“If your best life is here on earth, then you are going to hell,” he said to a packed auditorium- his voice genuine and soft, his eyes inviting a well of tears.
He was the man known to have thousands of YouTube hits for his video, “Shocking Message to Youth”.
Going into last Friday night’s event with world-renowned Gospel Coalition pastor Paul Washer, I found myself ex- pecting to hear the same message of God’s grace that seems to populate modern Christianity. I expected this big, famous pastor to stand before a packed auditorium and talk about how we are a broken people, but we need not be afraid because Jesus has forgiven us. Although this is absolutely critical to understand, it is also something that I had recently been thinking is possibly too emphasized in the Christian culture.
After a few traditional hymns and a hefty introduction, walked up Mr. Washer, who first and foremost addressed the previous introduction by a local pastor.
“Thank you for the introduction,” started Washer, “...but I think it is dangerous to be a preacher who many people look up to. I am just a man, a dirty, worn out rag. We all are.”
Here was this popular preacher who had packed a whole auditorium, every last seat, who had right away humbled himself, and off the bat directed the attention right to Je- sus.
To my surprise, his message had me on the edge on my seat in the front row of the balcony, looking down to soak in every last word. It was a message that I think will stick with me for a very long time. One that was very much needed, especially amoung a culture that is used to being cheered on rather than rebuked.
His message centred on how to know you are saved- some- thing that we often assume, especially given our choice of university. But salvation is not defined by that one time you asked Jesus into your heart at a youth conference and that’s it, or what you type in your Facebook ‘About Me’ sec- tion. It is being completely flipped 180, hating the things of darkness that you used to love, and loving the things of light that you used to hate.
He talked about the Christian culture today, something that stirred me massively- about how our culture’s theology has been reduced virtually down to nothing. How it is often based upon one verse taken out of context for example. His concern for our culture swallowed his face, explaining how Jesus has become the only religious lord that doesn’t have rules. We are taught we can do whatever we want, cause he forgives.
This is a dangerous fire to fall into. This selfish, self-gaining faith that somehow centres around us, our needs, what we want, and our convenience. Our culture wants so badly to remain relevant, that it waters down truth to make every- one happy.
This is not the God of Zion. This is not the God of justice. He is a God who requires obedience, not a God to be taken advantage of. We often forget or intentionally bury the fact that we need to keep the laws of God; that they are indeed not abolished. Washer talks about how young people often just label commandments or respond to them by saying it is just legalism. He responds to this by asking,”Young per- son, which one of these laws do you hate?”
What a question. What one of God’s commands makes us cringe so much that we pass it off just old laws that are no longer relevant-makes us think we are a progressing society that no longer has room for God’s laws. Which one bothers us so much that we respond by making excuses?
Is it drunkenness? Do we say, it’s a good way to socialize, I don’t really care?
Is it lust? Do we say, it’s okay, we’re going to get married anyway?
Is it laziness? Do we say, I’m a student, I don’t have time to add the bible to my book list?
Is it our tongue? Do we find ourselves using profanity, sounding just like everyone else?
The question to answer these questions lies in a simple ob- servation. If someone were to watch your life, for a week, for a month, for a year... would they know you serve God?
Our theology has become too based upon grace. The idea that we can mess up, go out and do what ever we want to because we belong to a God who forgives. My question is, to what degree are we taking advantage of God when we can live however we want? To what degree is this even a real relationship, a real faith? And to what degree can we say we love him when we can use him as a doormat, wiping our dusty feet on him as we walk on into our comfortable home.
So, what is true, biblical grace? The root word of grace is chanon, which translates to favour or goodwill. The favour found carries with it the delivery of favours or blessings. This means that grace is not an abstract quality, but is an active, working principle, manifesting itself in beneficent acts. Grace is found when we realize that something is hin- dering us from being like Jesus, so we do everything in our power not to repeat the same mistakes. It is changing our mindset rather than caging ourselves from doing what we love but know is wrong.
This is not to say we need to earn grace by acts, but the question is, if we truly fathomed that our lives have been saved from eternal damnation; if someone were to save us from our very death, if we fully and truly fathomed that- how could we not want to give our lives in return?