Whenever I go to church, it seems like the pastor is always talking about sin, Satan, and hell. Why does it seem like Christianity is so negative?
The Christian is not pessimistic but realistic
As Christians, we sometimes get the reputation of being the Eeyores of this world, just moping around and trying to bring everyone else down with us. I get it; no one wants to be around an Eeyore.
However, in the words of one Lutheran church father, C. F. W. Walther, “The Christian is an optimist.” Well, which is it?
The apostle Paul said, “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things” (Philippians 4:8). We all want to think positively, but notice that Paul says those thoughts need to be true. Is one’s thinking positive or only wishful thinking?
The philosophy of “Ignore a problem and it will go away” or “It’s only a problem if you treat it like one” sounds comical until the sad reality dawns on you that so many people approach their spiritual needs with little more than false hopes. It is the spiritual equivalent of thinking that if you just ignore your cancer, it cannot hurt you. No, you have to treat the cancer if you hope to improve! The same is true spiritually. We need to realize the problem of sin and the punishment it brings: “The wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23).
The Holy Spirit’s strange work
It may be unpleasant to hear about your sin, but it’s necessary. Theologians call this the Holy Spirit’s “strange work.” It’s strange because the Holy Spirit’s ultimate goal is not to simply diagnose the problem but to treat it.
In order to treat the cancer of sin, you have to realize that you have it. A doctor didn’t become a doctor to deliver bad news. However, he needs to tell you the bad news so that he can start treating the problem. The Holy Spirit needs to convict me and everyone else of their sin so that he can give us the remedy: Jesus, our Savior.
The Holy Spirit’s proper work
Biblical preachers will always let the gospel dominate. They will preach Jesus as the answer to all that the law has done to convict me of sin.
In a nutshell, this is what Christianity is all about: I am a sinner who is going to die, but I have a Savior named Jesus who died on a cross to pay for my sins and rose from the dead so that I will one day rise too. In other words, my cancer is cured. Now I wake up every day as a forgiven child of God. I know that my Jesus is with me. He loves me, guides all things for my good, blesses my life beyond what I can possibly imagine, and is preparing a mansion for me in heaven. He has freed me to give him glory in my life and to thank him in countless ways for his goodness to me. I have all I need in him. How can anyone call that negative? It’s positive, and it’s true!
If you find yourself thinking negatively, go back to that Philippians passage. Think about whatever is true, noble (literally, worthy of praise), right, pure, lovely, admirable. Who is the epitome of all those things? Jesus. Think of him, and you will be positive.
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Author: David Scharf
Volume 108, Number 5
Issue: May 2021