Kairos Journal as an insightful article by Frederica Mathewes-Green on how the way in which we have been conditioned to seek comfort in life has influenced the way in which the church does ministry. You can read the full article here, but the following excerpt is especially good.
"In trying to reach this seeker, the Church has been given a severely reduced pack of options. Since people are aware only of seeking comfort, it looks like that’s what we have to headline in any message we send. Neither this need, nor our response, is untrue. A profound sense of unease and dislocation is indeed part of the human condition, because sin has estranged us from God. And the Church has the only authentic solution to this problem, because we bear the Good News of reconciliation through Jesus Christ.
The problem comes when we never get around to talking about the hard part of the Good News. The problem can even be that we start forgetting it ourselves, and start believing that consolation is the main reason Jesus came. But what’s wrong with us required much more than a hug; it required the Cross. It doesn’t seem this way; we too, have been catechized by the world and reflexively think of ourselves as needy, wronged children. We’d rather feel as if we’re victims of a cruel world than admit we are contributors to the world’s cruelty, lost sinners who perversely love our lostness, clinging to our treasured sins like a drowning man to an anvil."
How urgent is the need today to expose what John Owens saw as the sinfulness of sin. Unless we are confronted with the depth of our sin and the great chasm that stretches between a holy God and ourselves we will continue to believe that God exists soley for our blessing.
The writers of the Heidelberg Catechism had it correctly when they stated in Q&A 1 and 2 this:
1. Q. What is your only comfort in life and death?
A. That I am not my own, but belong with body and soul, both in life and in death, to my faithful Saviour Jesus Christ. He has fully paid for all my sins with His precious blood, and has set me free from all the power of the devil. He also preserves me in such a way that without the will of my heavenly Father not a hair can fall from my head; indeed, all things must work together for my salvation. Therefore, by His Holy Spirit He also assures me of eternal life and makes me heartily willing and ready from now on to live for Him.
2. Q. What do you need to know in order to live and die in the joy of this comfort?
A. First, how great my sins and misery are; second, how I am delivered from all my sins and misery; third, how I am to be thankful to God for such deliverance.
Comfort only comes from knowing our sin and knowing how it can be forgiven. Any other good news is no good news at all. The sooner the Church recovers the doctrine of sin the sooner we can offer people the comfort they really need.