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Speaking The Truth In Love

Why we should not tell sinners God loves them unconditionally

By Pastor Tedd Mathis

Why This Came Up

Recently, I preached a sermon about the teaching of Balaam and the Nicolaitans that Christ confronts in the church at Pergamum (Rev. 2:12-17). This teaching that led professing Christians to eat meat offered to idols and to commit acts of immorality was not a frontal assault in methodology. Nor did the teachers blatantly deny the essential doctrines of the faith. Rather, using religious terminology and speaking much of God’s grace, these false teachers introduced their destructive heresies.

At the end of the sermon, I applied what we saw in the church at Pergamum to what is going on in the name of Christ today. I said, that one of the ways God’s grace is turned into freely practicing idolatry and immorality is through telling sinners God loves them unconditionally. My sermon was already in double overtime, so I did not explain what I meant (You can listen here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kjj0NZ9Eoe0 ). Here is my attempt to do so.

INTRODUCTION

The main reason we should not tell sinners God loves them unconditionally is because sinners already assume God should love us that way. The Bible reveals that in Adam’s sin, we assume the way God deals with us is wrong. Darkened in our understanding we want God to let go and let us! To tell Adam’s kind God loves them without conditions ignores what God reveals and prescribes: we are under His wrath because we suppress the truth of who we know God is and are haters of Him (Romans 1:18-32). In love God summons us to repent of our sins and find our salvation from His wrath in His Son, Jesus Christ (Acts 17:30-31; I Thess. 1:9-10).

Consider our record

The Lord God blessed Adam and Eve with everything they needed for life and godliness. Yet when the Lord confronted Adam regarding his disobedience, Adam blamed God. “The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me some of the fruit of the tree, and I ate” (Gen. 3:12).

Cain killed his brother Abel because the Lord God’s holy and clear expectations of how He was to be worshipped (the shedding of blood) were rejected by Cain. “Cain, who was of the evil one and murdered his brother. And for what reason did he murder him? Because his own deeds were evil, but his brother’s were righteous” (I John 3:12).

Noah was a preacher of righteousness, but men had no interest in being right with God according to God’s terms. How do we know? Because God’s instructions as to the size of the ark that would save the believers of God only fit Noah’s family and the animals. No one considered God in the right, and therefore no one repented and believed to be saved (Gen. 6; II Pet. 2:5).

The very nature of sin assumes God should love us without conditions:

Why are the nations restless and the peoples plotting in vain? The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers conspire together Against the Lord and against His Anointed, saying, “Let’s tear their shackles apart and throw their ropes away from us!”Psalm 2

What sinners demand of God today

Today man-centered self-analysis has concluded we do not love or esteem ourselves enough or correctly. Being reconciled with an eternally holy God isn’t our problem. Loving ourselves according to our true self is our greatest need.

Christians have bought into this way of thinking. In 1982, Robert Schuler, the popular California pastor, published his book, Self Esteem: The New Reformation. In the best seller, still being sold today, Schuler teaches the following {I have included Scripture that contradicts Schuler}:

‘Sin is any act or thought that robs myself or another human being of his or her self-esteem'” (p. 14). {God says sin is a rejection of His glory and exchanged for something created; He says our sin is lawlessness — Romans 1-3; I John 3:4}

The core of original sin… could be considered an innate inability to adequately value ourselves. Label it a ‘negative self-image,’ but do not say that the central core of the human soul is wickedness (p. 67). {God calls us children of wrath, our hearts are evil, and we are bent on wickedness — Romans 3:9-18; 5:12-21; Ephesians 2:1-3; Jeremiah 17:9; Mark 7:20-23}

“… the core of sin is a lack of self-esteem. … Sin is psychological self-abuse. … the most serious sin is one that causes me to say, ‘I am unworthy (p. 98,99). {God says we as His image bearers have profaned His holy character; we have defiled His image — Ezekiel 36:23; Romans 2:24; Romans 1:18-32; Genesis 6}

This way of thinking has not gone away; it has become more established. Today, the term ‘coming out’ is an accepted way even for Christians to define an individual esteeming himself rightly. The person who has finally come to rightly trust their true self comes out to the public. In unconditional love for their real self, they break the chains of guilt and self-doubt foisted on them in the tyranny of others’ expectations. And how are others to respond? Love them unconditionally as they love their self unconditionally, even though what many declare their true self to be is an abomination according to God and nature.

And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper… and although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them. – Romans 1:28, 32

Loving self religiously

Here is what Scripture says it will be like between the first coming of Christ and His second coming. This is the era we presently are living in.

But realize this, in the last days difficult times will come. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, slanderers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God,  holding to a form of godliness although they have denied its power… — II Timothy 3:1-5 (emphasis mine).

One of the reasons people think they can be lovers of self yet hold to a form of godliness, is they are taught this by some in the church.

For the time will come when they will not tolerate sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance with their own desires, and they will turn their ears away from the truth and will turn aside to myths. – II Tim. 4:3-4.

One of the ear-tickling myths is that God’s grace frees people to do whatever pleases them (see II Peter 2:19). That is, His grace places no conditions on them. Yet the truth is just the opposite. God’s grace frees us from bondage to self and instructs us to do what pleases Him. Grace gives us the desire to be slaves of righteousness (Titus 2:11-14; Romans 6-8; 12:1-2; Ephesians 5:8-10).

Jude called believers to intentionally contend for the faith – and in so doing, confront and oppose what creeps in unnoticed into the church. What creeps in? “ungodly persons who turn the grace of our God into indecent behavior and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ” – Jude 1:3-4. How could that happen? By teaching sinners God loves them unconditionally.

Consider John 3:16

John 3:16 explains how a holy God loves a world of truth suppressors and God haters.

+ He sends a specific Person into the world of sinners, His only begotten Son.

+ Taking on human form from conception, His Son, Jesus, as a man, perfectly honors and obeys His Father, submitting to the point of death, on a cross – dying as a sacrifice in the place of sinners. His death appeased the wrath of God for those who believe.

+ All those believing the Son, Jesus Christ, is their only hope to escape the righteous wrath of a glorious God will be fully forgiven of their sins and will escape the eternal punishment of God.

+ The believing sinner will be counted righteous and enabled to glorify God forever and He receive them into His eternal holy presence.

Those are the conditions by which a holy God loves sinners. This is the only way God haters can be reconciled to God.

“…we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. He made Him who knew no sin to be sin in our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” – II Corinthians 5:20-21.

CONCLUSION: Speaking the truth in love without conditions

Christians should not tell sinners God loves them unconditionally, we should speak the truth in love.

Below are four God-glorifying ways we can speak of His love unconditionally.

First, Christians can tell any person that God summons all men everywhere to repent (Acts 17:30-31). No matter if they are religious or irreligious, God unconditionally declares all need His Son Jesus Christ to save them. No matter what kinds of sin(s) they have taken pleasure in or to what degree they have considered them, God states unconditionally, sinners must have His Son Jesus Christ to save them. God unconditionally calls all men everywhere to reject what they presently understand and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ to be saved from His judgment.

And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among mankind by which we must be saved. – Acts 4:12

Second, to those who do repent and believe wholly upon Christ, their eternal security is unconditional. Salvation is the work of the all-powerful Father, Son, and Holy Spirit and they, in love, are in perfect agreement in the purpose and outcome of their saving work in all sinners they save (Ephesians 1:3-14; Jude 24, 25).

Everything that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I certainly will not cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that of everything that He has given Me I will lose nothing, but will raise it up on the last day. For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life, and I Myself will raise him up on the last day. – John 6:37-40

Third, those who do repent and believe wholly upon Christ, without conditions will experience God’s loving sanctifying work in their lives for their eternal good and the glory of God. No matter the self-prescribed labels or categories others have placed us in, God calls us His very own children and He will so work in us to conform us to the image of our brother, His Son (John 1:12-13; Romans 8; Titus 2:11-13; I John 2:28-3:3).

For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work among you will complete it by the day of Christ Jesus.  – Philippians 1:6

Fourth, those who do repent of their God-hating ways and receive Christ for all He is, will forever bless the Father, Son and Holy Spirit unconditionally for their salvation. They will boast only in the Lord and His grace.

But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them. – Ephesians 2:4-10; I Cor. 1:26-31

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