Question: I'm a member of a would-be megachurch that follows Rick Warren's ideas in order to become the largest church in my town. The pastor quotes The Message and the NLT. Vineyard songs are our "old hymns." The issue, of course, is whether we are becoming apostate by trying to be "seeker-friendly" on Sunday....Would you please do an article on the nature of sin...? The user-friendly churches...appealing to people who don't feel particularly guilty, define sin as having self on the throne..., rather than being "fully devoted disciples...." The Reformation targeted guilt-driven Roman Catholics. It told them to quit trusting...sacraments and indulgences and instead to trust only in the Lord's sacrifice as their remedy for guilt and fear of hell. It emphasized that He...took upon Himself the sin nature of the world...and was punished by separation from the Father. His divine Nature overcame the sin nature and separation.... [My church] emphasizes that the sin which Christ died for was...failure to love the Lord with all your heart, soul, mind and strength, and your neighbor as yourself. So their motto is "Loving God, Loving People." Repentance is defined as changing your paradigm from self-preservation to living for and being all about Jesus....[So they] preach repentance from sin as "step into a new relationship with the Lord which will transform you...." This illustrates why I believe that megachurch apostasy has to do with a misconception of the nature of sin and why I would like to see TBC do an article on sin. Is sin who you are or just how you behave; is weeping over one's sins an essential step to salvation, or does it just come later?
Response: Thank you. I agree that conviction of sin and repentance are scarcely preached today. Of course, Christ did not take "upon himself the sin nature of the world" but "the sin of the world" (Jn:1:29). Nor was it His "divine nature [that] overcame the sin nature and separation...." It was His payment of the penalty for sin that saves us. To tell the sinner that he can "step into a new relationship with the Lord which will transform [him]" is not the gospel Paul preached and by which his hearers were saved through believing the good news that Christ died for our sins, was buried, and resurrected "according to the scriptures" (1 Cor:15:2-4).
If one is not convinced that one is under God's judgment because of sin, one cannot be saved: "Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners..." (1 Tm 1:15). Christ himself made it clear: "He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him" (John:3:36). I agree that the "gospel" preached today in many "evangelical" pulpits is more an improve-your-life message than passing from death to life and being delivered from eternal punishment through Christ's payment for sin (Jn:5:24).
This false gospel could bring many new members into seeker-friendly churches who think they're on their way to heaven but are not. That is a tragedy. As you imply, sin is what I am, not just what I do—the latter results from the former. It is good to be so repentant as to weep over one's sins—but nowhere does the Bible require weeping in order to be saved.