“What is your motivation for following Christ?” ask Wayne Jacobsen, in He Loves Me! “The Satanic assumption is that men and women cannot love God for his own sake” (David Boan and John Yates). Therefore, the threat of judgment and not simply His love for us and the fact that He wants a relationship with us, becomes the motivation for seeking salvation.
Jesus never preached “turn or burn.” He announced that God’s kingdom has come near you and you can become a participant in it. We have a Father who loves us more than any other person ever has or ever will, and we can now discover what it means to have a daily relationship with him. If you choose not to, then your own sin will destroy you utterly and completely.” In Matthew 13:44, Jesus compares life to a treasure discovered in a field: something so valuable that you would give up anything to possess it..
In my growing up years, literally evangelists would try to “scare the hell out of us.” They would dangle us over the flames of hell to scare us into seeking the Lord to avoid the alternative. Jacobsen says that faced with the threat of hell, it is almost a “no brainer” that people would choose Christ and life. “After all,” he wrote, “praying for forgiveness and ‘accepting Jesus’ seem like a small price to pay for a get-out-of-hell-free card!”
I think he’s right: “While the threat of hell can stir instant commitments (except in the case of the most resistant and reluctant people), it does not breed long-term disciples” (p.18). “If you are in this kingdom only because you fear the alternative, you’ve missed the greatest part of what it means to know God.” “Whether we are conscious of it or not, the threat of hell can create an inner dissonance in our perception of the God who seeks our love. How can we feel safe with a God who is seemingly anxious to dangle us over the flames of hell” (p.19)? “Those who seek to follow God only because they don’t want to go to hell never discover how incredible a Father he really is” (p.21). “He loves me, He loves me, He loves me this I know! He gave His life on Calvary because He loves me so!”
What does God really want from us? Obedience? If only Adam and Eve had obeyed God, what grief we all might have been spared. Jacobsen says that God knew their disobedience was only a symptom of something he cared about far more deeply. “One can obey God and yet not trust him, and in doing so miss out on a relationship with him. One cannot, however, trust God and be disobedient to him. All disobedience flows out of mistrust…(p.88). If we understood what God was thinking, we might conclude that He desired people who would “relate to him in love rather than obey him in fear.” Love can only flourish where trust does. “Jesus, Jesus, how I trust Him…how I’ve proven o’er and o’er. Jesus, Jesus, precious Jesus…O for grace to trust him more!”
Dr. David F. Nixon
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