The Gospel Versus The World
I have been studying much about the power of the gospel and the priority of the gospel in our lives. My study has magnified my need to make the gospel a top priority in how I live for the glory of God. I am convinced that the meaning of the gospel has been largely diminished in American Evangelicalism. Most of us seem to have relegated the gospel to a few statements in a track about how to be saved! I am glad to be able to explain the salvation aspect of the gospel to others in terms that they can grasp, but there is far more to the gospel than just the joy of salvation. The gospel is a life style. The gospel demands all of our time and treasure and life.
Many years ago when my mentor Dr. McRae came to our church; he taught on Spiritual Warfare, Ephesians chapter 6. He asked a question I have never forgotten, and ask often of myself. But first we need to review a part of the passage, Ephesians 6:10-11 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. He emphasized the schemes or plans of the devil to sidetrack our commitment to Jesus and the gospel. The question Dr. McRae asked was, “If you were the devil, what would you do to cause yourself to go off track in your Christian life?” That was and is a good question because the answer changes as we grow in faith. Initially, I responded that I would tempt myself with offers of important careers other than pastor. I already had a successful career and was struggling with the lack of pay and opportunities I used to have as a stockbroker. But it was not long until I grew out of that kind of temptation and found other ways to shore up my life, so the devil could not deceive me in lessening my zeal for Jesus.
The gospel in its fullness causes us to be delivered from a purposeless life that ends in an eternity devoid of God’s glory. The gospel gives us daily victory over sin along with the ongoing forgiveness that keeps us from becoming guilt ridden. The gospel gives us the power to inspire and encourage other Christians in their walk with Jesus and, in the end, the gospel delivers us from all sin forever when we leave this life and arrive in our incredible eternal destination. The gospel gives me a reason to live for eternity now and a promise that I will spend forever with Jesus.
Billy Graham was often asked what heaven was like and his answer became a book title. He would say that he didn’t know much about what heaven was like but he did know that Jesus was in heaven. He would quote Jesus saying in John 14:1-3 “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in Me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with Me that you also may be where I am. So Billy entitled his book on heaven, Where I Am: Heaven, Eternity, and Our Life Beyond.
But back to the point of my article. I believe the devil has been somewhat successful in causing many Christians to fall in love with the world. The priority of every aspect of church has greatly diminished in my lifetime. The statistics tell a sad story of attendance regarding church gatherings. Our influence in the culture has also greatly lessened. We may be a political block for some party but that has not caused the gospel to be widely distributed or the church to be a high priority in the average Christian’s life. We have become independent people. I heard a preacher recently state that in the early church Christians learned in community as they gathered together to be taught the Scripture. Today we learn mostly individually while watching services online, or arriving at church fashionably late and then quickly leaving. The appropriate verses of warning for today are 1 John 2:15-16 (The Message) Don’t love the world’s ways. Don’t love the world’s goods. Love of the world squeezes out love for the Father. Practically everything that goes on in the world – wanting your own way, wanting everything for yourself, wanting to appear important – has nothing to do with the Father. It just isolates you from Him.
Today, church attendance is an add-on for the vast majority of Christians. We certainly don’t want to be inconvenienced in any way. And we will not allow church attendance to lessen our chance at extra income or promotion when it comes to supplying our luxuries of life. When I became a Christian, I knew of people who changed jobs with less opportunities so they could be a greater part of their local church. I can’t imagine anyone doing that today. All this demonstrates that we don’t see the importance of being a part of the Christian community if it interferes in any way with our family or career or comfort. The gospel causes us to become part of a new family. The early church used family terms to describe their new relationships. Other Christians were brothers and sisters. Pastors and teachers were essential for spiritual growth and there was no such thing as once-a-week meetings – they met almost every day! “Well Pastor Carl, you don’t expect us to meet every day do you? When would we have time to pursue our hobbies and enjoy our weekends and cruises and vacations?” Now don’t conclude I am against cruises or vacations – I am not! But even in planning such things, the church gatherings and our part in them are a major role of our decisions. Who will teach my Sunday School class? I can’t go that week because the church is gathering in extra prayer. I wish I could spend more time on the weekends at the beach but my church friends are having a special meeting! We must make all our life decisions taking into account our eternal destination and our present purpose to minister in the local church. We must schedule prayer and reading and discipling and fellowshipping into our lives so that in the end we will hear, “Well done.”
All of us are living short, temporal lives with heaven in mind. So let’s commit ourselves to one another and to the gospel, and exercise our ministry gifts and live our lives so that many will ask us about Jesus, and not how much money we make or how great our possessions are, but how they can know Jesus like we do. If every Christian was just like you what would your church look like? How would you keep yourself from faithfulness to the church gathered if you were the devil?
~ Pastor Carl 1947-20??