“If you died today, where would you go?”
I was at a loss for words when first confronted with this question. I remember hurrying away in embarrassment – not because I didn’t know the answer – but because I felt it was a loaded question.
When I was still a new believer, I thought this question was a great way to start an evangelistic conversation. But when I really meditated on the nature of the question, I saw a problem.
When I asked that question I wasn’t preaching the good news – I was preaching bad news.
Not the Gospel, but a judgement!
The reason why I believe that question brings bad news is because it creates fear.
And fear is completely contrary to what the early believers of the Church experienced, who hearing of the good news, rejoiced as though they had found great treasure (Matthew 13:44).
But the gospel of joy has so often been reduced to one of fear. Too many preachers today preach a gospel packaged as a ticket to escape death – a close shave from hell.
“If you died today, where would you go?” is a manipulative question that narrows in on the fear of eternal damnation, when the real focus should be the offer of salvation and an everlasting place with God. And sure, while accepting Christ does mean that one is delivered from hellfire, it more importantly means one would spend eternity with Father God in heaven.
So the gospel of fear isn’t just unbiblical – it’s a rip-off of the real deal. An eternity with God is infinitely different from an eternity not in hell.
If it were possible to enter heaven with merely the intention to escape hell, then I wonder if heaven would feel much like hell since we never really wanted God – much less an eternity with Him!
What are some repercussions from preaching the gospel of fear?
1. Lukewarm faith
If you don’t want to have a relationship with God for God, but only do it to escape hell – you will be content with the bare minimum. Imagine you were offered an all expenses paid ticket into Disneyland. Would you not take it, go inside on an adventure, and be all there with your 100%? Why would anyone be content to merely stand at the gates of Disneyland for the rest of the day? Perhaps they were falsely told by someone that simply entering was all there was to it.
2. Living in doubt
You will be constantly questioning whether you are saved, because you don’t have a relationship with God. Walking with God is a supernatural experience which requires much guidance by the Holy Spirit. Cognitively, you may be able to know things from the Bible, but the only way the Truth can be translated into reality and unshakeable faith convictions in your heart is through the Holy Spirit working in us. We need both head and heart knowledge.
3. Lack of fulfilment
To you, the Kingdom of God is reduced to a mere destination. However, to someone in a relationship with God through the gospel of joy, the Kingdom of God is already in his life! Jesus wasn’t only concerned with just getting us into heaven – He was also interested in bringing Heaven down to earth through Himself and through us. That is why Jesus said, “the Kingdom of God is in the midst of you” (Luke 17:20-21).
The true gospel is life-changing and produces eternal joy.
In Psalm 63, David wrote that God’s steadfast love was better than life itself. And if we go back to the Pentateuch, we can see throughout that God created us to have a relationship with Him. So when we claim that Christianity is not a religion but a relationship, we need to know who we were called to be from the very beginning – lovers of God.
We were created by God to enjoy Him now and forever. The true gospel that deals with sin and dispenses grace, pivots on the love God has always had for mankind. And it was from out of that love that God sent His Son to bring us back into a relationship with Him.
Jesus wasn’t only concerned with just getting us into heaven – He was also interested in bringing Heaven down to earth through Himself and through us.
The early church could give up everything for God’s sake because they grasped the joy-giving truth of what God had done for them – from Genesis to Jesus! Their desire for God was so great that life on earth simply couldn’t compare to spending eternity with God (Philippians 1:21)!
They weren’t afraid to die because Jesus brought death to death – and life for them. No, what they had was joy. So do you see the difference between the gospels of joy and fear?
True discipleship and radically-authentic Christianity is more than a ticket to heaven. It demands more than one day in the week. The true gospel demands your entire life.
But if you’re able to surrender that, then eternal joy and fellowship with God awaits you.