There is a false doctrine that has been pernicious in evangelical circles. It is a false doctrine that preaches truth that does not set anyone free. It is pernicious because on the surface it seems ‘righteous’, ‘countercultural’, ‘unashamed’, ‘zealous’ and ‘black and white’. It is deadly because it sounds like the truth, but it is not the truth coming out of the Bible. Instead, it comes from the teachings of well-meaning pastors and teachers, and those who are ignorant of the ministry of Jesus.
It is not easy to define this phenomenon, so I will start of by giving examples:
“You don’t take communion, so I guess you are not a Christian.”
“You are not tithing, so you must not be a Christian.”
“You have been attacked by demons, so you must be not be saved.”
“You are not blessed, and you have become poor, so God did not choose you. Your salvation was never been legit in the first place.”
And I could go on with things such as:
Tattoos, non-Christian/cultural/ethnic/secular music, Bethel or Skillet music, Hillsong or not Hillsong music, smoking, drugs, coffee, sugar, obesity or weight gain, depression, employed or unemployed, going to this church or that church, listen to so and so pastor or not listen to so and so pastor. All of these things do not determine whether a person is saved or not. What really determines a person is saved or not is whether they believe in Jesus as their Lord and Savior, full stop. Period.
And none of us should make that kind of judgment to others because God did not grant us a seat at the Great White Throne of Judgment. The last time I read the Bible (Revelation 20:11-15), God will have that seat, and nothing in it says that He is abdicating that seat to anyone.
Do not get me wrong. Sin is not acceptable in the life of following Jesus. Jesus describes the seriousness of sin in Matthew 5:29-30:
If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. 30 And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.
In fact the whole of Chapter 5 is an entire sermon by Jesus about sin and the seriousness of sin.
And this article is not about excusing sin. It is not about making judgments. We are supposed to judge, as instructed in 2 Corinthians 6:14:
Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?
The entire Book of Proverbs is about distinguishing between those who are wise and the fools and those who are righteous and those who are not. We are to determine those who are godly and wise and follow their examples, and to become godly examples and wise counsel to those who are more foolish than us. And to pray for those ‘extra grace needed foolish’. I am going to be honest that I don’t know everything in the world there is to know. I admit that in many ways I am not yet the most wise, and therefore in those areas in which I need to grow I am now foolish but I am working on to gain wisdom. There are some verses in Proverbs that actually encourage us to stay away from those who are foolish and that is wise to do so, especially if they are toxic with the way that they deal with others. But even they need prayer. And God loves them too. Didn’t John 3:16 say that God loves mankind that He sent His only Begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life?
Or did Jesus died only for the selected few? Or did some teachings cherry picked the Bible and interpret that as God sent His only begotten Son to save only their church? Or their denomination or small group?
So here’s what I am not saying:
- I am not saying that we are not to judge for ourselves whether someone is saved or not. We are to judge and make decisions, interactions and form relationships with others based on our judgment of others being saved or not. One of the most important relationships that we have to make judgments for is marriage. In considering a marriage partner/spouse, a man must evaluate whether his future wife is a follower or Jesus or not and so must a woman evaluate whether her future husband is a follower of Jesus.
- I am not a Universalist. One can only be saved through Jesus. That is the truth that sets people free. Jesus said in John 14:6: I am the Way, the Truth and the Life. No one can come to the Father except through Me.
- I don’t preach ultra-grace. I am not excusing sin. Sin is sin. Everyone who sins must repent of their sins. Christians who sin must repent of their sins in order to continue to follow Jesus.
So here’s what I am saying:
- There is no need to tell non-believers or your fellow church attendee that they or their family members are going to hell, or those who are pastoring and preaching that they are going to hell for whatever reason, period. The reason is simple, Jesus has not abdicated His Judgment Seat to anyone, not even if one goes to church every single Sunday for a whole lifetime, got baptized at five years old, has been a cheerful giver for the last 55 years, helps out at church every single Wednesday and Sunday, and reads the Bible from cover to cover every single day at 4AM on the dot. Jesus did not abdicate His Judgment Seat even to that person, no matter how convinced that person is of his own righteousness or if he falsely believes he’s so righteous that Jesus is going to reject all those who are tattooed and listen to Guns and Roses (I don’t, it’s just an example).
- There is not a need to tell those who are professed Christians that they are not saved just because you see their behavior or attitude do not match up with your idea of Christianity. If a person is in sin, do tell them that the Bible is serious about sin and they need to repent. And pray for them and answer their questions if asked.
- There is no need to argue with nonbelievers about their beliefs. The least that can do is to turn them off from the work of the Holy Spirit, and the worst that would do is for the person to reject Christianity for a long time. Have you ever seen anyone who became a Christian as a direct result of arguing over religion?
All of the three above examples are great examples of lazy evangelism. It is attempting to force the Holy Spirit’s work that takes years and years of cultivation into an insta-popcorn quick fix style evangelism.
Such attitude towards evangelism and discipleship not only cheapens our call to the Great Commission, but also the divine power of the Holy Spirit. By continuing in this behavior and attitude we are not only trying to force God to work on our own way, but to wrangle power from the Holy Spirit to work on those He has yet to adopt and those whom He has yet to complete His sanctification process in a loving and gentle way that He does. After all, for those of you who grew up in church and were raised in church, did not God have so much grace and mercy for you that you’d know God’s love, grace, nurture, gentleness and mercy early on? Should you not extend such grace that God has given to you? Or are you going to wrangle it away from others?
When you preach the message of Jesus, is it the truth that sets those whom you preach to free (John 8:32) or do you preach your own ‘truth’ that opens the gates of Hell a little wider every time you open your mouth (Matthew 23:15)? Didn’t Jesus say that many will call Him ‘lord, lord’, but they are deceived (Matthew 7:21-23, the entire Matthew 7)?
I trust that all of you, my readers, are the ones who are gentle, loving, kind, trustworthy, slow to anger, quick to forgive one another and have compassion to one another and others as commanded in the following verses: James 1:19, Colossians 3:13, John 13:34 and 1 Corinthians 13:4-7. If you know you are not, God has brought you here to consider your ways and repent of such attitude towards evangelism and the Great Commission.
When one tells those who have tattoos, listen to secular music, drink too much wine or coffee, and those who don’t tithe enough or don’t go to church enough or don’t wear Christian enough clothes that they are going to hell, one is actually preaching that Jesus did not come to save the world, but to only to save him or her or the little obscure group that he or she belongs to. And that is a contradiction of John 3:16, because it clearly says that God so loved the world or mankind, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. No one is saved through works of righteousness (Ephesians 2:8-9). Also see Titus 3:5 and Romans 10:13.
None of us will know whether God has written whoever’s names in the Lamb’s Book of Life until the time it is revealed, therefore we must not take God’s place in verbally passing judgment about Heaven or Hell to another person. We can and should however judge others in their conduct and their convictions in Jesus so as to be wise in our conduct and relationships with others.
Look at every person as a child of God if they are professed Christians. If they are clearly living like pigs from hell despite professing themselves as Christians, start praying for them. I have prayed for many along with others who prayed for yet others and we see hearts transformed, minds renewed and lives changed. If they are not Christians, look at them as a yet to be adopted into the family of God. Because Jesus died for them too. Jesus’ sacrifice and death on the Cross is too great a cost to forgo them. Because God has called us to be priests and kings and ambassadors and representatives of God to work alongside the Holy Spirit in the Great Commission, and He does not want insta-popcorn microwave fast results lazy evangelists.
He’s looking for those who are dedicated in stepping up to share the love, mercy and grace of Jesus Christ in compassion and gentleness, which is first exemplified by Jesus Himself with the woman at the well (John 4). And there is no biblical evidence of Paul, Phiilip, James, or Stephen even say to anyone that they evangelize to that they are going to hell. Rather they all brought the Good News by preaching that Jesus saves.
When we preach to individual people that they are going to hell, we are not preaching the gospel of truth. But when we preach that Jesus saves, we preach the gospel. Now there’s a reason you’ve found this article, maybe you or someone you know needs to learn to listen to the Holy Spirit regarding evangelism. Maybe you have experienced such toxic attitude and behavior from those who do not really love Jesus as they portray themselves to be. If that’s you, forgive them and learn to love others as Jesus has called us to do. Seek Him and pray so that your mind is renewed, heart transformed and life changed in such a way that Jesus wants your life to be according to His Word – the Bible. I encourage you all to consider all of the other expects in your lives and seek God about your ways and ask Him if you honor Him in those areas or not and to follow His direction and guidance. Spend time with the LORD and rest in Him.