The nature of man -- the nature of the gospel
The nature of the gospel is by far the most important subject a Christian can understand for himself and others. Before one can understand why there is even a gospel, we need to comprehend what sin is, otherwise there is no need to have a gospel. This involves understanding the nature of man. The Gospel is God’s way to deal with the nature of man. When Adam and Eve Sinned by disobeying God it was a personal, individual sin but the moral consequence became communal. In other words, from their passing on their nature that had changed, the whole human race was affected drastically for the worse. Adam was an individual yet the Bible also applies the name Adam to all mankind, the whole of the human race. He became mankind’s headship and what affected him likewise affected everyone who came afterwards from his lineage. We can understand this better today by our genetic makeup. When a flaw occurs in the DNA code, it is passed down to the following generations. Adams sin was so catastrophic in changing the nature of man that not a single human being that has come from the gene pool has escaped the pollution inherited from him. We are now born with a genetic flaw and it consequentially brings death to all. Adams posterity shared in the consequences of his disobedience. Despite the fact that man was able to live in the beginning to grand old age of 900 plus years, our resilience to live tremendous long periods slowly declined in each succeeding generation. As humankind advanced, the effects of sin continued to develop further on our body.
Theologian Louis Berhkof writes “In the sight of God his sin was the sin of all his descendants, so that they are born as sinners...Every man is guilty in Adam, and is consequently born with a depraved and corrupt nature. And this inner corruption is the unholy fountain of all actual sins”(L. Berhkof, Systematic Theology, p. 251).
Knowing the dire position we are all in, God through our short history began to deal with mankind in various ways to bring us back into what He first intended for us. This has been done through what is now known as the gospel, God’s declaration of good news to mankind.
The alienation of man from God through human sin necessitates a reconciliation;
within the Jewish sacrificial system it had repetitive offerings that “covered”
sin temporarily (the Hebrew word for atonement, kaphir, means “covering”).
This made it possible for sinful man to approach a holy God and be in covenant
relationship with Him. The sprinkling of blood upon the mercy seat in the
tabernacle (Lev. 16:15-16) and the sprinkling of the blood of the Passover lamb (Exod.
12:7) underscored the importance of substitutionary sacrifice under the Old
Covenant made between Yahweh and Israel. In the New Testament, particularly in
the Book of Hebrews, the significance of such sacrifices is revealed in the Lord
Jesus Christ, who is pictured as both high Priest and the atoning Sacrifice (Heb.
9:11-15; 10:10-12). And the form of that reconciliation was by the cross -- where
the ultimate and final sacrifice would be made.
The sacrifice of Christ has a specific word used, “vicarious,” it comes from the Latin word vicar, which literally means “in place of” or “a substitute.” In Isaiah 53 we find the vicarious atonement is a man: “Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all” (vs. 4-6). This was His purpose of incarnating, so seek and saved those who are lost.
Mankind has a certain view of himself; we do not like to think the worst of ourselves but the best. So we find all the other religions have people do certain acts, good deeds, obeying its rules to have the favor and the blessings of what they perceive as God. This is how they relate to God. There is only one religion that does not work by this type of operation is Christianity. Instead of man’s attempt to reach up to God by his works, God came reaching down to man. Instead of man trying to earn God’s favor, God gave it freely by His “only begotten Son.” In Isaiah it says all our righteousness is like filthy rags, it is even more explicit in the Hebrew wording: used bloody rags. That is how God sees our good works. I know this doesn’t sound too promising; it isn’t if you choose to go this route. One has no choice but to embrace the gospel once they understand their unacceptable condition before God.
But it is not that easy because there is another factor in all this. Paul writes in 2 Cor. 4:4 “whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them.” It is the gospel that is the light that shows one their sin so he can confess his fallen state (by agreeing with God) and come out of the darkness. But sometimes it helps us in presentation of the good news to give the bad news. This is done by using the law, showing what sin is.
Rom.6 explains that all have sinned, so we need to explain what sin actually is. Rom 3:10-12 As it is written: “There is no one righteous, not even one there is no-one who understands, no-one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no-one who does good, not even one.”
The Gospel of Jesus Christ reveals the most dreadful news: all have sinned, and that God judges sin. The very nature of the gospel declares we are ALL sinners, but it offers the cure giving us the best news ever heard, salvation from sin. Sometimes the gospel needs to be explained in detail over and over until the light shines through the darkness. If one rejects the gospel they are not rejecting a certain teaching, they are rejecting the person the Gospel is focused on, and are essentially rejecting the God they really want to affirm.
Some deny original sin has affected all mankind, that we are not born with sin. If we choose to sin then we can chooseto stop; it is only a matter of modifying our behavior by our own initiative. Then who needs the sacrifice to cleanse and forgive us of our sin? Some teach that that God loves our sinful part along with what is good in us. He sees also the good in us and is trying to get the good that is already in us out of us. Some Bible teachers interpret what happened in Eden, as a broken relationship, there was no total fall into sin that changed our nature. Therefore there is no sin to be forgiven of by the cross. God only wants to empower our ‘good’ instead of redeem us and change our fallen nature to come back in relationship to him. This type of explanation nullifies the need for Christ's sacrifice on the cross. If they would take a moment to reflect on themselves and others, they would see the need for something more than what they have in themselves. Paul who presented the gospel said there is no good that dwells in me. He looked to Christ not himself.
The only person’s who has ever become a sinner because they sinned were Adam and Eve; everyone born afterwards sins because we are sinners in our nature. God knows this and this is what He needs to repair in the human species.
Those who deny original sin has affected all mankind make Christ’s death a useless act. Why did He have to die if we only need to reform what we do wrong or act from our good part that is in us? To me this type of gospel nullifies the need for Christ's sacrifice on the cross. This view called Pelegianism is false because the Bible says we are desperately wicked without cure. Jer. 17:9 “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it? Those in other religions and cults who hold to this concept of mankind’s goodness are wrong because the Bible says we are wicked and sinful and no solution is to be found from man who has this condition. We have proven this to be true throughout mankind’s history. No society or city has ever lived peaceably or kept God’s requirements right. We can see by our history and our everyday experiences which give testimony to this as fact, this system of belief is based on reality and not just a religious belief. W. E Vine says,“The sin issue must be settled for any new life to be bestowed” (W. E Vine on 1 John 4).
Oswald Chambers stated, “Never build your preaching of forgiveness on the fact that God is our Father and He will forgive us because He loves us. It is untrue to Jesus Christ's revelation of God; it makes the Cross unnecessary; and the Redemption “much ado about nothing.” God could forgive men in no other way than by the death of His Son, and Jesus is exalted to be Saviour because of His death” (Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest).
Arranged by His Grace
The gospel itself is God’s arrangement by His grace. We enter into covenant by His work through faith, trusting in what He has already done. The calling to faith is initiated by God and our response is our obedience, (faith is the first act of obedience), by this we are accepted by him? This is all He asks from us to receive the free gift of salvation.
Grace means its all God’s work; it is His mercy given freely to us that is an expression of His love for us, we are unable to earn what He offers and we don’t have to try and earn it, because He gives it to us for free. That should be good news to all.
Grace isGod's Riches At Christ's Expense
This was all done by the invisible God made known in a man called Jesus (Jn.1:18), that we could come to know our creator in a greater and more intimate way then ever before revealed man. God became a man through a virgin conception by a young Jewish girl engaged to be married. Although all sinned in Adam, there is only one human that was ever born without a human father. In a miraculous way He was conceived and able to bypass the polluted gene pool and become a man without sin. Only a man without sin could be acceptable to take the place of those who had sinned.
The Gospel consists of three parts. 1) He (Jesus) died for our SINS 2) He was buried (proving He actually died), 3) He rose again, taking up the same body He was born and lived in, and still exists in today (in a glorified state). It is this gospel Paul said He delivered to them in 1 Cor.15:1-4. The Gospel concerns God’s only Son and His work on the cross on our behalf to forgive our sin. If its focus is on something else, no matter how sacred or Biblical, then it is not the gospel of Christ. The Gospel focuses on the person of Christ the Son of God who came as the Savior from heaven (1 John 4:14). He is proclaimed by Scripture as the Lord of the universe (which also relates to the triune nature of God). We abide in our salvation by trusting in His work only. Salvation is a gift freely given, not earned. We work from our salvation, not toward it. In other words, you can knock on doors for 10,000 years and give all your money in tithing to God’s work and try to keep His law but it will not earn you one iota of merit before God; it will only make you more guilty if you are doing this to gain salvation. Paul who was actually doing this said in, Romans 4:4-5 “Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt.” V. 5 “But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness ...”Rom. 11:6 “And if by grace, then it is no longer of works; otherwise grace is no longer grace. But if it is of works, it is no longer grace; otherwise work is no longer work.” In the Old Testament covenant there was the working of grace but it was under the law. Because this covenant was conditional there were requirements Israel had to do to be blessed and receive the benefits. In the New Covenant grace rises above the law, it is the main operation of the new covenant. It requires faith and not works to be in right standing with God.
Charles Spurgeon spoke on the law by saying, “There is no point upon which men make greater mistakes than upon the relation which exists between the law and the gospel. Some men put the law instead of the gospel: others put the gospel instead of the law; some modify the law and the gospel, and preach neither law nor gospel: and others entirely abrogate the law, by bringing in the gospel. Many there are who think that the law is the gospel, and who teach that men by good works of benevolence, honesty, righteousness, and sobriety, may be saved. Such men do err. On the other hand, many teach that the gospel is a law; that it has certain commands in it, by obedience to which, men are meritoriously saved, such men err from the truth, and understand it not. A certain class maintain that the law and the gospel are mixed, and that partly by observance of the law, and partly by God’s grace, men are saved. These men understand not the truth, and are false teachers. … The coming of the law is explained in regard to its objects: “Moreover the law entered that the offense might abound.” Then comes the mission of the gospel: “But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound.”
The clear preaching of God's laws should cause sinners to tremble. This is the lawful use of the law (1 Tim.1:9). To show them the exceeding sinfulness of sin and thatthey are sinners. The law cannot save them, it is a teacher, it is a mirror to their sinful self! The law compares us to God's standards not our ourselves. One cannot help but see they have come short of what is expected.
Romans 3:25-28 “whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed, to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? Of works? No, but by the law of faith. Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law.”
No man can keep God’s law the way He asks, therefore the law makes us guilty; it cannot be used to prove our goodness or make better persons out of us or make us more spiritual because it does not improve on the internal fallen nature of man. It only condemns, this is why Paul says it is used now for the ungodly sinners (1 Tim.1:9).
By believing in Jesus’ work on the cross our boasting is excluded, just as Paul states in Eph.2:8-10 We are saved by His grace through faith, not of works. In other words there is absolutely nothing you or I can do to merit God’s favor toward us, even if we are the most righteous pious person on earth it would not merit anymore credit than one who goes around and does the very opposite. The fact Jesus makes it clear that He came to save sinners, not to call the righteous. Why? Because if you think you are righteous then you cannot see your sin and have no need to be saved. He calls these persons blind.
We have a decision to place our hope in Christ’s work on the cross after He has shown us His grace. This is in response to the conviction of the Holy Spirit and the work of the Spirit is to help us come to faith in Christ. He will show the sinner this is the only way to God. As John wrote the Holy Spirit was sent to convict the world of sin, righteousness and judgment.
Most non-churched people do not understand the Gospel or have had it adequately explained, so they ignore the eternal ramifications of rejecting it. If they understood their position to God without the gospel they would certainly not hesitate to receive forgiveness God’s way.
The one true gospel consists of God’s grace, which God offers as our only salvation. This has three basic elements: 1) HIM- who Christ is--fully God and perfect, sinless man. If he were less, He could not be our Savior for He would have to save Himself as well.2) US-who we are--hopelessly condemned sinners already destined to eternal separation from God (or we wouldn't need to be saved). We are all in this condition together, no one is exempt.3) HIS WORK - Christ's willingness to die on the cross, He accomplished the full penalty for our sins (any attempt by us to accomplish this in any way, rejects the free gift of salvation God offers.)
Without at least a basic understanding of these essentials, there can be no true acceptance of the biblical gospel. How can one place trust regarding eternal destiny in something he doesn't understand and in someone who he doesn't really know? In parable of the seed and the sower Jesus explains the only seed that grew was because it fell on good soil, that soil that had understanding. You don’t need a great deal, but a basic comprehension of what is required. God will multiply it as you receive and accept the truth. The truth on--His nature, the fall of man, sin as our present condition, the need for redemption, and the plan of salvation in the gospel as the basics.
When the Gospel in the Church is not accurately taught or explained, people end up not understanding the message of sin, repentance and saving faith. In its place is substituted a message which concentrates only on God’s love. While this is true and is the very reason the Son was sent, it is only a part of the Gospel. It does not include the implications of one’s sin and the punishment intended for sin. Without the Gospel’s presentation of Christ as the Savior from our sin, and the message of forgiveness of sin, one can end up with a superficial knowledge of what the Gospel is all about. This only makes Church members, not true converts. A Gospel without repentance leaves people trapped in their sin while still believing in Christ. They can find themselves trapped in the sin they once practiced because they have not clearly seen the offense of sin. While we may not expect all the things pertaining to the Gospel to be proclaimed each time it is presented, but they certainly need to be taught afterwards. Otherwise one is left not building on the one sure foundation. and it is not the recipients fault but the leaders in the Church that have not presented the gospel to them fully or accurately.
We should never forget the gospel is prompted by love from God’s mercy, He does not want to show anger toward us, however if the gospel is rejected He has no choice but to do so. God knows our predicament and did not sit idly by but took the initiative to bring us back into fellowship with Himself. This was done by great sacrifice and suffering on His part. While salvation from the eternal consequences of sin is free, it cost God a great deal.God does not save us by love itself; the Father saves us on the basis of His Son’s sacrifice and our acceptance of the gospel.
The gospel is a present invitation, a now proclamation, not a tomorrow one (today IS THE DAY OF SALVATION the Scriptures declare). God calls us to Himself as if we are dangling from a high cliff with only two fingers ready to fall to our destruction. That is how he sees our situation in life and He wants to rescue us.
Now we come to the most important issue concerning the Gospel the person of Jesus Christ in salvation. It is this teaching that can turn the Gospel into a counterfeit even if one preaches Jesus is the Son of God who died for sin. The person of Jesus in salvation is as important as what He accomplished on the cross.
There are many counterfeit gospels spread by those who believe they have justification by Scripture to approve their unique teaching positions. Many Judaizers are still with us today that insist we must keep the laws, they even go as far as the food. They mix law with grace--which annuls grace. Some say without baptism from their church group you cannot be saved; others claim one must be baptized in a certain way, such as the Oneness Pentecostals, who claim baptism saves through Jesus' name only; still others insist to seek a separate experience of the Holy Spirit (by speaking in tongues or being slain), to prove you have received the Spirit. By telling people they must obey these extra commands and distortions of Scripture, they make it impossible for true regeneration to occur.
But the most concerning is the claim that one only needs to believe in God’s son dying for sin will save when they insist that He is not deity but only a man. This would include all the cults which certainly presents a greater problem than just distorting the truth but uniting the Church with those who are not the church. The Gospel concerns God’s only Son and His work on our behalf to forgive sin, but if it is focused on something else that is not the God/man, the unique Son of God( God became flesh), no matter how sacred or Biblical it is, it is not the gospel of Christ. In Lk.2:25 Simeon was waiting for the consolation of Israel as he was promised by the Holy Spirit he would see the Messiah before he dies. Jesus as a baby is brought into the temple according to the law by Mary, Simeon led by the spirit into the temple sees him and says, “My eyes have seen your salvation.” our salvation is a person, who is both God and man. The Gospel focuses on the person of Christ the Son of God who came as the Savior from heaven (1 John 4:14; John 6:38,8:23, 16:16,17, 28).
Michael Horton states “The Christian faith rests on the claim of its Founder that He was the Messiah, God incarnate, the Savior of the world, and the claim of its apostles that they were eyewitnesses to His resurrection” (Michael Horton, “Recovering the Plumbline,” The Coming Evangelical Crisis, Moody, 1996, pp. 257-258).
1 Jn.4:14 “And we have seen and do testify that the Father sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world. (referring back to 1 Jn.1:1)[And we the apostles and disciples of his time have seen]. The apostles testify to the facts concerning Him in all the gospels. They had the fullest proof of this from his doctrine and miracles, which they heard and saw during the whole time that he sojourned among earth.
Their testimony--God was manifested in the flesh; how do we know this? Because He is the savior, not just in title but by His action. “For I am the LORD your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior” (Isa.43:11). “I, even I, am the LORD, and besides Me there is no Savior” (Isa.45:17). We find in Isa.63:8 God speaking, “so He became their Savior.”Lk.1:46-47 Mary says “My spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.” She certainly understood what savior meant.
I Jn. 5:9-12 “If we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater; for this is the witness of God which He has testified of His Son. He who believes in the Son of God has the witness in himself; he who does not believe God has made Him a liar, because he has not believed the testimony that God has given of His Son. And this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.” Eternal life is synonamous with the Son because He is eternal.
1 John 4:15 “whoever confesses that Jesus Christ is the son of God, God abides in him and he in God” a relationship is started. Confess means to say the same thing; i.e., agree with some authority outside of one's self. The confession is the Son of God. “This confession of the deity of Jesus Christ implies surrender and obedience also, not mere lip service” (A. T. Robertson, Word Studies in the New Testament, VI, 234).
This confession also included His humanity as well, He truly was God in the flesh because John earlier wrote of those who denied this in chapter 4 have the Spirit of anti-christ. The problem in the early church was not that Christ was God but that he was human. The Gnostics denied God became a man, these false teachers denied the reality of the incarnation; so this confession was all important because it involved the virgin birth.
This confession was not mere words as in repeating a creed it involved faith in the heart as its foundation, acknowledgment with the mouth. This means they acknowledge this by mouth and by practice; from what they teach, their profession in the life and conduct.
Just believing in Jesus doesn't save you, although you may feel good and secure in what you believe. It must be understood who he is. 1 Cor.15:47: “the first man was of the earth, made of dust; the second man is the Lord from heaven.” He is Lord of the universe. He must be understood as Lord, God, without this understanding you don't have the true Christ of the gospel message, nor can you practice Christianity.
To believe the biblical Gospel means to accept the apostolic teaching of justification by faith alone in Christ alone. As Christians we are to affirm that the Gospel is only the saving power of God to salvation. It becomes the only way because it is connected to the unique Son of God. Salvation is centered on the person of Christ, who He is. The deity of Jesus is entirely important, just as much as it is dependent on His work on the cross. The person cannot be separated from the gospel it is intrinsic in it. Because if we do not have the correct Jesus, the one we believe on for salvation cannot save us.
Just believing in Jesus doesn’t save you unless He is understood as Lord; God. Without this position you don't have Christianity nor do you have the true Christ, the one true God who took on humanity and became man for our salvation.
Rom. 10.9: “If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord” this means ones confession is to beI BELIEVE JESUS CHRIST IS WHO HE SAYS HE IS. That something is that HE IS DEITY.... God who came from heaven as the Son of God.
Scripture affirms that God HIMSELF is our savior. The whole Old Testament bears witness to this fact. If your savior you have believed in is not God then you are not saved. Romans 10:13 says, “And everyone who calls on the name of the LORD [Yahweh] will be saved.” The apostle Paul is quoting Joel 2:32 (“calling upon the LORD [Yahweh] in context is being fulfilled by calling upon Jesus Christ. “Calling upon Yahweh” is “calling upon Jesus Christ,” they are one and the same. Paul is identifying the messiahs identity as Yahweh to the people for salvation. This is all through the New Testament as the testimony of the Holy Spirit and God the Father.
Jesus states in John 16:28 “I came forth from the Father, and am come into the world: again, I leave the world, and go to the Father.”
[I came forth from the Father] He existed from eternity in glory with Him (explaining this in Jn.17).
[Am come into the world] His incarnation by a virgin birth, passing the pollution of sin.
[I leave the world] after His death He ascends to God from where He came from.
[And go to the Father.] At His ascension He is brought back to his former and rightful place. This Scripture the person of Gospel is proclaimed as Lord. Again 1 Cor.15:47: “the second man is the Lord from heaven.”
What does the Son of God mean is what matters, not just the words said. There is more than one doctrine that is connected to salvation. The primary one is that Christ is God in the flesh, After asking who the the disciples think He is, when Peter confessed “thou are the Christ the Son of the living God,” Jesus said the Church would be built upon this.
How can we call upon him who became man unless we are told whom we are calling on. Our faith rests in the person first, then His work on the cross. It matters “who” died for our sin as much as His dying for the sin. Romans 10:9: “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus...thou shalt be saved.” It is the confession of Jesus as God --having faith in the God-man that saves us from the penalty of sin.
If we reject the Bibles teaching of God in Christ--the God man have we received salvation? 1 Corinthians 12:3 “No man can say that Jesus is Lord, but by the Holy Ghost.” Again to be called Lord is to acknowledge Jesus is indeed Yahweh. The next time someone says “I believe he is the son of God or Lord” ask them what they mean by this. If we believe in Christ but deny His deity, we are not in possession of the true faith that justifies, we will not be saved. Because any other Christ is a false one, a non-existent person. True doctrine is connected to the person of Christ who delivered His teaching to the apostles.
The Word of God, whether read or preached, it is God’s means of presenting salvation found in Christ; faith is our means of receiving that salvation. Repentance is an act we do because of faith, if one truly hears the message of the gospel and obeys its requirements. God loves you enough to tell you that you are a sinner. Does it become offensive or even hateful for one to tell another the truth? Let me put it this way, what if you went to a doctor for your daily examination and he found something wrong that could kill you if you did not immediately take care of it. Would you blame your doctor for telling you this or would you thank him and take the medicine? The gospel is our medicine for sin; it is not one of many cures to take but the ONLY cure.
When people claim Christ but do not understand the uniqueness of the gospel, they eventually incorporate Christ as a teacher among the many other teachers like the Bahai religion does. Not as the way the truth the life, the only way to the Father. Maybe this is why we have many professors not many possessors. While most churches have orthodox statements of faith, many of the congregant’s do not know what those statements mean; so how can they believe it? If asked questions on the central core teachings such as: what is the Gospel and how is one saved, many probably could not answer them accurately or point in Scripture where the answers could be found. They cannot explain or defend the teachings they hold, so how can they in all honesty admit to believing them? We have a problem in the Church that cannot be ignored. But it can easily be solved, by teaching apologetics, equip the people on the why the Scripture is true.
We must deal with the sin factor before His love is known to us. Jesus said to love God, your neighbors and even your enemies, He used love as the motivation of whom you will serve God or Mammon (Lk.6:32) or addressed those who loved attention and used their prayers and money in front of people to gain it (Lk.20:46). Love of God was shown in how they accepted him (Jn.5:39-42) What He did do is show love by example and drew people into a place to act in love. The reason for this is that love is an action not just a teaching or something you believe in.
Jesus often recited the law to show where one has not done what God requires. When we remove teaching the consequences of the law before the gospel is presented people will do not see their sinfulness in the way God does. This does not mean that the Holy Spirit cannot show an individual the depths of his despair. But by omitting the law and only concentrating on only love a preacher can get a lot of “decisions for Christ” but will he have true converts. The appeal of success today is to base ones ministry on decisions at the altar and not on the survival rate afterwards. It matters if they are not there the next week or month, we don’t want fair weather converts but true disciples who heard and counted the cost.
Returning to the original message
So why do so many people not continue in their profession? As some have pointed out, we lack good discipleship tools in the church, so this can be one of the reasons. Statistics prove there is an 80-90% fall-away rate on new “decisions” for Christ. Of the 10 to 20% that still come to church only 3% of them are truly committed, active and faithful workers for Christ. Faithfulness is the outworking of living faith. As God builds our faith through trials, our faith grows. If we shrink back, or are mislead our faith can be shipwrecked. One of the ways to destroy your own faith is to believe there are to be no trials or suffering for those who have faith. This is not what Jesus or the apostles taught or lived. Your either growing or shrinking there is no neutral ground in the spiritual war we are all in.
Many stop at conversion without regeneration. In other words they are convinced they need a savior, and that they need to wholeheartedly follow Christ, but when we have people years down the line of their decision saying Jesus is not God, whom then did save them? Their unwillingness to follow him shows that they do not esteem Him for who He really is.
Some things to consider
If one is not trusting continually in the cross, (the crucifixion) and affirming that it is their only hope are they saved? The gospel must elicit a response to follow not just accept its presentation. It is more than just a decision but a life change because it involves repentance. Salvation may come by a prayer but it should not be reduced to only a prayer. Some people think if I can just get this person to pray and say these words he will be saved. No, we are to produce disciples, those who follow because they believe from the gut (innermost being), not converts who only believe which does not lead to action, a changed life. Salvation is a gift not earned however we have a part in being faithful.
We just may need to re-examine what we are saying is the gospel.
Maybe we are starting on the wrong end with just saying God loves you when it should be: you have not lived up to what God’s standards are and you need to repent to receive His love. Its true God loves us even while we are sinners, this is when Jesus died for us, and some people need to hear about His unconditional love more than their guilt, but this should not be the entire content of our message. How can one receive the blessing when it first involves a spotlight shown on a person’s heart for them to see it being corrupt, convincing then that they need Christ desperately, not as a way, but the only way!
The gospel is not about God being our “best buddy” and He should not be offered as such, although He becomes our friend from the gospel. We should never concentrate on His humanity so much that we neglect He is GOD. We should not trivialize who He is.
What about the practice of saying accept or receive Jesus in you heart. We should be careful in how we present this because this is not the gospel but a benefit from it. This is what actually happens when someone does accept the gospel, so it really declaring what will happen when you believe the gospel. Galatians 4:6. “And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, John 1:12 as many as received Him to them he gave power to become children of God.” God indeed comes into your life and into your heart because you believe the gospel, but saying this is not the gospel itself. It can accompany the gospel presentation to explain what will transpire, but it does not save. He came in us as the promise given to all who believe in the gospel.
We don't want to give the impression that there is nothing blocking one from God except asking him in. When in fact there is, our sin. One must deal with their sin by the cross before Jesus can take His abode in us.
We also need to be careful in saying, “God has a wonderful plan for your life” as the gospel message. Certainly God has a plan, God may have great plan for your life, but this does not save someone, nor does it help to enticed people by such statements as God’s plans are big and wonderful, because we actually do not know God’s plan for everyone. I have seen people get saved and in a year they died, or the heat was turned up. We don’t know what God’s plans are for every person. Ultimately God’s plan is better than Satan’s and we will all receive the benefits of his grace by entering heaven, but for the meantime we are on earth and we just don’t know. Imagine a Muslim in an Islamic country having their whole family convert and become Christian and hear God has a great plan for their life and he then sees most of his family killed for their conversion. What would he think? Where is this great plan? So we have need to qualify this statement when we say it.
Is what I’m saying biblical? Look at Paul. The first thing after Jesus saves Him, He says I will show how much suffering he will have for my sake. Yes, God had big plans for Paul but he did not tell him this. How many altar calls are made with this biblical declaration to include suffering? Come to Jesus and you will suffer but you will have eternal life. But this would be more accurate as he does not promise to remove us from tribulation and we are told that we will suffer for His namesake. Peter also pointed out in 1 Peter 2:21: “For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps.” We cannot disregard the reality that we may experience suffering and even persecution. The fact is, the cross means suffering in this world. One will find this out later as they follow him on the narrow road He leads them on. God’s plans for us are His blessings and the benefit of believing the gospel.
Its unfortunate that today's modern preaching style they promise new converts wonderful benefits: everything will be rosy -- no suffering, in its place is success, prosperity, life improvements to their marriage, business, relationships. The Bible does say that there are benefits that belong to the Godly but it also says they will be accompanied by rejection and persecution. When persecution does come and all those life improvements don't materialize as fast as they expected, or not at all, disillusionment can set in. Sooner or later the new “Christian” falls away because his faith lacks root. They fall back into having no hope, worse than if they had never heard this defective “gospel” preached in the first place. Jesus explains in Mt.13 of the seed and the four different soils it falls on. It is those who had understanding that persevered and are fruitful.
A.W. Tozer said, “The new cross does not slay the sinner, it redirects him. It gears him into a cleaner and jollier way of living and saves his self-respect. To the self-assertive it says, “Come and assert yourself for Christ.” To the egotist it says, “Come and do your boasting in the Lord.” To the thrillseeker it says, “Come and enjoy the thrill of Christian fellowship.” The Christian message is slanted in the direction of the current vogue in order to make it acceptable to the public. (The Old Cross and The New, by A.W. Tozer, 1966)
The new church model is to besensitive and inoffensive we should not speak on sin or mention the cross and suffering. What happened to speaking on hell and the eternal separation as punishment for rejecting the gospel? This new “Jesus” and “new Christianity” is made attractive so that sinners will not be offended. But more importantly, the cross has been taken out of the Christian walk so we will not be affected either.
A gospel that does not preach the cross in its full sense is not the Gospel of Jesus. When Christ is displaced from His proper place, when He is no longer followed correctly the believer finds himself in a cross-less walk. Our means of sanctification, correction, chastisement and growth are not without suffering. Christianity is cross-centered, as it is central point to why Christ came to earth. All of God’s blessings come from Him through the cross, and are delivered to believers by His Spirit and His word. We cannot disregard the reality that we may experience suffering and even persecution, the fact is--the cross means suffering. Today we can listen to most of the popular Christian TV teachers promise everything to a believer but neglect this essential ingredient to Christianity. What is being taught today is that we should not suffer or have pain or be corrected. This leads to illegitimate children, not true sons of God.
The Bible used to be accepted where it says, “All who desire to live Godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Timothy 3:12), here's a promise you don't hear to often!
A.W. Tozer “"With perfect knowledge of all this, Christ said. `If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself; take up his cross and follow Me. ' So the cross not only brought Christ’s life to an end, it also ends the first life, the old life of every one of His true followers... this and nothing less is true Christianity. We must do something about the cross, and there's only one of two things we can do-flee it or die upon it!”
“My brethren, take the prophets, who spoke in the name of the Lord, as an example of suffering and patience” (James 5:10). For even the prophets who were types of Christ all suffered, none had an easy life for too long. Jesus did not promise Paul or any other apostle a life of ease and material riches or health? In Acts 9:16, Jesus said right after Paul was saved: “I will show him how many things he must suffer for My name’s sake,” not how much he will gain.
Paul says if someone adds to the Gospel even some of the law that was required in the Old Testament, he is accursed (Galatians 1:8-9). Today all kinds of things have been added to the gospel to make the Church more appealing. These teachings can consist of additions like you are promised to be financially blessed and healed .Then there are things that are taken away, that change the Gospel itself such as following Jesus never includes loss or suffering.
We need to learn that the gospel message does not always work quickly. Many want to see immediate results or the gospel preached is considered by them to be void of the power of God. Many in Christianity have traded faith for spiritual experiences. If you felt something or saw something that convinced you God is real, this is enough. We are confronted with a new type of Gospel, one that emphasizes experiencing the supernatural. Today in many Churches miracles are preached for salvation, not Christ crucified. When we proclaim the gospel many are won by emotions or by promises to be healed or are moved by signs and wonders. All of these have nothing to do with the content and nature of the gospel. Yes we may become emotional, moved to tears although the majority of people say they felt nothing but accepted its veracity by faith. Yes someone may be healed emotionally and even physically. But to offer this as a promise to all would be unfair and misrepresent the gospel itself.
The greatest miracle is one being translated from the kingdom of darkness to light. Acts 26:18: “to open their eyes, in order to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who are sanctified by faith in Me.” what a joy it brings, to know you influenced someone in such a way that there eternal destination was changed.
Biblical salvation comes through preaching the message of the cross, not by signs and wonders! Believing in Christ engages one’s mind as well as one’s heart. True saving faith can only come with intellectual understanding (the mind) as well as a spiritual encounter (in the heart). Both are vital to conversion. Any genuine spiritual experience leads to the mind’s engagement and not disregard it.
Gresham Machen said “... The growth of ignorance in the Church is the logical and inevitable result of the false notion that Christianity is a life and not also a doctrine; if Christianity is not a doctrine then of course teaching is not necessary to Christianity. But whatever the causes for the growth of ignorance in the Church, the evil must be remedied. It must be remedied primarily by the renewal of Christian education in the family, but also by the use of whatever other educational agencies the Church can find. Christian education is the chief business of the hour for every earnest Christian man. Christianity cannot subsist unless men know what Christianity is...” (Gresham Machen Christianity & Liberalism p. 176-177)
Paul preached the cross, “Jesus Christ and him crucified” (1 Corinthians1:18). The Bible states it is the “preaching of the cross” that contains “the power of God” unto salvation, it is the finished work of Jesus on the cross. The content of the gospel can never change.
Rom. 1:16 “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.”
1 Cor. 1:18 “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”
We don’t want to honor God with our lips, and have our hearts are far from Him. God’s heart has always been to the lost, nothings changed. The Church needs to stop its ride of pleasure seeking and daily positive affirmations of bless me and get down to God’s business, saving the lost with the message of the gospel. The gospel needs to be preached more than ever before, but it’s going to have to start with those who preach the gospel--getting it straight and stop candy coating it. Lets uphold the ancient message-Jesus the Son of God came into this world and suffered and died upon the cross for the sins of the world and rose again as the Scriptures say on the third day. This was and still is the power of God.
Maybe you are wondering if you have believed correctly or as Paul put it, believed in vain. So what are you to do? Believe the Scripture, have faith in Christ who is the Son of God and His work on the cross for your forgiveness of sin and you will receive the free gift of salvation --forgiveness of sin and God Himself, the Holy Spirit will come into your heart and change your life.
[portions of this article are from the book the Empty Pulpit]