This article is a part of an extended series of articles. If a particular statement seems to be lacking sufficient support or clarification, we encourage you to go back and read the previous articles, as well as commit to reading the following articles as they are published. Thank you for your patience.
5 This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.
1 John 1:5 ESV
We live in age when the good news of God's grace has been stripped of its power. The “good news” loses its meaning when the “bad news” is never properly conveyed. If someone discovered the secret for curing all forms of cancer, this announcement would certainly be received as good news by all. But which individuals among us would celebrate the most? Would it not be those who were previously diagnosed with cancer? If a person discovers that Christ has died for their sin without first being made profoundly aware that they are actually a sinner, and that the wages of sin is death, they will never fully appreciate the beauty of what God has mercifully done.
“The 'good news' loses its meaning when the 'bad news' is never preached.”
THE PROPER STARTING PLACE
Verse 5 of our text begins by saying, “This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.” It is important to notice two things in this verse: 1) John is not simply voicing his own personal speculations of what God might be like. Rather, John says, “This is the message that we have heard from [Jesus] and proclaim to you.” The fact that God is light is an authoritative pronouncement from Jesus himself through his apostles. 2) John does not begin with his readers. Rather, John begins with God and he brings his readers face to face, not with God’s love, but with God's holiness. John clearly states that “God is light.” Then, to ensure that his readers do not miss the vital implications of this statement, he restates it in the negative by saying, “and in [God] is no darkness [or moral imperfection] at all.”
THE DANGER OF SKIPPING AHEAD
Almost the entire church growth movement in America blatantly contradicts the necessity of true Christianity beginning with the holiness of God. Not only does the American “Church” object to the holiness of God, they actually have the audacity to object to Christianity beginning with God at all. Many pastors in this nation argue that historical Christian doctrine has been wrong in its insistence that the Church's theology should be “God-centered,” rather than “man-centered.”
“The church growth movement in America blatantly contradicts the necessity of true Christianity beginning with the holiness of God.”
Some church growth leaders have even gone so far as to coin the term “religious consumer.” They have gone to great lengths to conduct massive surveys in which they ask unbelieving people what they would like to see in churches, as well as what would get them to come back and try the church again. Thousands of people have responded to these surveys by saying that they want a church that is more positive and happy. They do not want the pastor to focus on sin or a holy God who threatens sinners with his wrath. They want practical advice on how to have healthier marriages and become better parents. They want 7-easy-steps on how to be successful in reaching their full potential. They have also asked for shorter sermons. In fact, they have even demanded that pastors should not preach at them at all, but rather, they should simply share with them. They have requested that pastors use more practical illustrations and jokes, and that they spend significantly less time explaining doctrine and using theological terms. These people require church services to be simpler, shorter, more positive, and most of all, focused on them. Church marketers then go back to the drawing board with their research and re-design the church to meet the felt needs of these “religious consumers.” The result: Hundreds of thousands of people in America have started attending churches on Sunday, and hundreds of thousands of people in America have been programmed to despise the true gospel if they were to ever actually hear it.
“Many do not want their pastor to focus on sin or a holy God who threatens sinners with his wrath.”
The church growth movement tells us to begin with man. The Apostle John tells us to begin with God. The church growth movement tells us when we finally get to God, we should begin by saying “God is love.” The Apostle John tells us to begin by saying “God is light.” We must come to recognize that if we do not begin with God and his holiness, the love of God will not truly capture the hearts of the people we are attempting to reach. A proper understanding of the holiness of God, and by proxy, a proper understanding of the sinfulness of man, is absolutely necessary in order for a person to really appreciate how amazing God's grace truly is. If we give into the temptation to immediately skip ahead to the “good news,” without first taking the necessary time to set the stage with the “bad news,” the gospel will inevitably fall upon deaf ears.
1) Do you belong to a local church that regularly preaches on the holiness of God? When was the last time your pastor preached on the wickedness of sin?
2) How regularly do you share the gospel with people who have not already placed faith in Jesus? When you do share the gospel with people like this, do you start with the holiness of God and the sinfulness of man?
3) Do you acknowledge the righteous wrath of God in your doctrinal views? Do you believe that God merely possesses wrath toward sin? Or, do you believe that God also possesses wrath toward sinners who have not yet placed faith in Jesus?
AN EXCITING NEW ANNOUNCEMENT!
Effective immediately, Right Response Ministries will be airing brand new episodes of our most popular show/podcast, “THEOLOGY APPLIED,” every single week! Our vision for “THEOLOGY APPLIED” is simple: To demonstrate the perfect sufficiency of Scripture by providing clear instruction for how Christians can practically apply biblically faithful theology to every area of their lives.
To date, Right Response Ministries has only produced new episodes of “THEOLOGY APPLIED” every other week. Although we are incredibly excited about airing new episodes on a weekly basis, this new transition will significantly increase our ministry's workload. In short, we are stepping out in faith. Through much prayer, we have decided to commit to more than we can presently accomplish. We made this decision because we wholeheartedly trust the Lord to move on the hearts of individuals like you to generously provide the necessary resources in order to make this new endeavor sustainable. To that end, we sincerely thank you for your continued prayers and generosity.
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