If you’re at all acquainted with life in the public square in Uptown Charlotte, NC, the following phrase may have a familiar ring to it:
I got good news! Jesus Loves You! Jesus Saves!
His name: Sam Bethea. He is Charlotte’s most notorious religious screamer, and he’s been at it for years. He sets up shop on the corner of Trade Street and Tryon Street and spreads his news to anyone who wants to hear it–and to anyone who doesn’t. With a set of pipes that you can hear blocks away, his screeching voice has become an audible icon of Uptown life.
But what message is he actually giving? Like a broken record, he has one thing to tell passersby on the corner–that he has “good news,” and that Jesus loves them and Jesus saves. That’s it. Nothing else. That’s his gospel.
Sam’s gospel is entirely devoid of any saving substance. The gospel is a simple message: God is holy. Man is wicked. Man is in need of a savior. God has provided that savior in His Son, Jesus Christ. Yet, repeatedly, Sam allows people to walk by with the false assurance that Jesus loves them regardless of their life, their unrepentant sin, and the condition of their heart. If you spend any time watching Sam, you will notice that he affirms sinners in their wickedness while assuring them that Jesus loves them anyway. Of course, this is blatantly false. Not only does God hate the evildoer (Psalm 5:5), but He is angry with the wicked every day and will judge them (Psalm 7:11). This, of course, is the subtle part of the message that Sam leaves out.
He has no problem telling people that “Jesus Saves,” yet does not tell people what they need to be saved from. This draws applause, hugs, and affirmation from hundreds of passersby who love hearing his message–and this affirmation from the world serves as confirmation to Sam that his message is his calling. In other words, Sam’s purpose for screeching his hollow “Jesus saves, Jesus loves you” message is for the sole purpose of receiving the love of the world that he constantly attracts. However, the Scriptures actually attest to the fact that this worldly affection is merely confirmation that his false gospel condemns him, and that he’s storing up God’s wrath for himself on the day of judgment.
You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. –James 4:4
The simple truth is that God’s true messengers will be hated by the world. Sam’s message is appealing to the flesh. Why? Because people don’t have to be accountable to a God that “loves” them as they are, as Sam wisps them away and wishes them a good night in their drunken stupors. Sam doesn’t give them the truth of the necessary response to the gospel-repentance and faith. He doesn’t even give them the gospel, to begin with. Effectively giving the gospel means that both law and grace must be preached–and sometimes this means intentionally pointing out the sin in the lives of people that they may be convicted and forgiven. By doing so, Jesus was very clear that Christians would be hated for it.
If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. –John 15:18-19
If you encounter Sam in the public square of Charlotte, please know that he needs the gospel. If you try to give it to him, he will likely oppose you as he has done with us on several occassions. He does not care for ministers of the gospel “stepping on his turf” or his “office” as he likes to call it to preach the true gospel. As a matter of fact, he hates it. He hates the gospel. And he just may do all that he can do in order to stop you from giving it.
Sam might even be demon possessed, so be careful.