I recently came back from the 2016 National Ligonier Conference in Orlando, Florida and, let me tell you, it was amazing! It was truly one of the most powerful things that I have ever been a part of. It was encouraging, moving, and downright beautiful. If you haven’t been before, make sure you check it out! The way that the Word of God was preached and taught was exceptional. It was powerful, and, most importantly, it wasn’t compromised.
What I mean is, there was nothing emotionally confusing or manipulative about this conference, which was a refreshing change compared to what I have experienced over the course of my Christian life.
One of the most impactful sermons happened on Saturday, the final day of the conference. It was when Dr. R.C. Sproul spoke on the subject, “The Transforming Power of The Gospel.” It had a tremendous effect on me and is the reason I am writing this blog.
You see, all throughout the conference we were learning about and studying the depth of the gospel. And, as we were learning, Dr. Sproul hit us with this statement: “In every generation, there are those who are simply not satisfied with God’s gospel.“
The part of this quote that hit me the most was when he said “God’s gospel” (see Romans 1:1). It’s not yours, or mine, or our pastors. It belongs to God…which means that the gospel we read and study in the scriptures is given exactly as God intended and does not need to be added or subtracted to. That was Sproul’s point. It’s not ours to “mess with” and yet we act as if it is.
Don’t believe me? Ask yourself this.
“Does my church or pastor seem to manipulate people into “believing” in Jesus?”
You might not be sure what the answer is, so here are a couple of common examples to help you decide. If your pastor/church has some beautiful music playing in the background while he gives a riveting speech about how “God has a plan for your life” and how you just need to repeat a sentence after him to accept Him, your pastor/church is manipulating people. In fact, telling people that the gospel is simply God having a plan for their life and that all they need to do is raise their hands or say a prayer isn’t just manipulation, it’s lying. The music in the background helps to manipulate an emotional response that often leads people to think they feel God moving, but, really, they are just responding to an emotional appeal. Trust me, I know.
We see all kinds of clever tactics to try and make the gospel easier to handle, swallow, or accept. We compromise on things like sexuality in the name of “love.” We compromise on all kinds of things because having someone in that seat on Sunday is so important…even more important than being faithful to God’s Word. This is a compromise because the gospel is a call to repentance, yet churches and pastors will refrain from preaching the truth in order to be “nice” and politically “correct.” We compromise because relevance is a not-so-blasphemous way of saying that God’s gospel isn’t good enough or powerful enough. Because like R.C. says, “[Too many people] don’t think that the gospel works.”
So how powerful is God’s gospel? Paul teaches us the power of the Gospel as he says:
“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 for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith” (Romans 1:16-17).
So I encourage you, brothers and sisters, do not be fooled. The gospel isn’t that God has a wonderful plan for your life. It isn’t that Jesus wants to be your homeboy. It isn’t merely a seasoning to add on to the main course of your life. The gospel is this: Christ died for our sins, He was buried, He was raised on the third day and ascended into heaven to be seated at the right hand of the Father. These are pure objective facts that must be believed if you proclaim to be a Christian. As Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15: 1-4:
“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 hold 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”
Mark Dever puts it beautifully:
“Here’s what I understand the good news to be: the good news is that the one and only God, who is holy, made us in his image to know him. But we sinned and cut ourselves off from him. In his great love, God became a man in Jesus, lived a perfect life, and died on the cross, thus fulfilling the law himself and taking on himself the punishment for the sins of all those who would ever turn and trust in him. He rose again from the dead, showing that God accepted Christ’s sacrifice and that God’s wrath against us had been exhausted. He now calls us to repent of our sins and to trust in Christ alone for our forgiveness. If we repent of our sins and trust in Christ, we are born again into a new life, an eternal life with God. Now that’s good news.”
The gospel alone is powerful enough to save, but we must be faithful.
So, lets go! Let’s make disciples of men and stop acting like our relevance and presentations of the Word are more powerful than the pure gospel of Jesus.