plaguing many churches today. These preachers may want to improve their image, popularity, or ministry numbers, so they make coming to Jesus about life enhancement, not dying to oneself. Some people will attend these churches for years and think they are fine only to hear Jesus say, "I never knew you, depart from Me."
1 Corinthians 2:2 For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.
I am just one of a growing number of Bible teachers who see the direction many churches, especially in the West are going. Jesus never promised it would be easy to be a disciple. But the good life is exactly what many teachers are selling. We need to be concerned with quality, not quantity in our soul winning and discipleship. Jesus said many hard things when He preached to crowds and many went away dismayed on multiple occasions. He once asked His disciples, "Do you want to go away as well?" Peter answered, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God." John 6:67-69
I feel the uneasy tension when I speak to people about heaven, hell, eternity, sin, and repentance. The Lord never promised it would be easy to be His disciple but he promised to be with us always and give us the words to say when we testify about Him. It's my deep desire and prayer for each of us to renew our commitment to speak the truth, with love as the motive and do it with boldness as the Holy Spirit directs us. While many are compromising and presenting a different Jesus, I pray the faithful remnant will continue to make Him known.