Perhaps the greatest evidence of the power of God's Spirit to open the eyes of unbelievers to salvation in Christ is the way He does it, despite the conflicting message that comes out of many pulpits. The message of the angel to the shepherds in the field was one of "good news of great joy which shall be for all people."
How have we so diluted and polluted that message since that night the angelic choir sang, "Glory to God in the highest. Peace on earth and goodwill toward all men?" Good will toward all men. That is the message that sprang forth from eternity into time in that manger. In many instances today, the gospel is presented more as a threat than anything. "Turn or burn. You're gonna die, then fry." This is the message of many sincere Christians to the world around them.
Is there a place called hell where those who reject Christ go? Of course. But is that message the news we are called to share? Study the ministry of the Apostle Paul. What was the focus of his message -- hell? In 1 Corinthians 15, the Apostle Paul outlined the message he was given to share:
For I delivered unto you first of all that which also I received: that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; and that he was buried; and that he hath been raised on the third day according to the scriptures.
"But Jesus talked about hell a lot" some will argue. Yes, He did -- to whom was he talking most often when He discussed it? The religious crowd who thought their self righteousness somehow made them better than the unrighteous. Jesus blasted them with the truth that neither the self-righteous nor the unrighteous have a hope of heaven until they realize it's all about grace. Neither good nor bad behavior has anything to do with it.
The good news of the gospel is this: God loves us so much that He came into this world in the person of His Son in order to battle death and hell, and secure a permanent victory on our behalf. When Jesus declared, "It is finished," that is exactly what He meant.
"For God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. He who believes in Him is not condemned; he who does not believe has been condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God" (John 3:17-18).
The whole matter is not about behavior. It's about belief. The issue of behavior was dealt with by the finished work of the cross. Bad boys don't go to hell and good boys don't go to heaven. The key to the kingdom is simply believing that Jesus finished the task in dealing with the effect of sin. There is no bad news in the gospel. The world was already living under the oppressive weight of the bad news before Jesus came. His coming only brought good news to all men.
Our privilege now is to tell that good news to the world. No matter who you are or what you've done or how long you've done it, the penalty has been paid. You don't have to be punished by your sins anymore.
What was started in Adam is done because God has called the whole thing off. It's all grace now. We don't have to be scared by threats of hell anymore. Just believe what is true. Jesus came to rescue you and He never fails in any endeavor He attempts.
Check out this song, first recorded by Johnny Cash and sung here by "The Blind Boys of Alabama."
Go and tell that long time liar,
Go and tell that midnight rider,
Tell the rambler, the gambler, the back biter,
Tell 'em God's Almighty's gonna cut 'em down,
You can run on for a long time,
Run on for a long time,
Run on for a long time,
Let me tell you, God Almighty's gonna cut you down.
Strangely enough, I really do enjoy "The Blind Boys Of Alabama" and you must admit, this music is downright catchy! But, God help us to get the message right as we share the gospel with the world. The truth is that Jesus Christ was struck down by sin's penalty so that we never have to fear again that "God Almighty's gonna cut [us] down." Anybody who suffers the penalty of sin in hell is just too stubborn and stupid to turn down the best deal they'll ever be offered.