Winter Jam 2013
Tampa Bay Times Forum

I went with two of my boys, our church’s youth director and some church youth to Winter Jam 2013 a couple of days ago. For the most part, I enjoyed it. I say “for the most part” because there were a few occasions in which I cringed. One particular time, I shook my head in disbelief. It happened to be when the Gospel was being presented. Let me tell you about it.

I’m unsure who the gentleman was who took the stage about 2 hours into the show but I don’t at all doubt his sincerity or intentions. With the spotlight aimed at him, he held a Bible in his hand and called people to fully submit to it’s authority over their lives in matters of belief and practice.

But, as he continued, I noticed that he was going to bait the Gospel hook in the wrong way. He pointed out that people were on a pursuit of happiness and that the world couldn’t give the happiness God could give.

Then, he wanted us to watch about 30 seconds of video on the screen regarding what the world offers as a means to happiness. A bunch of short clips of secular music videos ensued. I recognized Justin Bieber as he flaunted the fact that he was surrounded by girls who were crazy about him. I believe I recognized Lady Gaga in one of the clips. I didn’t have a clue who the rest were. Some of the clips showed scantily clad women in some provocative positions … at a Christian concert! What bothered me so much during that video was not only what was being shown but that the crowd was going wild each time they recognized one of the popular singers. What the speaker had qualified as worldly ways to happiness was precipitating in thunderous cheers from the crowd.

After the video, the speaker continued to point out that Jesus was the way to fulfillment and happiness. My cringing continued because I thought it humorous that what he was saying was a wrong way to happiness (in the video) had sure made the crowd happy!

To begin with, there is no precedent in Scripture where Jesus or any of His disciples lured someone into following Christ by the happiness they could obtain. Why? Because it would have been stupid to do so. Why? Because they lived in a culture that was going to kill Jesus and try to do the same to his followers.

In fact, the man who God chose to write most of the books of the New Testament was a passionate persecutor of believers before his encounter with the Lord on the road to Damascus. To promise happiness to folks who almost certainly were going to be persecuted is a lie and would lead them to experience the truth of Matthew 13:20-21

Jesus: “As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy, yet he has no root in himself, but endures for a while, and when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately he falls away.”

Apparently, the person in Jesus’ parable thought that salvation would enhance their life; it would make them happier and more fulfilled. So, they “received it with joy.” Yet, when life got tough and they realized the Gospel didn’t do for them what they thought it would do, they rejected it. They showed that they were never saved in the first place … because they received it for the wrong reasons.

What is the most pure biblical reason for receiving the Gospel? Here are some of it’s key components:

  • That we have all sinned against a holy God by breaking His laws found in the Bible (Romans 3:10-12, 23).
  • A recognition that God will one day judge the world in righteous (Acts 17:31).
  • God will have a holy wrath for all unbelievers/sinners (Matthew 3:7; 1 Thessalonians 1:10).
  • All unbelievers/sinners will be sent to a place of torment called Hell forever and ever (Matthew 25:41).
  • Yet, God’s heart of compassion is not willing that any should perish (2 Peter 3:9).
  • God has glorified Himself by showing us how gracious and forgiving He is by providing Jesus as the payment for our sin debt (Romans 5:8).
  • This gift is received by turning from our sin as a way of life once and for all – called repentance (Matthew 3:2; 4:17) and trusting in Jesus Christ alone for eternal life (John 3:16).
  • The expectation is that we will then begin thinking and acting like a follower of Christ (Matthew 3:8; 2 Corinthians 5:17; Ephesians 2:8-10).

Why is it so important to receive the Gospel for the right reasons? Because if someone receives it to make them happy, they’ll reject it when it doesn’t do what they thought it would do. They’ll also be inoculated to the Gospel and from that point on, they will believe it to be a farce.

However, if someone receives it with gladness because it brings them into the family of God and equips them for the Day of Judgment, the ups and downs of life won’t really matter. Whether or not their life is one of ease or they experience severe persecution, they’ll continue to cling to the Gospel because they received it to prepare for the Day of Judgment, not to simply, selfishly enhance their life.