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November 12, 2012

Sacred Pulpit or the Bully Pulpit

God has given each person either a platform, or a pulpit to speak from. My present concern inside the church is what we are doing with those opportunities given to us to speak to a very large group of people. Jesus asked us to preach the gospel as the Good News to all people. He also instructed us to go and make disciples of men. I have been trying hard to have a larger audience than my church to address the people. I do not have a radio or television program.

Today’s ministry is more of a celebrity driven entertainment than Jesus driven mission. Even people with such access to a larger audience are not so accommodating except for known celebrities. They believe God only speak to celebrities and rich people alone. The rest of us hearing the Voice of God are just wasting our time. I believe God speaks to little people as well. I finished writing a book, Closer Walk With Jesus in 2009. The book was published in 2010. In chapters #37 and #38, I discussed the "Prophecy of the Coming Catastrophe," and "Divine Messages to the United States," respectively. I sounded an alarm bells about the crises to come to this nation. Nobody listened, despite the book was mailed to many of the well-known radio and television preachers across the nation. Yet, in 2012, another book came to light called The Harbinger by Rabbi Jonathan Cahn, discussing the same thing I already discussed in my book using a different approach. Celebrity preachers became attracted to him like flies. I’m not trying to diminish the power of his book, but sometimes God uses a nonentity to sound the first alarm bell about the catastrophes to come. Many times we refuse to listen. Without a doubt in my heart, if Jesus appears today, the present church will not be able to recognize him.

Great Concerns

My greatest concerns today are the venoms coming out from some Christian pulpits about damnation, condemnation, and eternal hell being preached in some of the churches. We have turned the pulpit of God, to the platform for political rallies. The Baptist churches are very bad with that message. "Either you do God’s will, or you go straight to hell." Did Jesus preach that sinners are going to hell? On a careful look at the scripture, and Jesus messages, Jesus never said sinners are going to hell. Jesus asked sinner to repent. Only God can judge a repented heart not man. Christians today are preaching such message of condemnation and damnation because we want to scare hell out of people. Sadly, many of us are doing exactly the same thing we are condemning people of doing. Instead of preaching the Good News of Jesus to people on the highways and byways of life, we are only scaring them that God is going to get them. We send them to hell before anybody is ready to preach the Good News to them. Afterwards, we build walls against those people like we do in politics. Christians’ loudest war in the public is about "Us versus Them." The "Them" are the bad people – the sinners going straight to hell! The Good News then becomes the bad news for such people. We are supposed to be bring people to Christ, we are inadvertently scaring people away from Jesus. Some of the churches even go as far as drawing a line of certain behavior expectations from their members. Christianity is not about rules, but about a relationship with the King. How are we going to deliver the King’s (Jesus) message to society when we already condemned the very people he sent us to rescue?

How Jesus Dealt With Sins

I have to go back to my Bible and read about ten different situations when Jesus and his followers dealt with sinners. Did Jesus hit sinners on the head with the Word of God?

First, when the woman was caught in adultery, did Jesus ask them to stone her? After all she was a sinner. Jesus said, "He who never sinned, let him cast the first stone" (St. John 8:7).

In the same story, Jesus told the woman, "Neither do I condemn you, go and sin no more" (St. John 8:11).

I want to make a point very clear and I will repeat this again. I’m not advocating that Jesus wants us to continue to live in sin. Even Paul indicated in his message that because we are under grace is not the excuse to continue sinning. Before I finish this article, I will discuss how Jesus wants us to deal with our own sins. This will be a way to help other people deal with their own sins as well. He did not ask us to hit people on the head with the Bible, and shout them down in humiliation so we can feel better about our own concealed sins and the closet filled with skeletons.

Second, when the "Lady at the Well" met with Jesus, did Jesus condemn her? (St. John 4:13-30). Instead, Jesus mentioned her sin, and gave her the opportunity to repent. He offered her the gift of eternal salvation, and then turned one woman to become an evangelist for the whole town.

Third, when Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem, he wanted to lodge in one of the cities of the Samaritans. They refused to let Jesus and his disciples have the lodging in their town. So, Jesus and his disciples went elsewhere. His disciples asked him if they should call for air strikes like Elijah did. Jesus said, "You just do not know the Spirit working with you. The Son of man did not come to destroy men’s life but to save it" (St. Luke 9:56).

Fourth, when Jesus wanted to enter the house of Zachaeus; the tax collector, some of the religious leaders were complaining. Jesus said, "This day salvation come to this house, for so much as he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which is lost" (St. Luke 19:9-10).

Fifth, Jesus said, "Verily I say unto you, that the publicans and harlots go into the kingdom of God before you. For John came unto you in the way of righteousness, and ye believed him not; but the publicans and the harlots believe him. And ye, when ye had seen it, repented not afterward, that ye might believe him" (St. Matthew 21:31-32).

Jesus was making a point to the religious leaders inside the temple because of their hypocrisy. Compared to their self-righteousness, Jesus was saying that sinners who believed in him would make it to Heaven compared to the hypocritical religious leaders who did not believe in him, and loved to show off their righteousness before men.

Sixth, Jesus said, "Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commands and teaches people to do so will be called the least in the kingdom of Heaven" (St. Matthew 5:19).

Jesus was implying by this statement that those who would break his command would not be excluded from Heaven. However, they may lose their rewards, and be placed in a lower place, or mansion in Heaven. Hopefully that will be one of the incentives not to live a life rotten in sins.

Seventh, Jesus said, "Whosoever hears my Word, and believe in he who sent me has eternal life, and shall not come to judgment, but shall pass from death to life"(St. John 5:24).

Amazingly, Jesus did not mention sin in this verse! Yet, he guaranteed a person eternal salvation primarily based only on faith in him and he who sent him. Wow!

Eighth, Jesus said, "Those that are whole have no need of a physician, but they that are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance" (St. Mark 2:17).

Jesus was implying that if you are inside the church and you believe you are righteous, then you do not need Jesus. Since we all need Jesus, then we all need a savior because we are all sinners. Here is one of the greatest obstacles created by the church that is always condemning sinners. They are the moral minority and we are the sinful majority. The reality is, we are all sinners and we all need a savior.

Ninth, Jesus said, "Wherefore I say unto thee, her sins which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much, but to whom little is forgiven, the same loves little" (St. Luke 7:47).

When Jesus was in the house of Simon the Pharisee eating, a sinful woman – known to be a prostitute came and was massaging Jesus feet. She was anointing his feet with the alabaster box of ointment. Simon in his heart was wondering whether Jesus was truly a prophet, otherwise he would have known that the woman massaging his feet was a sinner. Jesus knew what this man was thinking. He explained to Simon the Pharisee in so many words that, because the woman loved so much, her sins that were many were forgiven her. This incident is the basis of which the gospel message was built upon. Repented sinners are forgiven their sins, if they know Jesus, show him love and are able to have an intimate relationship with him.

Tenth, In Paul’s letter to the Romans, he said, "But where sin abound, grace did much more abound" (Romans 5:20).

Meaning, the grace of Our Lord Jesus Christ is enough to cover all our sins without any reservation.

What Jesus Expects us to do With Sinners

The first thing we need to understand is that we are all sinners in need of a savior.

"Therefore by the deed of the law there shall be no flesh be justified in his sight" (Romans 3:20).

No person is righteous before God. Jesus is the one who gave us his righteousness under the protection of his eternal grace.

"Judge not that ye be not judged" (St. Matthew 7:1).

First, Jesus wants us to share the Good News of Eternal Salvation with sinners instead of scaring them away from the church.

Second, Jesus is calling all sinners to repent. That was why he started his ministry with the message, "Repent for the kingdom of God is at hand" (St. Matthew 4:17).

Third, Jesus wants all sinners to believe in him and open their hearts to share a spiritual relationship with him by being receptive with our heart to soul-tie with his Spirit. Through this, we receive the gift of the Holy Spirit who helps us to tie the knot of our soul with that of the Spirit of Jesus.

Fourth, to live a life that glorifies God as we become the radiance of his glory on earth to other people. Jesus wants us to be the light of the world. The light that shines through us is not from us, but from Jesus. However, the critical point about living a righteous life is not about being perfect, or being sinless. Nobody can live a righteous life by himself or herself. The only person who can help us to live a righteous life is the Holy Spirit. This is the more reason why we need to surrender to the Holy Spirit, and not to the preachers inside the church.

I’m not convinced that Jesus is going to send people to hell because they are sinners. Jesus already said by his mission statement in St. Luke 4:18 that he came on a rescue mission. Why would he then be beating up on those he came to rescue? He knew we are sinners before his arrival on earth. He came to set us free. Why would he rescue people and send them to hell, even if they were sinners? I strongly believe, depending on the sin, if a person is struggling with a sin that does not hurt somebody else, I do not believe Jesus would send that person to hell. This is different from a person who is in defiance and refused to want to change, or acknowledge the Lord’s messages. Meaning, if a person is struggling in a sin trying to change, yet he is not at the place he ought to be and he ended dying, I do not believe Jesus would send that person to hell. What is important is whether the person accepted, and believed in Jesus and God’s plan of salvation. I do not believe there is going to be a sinless person in Heaven except Jesus.

What is Wrong with the Sacred Pulpit?

The sacred pulpit is no longer sacred. It was originally designed to preach the message of Good News to the people. We are supposed to be on a rescue mission. We have turned the platform of speaking for Jesus to a bully pulpit. In the ears of the outsiders, the Good News is now the bad news. Instead of winning souls for Jesus, we are scaring people away from Jesus. We use fear tactics of hell fire and brimstone to whip people into submission within the church. We then place them under the surveillance of the church police department – the gossiping unit. We love to scare the hell out of them! Jesus did not ask us to do anything like that. Jesus asked us to preach to the people, reach out to them, show them the love of God, and make disciples of men. The sin issue is what Jesus will deal with himself regarding each person through the Holy Spirit. Instead of bringing sinners to Christ and sharing the Good News with them, we are chasing them away forgetting we are the worst of the sinners.

Consequences of Sin Remain

Just because Jesus came to rescue sinners does not mean we have to remain as we are. One of his greatest messages is about, "Repent for the kingdom of Heaven is at hand" (St. Matthew 3:2). In spite of King David’s sins, God forgave him after he slept with another man’s wife and killed her husband. But the consequences of his sins remained. The consequences of David’s sins ignited because of what he did to God’s reputation. According to Nathan whom God sent to David, he told him that God was offended because David’s action gave God’s enemies to rejoice. And Nathan said, "The sword shall not depart from your house" (II Samuel 12:10). The series of tragedies that took place in David’s house represented the consequences of David’s sin. Just because God has forgiven us does not remove the consequences of our sins. All of us have to struggle with one sin or another. However, do not make such sin a lifestyle. If you engage and enlarge the Holy Spirit within, he will help you to live a Holy life before God.

How this Message Ignited

I was watching Oprah Winfrey Super Soul Sunday August 26, 2012, when she was interviewing Joel Osteen. I was fired up by the Spirit within him when I heard Joel Osteen saying, "Homosexuals are going to heaven. Their sin is no different from other sins." Initially, I was shocked. I could not believe what I was hearing. Then the Holy Spirit started to educate me regarding the way Jesus treated sinners and what he expected other believers to do. He did not ask us to condemn them, or send them to hell. We were never given such authority. He asked us to share the Good News with them. We cannot share the Good News with people when we are busy hitting them upside the head with the Bible and sending them to hell before sharing Jesus with them.

Within my heart, I started to ponder this question. Did Jesus ask us to beat up sinners? Perhaps the church has been wrong in the way we treat sinners over the years. The church is too deep into legalism than sharing the Good News. We can easily identify other people’s sins, but we are not willing to accept we are all sinners as well. So, when we arrest sinners, we put them in jail and beat them up before their day in court before Judge Jesus. This is the judge who is willing to introduce his plea bargain made over 2000 years ago – that’s the Good News. Sometimes, we beat the sinners to death in jail. That’s what we Christians do! At times we Christians with our self-righteousness can be so horrible! Other times, the sinner escape, and run away and never to come back again to the church. Do you blame them?

What happened to me about this Oprah Show was a divine revelation from Heaven. The light of God came down from Heaven so I could see clearly. I used to be very rigid and condemning other people when I was a teenager growing up inside the church. When life dishes me many painful blows, they hurt! I started learning that there are shades of gray. Life is not just about black and white, or white and red. There are shades between those colors.

I never thought in my life that all of us going to Heaven are sinners who live daily under the grace of God. If this is so, why are we bashing other sinful people on the head with the Bible and telling them they are going straight to hell? Why do we think we are better than these people? While we are busy bashing the gay people in the head, some pastors are busy having sex with some church members’ wives. While we are busy attacking other people with the Bible, some preachers are having sex with their daughters. While we are busy condemning sinners, some preaches are busy embezzling money from the church. While we are busy talking about family values, some professed saints are busy robbing innocent people blind on the Wall Street. We preach family values and condemn other people as long as our skeletons are safe in the closets. May God have mercy!

There was a story of a married couple who admitted they attended a swing party years before they came to a new church in Chicago. Immediately, after their confession to the pastor, he called a meeting of the church elders. The couple was immediately excommunicated from the church. The couple claimed they went to the party by accident because a friend had invited them. They did not know what the party was about. Although they had a one time limited encounter at the party with one couple. Both husband and wife decided such a life was not for them. They never attend such party any more. The husband claimed he only had two girl friends in college before he met his wife. His wife was a virgin when they got married and has never had any affair of the 15 years they had been married. This story gets interesting. The elder in the church who champion, and demanded for this couple to be excommunicated from the church had more than his share of women before he got married. Based on his conversations in the past with some of his friends, he bragged that while in college, he already had intimate relationships with over 50 young women in the 1970s as a Hippie before he got married later in 1980. However, he was willing to excommunicate a couple that had a one-time encounter that they later regretted and repented. Who is worse? Compare the excommunicated couple to a man who already bedded over 50 women before he got married. While we are willing to look down at other people, we refuse to see the enormity of own sins before God.

I want to stress again at the close of this article that I’m not condoning sin. I do not believe Jesus asked us to continue sinning. He appealed to all of us to repent of our sins, and have a closer relationship with him. Jesus therefore showers us with his grace. I strongly believe through the power of the Holy Spirit, with our soul tied with Jesus Spirit, it should help us to live a Holy life. We cannot live such a life of purity in our own strength.

God Gives You a Sacred Pulpit

God has given each person a platform to speak from. No matter how small or great, make sure you use the opportunity for the betterment of human conditions. I have written over 100 articles online mostly about Christianity as the Spirit of God inspired me. I may not have a radio or television station, but I’m going to keep preaching and delivering God’s messages to the people. I will continue to use this platform and others that may open in the future to speak God’s divine messages and glorify his name. God has given each one of us a sacred pulpit to speak from. Make the best use of yours regardless to how small, or how big. Make the Good News of eternal salvation in Jesus, the Good News.

"God on high is watching over you. Be a hero in the fight for the Lord." Amen!

Yinka Vidal, author, Closer Walk With Jesus