“If we tell people to trust in Jesus to avoid hell, won’t that motive create false converts?”

Think of story Jesus told of the prodigal son (see Luke 15:11–32). The father had great pleasure when the son came into a right relationship with him. The son cried, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you, and I am no longer worthy to be called your son” (vv. 18,19). Obviously, his father would not have rejoiced in the same way if a happy but impenitent son had returned with a prostitute on each arm. Obviously, it was the son’s humble turning from his sinful lifestyle that pleased the father. The son’s happiness was irrelevant; righteousness was the issue. The world has no concern for righteousness. Its chief goal is the prodigal’s happiness, whether he is in or out of the pigsty.

Christianity’s goal is absolute righteousness, which we are told in Scripture will ultimately result in the glory of God and the pleasure of man (see Psa. 16:11). That is why we must always focus on man’s depravity (revealed by the moral Law) and God’s righteousness (revealed in His Law and in the cross; see Rom. 1:16,17). The gap between depravity and holiness will reveal the need for righteousness. Happiness is irrelevant to the gospel proclamation, even though (because of God’s kindness) it is ultimately the end result.

However, we need never feel any sense of guilt because someone responded to the gospel with a desire to live. It was self-preservation that motivated the prodigal to get up out of that pigsty (“I perish with hunger!”; Luke 15:17), and every sane human being likewise has been given an instinct for self-preservation. We have been endowed by our Creator with the good sense to know that life is better than death, and that heaven is better than hell. We came to Christ because of a hunger and a thirst for righteousness, and the ultimate end of righteousness will be “pleasures forevermore,” to the glory of God.

Deuteronomy 10:12 “And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require of you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all His ways and to love Him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, 13and to keep the commandments of the Lord and His statutes which I command you today for your good?

Discover the Evidence Bible.

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