“For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.” 

Luke 19:10  

The cover is one of the music industry’s most effective ways to promote new musical talent. It entails an artist taking an already popular song and making it their own—a marketing technique that introduces an unknown musician to an existing audience while familiarizing an audience to the skill and style of a new musician. And when done well, a multi-billion-dollar industry is the prize.

Today’s Siren song of sentimentalism is the evangelical cover of our day—a unique rendition of the Christian gospel that contains the same lyrics but with a new spin. It is the song that treats a holy God as a doting Father, a saving God as an infatuated boyfriend, and a God glorifying Deity as a man-centered cheerleader.1 It is the melody that defines sin as a mistake, sinners as those who need psychological therapy, and salvation as liberation from purposeless living, negative self-talk, or low self-esteem.  

And sadly, many prefer this sentimental cover over the original score. 

This Siren Song Is Not as Good as the Original 

But is this Siren song the same saving gospel that has been sung throughout the ages? Not according to Jesus’s mission statement in Luke 19:10, “For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.” Jesus came, not as a cheerleader, but a Savior; not as an infatuated boyfriend, but as a sacrifice for sin. 

This was the angel’s song at Jesus’s birth: “You shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins(Matthew 1:21); the Baptist’s ballad when Jesus arrived on the scene: “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29); the repeated chorus throughout Jesus’ ministry: “Unless you believe that I am He, you will die in your sins” (John 8:24); and the symphony that rings throughout heaven, “You were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation” (Revelation 5:9). 

Today’s sentimental songs of salvation are clearly not the gospel refrains of the Bible. Though popular, the Siren’s cover is not nearly as good as the original.   

Sinners Need a Savior, Not a Sentimentalist 

Mankind enters the world alienated from God. He loves his sin, refuses to turn from it, and does everything he can to explain it away. Consider the imagery Jesus used to describe the depth of man’s depravity: sinners are bad trees, lost sheep, dead corpses, sin’s slaves, and the devil’s children—who will all perish apart from Christ’s saving work.

Given our sinful nature, can you see how the sentimental gospel is useless? And hopeless? How can a doting deity change your wicked heart? What good is a god who carves your name into a tree if he is unable to rescue you from Satan’s chains? How can a god who only cheers you on from the sidelines secure salvation from eternal judgment? 

Sinners need a Savior from sin, not a sentimental gospel that strokes their ego. 

Saved from Whom? 

In 2006, R.C. Sproul wrote a book entitled, Saved from What? But he could have easily titled it “Saved from Whom?” because Sproul’s answer was clear: sinners are primarily saved from God.  

Does this sound strange to you? Does it not sit well or feel right? If so, you have listened to the Siren’s sentimental tune for too long. 

Unlike the sentimental preachers of our day, Jesus warned about impending fire, destruction, rejection, weeping, despair, and wrath. He even used the word hell (gehenna)—the future place of punishment for the wicked. This was no abstract concept. In Jesus’ day, gehenna was a real place—the city dump outside Jerusalem’s walls, a ready-made picture of the unsaved sinner’s suffering at the hand of Almighty God.3 

And yet, what made Jesus’ teaching about hell even more terrifying was its duration. According to Jesus, hell is forever. There is no end to God’s punishment. Jesus put it this way: “[the unsaved] will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life” (Matthew 25:46). In both instances, Jesus used the same time-duration marker: “eternal” (aiónios). For as long as God’s people experience God’s blessing in heaven, God’s enemies will experience His wrath in hell. 

Jonathan Edwards captured the horror of this eternal punishment frighteningly well: 

They will not be able to find any to befriend them, and intercede with God for them. They had the offer of a mediator often made them in this world; but they will have no offers of such a nature in hell….Nor will they ever be able to make their escape. They will find no means to break prison and flee. In hell, they will be reserved in chains of darkness for ever and ever….It is a strong prison: it is beyond any finite power….They will never find any resting place there; any place of respite; any secret corner, which will be cooler than the rest….They will find no company to give them any comfort, or to do them the least good. They will find no place, where they can remain, and rest, and take breath for one minute: For they will be tormented with fire and brimstone; and will have no rest day nor night for ever and ever.4 

It’s no wonder the sentimental gospel mutes these warnings. It has no solution for them. No hope. No remedy. 

But, oh, how different Jesus’ gospel is! With His warnings of hell comes hope of a Savior: “For the Son of Man has come to…save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10).  

Saved by Whom? 

Jesus knew His Old Testament well. A holy God cannot turn a blind eye to sin (Psalm 9:8). Sin must be punished. Divine wrath must be satisfied. Thus, when Jesus announced that He had come “to save,” He knew full well what that meant for Him. This rescue mission necessitated a substitutionary sacrifice. His body had to be broken. The cup of God’s wrath had to be poured out upon Him. There was no other way.5 Salvation from sin could only be achieved if “He was pierced through for our transgressions” (Isaiah 53:5). Salvation from God could only be accomplished if His own Father “crush[ed] Him, putting Him to grief” (Isaiah 53:10). Hell had to be experienced. And that is what happened at the cross. 

The Cross Destroys the Sentimental Gospel 

From the moment Jesus was betrayed until His final breath, the horrors of hell were unleashed upon Him in all of God’s righteous fury. “For Christ, the pains of hell which others experience after death [had to] be endured before death, not in the next world, but in this.”

Jesus experienced hell’s physical torment when He was scourged and then pierced through and hung upon the cross. He experienced hell’s emotional torment when He was betrayed by one of His own, abandoned by His closest followers, mocked by the Roman guards, stripped naked for all to see, and then forced to endure further abuse, blasphemy, disgrace, and contempt.7 

Yet the intensity of Christ’s suffering found its dreadful climax when “darkness fell upon all the land” (Matthew 27:45). The Bible is silent about these three dark hours. All the mocking stops. All the taunts cease. Jesus speaks no words. There is only the sound of silence—when the Father abandoned His Son—the outer darkness of Hell itself. 

We don’t know what happened under that dark veil. All we know is what Jesus cried after the darkness lifted, “‘Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?’ that is, ‘My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?’” (Matthew 27:46). 

Make no mistake—we cannot fully understand these words. But somehow, and in some way, while Jesus hung on the cross, His loving Father became His righteous judge. 

Sproul summarized the scene, “On the cross Jesus was in the reality of hell. He was totally bereft of the grace and the presence of God, utterly separated from all blessedness of the Father. He became a curse for us so that we someday will be able to see the face of God. So that the light of His countenance might fall upon us, God turned His back on His Son.”

And yet, after the Father completed His forsaking work, exhausting His wrath for every sin committed by all who will be saved, the Father received His Son to Himself. This is why Jesus prayed, “Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit” (Luke 23:46). The Judge of sin was still the Father of Jesus, who welcomed Jesus back from where He came. 

Ego-Destroying Hope 

Jesus left heaven for earth not to stroke our ego, but to exhaust God’s wrath—something the sentimental gospel cannot account for. A doting father cannot spoil us into heaven. An infatuated boyfriend cannot pay for our transgressions. No cheerleading squad can rah-rah us to glory. Only a sin-bearing substitute, who bears God’s hell and drains His anger, can grant us that hope. That is why Jesus came—to save us, who were lost. 




Because the sentimental gospel is so prevalent today, we must actively close our ears to this all-too popular Siren song. 

How? By singing a different tune—one that reminds us of sin’s severity, plumbs the depths of our salvation, and causes us to feel the weight of hell’s fury. 

Remind Yourself of Sin’s Severity 

Mark Jones is right, “Other than knowing God, your greatest advocate, nothing else in this world is more important than knowing sin, your greatest enemy.” 

Think often on how the Bible defines sin: wickedness, iniquity, rebellion, perversion, transgression, and abomination. Note the Bible’s images for sin: alienation, bondage, war, defilement. Consider sin’s consequences: wrath, judgment, punishment, and discipline.10 Why? Because “The more bitterness we taste of sin, the more sweetness we shall taste of Christ”11 and the emptier the sentimental gospel will become. 

Plumb the Depths of Your Salvation 

The death of Christ was theologically profound. In the Upper Room, Jesus called His death a sacrifice “for forgiveness of sins” (Matthew 26:28). In the garden of Gethsemane, He described His cross as the drinking of God’s cup of wrath (Matthew 26:39). During the crucifixion, the miracles that occurred were God’s explanation of the cross. Darkness covered “all the land,” symbolic of God pouring out His wrath against sin. The veil to the Holy of Holies was torn, representing new access to the Father. The graves were opened, demonstrating Christ’s victory over death for His own.12  

The remainder of the New Testament further explains the wonder of the cross. Paul referred to Christ’s death as accomplishing propitiation, redemption, and reconciliation. The writer of Hebrews described Christ’s death as a triumph over Satan. Paul spoke of the cross in terms of imputation, using words such as rescue, transfer, sacrifice, and justification when explaining what Christ accomplished.13 

Study these passages. Memorize them. Explore their significance. Recall them in prayer as you praise your Savior. 

As you plumb the depths of your salvation, your awe of God’s holiness will grow, your humility before God’s grace will deepen, and the song of Christ’s gospel will become the only one you will want to listen to. 

Feel the Weight of Hell’s Fury 

Is it any coincidence that the sentimental gospel has grown in popularity, at the same time the evangelical church has lessened its commitment to the doctrine of hell? Today, the most popular preachers are the ones who have vowed not to speak about final judgment or divine wrath. 

Christian, close your ears to these sentimental Sirens. And open your Bibles to its teaching on hell. Read Jesus’ warnings. Meditate on the Great White Throne Judgment. Shudder at the lake of fire.14 Then ask yourself: What do these passages tell me about God’s holiness? What do they tell me about His grace and mercy and love? What do they tell me about the Savior who endured hell, for me? 

Do not belittle your Savior’s infinite worth by pushing the doctrine of hell to the periphery of your faith. See its vividness; consider its eternality; and feel its terrifying weight—so that you are humbled and Christ is glorified.  

[1] “Had he a calendar, your birthday would be circled. If he drove a car, your name would be on his bumper…If there’s a tree in heaven, he’s carved your name on the bark…God is for you. Turn to the sidelines; that’s God cheering your run. Look past the finish line; that’s God’s applauding your steps. Listen for him in the bleachers, shouting your name.” Max Lucado, In the Grip of Grace (Nashville: W Publishing Group, 1996), 174. 

[2] Matthew 7:17-19; Luke 15:24, 32; 18:11-12; John 3:16; 8:34, 44; Romans 3:12. 

[3] Matthew 5:22, 29-30; 8:12; 25:41; Luke 6:25. 

[4] Jonathan Edwards, “The Future Punishment of the Wicked Unavoidable and Intolerable,” http://www.jonathan-edwards.org/Punishment.html  (accessed January 23, 2024). 

[5] Luke 22:19-20, 42. 

[6] Frederick S. Leahy, The Cross He Bore (Edinburgh, UK: Banner of Truth Trust, 2007), 73 (emphasis in original). 

[7] Deuteronomy 21:23; Isaiah 53:5; Daniel 12:2; Matthew 26:47-50; 27:26-39; Mark 14:50. 

[8] R.C. Sproul, Saved From What? (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2010). 

[9] Mark Jones, Knowing Sin (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2022), 13. 

[10] Genesis 6:5; Job 13:23; Psalm 2:12; 5:5; 51:1; 101:4; Proverbs 3:32; Ecclesiastes 12:14; Matthew 15:18; Romans 1:18; 5:10; Colossians 1:13; Hebrews 12:5. 

[11] Thomas Watson, as quoted in Jones, Knowing Sin, 13. 

[12] Matthew 26:39; 27:45, 51-52; Hebrews 10:19–22. 

[13] Romans 3:25; 5:11, 18; 1 Corinthians 1:30; 5:21; 6:20; 2 Corinthians 5:18, 19; Ephesians 5:2; Colossians 1:13; 2:14; Hebrews 2:14. 

[14] Matthew 5:21-22, 27-30; 7:23; 8:11-12; 10:28; 13:30, 40-43, 49-50; 25:41, 46; Revelation 19:11-15.