The Gospel — keep it pure!!

John1_1 -- for blogOne of the things we speak regularly of at Grace Baptist Church is the Gospel.  Now you may say, “there’s nothing unusual about that, after all you are a church.”  But I think I would challenge that statement.  A lot of what is being spoken of in many pulpits across this land is not the Gospel at all.  Many times it is a pop-psychology or prosperity theory or even some of the effects of the Gospel, but all of those things are not the Gospel.  D.A. Carson, in the April 2009 issue of Themelios Journal made the following statement:

“Failure to distinguish between the gospel and all the effects of the gospel tends, on the long haul, to replace the good news as to what God has done with a moralism that is finally without the power and the glory of Christ crucified, resurrected, ascended, and reigning.”

I believe that Dr. Carson is correct.  In so many churches, from their children’s ministry all the way through to the adults, there is a moralism being taught that basically says “Do your best, God will like that.”  But that doesn’t even come close to the Gospel.

Paul made a very simple statement in First Corinthians 15:1-4 that tells us exactly what the Gospel is.  He makes clear that what he is saying is not his own idea, but that which is “according to the Scriptures”, by which of course he meant what we would call the Old Testament.  That was the only Scriptures that Paul knew about at that time.  Here is what Paul said:

“1 Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand,
2 by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain.
3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures,
4 and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures . . .” (emphasis mine)

The Gospel does not focus on man, or even man’s needs outside of his need for salvation, it focuses on the work of Christ on the Christ on the cross and His resurrection.  This is what the law and the prophets spoke of.  This is what will save, and this alone.

I appreciate Tim Keller on many levels.  He comes from a different denomination than I do, but we serve the same Lord.  He is spot on so often when he speaks of the Gospel.  Here are some of his contrasts between religion and the Gospel.  Well worth reading and re-reading, and posting somewhere  to see on a regular basis:

RELIGION: I obey-therefore I’m accepted.

THE GOSPEL: I’m accepted-therefore I obey.

RELIGION: Motivation is based on fear and insecurity.

THE GOSPEL: Motivation is based on grateful joy.

RELIGION: I obey God in order to get things from God.

THE GOSPEL: I obey God to get to God-to delight and resemble Him.

RELIGION: When circumstances in my life go wrong, I am angry at God or my self, since I believe, like Job’s friends that anyone who is good deserves a comfortable life.

THE GOSPEL: When circumstances in my life go wrong, I struggle but I know all my punishment fell on Jesus and that while he may allow this for my training, he will exercise his Fatherly love within my trial.

RELIGION: When I am criticized I am furious or devastated because it is critical that I think of myself as a ‘good person’. Threats to that self-image must be destroyed at all costs.

THE GOSPEL: When I am criticized I struggle, but it is not critical for me to think of myself as a ‘good person.’ My identity is not built on my record or my performance but on God’s love for me in Christ. I can take criticism.

RELIGION: My prayer life consists largely of petition and it only heats up when I am in a time of need. My main purpose in prayer is control of the environment.

THE GOSPEL: My prayer life consists of generous stretches of praise and adoration. My main purpose is fellowship with Him.

RELIGION: My self-view swings between two poles. If and when I am living up to my standards, I feel confident, but then I am prone to be proud and unsympathetic to failing people. If and when I am not living up to standards, I feel insecure and inadequate. I’m not confident. I feel like a failure.

THE GOSPEL: My self-view is not based on a view of my self as a moral achiever. In Christ I am “simul iustus et peccator”—simultaneously sinful and yet accepted in Christ. I am so bad he had to die for me and I am so loved he was glad to die for me. This leads me to deeper and deeper humility and confidence at the same time. Neither swaggering nor sniveling.

RELIGION: My identity and self-worth are based mainly on how hard I work. Or how moral I am, and so I must look down on those I perceive as lazy or immoral. I disdain and feel superior to ‘the other.’

THE GOSPEL: My identity and self-worth are centered on the one who died for His enemies, who was excluded from the city for me. I am saved by sheer grace. So I can’t look down on those who believe or practice something different from me. Only by grace I am what I am. I’ve no inner need to win arguments.

RELIGION: Since I look to my own pedigree or performance for my spiritual acceptability, my heart manufactures idols. It may be my talents, my moral record, my personal discipline, my social status, etc. I absolutely have to have them so they serve as my main hope, meaning, happiness, security, and significance, whatever I may say I believe about God.

THE GOSPEL: I have many good things in my life—family, work, spiritual disciplines, etc. But none of these good things are ultimate things to me. None of them are things I absolutely have to have, so there is a limit to how much anxiety, bitterness, and despondency they can inflict on me when they are threatened and lost.

(HT: Tullian Tchividjian)

The truth is, moralism and religion will not do anyone any ultimate good.  It is the Gospel of Jesus Christ that changes lives and sets men and women free. I love how Paul put it to the church at Rome,  in Romans 1:16-17:

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.  For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith;  as it is written, “But the righteous man shall live by faith.”

The Gospel — “Concerning His Son, who was born of a descendant of David according to the flesh, who was declared the Son of God by the resurrection from the dead, according to the Spirit of holiness, Jesus Christ our Lord . . .” (Romans 1:3-4) — LET’S KEEP IT PURE . . . LET’S KEEP IT ACCURATE  . . . LET’S KEEP IT BEFORE US EVERY DAY!!!

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