I went looking for what folks are saying about Episode 1 of A.D. Here are a few comments I found interesting:
I Watched the last night movie Killing Jesus, I was very disappointed in the story line, It was not what I expected, The actors were OK, It was the self serving Jesus in this movie, that falls flat ! I fell asleep during the last half hour , Jesus was & is not a coward, Reply:
Um, if you read the above article, you’d notice that Roma Downy and Mark Burnett’s production is NOT “Killing Jesus” but “A.D.: The Bible Continues.”
Different story–as this film does not come from Bill O’Reilly’s book, but from the Bible, and screen writers the producers hired–and different producers, director, actors, etcetra.
And, I watched it Sunday night. It was great! I did not bother watching “Killing Jesus” because I knew–from reading a review from Faith Driven Consumer–that it was a “humanistic, and historically & Biblically inaccurate, portrayal of Christ’s death.”
Reply to the Reply:
What was it that you thought was great?
Was it the 45 minutes of historical fiction? Mary & Mary M unbiblically having reminded the disciples of prophecy of Jesus resurrection? Was it Caiphas telling Pilate that Jesus preached insurrection against all authority? Also unbiblical. Was it the dialogue between the zealots and the disciples? Was it Joseph of Arimathea offering his tomb to Mary? Was it all the action that went on between the crucifixion and the resurrection? Was it the shining angel rolling the stone away? All the dialogue Caiphas’ wife brought to the political table? I’ll stop
All of the above is pure fiction/conjecture, but that you thought it was great doesn’t really bother me.
What I do know is in the end the Romans didn’t kill Jesus, nor did the Jewish religious leaders. It was my SIN (mine, yours, & ours – the sin of all who would believe in His Name) that nailed the Son of God to
the cross. Christ was slain at the hands of sinful men according to God’s predetermination and foreknowledge. And it pleased God to send Him to bruise Him. Acts 2 ;23 & Isaiah 53:10.
Therefore, to relegate the most important event in the entire human drama to political historical is like jamming the crown of thorns deeper into His brow. IMHO
Having said all that, episode one did provide me with 2 questions to ask during discussions about the program.
1. What did Jesus mean when he pleaded with His Father…”My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
2. And what did Jesus mean when he said “It is finished.”
They both could blow the door wide open to share the true gospel message.
Food for thought? Comments?
Well, the Apostle Paul disagrees, with this preacher, on at least two levels. First of all there’s the little matter of the the Gospel message itself, the Gospel Paul was not ashamed of (Rom 1:16); the Gospel he clearly defined to the believers in Corinth (1 Cor 15:1-4). Whether or not unbelievers don’t want to hear “about no blood on no cross”, it’s the message they must hear and believe if they aren’t going to spend eternity in hell.
Secondly, Paul has something to say about his ‘best life now’
In a recent sermon, a popular Health, Wealth & Prosperity (HWP) preacher asked and answered his own question:
Q: “Do you know why the people on your job really ain’t Christians right now?”
A: “Because you are preaching to them Jesus Christ.” . . . “That’s not what you’re supposed to preach.”.
In the same sermon, we also find other little tidbits:
“People ain’t worried about no blood on no cross.” . .“You gotta talk about how to solve people’s problems.”. . .“The good news is not Jesus. The good news is the Kingdom.”
Being a faithful Health, Wealth & Prosperity (HWP) type, by “good news of the Kingdom’ he meant having dominion over all of our ‘life’ circumstances and being successful and prosperous in all things, since God created man to have ‘dominion’ (which He did). However, what this preacher’s heretical message seems to forget is that there was something called The Fall, with its effect in bringing sin into what had been a creation God looked upon and pronounced “good” & “Very good”.
There’s nothing new here, except perhaps the blatant lie that preaching the crucified Jesus is somehow wrong – that “The good news is not Jesus”. I’ve not heard any of the Word Faith Heretics being so bold as to declare the lie behind their warped theology so openly. What this preacher did get right is that people don’t want to hear “about no blood on no cross”. They want to know how to have their “best lives now” (to quote another popular heretic). They what their itching ears tickled (2 Tim 4:3).
Well, the Apostle Paul disagrees with this preacher on at least two levels. First of all there’s the little matter of the the Gospel message itself, the Gospel Paul was not ashamed of (Rom 1:16); the Gospel he clearly defined to the believers in Corinth:
“Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you ,old fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.
For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures.” 1 Cor 15:1-4
Not only did Paul define the gospel (the good news) as having everything to do with ‘blood and a cross’, the blood and the cross was the major theme of his ministry:
“And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men[c] but in the power of God.” – 1 Cor 2:1-5
Whether or not unbelievers don’t want to hear “about no blood on no cross”, it’s the message they must hear and believe if they aren’t going to spend eternity in hell.
Secondly, Paul has something to say about what his ‘best life now’ was all about:
“Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; 26 on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst” – 2 Cor 11:24-27
Jesus called those who suffer for His name’s sake blessed, and even promised that his followers would be persecuted:
“Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.” Matthew 5:11
“If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you.” – John 15:18
To be fair, our subject preacher did not omit the preaching of the cross and the new birth altogether, he merely maintained that talk of being born again should follow the promises of ‘Kingdom’ living (HWP and dominion). However, that’s nothing more than a spiritual con game, if not THE great con pervading much of today’s evangelicalism – hook ‘em with promises of their ‘best lives now’ and leave talk about Jesus’ death for our ‘sin’ (blood and a cross) until later, if at all. It’s a ‘bait and switch’ that produces many false converts and lines the pockets of many a televangelist.
It also denies the sovereignty of God in evangelism. The duty of the preacher (and all of us) is to merely be faithful in the preaching the same gospel that Paul and the Apostles proclaimed (Christ died for our sins) and leave the saving to God, who opens hearts to hear and brings lost souls to the Blood and the Cross.
If you’ve read this and don’t believe that a preacher would actually say what the above evangelist is quoted as saying, you can hear it for yourself here.
I recently found this statement on a Christian leadership blog:
“Jesus’s approach was (and is) to love people into life change. The Pharisee’s approach was to try to judge people into life change. I think more people have been loved into changethan judged into change. I think following the approach of Christ is the best and most rewarding way to go.” (Emphasis mine)
Right off the bat, know that I do not personally know the author of that comment. I am in no way standing in judgment over the statement’s author, or any other person. Neither do I doubt for a second the heartfelt sincerity behind the statement. I am making an observation concerning the state of evangelism in much of today’s professing church.
It seems that everywhere I turn in today’s evangelical environment appeals to believe in/accept/receive Christ are made almost solely on the basis of having one’s ‘life changed’. Don’t get me wrong, I think that on the surface, it’s a great appeal! Don’t we all want our lives changed at some level? I’d be a liar to assert that I don’t, that’s for sure. And doesn’t Jesus change lives? He sure does! Not a single person throughout all of history has come to Jesus and NOT had their life changed! And aren’t we supposed to share others how Jesus has changed our own lives? Of course we are!
So if Jesus does change lives, and testimonies of how Jesus changed our lives are important when witnessing to others, what’s all this about gospel ‘treason’?
I’m so glad you asked! Please bear with me.
I could answer that from several different perspectives, I could tell you that the first record of Jesus’ ministry tells us that he said “The time is now at hand…repent and believe the gospel” (Mark 1:15) I could tell you about the times we are told that Jesus specifically told someone to deal with their sin. I could tell you about the times Jesus spoke specifically about Hell. I am equally certain that for any of those arguments you would have some way of justifying your gospel of ‘life change’. I know them all, and have in times past used them. Therefore, I’m not going anywhere close to those arguments!
Rather, I rest my case on just two passages of scripture, the first of which are words spoken before the birth of our Savior:
“. . . and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”
Those are the words spoken by angel of the Lord, who appeared to Joseph, Jesus’ earthly father when he was having second thoughts about marrying Mary. Not only did the heavenly visitor deal with Joseph’s concern, he named the child to be born and stated the reason for his birth, that “he will save his people from their sins. The second passage comes much later, after Jesus’ death and resurrection, after Pentecost and the birth of the church, and confirm the reason given by the angel to Joseph:
“For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins . . . was buried, (and) was raised on the third day. . .”
1 Corinthians 15:3-4
Those are the words of the Apostle Paul, in a letter to believers in the Corinthian church, reminding them of the gospel message he had previously preached to them, probably during one of his missionary journeys.
In two short passages we have the very reason Jesus came to earth and an apostolic affirmation that Jesus carried out His Divine mission.
So “Where’s the treason?” you ask again. I’ll tell you.
Alongside definitions of treason having something to do with overt acts to defy and overthrow one’s government, treason is also defined as simply “betraying a trust”.
Concerning the message of the gospel of Jesus Christ, those who tell us that Jesus came to earth for ‘life change’ are preaching, as Paul stated, ‘another gospel’. They betray a sacred trust to remain faithful to the true gospel, defined for us so clearly in two simple passages..
Furthermore, when that trust is betrayed, all the while knowing that ‘life change’ is nowhere given in scripture as a reason Jesus entered our world, lived a sinless life, was crucified, buried and resurrected, there is an open and ‘overt’ act involved in the betrayal.
Does that mean there’s an act of intentional betrayal? In all likelihood, I have to say no. Most of those who preach ‘life change’ as the principle purpose of Christ’s coming know that He died for the sins of men, but place that little tidbit of information on the stove’s back burner, as if it was merely something running in the background that needed to take place before we could all have our lives changed.
Am I personally calling anyone a traitor to the gospel? Most assuredly, I am not. How dare I, having once been that very traitor? I have no right to personally indict anyone for anything. What I do have, as a blood bought child of God, is a duty and desire to repent when the written, revealed word of God convicts me of sin. I have shared but two passages that convicted me of my ‘gospel treason’ and have long since repented.
Why not just keep my thoughts of ‘treason’ to myself, as a sort of personal lesson that doesn’t really apply to others?
Well, because these two passages, among many others, apply to each and every person who names the Name of Christ. Either they mean what they say, or they don’t. If they mean exactly what they say, to redefine the message of the gospel is to betray a sacred trust, and therefore ‘gospel treason’.
And as to why the gospel of ‘life change’ has almost completely saturated the evangelical landscape – that’s another topic for perhaps another blog post.
Church growth means that attendance/membership numbers are on the rise. An increase in numbers however does not necessarily indicate genuine church growth. By genuine church growth I mean an increase resulting from the addition of truly regenerate, saved sinners. Please allow me to explain.
“And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” (Matthew 16:18)
Those are Jesus’ words, to Peter of course, and I ‘m convinced that those few words speak volumes about genuine church growth. I just want to share a few thoughts.
First of all we are told that there is a “rock” that is the foundation of the church. What is that “rock”? To understand “the rock” we need only examine the immediate context and a couple of other passages in the New Testament.
“He said to them (his disciples), "But who do you say that I am?" Simon Peter replied, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." And Jesus answered him, "Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” (Matt 16:15-18)
With his words, Jesus was replying to what Peter had answered to the question he had posed to them “Who do you say that I am?”. Peter correctly responded by identifying Jesus as Christ, the Messiah (deliverer) they had been looking for throughout Jewish history, and that Jesus was the Son of God. Because the Greek name ‘Peter’ is similar to the Greek word ‘rock’ there are those who will say that Peter himself was that rock of which Jesus spoke. Was he?
“So then you (believers) are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone.” (Eph 2:20) (Emphasis mine)
I assume we will all agree that the ‘household of God’ refers to the church on earth. Note that the apostles and prophets form the foundation of the church, and that Jesus himself is the chief cornerstone of the foundation. Peter was one of the apostles in the foundation, not ‘the rock’ of which Jesus spoke. The rock was Peter’s confession of Jesus as the Messiah, the one identified by the Apostle Paul (also part of the foundation) as the Chief Cornerstone.
What does that mean in terms of genuine church growth? Thanks for asking! Here’s the critical phrase from our beginning passage, Jesus’ words:
”. . .on this rock (Jesus is the Messiah) I will build my church.”
No rocket science here. Jesus claims ownership of the church and it is built on the truth that He is the Christ, the One who delivers us from our sins, who was crucified in our place. It is when a lost sinner makes the same confession as Peter, calls on the name of the Lord for salvation, that a new member is added to the church, the body of Christ. And just how does anyone come t the point of calling on the name of the Lord for salvation? We have the answer in Paul’s words to the church in Rome
“For "everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved." How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, "How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!" “(Romans 10:13-15)
Genuine church growth begins with the ‘preaching’ of the gospel by ‘sent’ ones,. equipped with Holy Spirit power. At least that was the pattern during the infancy of the church. When Stephen was stoned to death by an angry Jewish mob, great persecution arose and believers scattered from Jerusalem fulfilling what was spoken by the resurrected Christ to his disciples in Jerusalem:
“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth." (Acts 1:8)
Then came Pentecost. The rest is history.
Does that mean numbers being added to a local church somewhere? Of course it does! The new birth generates a desire for fellowship with other believers. When lost souls are added to the universal church, the body of all believers, local churches grow. The numbers are a natural result of preaching the gospel to God-opened hearts. Numbers added to a local church are merely a by-product, and should never be the main goal of man-made schemes and methods. Jesus said “I will build my church.”
That being said, when I look around today’s evangelical landscape, I keep seeing all sorts of church growth conversations in which numbers themselves seem to be the main focus. I was at another site just recently that had a post titled “8 Reasons Your Church Won’t Get Past The 200 Mark.”While I’m convinced the author of that blog post genuinely wants to see unsaved people saved, I am equally convinced that creating a church that the ‘unchurched’ (euphemism for lost, in bondage to sin, spiritually dead folks) love to attend is NOT the way Jesus intended HIS church to be built.
I think I pretty much explained Jesus’ method for church growth. I probably should say ‘non-model’. In Jesus’ ‘non-model’ there are no Peter Drucker management techniques being used, no state of the art entertainment productions that mimic Guns and Roses or AC/DC, no cheerleaders posing as worship teams to get folks all worked up (not all worship teams are like that), no Barna style surveys to isolate certain demographic segments for the church’s target audience, no leaving out the issues of sin and repentance. And the list goes on, and on, and on.
Genuine church growth comes from the preaching of the gospel – the one that Paul was not ashamed of, that “Christ died, was buried, and rose again for OUR sins for out sins” (See I Cor 15:1-4). That preaching can happen just about anywhere, in fact should happen more outside the church building than inside it, as believers are equipped to being ‘scattered’, and just like the N.T. believers, they preach the gospel wherever they are! (See Acts 8:4)
So what is the goal of genuine church growth, if not numbers?
Dear friends and fellow believers, the goal of church growth is to bring the ‘unchurched’ to the foot of the cross of Christ, NOT through the doors of our church!
by Josef Urban
“And I, brethren, if I yet preach circumcision, why do I yet suffer persecution? then is the offense of the cross ceased” (Galatians 5:11). Paul’s Gospel had teeth. It bit hard into the kingdom of darkness and ripped chunks from it wherever it came. He didn’t make his message smooth and soft in order to suit the fancies of the religious majority. His Gospel was a sharp word that exalted Christ, lifted the cross up high, proclaimed total commitment to Christ the King, and utterly stripped man of all self-reliance, shattering self-righteousness, tearing down false religion, and leaving men stripped bare before God in utter dependence on His free grace alone to save them.
And of course, with a Gospel like this, Paul suffered persecution wherever he went. Yet he didn’t dare water-down the potency of the truth of God. He didn’t compromise his message in order to make it more acceptable to the people. He didn’t pervert it to make it look pretty. He proclaimed, “This is the way, the only way! Walk ye in it!” and pronounced a thundering “Anathema!” on anybody that dared to tamper with the message and preach another gospel (Gal. 1:6-9).
Yet this is exactly what was happening in the church at Galatia. False teachers had come in and deceived the brethren by perverting the Gospel. They were preaching that in addition to believing in Christ, it’s necessary to be circumcised according to the Law of Moses. They were adding to the Gospel, changing the message to make it more acceptable. Paul said of them: “As many as desire to make a fair show in the flesh, they constrain you to be circumcised; only lest they should suffer persecution for the cross of Christ” (Galatians 6:12). False teachers and false brethren today are rarely found preaching circumcision as necessary for salvation. However, they are still doing the same thing to the Gospel, adding to it and taking away from it in order to make it less offensive and more acceptable to the religious folk who fill the churches, in order that they don’t have to suffer persecution for the sake of the message. They take away the “offense of the cross” and in doing so, take away the heart and substance of the Gospel.
Paul’s Gospel exalted the cross of Jesus Christ. Paul preached salvation solely through the finished work of the cross, and preached abroad that those who are to be saved by grace must identify themselves with this bloody cross. He preached that men need to believe in Christ, and that the result of believing is an identification with the cross. He gloried in the fact that he was “crucified with Christ” (Gal. 2:20). He preached that the sinful flesh needs to be crucified; that the carnal man has to be put to death. Any who refuse to thus nail themselves to the cross are unworthy of the great, glorious Gospel of Christ. Any who water down the Gospel and dilute the message to make it more acceptable to carnal men or to tailor to the religious status quo, refusing to suffer for the sake of the Gospel are enemies of the cross, serving their own bellies, minding earthly things, and will face destruction (Phi. 3:18-19). There is no compromise here. Those that don’t like the message are the enemies of the cross.
Paul’s Gospel was offensive, highly offensive. He boasted that his message contained “the offense of the cross” and would not dare to cause such offense to cease. To him, the fact that there was such an offense was proof that he was preaching the true Gospel. He knew that the true Gospel would stir up devils and provoke the wrath of wicked men, and thus at times cause offense. And he continued to preach this true Gospel to the very end, even though it was “foolishness to those who are perishing”, because he knew that it was the power of God to those who believed and embraced it, resulting in salvation (1 Cor. 1:21). In addition to demolishing Satanic strongholds and turning multitudes from darkness to light, from the power of Satan unto God, the result of preaching this was angry mobs, getting stoned, being whipped and scourged, getting thrown into prison, being hated everywhere he went, and ultimately being beheaded in Rome.
Why doesn’t our “gospel” today get us persecuted? Why does it sit so well with the religious masses? Why doesn’t it bite and cut and wound and hack and kill false religiosity? Because it’s not God’s Gospel! It’s not the sharp, two-edged sword that pierces hearts and slashes through false religious ideologies. It doesn’t wound the consciences of hardened sinners and cause them to cry out in godly sorrow, “What must I do to be saved?” It doesn’t tear away the false foundations and strip away their false hopes, and so it leaves us building on a faulty foundation that’s not going to stand when the floods of God’s just judgment come against it. There’s no digging deep in plowing up the hardened ground by preaching the offense of the cross and calling for deep repentance, so there’s not a solid foundation laid that will endure to life everlasting. The result is that multitudes are trusting in a false “gospel” that pampers the flesh and are blindly walking down the wide road that leads to destruction.
In taking away the offensiveness of preaching heart-repentance from sin and biblical justification by faith and the necessity of bowing to the Lordship of Christ, and in taking away the offensiveness of the message of the cross, we have destroyed the foundation of the Gospel. We need to get back to the offensive message of self-denial, crucifixion to the world and the flesh, of dying to sin, and of preaching salvation as the sovereign work of God’s free grace, given freely to men on the basis of faith in Christ alone apart from any merit or work of their own. Perhaps when we get back to preaching the unadulterated truth of the real Gospel, men and devils will come against us in opposition too. Perhaps when we get back to preaching the truth, we will find that there’s nothing new under the sun, and that the same Gospel has always had the same results, in the 1st century and in the 21st century.
The problem today is that the modern church has a severe lack of holy troublemakers. What I mean is that the great Spirit that brought about reformations in church history is largely void in today’s church, though it is sorely needed. The Spirit of Elijah is gone from our midst. Elijah was a holy man of God. He preached an offensive message, a message of repentance and God’s judgment against sin. He had power with God, and as the judgment of God against the sin of Israel, there was no rain at Elijah’s word for three and a half years. After that time, Elijah appeared to the wicked king, Ahab, and Ahab shouted out, “Is that you, you troubler of Israel?” (1 Ki. 18:17). Elijah was a holy troublemaker to the sin, false religion and Baal worship of that day. But it wasn’t Elijah that caused the main trouble; it was the sin of Israel. Elijah responded to the wicked king: “I have not troubled Israel; but thou, and thy father’s house, in that ye have forsaken the commandments of the LORD, and thou hast followed Baalim” (1 Ki. 18:18).
This often happens today. When a man of God rises up and starts preaching an offensive message of the cross, of dying to self, of God’s judgment against sin, of the true Gospel, he is often accused of being contentious, or factious, or as a troublemaker. Yet it is not the Gospel that is the trouble, even though many times people don’t like it. The real trouble is the sin in the church and false religiosity. The true problem is the worship of the Baal’s, of “another Jesus” that is so often preached today that resembles a nice, soft, fluffy teddy bear that is the sinner’s accessory for life-enhancement more than He resembles the ferocious, triumphant Lion of Judah that demands absolute worship and obedience who demands that all be reconciled to Him or else be ripped to shreds when His wrath is kindled but a little (Psa. 2:12). –Now, the wrath of the Lamb isn’t the only attribute of our blessed Lord, nor should that be all we preach. Jesus is a friend of repentant sinners, and full of mercy and love such as no finite mind can fathom, freely wiping away the sins of the most wretched on earth and bestowing on former rebels of the Kingdom the greatest riches of the Kingdom. However, the truth is that there is a great lack in the majority of the professing church nowadays of preaching the full counsel of God, and reasoning of sin, righteousness, and judgment to come, and thundering forth the terrors of the Living God that shall one day soon fall grievously on the head of the wicked.
This is what we need today, when there has been such a soft “gospel” preached for so long, when the multitudes of religious masses fill the churches, comfortable in their sin, living at ease in Zion in lukewarm pleasure-seeking religion, serving a “Jesus” that is not the Jesus of the Bible, but is rather the bi-product of their own worldly culture and carnal thinking. We need zealous men who burn with Holy Ghost fire that have not been tamed-down by the religious status-quo, who will turn over the tables of the money-changers in the house of God, who will by the might of the Spirit smash the idols of materialism and greed, who will tear down the altars of the golden calves they call, “Jehovah”, who will prophesy against the false prophets of “another Jesus” the true word of the Lord. We need those who love Jesus enough to take a stand against the Devil and be persecuted for preaching a sharp, convicting message, that even though it offends, it also gloriously contains real power to deliver from sin and save souls.
The Apostle Paul was a holy troublemaker too. When he came to a certain city, the people cried out, “These that have turned the world upside down are come hither also” (Act. 17:6).When he stood on trial before the Governor, he was accused of being one who stirred up trouble everywhere he went. They said of him, “For we have found this man a pestilent fellow, and a mover of sedition among all the Jews throughout the world, and a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes” (Act. 24:5). Paul was accused of being a ringleader in a troublemaking sect, because he tore down the religious status quo wherever he went by preaching a pure message of Christ and Him crucified, and utterly despised every false way that seeks to counterfeit or pervert the Gospel of God. The religious masses of his day didn’t like, and the ones of our day don’t like it, either.
Yet this is what we need today. We need preachers with a reformation Spirit to demolish the false foundations of Christian thinking we have in our modern day, and to exalt the old fashioned Gospel of the cross. It is only the real Gospel, the one that often offends both men and devils, that is the truth which can save those who believe. Perverting it, diluting it, changing it, and adulterating it will only lead to deception and destruction. We need to see the restoration of the true Gospel in the church, the one that has teeth that bites chunks into the cotton-candy “gospel” of our time, the one that is sharper than any two-edged sword and pierces hearts, the one that is mighty through God to demolish the strongholds of Satan, the one that God uses as the chief instrument to ignite a fire in the hearts of men and to bestow the grace of saving faith in His precious elect.
I’m not saying that we should purposely try to be offensive. We should never purposely offend anyone simply for the sake of being offensive or trying to conjure up a rude awakening by the methods of the flesh. We should be filled and dripping with the love of Christ when we share the Gospel, evidencing the blessed fruit of the Spirit, led by the Spirit of Truth and speaking not as mere men, but as the oracles of God. We should actually go out of our way to ensure that the way we act and what we do doesn’t unnecessarily offend anyone so as not to put stumbling blocks in their way from accepting the Gospel. Paul said, “I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some” (1 Cor. 9:22). No matter the amount of self-denial involved, Paul would go out of his way to make sure that the way he acted and what he did helped people to understand the Gospel, not push them further away from it. We must give honor to whom honor is due, and respect to all by all means as long as it doesn’t compromise the Gospel in any way. And while all this is certainly true, we have to check ourselves, because if the Gospel that we’re preaching isn’t offending anybody, it’s some heavy evidence that what we’re preaching isn’t the true, biblical Gospel of the cross. We must never, never, water down and adulterate the pure truths of the Word of God in order to make it more acceptable to the unregenerate!
Yet, today, there is a huge movement sweeping through the professing church that does this very thing. They take away expounding on the threats of God’s holy Law and warning of the judgment to come. They don’t mention the fury and wrath of God. They don’t preach the Biblical message of God’s holy hatred of sin. They don’t preach the blood of Christ and its utter necessity for making propitiation and appeasing offended Deity. They take away the preaching of repentance. They don’t preach the power of His resurrection and His grace that gives us victory over sin. They don’t expound on the necessity of the New Birth and of a definite conversion experience. Instead, they preach philosophy, psychology, and ear-tickling sermons that make rebels feel really good about themselves in their current state before God. They preach positive self-improvement, self-esteem, and self-help. And the masses just eat it up and want more!
Their strategy is to remove the “hard sayings” from the Word of God and to only preach what unregenerate sinners like to hear in order to grow their churches and increase their attendance and membership. They think, “Let’s not preach about the wrath of God against sin because it’ll offend somebody; instead let’s just preach how God loves everybody no matter who they are or how they live”. And by preaching a sugarcoated “gospel” their goal is to grow their meetings –and it works. It’s not a rare thing to find a huge mega church in every city in the US that uses these very methods of ear-tickling half-truth “gospels”. They call it, “seeker-sensitive”. But, as one preacher put it, “There’s only one seeker and that’s God!” There are none that seek after God, apart from a work of grace in their hearts after God has first sought them. We should labor to make our churches God-friendly. And we can only do this when we preach the whole truth!
What example did Jesus lay down for us to follow? Did He take out important truths from the Gospel, truths that people didn’t like to hear, in order to please men and make more disciples for Himself? –Certainly not! To the contrary, His preaching cut through all the false pretenses and impure motives of those who seemed to be seeking God, and He would expose the hearts of the people and proclaim the very truths that they didn’t like to hear!
In John 6, after multiplying bread and feeding a multitude, a great mass of people followed Him. But their motive wasn’t the love of the truth and the glory of God and to honor Jesus for His mighty miraculous power. Their motive was selfishness, because they were following Him because He fed them with bread. Jesus didn’t mince words –He cut straight through their impure motives and said, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Ye seek me, not because ye saw the miracles, but because ye did eat of the loaves, and were filled” (Jo. 6:26). Jesus continued to preach and expound on the truth, revealing their false motives and proclaiming that He is the true bread which came down from Heaven. This offended them, and they began to murmer against Him (vv. 41-42).
Many were offended at His word. Did He know they would be offended? –Of course! The words He spoke were not even His own, they were the words of the Father Himself, the very words of God. Not one word was spoken outside of the direct order of God. It was God’s plan to preach to these people in such as a way as to turn them back from following Jesus because, again, they motive was not pure and acceptable before God. He would rather have a few wholehearted followers than a multitude of lukewarm self-centered hypocrites who appear to follow Jesus outwardly while inwardly their motive is to gratify their own selfish desires.
In this discourse Jesus continued to say what some of the most offensive things one could possibly say to a Jew: He made Himself out to be greater than Moses, their greatest prophet, and on top of this, made the shocking statement that one must eat His flesh and drink His blood to have eternal life. What an outrage this must have caused! These are people who won’t even touch shrimp or ham, let alone eat flesh and drink blood! They were certainly offended. And not only were the Jews in general offended, but many of those who were at that time His disciples, who were following Him, were offended as well:
“Many therefore of his disciples, when they had heard this, said, This is a hard saying; who can hear it? When Jesus knew in himself that his disciples murmured at it, he said unto them, Doth this offend you? What and if ye shall see the Son of man ascend up where he was before? It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life. But there are some of you that believe not. For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were that believed not, and who should betray him. And he said, Therefore said I unto you, that no man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father” (Jo. 6:60-65).
And the result of this whole discourse brings us to the only “666” in the Bible outside of Revelation, that is, John 6:66, which says, “From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him.” That is, many of those who were following Him were offended at His word and left their outward form of following Him. But the truth is that they never were truly following Him with all their hearts. Though they had an outward profession of faith, they didn’t have the inward work of grace to make their profession a spiritual reality in their lives. Jesus spoke the sharp, two-edged cutting word of God that sliced through their false outward profession and cut down the religious pretense, leaving nothing but the motive of the hearts exposed. Though He knew this would cause them to turn away from their outward profession, He knew that it was the best thing to do for the sake of maintaining the purity of the church at that time.
Why did He do this? –Because He knew that all those who were given to Him by His Father would come to Him, hear from Him, accept His words, have their spiritual understanding opened, and believe in Him and be saved. Those who were His own precious, elect sheep, having light from above, would understand that He didn’t speak of physically eating His flesh and blood, but of spiritually partaking of the real substance of His Being in the most intimate way –of deriving their very life from His life, and living every day in the reality of His broken body and shed blood for their salvation.
So while the hypocrites and false followers are chased away by the preaching of hard truth, the genuine and true followers are edified by it and drawn closer to Him through it. Preaching the offense of the cross, the hard truth of the word of God has a way of leaving the true children of God in awe and edified in the inner man, since most of the “meat” of the Gospel that gives us the most strength is initially hard to digest for the natural man. In light of this, for the sake of the truth of the Gospel, we must never take away any truth from it for the sake of making it acceptable to the carnal masses. If the true Gospel scares people off and offends hypocrites, let them go! It’s better to have God with us through the preaching of the true Gospel and the people against us then it is to have the people for us and God against us!
Let’s follow the example of the Lord Jesus who spoke truth without regard to its consequences. Our job is to proclaim the Gospel, and God’s job is to ensure results. We do our part, and then God will do His. But we dare not try to take God’s job by seeking to conjure up results by tampering with the message! What a damnable thing! The cross is a scandal, an offense to the world! Let’s leave it at that!
Apparently, the true Gospel that Jesus came to herald was one that was so offensive that He pronounced a special blessing on all those who were able to receive it: “And blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me” (Luke 7:23). It takes a special blessing not to be offended in Christ. This must mean that most people, if they hear and understand the true Gospel, and see and hear the true Jesus, will in some measure be offended or will be unable to believe and be saved. This is quite the contrast to the lukewarm “gospel” we hear so often today, that offends nobody, that is easily embraced by the sinful multitudes who love to hear these humanistic ideas about God preached and are never shaken from their complacency, never get alarmed over their sinful condition, never depart from their iniquity, and never embrace the cross of Christ in identification with His sufferings or bow the knee of submissive obedience to His Lordship –things which are essential characteristics of true faith and necessary evidence of the reality of the Gospel in one’s life.
This true, offensive Gospel, far from being accepted by the world, was a scandal to the world, and the world hated it! It ended up getting our Lord nailed to a tree. This true Gospel, according to early historical records, ended up getting the Apostle Peter crucified as well (that is, crucified upside down). It ended up getting all the Apostles martyred, except for John, who was banished as a condemned criminal to the Isle of Patmos. This true Gospel will never be accepted by the world and its ungodly system or the prince of darkness who oversees it. It will always be a scandal, an offense, a sword between those who follow it and those who refuse to (see Mat. 10:34-36). Where is this Gospel today? Surely, wherever it is, persecution tends to follow it in some form or another, but thank God; genuine salvation does too! And so does revival!
Josef and Lina Urban are missionaries laboring in Mexico. Their Website is here.
The following article is from Monergism, an online source.
The gospel is not behavior modification, becoming a better person or learning to become more moral. It is not taking the life of Jesus as a model way to live or transforming/redeeming the secular realm. It is not living highly communal lives with others and sharing generously in communities who practice the way of Jesus in local culture. These may all be good things but they are not to be confused with the gospel. They should accompany the gospel, and should not separated from the gospel and while God may use them to authenticate the gospel and make our proclamation of the gospel more fertile in hardened hearts yet they are not to be viewed as replacements for the gospel.
Did you notice the one characteristic of all of the above activities has nothing to do with what Christ has done for us, but all about what we do for him. The true gospel, rather, is news about what Christ the Saviour, has already done for us (in his life, death and resurrection) rather than instruction and advice about what you are to do for God. Christ’s accomplishment, not ours, is the essence of the gospel. Above all, the gospel of Christ brings good news, rather than instruction about our behavior. The gospel of not about what we do, but our acts inevitably spring up and overflow in thanksgiving due to what Christ has done for us.
In short, the Gospel is the life-altering news that Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of God, became man, lived a sinless life under the Law, died for sinners and rose again to reconcile them to himself, eternally victorious over every enemy that stood between God and man. Now, because of this redemptive work, there is nothing that separates those who believe from their Creator and all the benefits that He promises in him. D.A. Carson says the gospel centers "upon Jesus Christ and what God has done through him. The essential points of the gospel are Jesus Christ’s status as the Son of God, his genuine humanity, his death for our sins, his burial, resurrection, subsequent appearances, and future coming in judgment. That no one is justified but in the gracious work of Jesus Christ in his death and resurrection. It is not merely a recital of theological truths and historical events; rather, it relates these truths and events to situations of every individual believer."
But in order to fully understand what the Gospel is, it is important to understand why the Gospel is needed.
It is helpful to see the gospel in the context of human history starting with God’s creation of all things, man’s rebellion against the Creator, his subsequent fall into corruption and God’s redemption of that which was lost. Adam, the first man, had the capacity to do every good work the law required; which men, since the fall, have not. Having fallen headlong into sin, God cursed Adam with death (Gen 2:17, 3:19-22), and with the removal of His Spirit (1 Cor 2:14), a penalty he passed on to all his posterity. Man squandered his stewardship and put himself in the position of a moral debt he cannot repay. Now mankind’s spiritually bankrupt condition and fallen nature, which is beyond repair, render it necessary that if he is to be restored, the help will have to come from the outside. That redemption comes from God and comes in the form of the gospel. This gospel is not something man made up or a well-informed opinion, but is good news directly revealed from Almighty God regarding what He has done in Jesus Christ to rescue all those who have called on His name. Yes, it is a divine rescue, a complete deliverance … not advice, not a moral improvement program, nor a philosophy of life, since we need sovereign mercy, not assistance. The proud, or those who fail to see their moral impotence to save themselves, will reject this gospel. But this is GOOD NEWS to the poor and broken hearted, (the spiritual bankrupt who have lost all confidence in their own efforts) … So all you poor, broken sinners, abandon despair and banish your laments because of what God has done in His Son, Jesus Christ the Messiah to deliver His people from their sins.
I once heard it said that there are two religions in the world: 1) human attainment and 2) Divine accomplishment. Lets consider the first one; human attainment, which is the natural inclination of us all. In His Law, God calls us to perfect obedience to His holy commands, yet an honest assessment of ourselves will force us to acknowledge that we all fall woefully short of doing so, leaving no hope in ourselves. But in the Gospel, Jesus mercifully obeys the commands for us. Christ’s full obedience to all the prescriptions of the divine law…and His willing obedience in bearing all the sanctions imposed for our disobedience to that law is both the ground of God’s justification of sinners like us and makes available a perfect righteousness that is imputed or reckoned to those who put their trust in him. In other words, The gospel is not about any merit I have, but is based upon Jesus’ Person and merit alone. It is not what we have done for Jesus, but what Jesus has done for us (Rom 5:19, 2 Cor 5:21, Phil 2:8). Where Adam failed, Jesus prevailed. It is God’s promise to us, not our ability to keep our promise to Him. In the covenant rainbow sign with Noah, God says He "remembers" never to flood the world again, so likewise in the covenant in Christ’s blood, God "remembers" not to treat us as we justly deserve for our sins. The mystery of God has been made manifest in the Person and work of the Son, who, in his wrath absorbing sacrifice, frees the prisoners, gives sight to the blind, breaks loose the chains and changes hearts of stone into hearts of flesh. We were once taken captive to do Satan’s will and could not escape using our own resources, but Christ has set us free. Christ, in His cross work, does for us what we could not do for ourselves. He lived the perfect life that we should have lived and died the death we should have died, in order to free us so that we might then proclaim His excellencies, make known his gospel and spread justice and mercy to the poor.
Dr. Tim Keller once said "…the gospel is news about what God has already done for you, rather than instruction and advice about what you are to do for God… In other religions, God reveals to us how we can find or achieve salvation. In Christianity, God achieves salvation for us. The gospel brings news primarily, rather than instruction. " …the gospel is all about historic events, and thus it has a public character. "It identifies Christian faith as news that has significance for all people, indeed for the whole world, not merely as esoteric understanding or insight." [Brownson, p. 46] …if Jesus is not risen from the dead, Christianity does not "work". The gospel is that Jesus died and rose for us. If the historic events of his life did not happen, then Christianity does not "work" for the good news is that God has entered the human "now" (history) with the life of the world to come….the gospel is news about what God has done in history to save us, rather than advice about what we must do to reach God. The gospel is news that Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection in history has achieved our salvation…Jesus does not just bring good news; he is the good news."
There is no salvation outside of the Lord Jesus Christ. So trust in Christ and not in your own righteousness. But some refuse the free gift of God because they trust in their own goodness. As the Puritan Thomas Watson once said:
[Some people think] …they are so good, that they scorn God’s offer of mercy. Indeed these are often in the worst condition: these are they who think they need no repentance (Luke 15:7). Their morality undoes them. They make a "savior" of it, and so on this rock they suffer shipwreck. Morality shoots short of heaven. It is only nature refined. A moral man is but old Adam dressed in fine clothes. The king’s image counterfeited and stamped upon brass will not go current. The moral person seems to have the image of God—but he is only brass metal, which will never pass for current. Morality is insufficient for salvation. Though the life is moralized, the lust may be unmortified. The heart may be full of pride and atheism. Under the fair leaves of a tree, there may be a worm. I am not saying, repent that you are moral—but that you are no more than moral. Satan entered into the house that had just been swept and garnished (Luke 11:26). This is the emblem of a moral man, who is swept by civility and garnished with common gifts—but is not washed by true repentance. The unclean spirit enters into such a one. If morality were sufficient to salvation, Christ need not have died. The moral man has a fair lamp—but it lacks the oil of grace."
Jesus is Lord and creator – the only rightful king of all creation … king of all things both seen and unseen. To those who worship the false idols of their hearts (any God-replacement) take heed … Jesus will soon be invading with His armies and will overthrow his enemies and all injustice with the breath of His mouth. But He is offering pardon in advance of His invasion to all those who receive Him (John 1:12, 13). Those who have joined themselves to Him now before He invades will be considered His ally and He will raise them up to be co-heirs with Christ as sons. The alternative is to be under the wrath of the king. We herald this announcement: that the True King is on the throne and he’ll be invading. The gospel is not merely an invitation it is a command to all those going their own ways. Will you heed the command? Jesus is Lord, repent and believe."(Bill Wilder) But because of the blindness sin has cast over us, Jesus says, no one can believe in Him unless the Father grants it through the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit (John 6:63-65). So those who, by the grace of God, trust in Jesus and His work can be assured, on the sure testimony of Scripture, that their sins are forgiven and have the promise of God: eternal life.
Man was created to glorify God & Enjoy Him forever
"Worthy are you, our Lord and our God to receive glory and honor and power, for You created all things." (Rev 4:11) "Do all to the glory of God" (1 Cor 10:31)
Man has failed to glorify God & is under His just condemnation
"For all have sinned…" (Rom 3:23) The wages of sin is death (Rom 6:23) "These will pay the penalty of eternal destruction" (2 Thes 1:9)
Jesus fully bore the wrath and suffered the punishment sinners deserve
Not wishing that sinners perish forever, God determined to save a people for Himself in the Eternal Son who became a man and lived the life we should have lived and died the death we justly deserve. God loves sinners and sent His Son to be the wrath absorbing sacrifice for their sin (1 John 4:10; John 6:37) he "…gave His life as a ransom for many" (Mk 10:45) & "rose again" from the dead (2 Cor 5:15) on their behalf.
All who, by the grace of God, turn to Jesus in submissive faith are forgiven
If you confess you are a sinner in need of Christ then God has begun to work in you a life-changing, eternally satisfying relationship with Himself! "Repent and believe the gospel (Mk 1:5) "In Your presence is fullness of Joy (Ps 16:11). So leave your self-righteousness, and your sins. Fly unto the Lord Jesus Christ, and receive his righteousness to be your covering, and his blood to be your atonement. If your trust is in Jesus alone for your salvation (that is, if you have no hope save for Christ’s mercy alone) then you can be assured that your sins are forgiven and He has granted you eternal life.
For Further Study
The Gospel is Historical by Tim Keller
The Gospel Of Jesus Christ by D.A. Carson – 1 Corinthians 15:1-19 (.pdf)
Is Jesus Really the Only Way? by John Hendryx
Difficult Questions, Certain Answers (.pdf) by Nathan Pitchford – A redemptive historical gospel tract
Is there More Than One Way to God? by John Hendryx
The Gospel: Offer or Command? by John Hendryx
Paul’s Definition of a Christian by John Hendryx
The Sum of Saving Knowledge Westminster Assembly Supplemental Document – A Brief Sum of Christian Doctrine, Contained in the Holy Scriptures, and Holden Forth in the Foresaid Confession of Faith and Catechisms; Together with the Practical Use Thereof
All of Grace by C.H. Spurgeon
The Everlasting Righteousness by Horatius Bonar
Monergism Copyright © 2009
My Josiah, who loves military history and strategy, tells me that there was a battle during Genghis Kahn’s wars where he sent his men against a larger enemy force, then feigned a 5 day retreat. This feint retreat led the enemy straight into a storm of arrows, wiping them out.
Muhammad Ali’s famous “rope-a-dope” strategy against his powerful opponent George Foreman in 1974 was a brilliant implementation of such a method. Ali, unable to prevail over Foreman by normal means, taunted Foreman into hammering him with a barrage of blows as Ali leaned back on the rope. After Foreman exhausted himself, Ali dropped him.
Israel used a similar strategy in their second battle with Ai (Josh. 8). The fleeing Israelites drew out the overconfident men of Ai, leading to their defeat. (If I had Phil or Frank’s mad Photoshop skilz, this would be the place for a Pyrotized variation of this image.)
God Himself executes some strategic feint retreats, to disastrous effect. If one skips ahead to the book of Revelation, with all the outward and final outpouring of God’s wrath and His hammering of the earth and the world, one observes another mighty feint retreat. God allows His two mighty prophets, after a ministry of withering blasts of miraculous power, to be overcome, conquered and slain (Rev. 11). Yet even then, God has the final word, resurrecting them and bringing them up — an ominous reminder to the world of the utter futility of its long war against God.
But of course the greatest feint retreat in all of history, so to speak, will be marked this Friday, in the death of Christ on the Cross. When Christ the mighty Maker died for man the creature’s sin, we saw the “weakness” of God (2 Cor. 13:4). For all outward signs and appearances, it seemed that the very worst of mankind, and the very worst of the dark forces, had finally won. God was killed. They were celebrating.
And yet, in that apparent defeat, the decisive battle was fought and won (Jn. 12:31). It was a feint retreat. The victory it accomplished was literally devastating to the opposition. That tilted the world, for all time. They’ve never been the same, and their eventual doom, by that very feint retreat, is sealed.
It should not surprise us then to see that the history of Christ’s church is marked by many setbacks, some indeed coming before brilliant flashes of Gospel power.
Nor should it surprise us that God’s battle strategy for our own lives may involve many apparent defeats, many setbacks, many feint retreats.
But we should never forget: the outcome is absolutely certain (Rom. 8:18-39).
All because of God’s grand feint retreat at Calvary.
What do we think and feel about the cross of Christ? We live in a Christian land. We probably attend the worship of a Christian church. We have, most of us, been baptized in the name of Christ. We profess and call ourselves Christians. All this is well—it is more than can be said of millions in the world. But what do we think and feel about the cross of Christ?
"Far be it from me to boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world." Galatians 6:14
Let me explain, in the second place, what we are to understand by "the cross of Christ."
The ‘cross’ is an expression that is used in more than one meaning in the Bible. What did Paul mean when he said, "I boast in the cross of Christ," in the Epistle to the Galatians? This is the point I now wish to examine closely and make clear.
The cross sometimes means that wooden cross, on which the Lord Jesus Christ was nailed and put to death on Calvary. This is what Paul had in his mind’s eye, when he told the Philippians that Christ "became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross." (Phil. 2:8.) This is not the cross in which Paul boasted. He would have shrunk with horror from the idea of boasting in a mere piece of wood. I have no doubt he would have denounced the Roman Catholic adoration of the crucifix, as profane, blasphemous, and idolatrous.
The cross sometimes means the afflictions and trials which believers in Christ have to go through, if they follow Christ faithfully, for their religion’s sake. This is the sense in which our Lord uses the word when He says, "He who takes not his cross and follows after Me, cannot be my disciple." (Matt. 10:38.) This also is not the sense in which Paul uses the word when he writes to the Galatians. He knew that cross well—he carried it patiently. But he is not speaking of it here.
But the cross also means, in some places, the doctrine that Christ died for sinners upon the cross—the atonement that He made for sinners, by His suffering for them on the cross—the complete and perfect sacrifice for sin which He offered up, when He gave His own body to be crucified. In short, this one word, "the cross," stands for Christ crucified, the only Savior. This is the meaning in which Paul uses the expression, when he tells the Corinthians, "the preaching of the cross is to those who perish foolishness." (1 Cor. 1:18.) This is the meaning in which he wrote to the Galatians, "God forbid that I should boast, except in the cross." He simply meant, "I boast in nothing but Christ crucified, as the salvation of my soul."
"By the cross of Christ the Apostle understands the all-sufficient, expiatory, and satisfactory sacrifice of Christ upon the cross, with the whole work of our redemption; in the saving knowledge of whereof he professes he will glory and boasts."—Cudworth on Galatians. 1613.
Let every reader of this paper mark what I say. You may know a good deal about the Bible. You may know the outlines of the histories it contains, and the dates of the events described, just as a man knows the history of England. You may know the names of the men and women mentioned in it, just as a man knows Caesar, Alexander the Great, or Napoleon. You may know the several precepts of the Bible, and admire them, just as a man admires Plato, Aristotle, or Seneca. But if you have not yet found out that Christ crucified is the foundation of the whole volume, you have read your Bible hitherto to very little profit. Your religion is a heaven without a sun, an arch without a key-stone, a compass without a needle, a clock without spring or weights, a lamp without oil. It will not comfort you. It will not deliver your soul from hell.
Mark what I say again. You may know a good deal about Christ, by a kind of head knowledge. You may know who He was, and where He was born, and what He did. You may know His miracles, His sayings, His prophecies, and His ordinances. You may know how He lived, and how He suffered, and how He died. But unless you know the power of Christ’s cross by experience—unless you know and feel within that the blood shed on that cross has washed away your own particular sins—unless you are willing to confess that your salvation depends entirely on the work that Christ did upon the cross—unless this be the case, Christ will profit you nothing. The mere knowing Christ’s name will never save you. You must know His cross, and His blood, or else you will die in your sins.
"If our faith stops in Christ’s life, and does not fasten upon His blood, it will not be justifying faith. His miracles, which prepared the world for His doctrines; His holiness, which fitted Himself for His sufferings, had been insufficient for us without the addition of the cross." Charnock. 1684.
Are you a believer that longs to be more holy? Are you one that finds his heart too ready to love earthly things? To you also I say, "Behold the cross of Christ." Look at the cross, think of the cross, meditate on the cross, and then go and set your affections on the world if you can. I believe that holiness is nowhere learned so well as on Calvary. I believe you cannot look much at the cross without feeling your will sanctified, and your tastes made more spiritual. As the sun gazed upon makes everything else look dark and dim, so does the cross darken the false splendor of this world. As honey tasted makes all other things seem to have no taste at all, so does the cross seen by faith take all the sweetness out of the pleasures of the world.
Keep on every day steadily looking at the cross of Christ, and you will soon say of the world, as the poet does—
Its pleasures now no longer please,
No more content afford;
Far from my heart be joys like these,
Now I have seen the Lord.
As by the light of opening day
The stars are all concealed,
So earthly pleasures fade away
When Jesus is revealed.
The above is excerpted from a sermon by J.C. Ryle, which can be read in it’s entirety here.
All men ought to love peace. War is an immense evil, though it is a necessary evil sometimes. Battles are bloody and distressing events, though sometimes nations cannot maintain their rights without them. But all men ought to love peace. All ought to pray for a quiet life.
All this is very true, and yet there is one war which it is a positive duty to carry on; there is one battle which we ought to be always fighting. The battle I speak of is the battle against the world, the flesh, and the devil. With these enemies we never ought to be at peace; from this warfare no man ought ever to seek to be discharged, while he is alive.
Reader, give me your attention for a few minutes, and I will tell you something about the great battle.
Every professing Christian is the soldier of Christ. He is bound by his baptism to fight Christ’s battle against sin, the world, and the devil. The man that does not do this, breaks his vow–he is a spiritual defaulter; he does not fulfill the engagement made for him. The man that does not do this, is practically renouncing his Christianity. The very fact that he belongs to a Church, attends a Christian place of worship, and calls himself a Christian, is a public declaration that he desires to be reckoned a soldier of Jesus Christ.
Armor is provided for the professing Christian, if he will only use it. “Take unto you,” says Paul to the Ephesians, “the whole armor of God.” “Stand, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breast-plate of righteousness.” “Take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God.” “Above all, take the shield of faith” (Ephes. vi. 13-17). And not least, the professing Christian has the best of leaders, —Jesus the Captain of salvation, through whom he may be more than conqueror; the best of provisions—the bread and water of life; and the best of pay promised to him—an eternal weight of glory.
All these are ancient things. I will not be drawn off to dwell on them now.
The one point I want to impress on your soul just now is this—that if you want to be saved, you must not only be a soldier, but a victorious soldier. You must not only profess to fight on Christ’s side against sin, the world, and the devil, but you must actually fight and overcome.
Now this is one grand distinguishing mark of true Christians. Other men perhaps like to be numbered in the ranks of Christ’s army; other men may have lazy wishes, and languid desires after the crown of glory–but it is the true Christian alone, who does the work of a soldier. He alone fairly meets the enemies of his soul, really fights with them, and in that fight overcomes them.
Reader, one great lesson I wish you to learn this day is this—that if you would prove you are born again and going to heaven, you must be a victorious soldier of Christ. If you would make it clear that you have any title to Christ’s precious promises, you must fight the good fight in Christ’s cause, and in that fight you must conquer.
Victory is the only satisfactory evidence that you have a saving religion. You like good sermons, perhaps; you respect the Bible, and read it occasionally; you say your prayers night and morning; you have family prayers, and give to religious societies. I thank God for this–it is all very good. But how goes the battle? How does the great conflict go on all this time? Are you overcoming the love of the world and the fear of man? Are you overcoming the passions, tempers, and lusts of your own heart? Are you resisting the devil, and making him flee from you? How is it in this matter? My dear brother or sister, you must either rule or serve sin, and the devil, and the world. There is no middle course. You must either conquer or be lost.
I know well it is a hard battle that you have to fight, and I want you to know it too. You must fight the good fight of faith, and endure hardships, if you would lay hold of eternal life; you must make up your mind to a daily struggle, if you would reach heaven. There may be shortcuts to heaven invented by man; but ancient Christianity—the good old way—is the way of the cross–the way of conflict. Sin, the world, and the devil must be actually mortified, resisted, and overcome.
This is the road that saints of old have trodden in, and left their record on high.
When Moses refused the pleasures of sin in Egypt, and chose affliction with the people of God—this was overcoming: he overcame the love of pleasure.
When Micaiah refused to prophesy smooth things to king Ahab, though he knew he would be persecuted if he spoke the truth—this was overcoming: he overcame the love of ease.
When Daniel refused to give up praying, though he knew the den of lions was prepared for him—this was overcoming: he overcame the fear of death.
When Matthew rose from the receipt of custom at our Lord’s bidding, left all and followed Him—this was overcoming: he overcame the love of money.
When Peter and John stood up boldly before the Council and said, “We cannot but speak the things we have seen and heard”—this was overcoming: they overcame the fear of man.
When Saul the Pharisee gave up all his prospects of preferment among the Jews, and preached that Jesus whom he had once persecuted—this was overcoming: he overcame the love of man’s praise.
Reader, the same kind of thing which these men did you must also do, if you would be saved. They were men of like passions with yourself, and yet they overcame; they had as many trials as any you can possibly have, and yet they overcame. They fought, they wrestled, they struggled: you must do the same.
What was the secret of their victory? Their faith! They believed on Jesus, and believing were made strong. They believed on Jesus, and believing were held up. In all their battles they kept their eyes on Jesus, and He never left them or forsook them. They overcame by the blood of the Lamb, and the word of His testimony, and so may you.
Reader, I set these truths before you: I ask you to lay them to heart. Resolve, by the grace of God, to be an OVERCOMING Christian.
I do fear much for many professing Christians: I see no sign of fighting in them, much less of victory; they never strike one stroke on the side of Christ. They are at peace with His enemies: they have no quarrel with sin. Reader, I warn you–that this is not Christianity; this is not the way to heaven.
Men and women who hear the Gospel regularly, I often fear much for you. I fear lest you become so familiar with the sounds of its doctrines, that insensibly you become dead to its power. I fear lest your religion should sink down into a little vague talk about your own weakness and corruption, and a few sentimental expressions about Christ, while real practical fighting on Christ’s side is altogether neglected. Oh, beware of this state of mind! “Be doers of the Word, and not hearers only.” No victory—no crown! Fight and overcome!
Young men and women, and especially those who have been brought up in religious families, I fear much for you. I fear lest you get a habit of giving way to every temptation. I fear lest you be afraid of saying “No!” to the world and the devil—and when sinners entice you, think it least trouble to consent. Beware, I do beseech you, of giving way. Every concession will make you weaker. Go into the world resolved to fight Christ’s battle—and fight your way on.
Believers in the Lord Jesus, of every Church and rank in life, I feel much for you. I know your course is hard: I know it is a sore battle you have to fight; I know you are often tempted to say, “It is of no use, and to lay down your arms altogether.”
Cheer up, dear brethren and sisters: take comfort, I entreat you; look at the bright side of your position. Be encouraged to fight on: the time is short, the Lord is at hand, the night is far spent. Millions as weak as you have fought the same fight; not one of all those millions has been finally led captive by Satan. Mighty are your enemies—but the Captain of your salvation is mightier still–His arm, His grace, and His Spirit shall hold you up! Cheer up! be not cast down.
What though you lose a battle or two? You shall not lose all. What though you faint sometimes? You shall not be quite cast down. What though you fall seven times? You shall not be destroyed. Watch against sin–and sin shall not have dominion over you. Resist the devil–and he shall flee from you. Come out boldly from the world–and the world shall be obliged to let you go. You shall find yourselves in the end more than conquerors: you shall overcome.
Reader, let me draw from the whole subject a few words of application, and then I have done.
For one thing, let me warn all formalists and self-righteous people–to take heed that they are not deceived. You imagine that you will go to heaven because you go regularly to church; you indulge an expectation of eternal life, because you are always at the Lord’s table, and are never missing in your pew. But where is your repentance? Where is your faith? Where are your evidences of a new heart? Where is the work of the Spirit? Where are the proofs that you are fighting the great battle? Oh, formal Christian, consider these questions! Tremble! Tremble, and repent!
For another thing, let me warn all careless members of Churches to beware lest they trifle their souls into hell. You live on year after year as if there was no battle to be fought with sin, the world, and the devil; you pass through life a smiling, laughing, gentleman-like or ladylike person, and behave as if there was no devil, no heaven, and no hell. Oh, careless Churchman, or careless Dissenter, careless Episcopalian, careless Presbyterian, careless Independent, careless Baptist, awake and see eternal realities in their true light! Awake, and put on the armor of God! Awake, and fight hard for life! Tremble! Tremble, and repent!
Reader, the great battle must be fought by all who want to be saved. And more than this, it must be won!