It is a strange phenomenon in current Christian circles that while attempting to be contemporary or unified or seeker-friendly or even biblical, the real gospel is often getting lost in the shuffle.
The Christian Left is highly concerned about social justice and the inequalities of today's world, and they do an amazing job addressing these issues helping people's external needs. But in the process some almost completely ignore the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ — which is the only thing capable of cleaning up people's internal needs.
The Christian Middle (usually called the Evangelicals) has been busy for too long a time attempting to impress the world and the intellectuals on the Christian Left with their own intellectualism. Then, too, the Middle tries to balance its show of intellectual prowess with a loving concern that embraces all who "name the name of Christ." Unity is the rallying cry, but in the effort to establish a unified front to the world, the gospel ends up getting muddied, twisted, and redefined by a conglomeration of theological opinions under the one roof of "Unity".
Then there is the Christian Right known as Fundamentalists. These folks are so often embroiled in fighting against one thing or another — including each other — that even if they do slip in the gospel on occasion, the unbelieving world misses it because of the bombardment of embittered negativism that flows from some of their pulpits.
How Do We Understand What We Hear?
Let's pretend for a moment that we gather together all the thousands of leaders from the various factions of Christendom under one roof — call it a World Congress of Gospel Preaching. The keynote speaker stands before this notable group of the world's finest Christian workers, and says, "The greatest need in the world today is for people to hear the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ." There is an instant cascade of "Amens" from all corners of the giant hall. We are thrilled with such an enthusiastic response. But wait. What's happening here? What's really going on?
While participants from all segments of Christianity would be affirming their agreement with the statement, each would be running that statement through the grid of their own theological leanings. In other words, though they would be agreeing with what was said, they would be defining what they heard in the light of their own understanding of "the gospel." The Baptists, Catholics, Nazarenes, Pentecostals, Independents, and Ecumenists, would all be agreeing with the statement but only as they define "gospel" in their own way.
For instance, a member of the Church of Christ might agree that the greatest need in the world is to get the gospel to the lost, but to their way of thinking the "gospel" demands that the unbeliever must do six things in order to be saved: 1) hear the gospel, 2) believe in Christ, 3) repent, by which they mean turn from sin, 4) confess Christ publicly, 5) be baptized in water by immersion, and 6) be obedient to the Lord's commands throughout the rest of one's life. If one becomes disobedient they would lose their salvation. This is nothing less than a by-works salvation, which is no salvation at all!
What it seems to boil down to is simply this: semantic noise —where we agree with one another's proclamations because no one is being definitive enough to cause any disagreement. In fact, disagreeing with another so-called "brother" is viewed as being tantamount to being unloving. We seem to forget that almost every time Jesus or one of the apostles opened their mouths they caused divisions. Clearly stating truth does that, even when done in love (see Ephesians 4:14–15).
Thank God, there are true lights springing up in our current confused swirl of evangelistic activities. Individuals and groups are appearing who have that single-minded dedication and vision that will not be overshadowed by secondary concerns. God is raising up more and more voices from men and women who are clearly articulating the simple and powerful words and truths of the gospel of Christ. We are rediscovering grace. Some are finding the true meaning of words like gift, faith, believe, and eternal. Perhaps there is a revival in the making — a revival of taking God's Word at face value without any additions or deletions.
Clear Communicators Needed
If you are…
Convinced of the accuracy, infallibility and authority of God's Word, the Bible;
Trusting solely upon Christ and His payment for your sins, and in His resurrection for your justification;
Sure that you have eternal life (because salvation does not depend in any way upon anything you do, but upon God's grace alone);
Fully persuaded that this gospel of justification by faith alone in Christ alone is, indeed, the answer to man's deepest needs;
…then you may be one whom God is looking for to "stand in the gap" sharing the gospel of His love and grace to those without Christ and without hope (see Ezekiel 22:30; Psalm 106:23).
What Should Be Included?
The message of salvation should always include some very basic facts. They are:
- God's Requirement is that man must be perfect to enter heaven.
- Man's Condition is that he is sinful, not perfect at all.
- God's Provision to meet man's need was the sending of His own son, Jesus, to be our Savior.
- Man's Response is believing in Jesus — which means to trust in Him, to depend upon Him, and rely on Him for salvation.
- God's Guarantee that those who believe have eternal life because Christ died in their place.
What Will It Cost?
Though the monetary cost of spreading the gospel worldwide is great, money does not begin to measure the true cost of reaching the lost.
During one of His many discourses, Jesus expressed how hard it is for a rich man to be saved, because such men tend to trust in their uncertain riches for everything (see 1 Timothy 6:17).
Peter spoke up and said:
So Jesus answered:
It seems to me that if I want to be the spokesman for the Lord, certain things must follow.
I must have an unswerving devotion to spread His gospel, for no other so-called gospel really saves anyone (1 Corinthians 9:16).
Then I must present the gospel in all of its power and simplicity (2 Corinthians 3:12).
I must have a single-mindedness that will compel me to be faithful in my daily talk and walk before my God (Philippians 1:27).
I must not manipulate the gospel to fit anyone's whims, including my own (1 Corinthians 2:1–5; 2 Corinthians 2:17, 4:1–6).
I must present the gospel in all of its fullness: the positives — heaven, eternal life, forgiveness of sins, and the negatives — hell, judgment, warnings (Galatians 1:6–9).
All preconceived notions of what the gospel may or may not be must be totally subjected to the written Word of God, the Bible, and to this gospel which alone saves (Matthew 24:35).
As we face the uncertain days ahead let us determine before God that we will believe, know, proclaim, and defend the gospel of the Scriptures, with no additions or subtractions. And let us do it beginning now.