Together For The Gospel (Sermon)

Introduction

At the last two Bible studies I conducted I asked the participants this critical question, “What is the Gospel? What is the Good News?”  You see the people out there don’t speak our language. They don’t use our terminology.  So, you have to explain it to them in very simple language.  Most Christians stumble over the question of what the Gospel is. This is an unfortunate indication that they are not going to be effective in communicating the Good News to others.  It is simple isn’t it? Is not the Gospel the amazing story of God redeeming the whole world through Jesus Christ?

So, how do we share the reality of what the Gospel fundamentally is to others?  Can it be limited to a simple verse from scripture?  Many of us see the whole Gospel in John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”   Or maybe 1 Peter 3:18 “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit.”    These verses are great if we unpack them for others.  They allow us to give the outline of God’s redeeming work to the lost.  So, yes, the Gospel can be found in several individual verses, but we all know that it is so much more breathtaking and beautiful.

The Gospel is the Excellent News that God has acted finally, ultimately, and decisively through the person and work of Jesus Christ, and that by putting our total trust (our faith) in Jesus alone, we will find salvation through and in Christ, both now and in the life to come.  So, the Gospel is Jesus!

If someone asks you to explain the Gospel, tell them the Good News is Jesus!  He is the Messiah, He is the Christ, He is God come in the flesh, and He is alive and still acting today in the world through the Holy Spirit. So the Gospel is simple, yet so gloriously complex in its beauty.

Now, St. Paul transferred to us a statement of faith that is likely the oldest known simple presentation of the Gospel.  He received it from Christ Himself, yet other apostles (and even simple disciples) were already saying these exact words as a rudimentary statement of faith just a few years after Jesus’ death and resurrection.

“For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance [most important]: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures” (1 Cor. 15:3-4).   Christ died for our sins, He was buried, and was raised on the third day according to the plan of God to redeem the world.  This is the Good News: Jesus living, dying, rising, and coming again to create for Himself a new, redeemed people of God.

This is why I live.  This is why we are here–because of the Gospel.  It’s that simple.  And though the Gospel’s majesty and splendor, like a sparkling, multi-faceted diamond, can be adored and studied for a life time without grasping its full magnificence, its truth and beauty are simple enough for a even a small child to understand and appreciate.

Years ago, one of the past-presidents of the C&MA said to motivate the pastorate at one of our annual conferences, “We have to keep the main thing, the main thing!”  Jesus is the main thing.  And Jesus has to be the main thing; the Gospel of Jesus has to drive us in our daily and moment by moment lives.   So, how should we as believers respond to the Gospel?

The Apostle Paul emphasized four responses to the Gospel in his letter to the Philippians:

Philippians 1:27-30

27 Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in the one Spirit, striving together as one for the faith of the gospel 28 without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you. This is a sign to them that they will be destroyed, but that you will be saved—and that by God. 29 For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for him, 30 since you are going through the same struggle you saw I had, and now hear that I still have.

Prayer of Illumination

Live A Life Worthy Of The Gospel (Holiness)

  1. The first response to the Gospel that Paul emphasizes in this short passage is that we are to live a life worthy of the Gospel.
  2. You know we are saved by grace alone through faith alone in Jesus Christ.  So, there was a point in our lives when we received the grace of God and we were changed.  For me it was a radical reorientation, and yet for others it may have been a gradual realization.  But we can all point to a general time when the light bulb finally went off.
  3. When we come to Christ, the Bible says we are new creations.  The old is past, the new has come.  We put off the old self of sin.  We begin to work cooperatively with the Spirit to be completely made holy, to become like Christ.
  4. So our conduct should be consistent with our convictions.  We cannot say that we are saved if we don’t see a corresponding separation from our past sinful behavior.  At least, there should be a realignment in our pursuit of God; our affections should be changed from the things of this world to the things of God.
  5. In the Christian and Missionary Alliance, we call that the evidence of regeneration.  When you come before the elders to become a member of the church, we are going to ask you what evidence is there that you are a new creation in Christ.  It isn’t that now that we are saved, we have to act a certain way.  No, it’s because we are saved that we begin to reflect the glory of God; the light of Jesus Christ begins to shine through us.
  6. Jesus said, “Be ye holy, just like my father in heaven is holy.”   Be perfect!  That is our call.  When people see us they have to see God, so our conduct must be consistent with our convictions.

Stand Firm In The Gospel (Assurance)

  1. Secondly, Paul said we should stand firm in the Gospel.
  2. The Gospel gives us a stability that we didn’t have before.  It gives us an objective truth to hold on to.  Jesus said, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life; no man comes to the Father except through me.”
  3. Jesus is the capital T truth, and the Bible is the absolute objective Truth of God.  Jesus said in His priestly prayer, “Sanctify them Father by the Truth; your Word is Truth.”
  4. We live in a world today that literally believes that there is no objective truth.  What’s true for you is true for you; what’s true for me is true for me.
  5. So, when we say that the Gospel is Jesus, we are saying that Jesus is the exclusive and all encompassing way to God.   He is what is and has to be True for all.
  6. And because of this wonderful Truth of Jesus, unlike the rest of the world that doesn’t know their eternal destiny, we can be assured of our salvation because of the Gospel.
  7. We don’t stand firm in our own beliefs or own works, but we stand firm on the objectively true work of Christ on the Cross and in our lives.  “On Christ the solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand,” so goes that great old hymn.
  8. What a blessing for us to have this great assurance.  And what Good News it is to share with others.
  9. If you are a believer today, you don’t have to be arrogant in response to the knowledge of God’s promises in your life.   But don’t shirk away from your assurance of eternal life.   You are assured by God of your salvation when you put your total trust in Jesus Christ.
  10. As another great hymn says, “Blessed assurance/Jesus is mine, O’ what a foretaste of glory divine.”

Work Together For The Gospel (Proclamation & Unity)

  1. Third, we are called to work together for the Gospel.
  2. We are to proclaim the simple faith together in unity.  Jesus said that the world would know that we are in Christ as we believers were unified in Him.
  3. I heard recently that over 10,000 people come to Christ everyday around the world.  What an incredible movement of God is happening all over the world.  Sadly, we are not seeing that here in the West.
  4. But much like in the West, these new Christians are forming into fractured denominations and they are splitting at a rate of one a day. It is such a great shame that we have so many different church groups in the world.  It doesn’t help our witness.
  5. You know, there have been very few church fractures over the simple Gospel message that Christ lived, died for our sins, was raised, and is coming again.  Most of the church splits are over minor theological differences that have little to do with the Gospel, or even worse they happen over power struggles or differences about church government.
  6.  And don’t fall into the trap that the unity God is looking for is simply spiritual.  As we say in the Creed there is only one Church, and as long as we have people in one denomination denouncing others as not being Christians for something other than the simple Gospel, we are not One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church.
  7. So, we are called to work together for the Gospel, and a part of that is to actively work toward reconciling the various streams of Christian faith.
  8. For the world will not believe in a Gospel, a Good News, that divides or is at odds with itself.  How can that be good news?

Suffer For The Gospel (Suffering)

  1. Finally, Paul tells us that we are called to suffer for the Gospel.  Glory is always obtained through suffering.  No athlete, no businessman, no artist every received glory easily.  It required suffering.
  2. And the suffering of Christ on the Cross is the greatest example of suffering, as well as the greatest outcome of Glory in the resurrection and ascension.
  3. Jesus said “Take up your Cross daily!”  We are to die to self.  And dying to self is not contending with an unbelieving boss or a having bad-hair day.  I get so displeased when I hear someone flippantly say, “Oh, we all have are cross to bear,” about some trivial issue in life.  We are called to die; to lose ourselves so that we can truly find ourselves in Christ!
  4. This may be the hardest aspect of our comfortable Christian lives here in America.  We don’t have to suffer.  We can, in so many ways, escape suffering.
  5. That indicates to me that we have to work even harder to experience Christ in His fullness.
  6. Paul said “I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.”  And Paul did know Christ in His sufferings and also His glory.
  7. Do you want to suffer for Christ? Why not?  That’s how you will enter into your glory in Christ.  Well, if you are Christian get ready, because the suffering is coming and is now.
    1. Did you know a pastor is in jail today in Arizona for hosting Bible studies in his house?  Another pastor went on a hunger strike in NYC because churches were banned from using public spaces to worship.  Boy scouts can meet in public buildings in NYC; Gay and Lesbian groups can meet in public buildings in NYC; but not the Church.  This is it my friends!
    2. The time has come that we will suffer for our faith. It won’t be starting in my children’s generation.  It is starting today!
    3. And the suffering that we are used to is nothing compared to the suffering that we will endure because of our faith.  Remember what the Apostle Peter said, “Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed” (1 Peter 4:12-13).
    4. So then again the glory we will enjoy because of our suffering will be all the greater.  The power we will possess will be all the greater to endure and to overcome.

Conclusion

We are called to live holy lives for the Gospel, we are called to stand firm in the Gospel, we are called to proclaim the Gospel and the unity that comes because of it, and finally we are called to suffer for the Gospel.

Now, if our lives have not been changed because of the Gospel, none of this will make sense.  The Gospel will not be the priority of your life.  If there’s anything I have learned in Gospel ministry these past 16 years is that the focus of most people’s lives is not on God or even other people.  Their focus is squarely on themselves.  It isn’t “Now these three remain Faith, Hope, and Love.  And the greatest of these is Love.”  No, for most Christians it is still “Now these three remain, Me, Myself, and I.  And the greatest of these is Me.”

And until we come truly to Jesus through the Gospel, we can’t even begin to know how to live the Christian life, a life focused on Him and others.

Would you pray with me that God would so transform our minds and our hearts to live life to the glory of God in keeping with the Gospel of Jesus Christ!

Closing Prayer

© Paul Dordal, 2012

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