As a Christian, Bible believer and business man, I realize the need for a positive mental attitude. I have conducted seminars, spoken at various conventions for business leaders and traveled thousands of miles inside and outside of this country to hear outstanding speakers advocate the gospel of positive thinking. We have a weekly tape club with speeches designed to provide information and motivation to our organization. I say all this to let you know that the following remarks are not printed out of prejudice.
As necessary as a positive mental attitude is, it alone will not redeem souls. It will “win” people; it will cause them to like you; it will open doors of opportunity, but it will not save. The gospel of grace convinces, convicts and converts (Jn. 17:20; Acts 2:37; 14:1; Rom. 1:16). It also may cause conflict, contention and confusion (Acts 7:51 f; 17:1-10, 16-32). This must not be forgotten. Broad beaming smiles, uplifting words, firm handshakes, direct eye contact, and a sincere love for people are essential, but they cannot deliver a soul from death.
Zig Ziglar, one of the best motivational speakers, warns his audiences not to be deceived by their good feelings. He reminds them that they do not have to go to the trouble and expense of a seminar to obtain “a good, warm feeling.” You can, he says, get “a good warm feeling” by staying home and taking a hot bath! Beware of preachers who leave you with a general “feel goodishness.” Stay home and take a bath.
The apostles were positive, enthusiastic, loving men. But their preaching aroused storms of strife and protest (Acts 13:45, 50; 19:23). Despite their “winning disposition,” they were despised and defamed (1 Cor. 4:9-13). No, we should not act to invite persecution and animosity. However, we should be suspicious of the preacher whose preaching does not stir and arouse evil men. “Woe unto you, when all men shall speak well of you” (Lk. 6:26)!
Lessons and lectures on personal development and self-image have their place. The whole man must be nurtured and improved (Lk. 2:52). One must have a sound self-image, but a socially adjusted, cultured personality is not the aim of the gospel (Rom. 10:4). We may develop a confident, smiling, likeable human being and leave him to die in his sins. Christians need to be kind and loving husbands, wives, citizens and neighbors. Our children should be cheerful, polite, respectful and well-behaved, but both they and we can be all of these things and still be lost. The pulpit is not a “charm school” from which men learn poise and the social graces. It is a place for doctrine, reproof, correction and instruction in righteousness for saint and sinner. It is better to learn spiritual graces “that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth” (1 Tim. 3:15). Otherwise, we will raise up a perfectly delightful generation of “simply divine and charming people” who will go to hell – with good manners, of course.
Larry Ray Hafley