Actually I believe that is Derek Webb’s catchy gloss of this Spurgeon quote:
When men talk of a little hell, it is because they think they have only a little sin, and believe in a little Saviour; it is all little together. But when you get a great sense of sin, you want a great Saviour, and feel that, if you do not have Him, you will fall into a great destruction, and suffer a great punishment at the hands of the great God.
Spurgeon (and Webb’s contemporizing) are true, our level of awe for the Savior is directly proportionate to our understanding of our sin. If we think we’ve only been rescued from a few little sins then we aren’t going to be shocked by the scandal of our salvation.
Preaching Like Edwards
It is because of this truth that I believe we need more preaching like Jonathan Edwards. Imagine sharing something like this to your unbelieving neighbor:
The God that holds you over the pit of hell, much as one holds a spider, or some detestable insect, over the fire, detests you, and is dreadfully provoked: His wrath towards you burns like fire; He looks upon you as worthy of nothing else, but to be thrown into the fire…and yet, it is nothing but His hand that holds you from falling into the fire every moment. It is to be ascribed to nothing else, that you did not go to hell last night; that you were allowed to awake up again in this world, after you closed your eyes to sleep. And there is no other reason to be given, why you have not dropped into hell since you arose this morning, but that God’s hand has held you up…Yes, there is nothing else that is to be given as a reason why you do not this very moment drop down into hell.
We are tempted to mock such a presentation in our day. It feels so outdated and needlessly offensive. We’ve adopted an approach to evangelism that focuses on God’s love and His wonderful plan for the sinner. Such talk like Edwards is too off-putting. We’ve applied my dear grannies advice to our evangelism: “You catch more flies with honey”.
What Happens When We Shrink From the Bad News?
Meanwhile, professing Christians feel as if their relationship with Jesus is languishing. Their affections for Jesus are dim and they no longer feel the depth of his love.
Is it possible that part of the reason for our lack of proper affections is because the way that the gospel was told to us began at the wrong spot? Is it possible that we haven’t really grasped the depth of our sin and felt even a bit of the weight of being under the wrath of God?
Here’s my point. When we share the gospel with people (and when we preach the gospel from the pulpit) let us not pretend that our sin is small. Don’t shrink from telling people the bad news and the awkward truths. If they come to know Christ they’ll have a much better foundation from which to build and be discipled.
Lastly, if your relationship with Jesus seems to be languishing and you are struggling to feel and believe the depth of his love, consider going back to the cross and the wrath of God. You’ll naturally want to study His love and the feel good passages. But they won’t shine as bright as they really are unless they are shone with the backdrop of God’s fierce wrath. Then you’ll be amazed!