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Q AND A on Sin

Your title made me smile.  Your point about being too good is well taken.  Your point about Bill Gothard pales in comparison to for example, Billy Graham. You fight too hard to prove that doing wrong things is acceptable to Christ.  It makes me feel distrusting in what else you teach because it is true that Christ loves sinners and that those who trust in Him and not in themselves are forgiven.  What you say is true.  But the constant undertone that I experience when you defend unrighteousness is an uncomfortable feeling.  When I read all that you write on sinners I really feel like you are making things OK for yourself instead of correcting what is actually wrong before God.  Its a very human condition and we all do it, so I hesitate to mention it at all. 

Brooke, Palos Verdes, CA

 I'm not advocating unrighteousness in any way. Sadly, many Christians don't even know the difference between unrighteousness and unholiness. I don't know of any great sins Billy Graham ever committed. I know I recently heard Franklin Graham on Fox News ranting about hell. This kind of evangelism turns more people off than on and leads (as the Barna survey below indicates) to few lasting conversions. Jesus didn't suffer and die just to give us cheap fire insurance. In fact, He didn't preach to 'sinners' about hell. He only warned religious hypocrites about hell.

 Jesus offers us an abundant eternal life (John 10:10). In over 100 passages He brought the good news of God's Kingdom. In fact, the word gospel comes from Isaiah 61, where Jesus (Luke 4:16-18) said He came to bring good news to the broken hearted, poor, wounded, blind, bound, messed up masses on the earth. I simply want people to really know the God who is the very embodiment of tangible Love.

 After pastoring for 23 years, it's been shocking to me to attend churches and hear how many sermons preachers preach sermons based on guilt. I can only wonder if they're projecting. After all, they say preachers usually preach what they most need to hear.

 The Apostle Paul was radically transparent in his epistles. He was certainly no 'whitewashed sepulcher', no phony baloney televangelist acting like he had everything together. Paul clearly understood that the law of sin and death was exacerbated by people trying to save themselves by being good enough. Would that more conservative pastors understood that today. Would that more of them challenged their congregations to be truly righteous, to embody true religion: to fulfill the great commission by obeying the Great Commandments, passionate about loving God and  sharing that love with others. Instead, it's easier to rail against sin and act righteous.

 Bad religion may be our great national addiction. Self-righteousness is so mood altering it can make you feel better than food, drink or even sex, 'til you are alone with yourself and must face yourself.

 I have a pastor friend who years ago discovered real grace and began to preach about it. Half his congregation got really angry. Many left. You could say the church had a membership drive. They drove out all the religious people and soon the church began to grow. Sinners were drawn there; people who didn't feel comfortable in squeaky clean churches. Somehow, I think Jesus was pleased. But then again, maybe I'm deceived. I never did like religion. - KRU

 Ken, guilt is not a bad thing if it is deserved.  It is what leads to repentance.  You wont have it if you aren't continually living in it.  Again, we all sin and I dont like having mine thrown in my face either.  But I like getting to work on it too.  Its called growth.  When I do that I feel happy.  Preachers dont make me feel guilty.  i only feel it if i know i should.  - Brooke, So. CA

 As I said in my book TRUE SEXUALITY, guilt is to the soul what pain is to the body. It warns us of potential harm. However, few people make the distinction between true and false guilt. (We have a great session on that at my Personal Growth Retreat.)

 I've heard very few sermons on God's love recently. Most sermons are about what we should and shouldn't do, and precious few have anything to do with having a proactive life, learning how better to love the lost, seeking to win others to Christ and disciple them. Sadly, most churches don't even like hurting people today, let alone reach out to them.

 Hardly any Christians I know have ever been discipled or have discipled one other person. Many are bogged down in guilt over their imperfections. Few even attend worship regularly, especially men.  Churches preach against men’s sins (pornography, adultery, greed) and tend to let women's slide (gossip, talking too much, intemperance.) Most churches are filled with the elderly, mostly women. Too often they are no longer about the business of transforming lives. Years ago, Henry Drummond said we offer people "justification without regeneration." What a poignant phrase!

 Christians are recreated in order to bear fruit, not just get a free ride to heaven. Jesus was clear about that. Unfruitful vines are good for nothing but kindling. Most of what passes for fruit is really merely flowers - pretty little niceness that passes itself off as Christianity. 

 Consider this from George Barna on the state of the church: His findings show that only 7% of Americans are evangelicals. To change that,

"Churches must refocus on bringing about lasting change and transformation in people's lives.

"One of the greatest challenges facing any ministry, no matter what its form is, has to do with what do you define as success," he says. "And we've got to break the [current] mold ... which says that success is about church attendance, and church budgets, and church programs, and church staff, and square footage and buildings.

"Jesus didn't die for any of that stuff. He died to see people's lives completely transformed so they try to be more like Him every moment of every day."

Bringing about such change in individual lives, he says, requires "aggressive" church leadership that is willing to take risks. "Effective leaders must spearhead a thoroughly conceived and highly targeted plan that runs a significant level of risk and promises attractive returns on people's investment of themselves," Barna says. "Merely tinkering with the existing system is a recipe for irrelevance and abandonment."

The absence of real change in people's beliefs and behavior, he adds, "screams for a change of direction and a more radical approach to spiritual growth amidst a population that clearly has settled into comfortable spiritual routines and perspectives."

If we're going to preach about sin and guilt, let's talk more about our sins of omission. Obsession over what Paul called "besetting sins" keeps people's eyes on their failures instead of the exciting challenge of changing the world, one person at a time. Jesus died for sinners. He expects His people to love  them.  

Ken Unger is President of and founder of, where you can learn more about him and his transformative ministry. click here ,
 "Ken's new book, The Ultimate Breakthrough, goes beyond self help to self healing. You can preview it at  The Ultimate Breakthrough "


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