To my horror I recently heard a well-known and highly respected Bible teacher/pastor on a Christian radio program give absolutely no promise of hope to his audience!
Christian radio stations, by the way, attract many unsaved as well as believers, so who knows how many people outside church circles but with desperate needs were listening! They would not have found great encouragement that particular day.
But before I share what I and many others heard, let me make two feisty comments. Firstly, I was wisely taught that all preachers must always wrap their message with hope, both for Christians and non-Christians. Also that a text out of context is a pretext!
Yet this particular radio personality broke these two golden rules!
By the way, I like him, even respect him, but I personally felt disappointed as he wrapped up his short ‘fill in’ message. Oh, he initially quoted scripture accurately. But when he referred to his second main scripture he didn’t really explain his point and ended up not giving hope for the future. Rather he left a cloud hanging over listeners who are still troubled by past sins.
I really felt for the unsaved as well as Christians who were probably going through some lows that we all feel at times because of the past. Here’s the gist of what I heard…
Driving to an appointment, I had tuned into a Christian radio station and on hearing whose segment was coming on next, I thought, ‘This‘ll be good.’ Especially when he began with that classical scripture from the apostle of love: ’If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness’ (1 John 1:9). Spot on, I silently cheered.
But his next comments flabbergasted me as he inferred that Christians relied on this scripture as an escape route, that for many it was an easy way out from not being responsible for their actions. That even though we can quote that particular scripture and be forgiven, we can’t escape the consequences of past sins.
He then quoted another strong scripture but made it sound like it was flying in the face of John’s great hope-bringing, assuring and comforting one. Galatians 6:7, ‘God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.’ But his lack of a reasonable explanation and needed comfort made it out of context with his theme! It came across as condemning, not comforting.
Now I agree that we must be responsible for our decisions and actions. That in becoming Christians we do not receive a licence to act wantonly and irresponsibly! In a mixed-up world of loose morals, craftiness, corruption, neither fear nor knowledge of God and do-as-you-please thinking, we have to live as lights in the darkness (Mat 5:14-16).
We are meant to be examples of a better lifestyle, a focused and satisfactory way of living, beliefs, trust in a higher power and great hope for the future.
And we can be…but we have to live it out. We must walk the talk! We have to act responsibly through our actions and speech and how we handle situations and people. We must live up to God’s holy standards with the Holy Spirit’s help. Gal 5: 22-23 – the fruit of the Spirit which really speaks of the character of Christ – must be our guideline and our standard.
The great truth is that the Holy Spirit is our best friend and lives within every Christian. He’s the one who will develop and grow us to be like Christ day by day – because Jesus loves us deeply. Therefore we must not carry a wrong picture of God…one where he’s always looking over our shoulder to chastise us and scold us, particularly for past deeds.
The past is but a fading memory
Yes, some past actions may yet cause trouble but perhaps a better way of looking at these is to consider them scars that remain to remind us not to go down that road again. And to rectify them wherever and however we can – if it’s possible.
The Bible constantly encourages us to move ahead, not to get bogged down by the past. In 2 Corinthians 2:5-10, Paul is prompt to direct the church to get off a brother’s back regarding his past faults and events!
Moving on is a keynote for churches and Christians. Whatever the past mistakes we’ve made, we can plan for a better future! We must not let the errors of yesteryear hold us back miserably from achieving a splendid new tomorrow in Christ.
Hope for today and tomorrow
Which brings me to that radio preacher’s big mistake of not offering hope…
Paul tells us clearly that our great, loving and all-powerful God works all things for good (that means for the benefit of) for us (Romans 8:28). Then he goes on to state that nothing but nothing but nothing can hold back from receiving God’s love in Christ.
Surely ‘all things’ include past mistakes and surely Jesus’ love is the enabling force to help us – not change the past of course…now history – but build a better future and assist us put things right where we can.
Paul’s really positive about this and so should we! We can’t afford to allow the past to hold us back from enjoying the new life that Jesus has given us. Yes sure…maybe those past mistakes and sins have hurt people and caused damage but with the Holy Spirit’s help we can rectify whatever can be fixed up and then leave everything else to the Lord.
But we mustn’t carry any shame or guilt…this has been dealt with by Jesus’ Calvary sacrifice.
As mentioned earlier every preacher should always present hope to troubled people, not leave them hanging in the air! Otherwise they’re left in a dilemma – which is a nasty place between unwelcome alternatives, a predicament. God has given us a great alternative…trusting him.
Let’s embrace Paul’s welcome encouragement of Romans 15:13 – ‘May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you will overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit’ when we find someone, Satan or situations trying to steal our security in Jesus.