Battling with compassion

Jonathan EdwardsAs I continue to think about the recent series of sermons being preached at my church, Berean Bible Church, I dwell on the image of the battleship and what that means for my life. Today, I have been thinking about Jonathan Edwards and his famous sermon, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.”

A few weeks ago in Sunday school we were talking and it came up in discussion that Edwards’ sermon was something that everyone should read. We are fortunate in this age of the Internet that things like that are only a click away. If you are unfamiliar with Edwards, you can always go to Wikipedia, where you can learn about him. About his famous sermon, you’ll find:

This sermon was the very embodiment of a traditional “Hellfire and Brimstone” sermon of the Great Awakening. Edwards’ invoked horrific imagery with the intention of persuading his audience through fear of their own damnation. This sense of fear was apparently so great that during the sermon, according to Stephen Williams (a witness who recorded the events of the sermon), Edwards had to ask for silence from the overwhelmed crowd so that he could finish. When performing this sermon, Edwards would read it in a quiet, calm voice that commanded silence from the audience. Any disturbance would have been noticed, making it easier to gauge the reaction of the congregation as a whole. The subject matter of this sermon was not uncommon for Edwards. Invoking Hellish images was part of a greater arsenal of Gospel topics that Edwards commonly used throughout his catalog of sermons.

But in this day and age, “Hellfire and Brimstone” doesn’t go over well. We are told to love people, not scare them. But if you read through “Sinners,” you will see that making people aware of the existence and the clear path to it we all face is ultimately a loving act. How?

In his message “Two Motives for Missions, Or One?” John Piper explains that compassion pursues the rescue of perishing sinners. If we are truly loving, we cannot go about us each day with blinders on as people are perched on the precipice of hell.

We are battling sin and Satan and hell not just for ourselves, but for the glory of God. When we, out of compassion, work to rescue perishing sinners we bring glory to God by not by just warning them away from the punishment of hell but by luring them to the pleasure of Christ.

Go to battle. Do it for love and the supreme satisfaction of knowing Christ.

For a great talk about Jonathan Edwards and his life, go here.

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