Fire And Brimstone

The very foundation of the Gospel message is predicated on the notion of sin and our salvation from it. Unfortunately, over the course of church history, many well-meaning pastors inundated their congregations with fire-and-brimstone messages of God’s judgment of sin, and balanced it out with very little of God’s abundant grace towards repentant sinners. The result of their extreme focus on God’s very real hatred of sin, in effect, caused the pendulum to swing in an equally opposite extreme towards His very real abundance of grace towards those who repent from their sins. Anything done to one extreme, usually results in a backlash toward the other extreme, neither of which portraying true balance.

Thus, over the last half-century, most church movements have laboriously tried to disassociate themselves from the “fire-and-brimstone” messages of their predecessors. Which means that the pendulum has swung from “fire-and-brimstone”, clear to the opposite side with “hyper-grace”, resulting in an equally unbalanced presentation of the Gospel Message of Christ. But despite the best efforts of many church movements over the last half-century, sin cannot be separated from the cross.  A message of hyper-grace may fill the churches, but it will not fill those who hunger for true righteousness.  Any attempt to divest sin from the message of salvation in Jesus Christ results in preaching another gospel (Gal 1:6-9; 2 Cor 11:4). Which means if you preach the true Gospel of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, then you must preach about sin, for it is our sin that makes the Gospel necessary.

Jesus didn’t die for us to be happy, Jesus died because we are sinners in need of eternal salvation from hell.  Not a popular, warm and fuzzy message, but Gospel truth nonetheless.  Jesus loves us even though we are sinners, but He will not allow us to dwell in it. Which means when we come to Christ in true repentance, we cannot bring our sinful lifestyle with us. Jesus said, “No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment; otherwise the patch pulls away from it, the new from the old, and a worse tear results. No one puts new wine into old wineskins..” (Mark 2:21,22).  Forgiveness of sin, and sanctification from sin through continued obedience, are part and parcel of genuine salvation.

I have borne witness to those going so far as to quote Jesus’ interaction with the adulterous woman at John Chapter 8 as an example of Him excusing sinfulness. But the reality of John 8:11, is that when Jesus told the adulterous woman He did not condemn her for her sin, the word used in scripture is “KATAKRINO”, which means He did not judge her worthy of punishment. Why? Because He could see true repentance in her heart. That is why He simply told her, “Go and sin no more.” Because He knew, in her heart, she truly wanted to turn away from it. Jesus never defended her for committing the sin. He never said what she did was okay. He never encouraged her to embrace it as a part of her life, neither did He try to convince everyone to be accepting of what she did. He only said He wouldn’t punish her for it and to never do it again.

Jesus said, “I have come into the world to testify to the truth.” (John 18:37). And as followers of Jesus Christ, we are called to the same testament. Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life..”  Therefore, anyone who condemns truth, whether a believer or unbeliever, condemns Christ. And the truth is, God hates sin. The truth is, when we come to salvation, God expects us to live holy lives. The truth….is equal parts fire-and-and-brimstone and abundant grace.

“..but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; for it is written: ‘Be holy, because I am holy.'” (1 Peter 1:15,16)

“For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life.” (1 Thess 4:7)

“But for the cowardly and unbelieving and abominable and murderers and sexually immoral persons and those who practice magic arts, and idolaters and all liars, their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.” (Rev 21:8)

“I will punish the world for its evil, the wicked for their sins.  I will put an end to the arrogance of the haughty and will humble the pride of the ruthless.” (Isaiah 13:11)

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