Tag Archives: Gospel

Sharing Christ in Face of Opposition.

A friend recently shared the story of a local college coach having a profound impact on campus by sharing the gospel with many of the students he encounters each day. On hearing this, another friend expressed surprise the school’s administration hadn’t prohibited the man from sharing his faith with others or manufactured an excuse to terminate him, since their hostility to Christianity was well established. I couldn’t help recall a sequence of events in Jesus’ ministry that demonstrated why leadership at this college had failed to prevent the spread of the gospel.

The apostle John tells us that after Christ healed a crippled man, “The Pharisees persecuted Jesus, and sought to kill Him, because He had done these things on the Sabbath. Then Jesus answered them, ‘My Father has been working until now, and I have been working.’ Therefore the Jews sought all the more to kill Him, because He not only broke the Sabbath, but also said that God was His Father, making Himself equal with God” (John 5:16-18, NKJV).

A short time later Jesus upbraids the Pharisees for their hypocrisy and declares Himself sent from God, infuriating the Pharisees so much “They sought to take Him; but no one laid a hand on Him.” Despite their visceral hatred for Christ and desire to slaughter Him, the Pharisees do nothing, as if prevented by a hidden hand.

On another occasion these religious charlatans are enraged by the crowd’s reaction to Jesus who “believed in Him, and said, ‘When the Christ comes, will He do more signs than these which this Man has done?’” (John 7:30-31). Their response prompted immediate action from Jewish leaders. John explains. “When the Pharisees heard the crowd murmuring these things concerning Christ, they and the chief priests sent officers to take Him” (verse 32). But nothing came of their effort. “The officers came to the chief priests and Pharisees, and said to them, ‘Why have you not brought Him?’ The officers answered, ‘No man ever spoke like this Man’” (John 7:45-46).

After another encounter in which Jesus announced that “before Abraham was, I AM,” the Jews “took up stones to throw at Him; but Jesus hid Himself and went out of the temple, going through the midst of them, and so passed by” (John 8:58b-59, NKJV).

A short time later Jewish leaders demand of Jesus, “If You are the Christ, tell us plainly.” In response, He informs them, “I give My followers eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand. I and My Father are one” (John 10:28-29, NKJV).

That He claimed to offer eternal life was bad enough for the Pharisees and priests, but His assertion that He and God were one was outright blasphemy. John notes that the Jews sought to seize and stone Him but He managed to evade their evil intentions. (See John 8:22-39).

Time and again this pattern is repeated throughout His ministry. Jesus speaks the truth about Himself, the Pharisees take offense and try to harm or detain Him, and Christ escapes unscathed. How is this possible? How could the chief priests constantly fail in their efforts to eliminate Jesus and end His burgeoning ministry?

John offers this insight: “His hour had not yet come” (John 7:30). God had established a time for Jesus’ life to end and His earthly ministry to come to a close. Until that time arrived, nothing could prevent Him from fulfilling His purpose. No amount of scheming or intimidation could undermine His work. All efforts to arrest, incarcerate, or harm Him were destined to fail. Until, that is, His hour arrived. At that time the Jewish leaders would succeed in stopping His ministry and ending His life.

Have those antagonistic to the gospel ever threatened you harm? Ever encountered hostility when sharing Jesus’ good news with others? Do those in positions of power try to terrorize, bully, or shame you into silence about Christ’s love? Has vitriolic opposition to biblical truth paralyzed you from speaking boldly for Christ?

If so, take heart that such efforts will never come to fruition outside of God’s timing. God will prevent the wicked from undermining the fruitfulness of your obedience until your hour has come. Armed with that confidence, I encourage you to preach, proclaim, and share the truth and love of Christ with boldness and conviction.

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Customized Faith.

Increasingly, American consumers demand customized products. From coke bottles that bear individual names to homes designed to meet the exotic tastes of an eccentric buyer, manufacturers recognize the affiliation purchasers have for personalized goods and offer them with growing frequency. They understand that consumers will pay a significant premium for products tailored to their specific palates.

This phenomenon thrives in matters of faith as well, even among American evangelicals. This significant segment of Christianity confesses religious orthodoxy and a literal view of the Bible, yet it ignores passages of Scripture it finds uncomfortable. Most evangelicals view Christianity primarily from a benefit perspective. What can God do for me? They eagerly receive His love, mercy, forgiveness, peace, joy, promises, and blessings. They believe God wants to shower them with these gifts and requires little in return – perhaps regular church attendance and an appearance of holiness but nothing more.

Sadly, many evangelical pastors and leaders enthusiastically peddle false or compromised gospels that reinforce this view so they can line their pockets with thirty pieces of silver. They readily preach and promote what evangelical audiences want to hear and explain away any objectionable lesson Jesus taught. Sharing the whole truth of Scripture jeopardizes their position, income, and status. Better to preach half the truth and enjoy prosperity, reputation, and acclaim then advocate the entirety of the Bible and walk in camel’s hair eating locusts and wild honey.

What most evangelicals want, and most church leaders willingly teach, is a gospel that legitimizes their current lifestyle. They demand a faith that does not disrupt their dreams, does not inconvenience them, makes no difficult demands, and allows them to enjoy all the accouterments of this world. They insist on practicing a faith that offers the best of both worlds: a life of comfort, pleasure, leisure, and wealth in this world, and eternal life with God in the next.

What such evangelicals fail to understand, however, is that Jesus routinely rebuked that form of faith. He emphasized time and again the considerable cost of following Him as a disciple. In describing His expectations for those who place their faith in Him, Jesus asserted, “if anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me,” (Luke 9:23). Later He added, “whoever does not forsake all that he has cannot be my disciple,” (Luke 14:33).

The crux of these two verses is that following Christ is a full-time commitment that requires we go all-in. The result is a life so transformed that no one recognizes us. We put to death our own interests, plans, and desires, and replaced them with His. Does this sound more challenging than what the church teaches? Would you prefer a faith that is easy to follow? If so, consider the counsel Jesus offered His disciples. “Narrow is the gate and difficult is the path which leads to life, and there are few who find it,” (Matthew 7:14). Christ does not mince words about the challenge of becoming His disciple. It will be difficult. So difficult, in fact, few people actually find eternal life.

I encourage readers to meditate on these verses. Seek guidance from the Holy Spirit as to how your life should reflect these words from Jesus. Resist the temptation to disregard them or embrace the idea that Christ didn’t really mean what He said. Your salvation is at stake.

Where are all the prophets?

The past couple weekends I spent considerable time in my car driving to relatives on one occasion and a distant ballpark on another. I listened to the radio during most of my travel time, primarily contemporary Christian stations. While the music was uplifting I noticed a distinct trend in the messages of these recording artists. They sing almost exclusively about God’s love, mercy, grace, forgiveness, peace, and joy, and revel in His blessings, promises, hope, and commitments. Their emphasis draws on biblical truth that encourages, inspires, comforts, and sustains believers. During my twenty-plus hours of driving more than 95% of the songs I heard focused on those themes.

On the one hand, I enjoyed these positive, uplifting messages. They align with God’s word and definitely represent an important component of the gospel. On the other hand, I was troubled that very few songs addressed the difficult lessons Jesus taught and emphasized during His ministry – ones we find uncomfortable today. His challenging messages on discipleship, repentance, denying ourselves, forsaking all, counting the cost, humility, and avoiding the lures of the world are as equally true and important as His message of love, mercy, and forgiveness. In fact, you cannot experience one without the other because both sets of truth represent God’s word and reveal His character.

But in recent times the church has shifted its focus to those themes highlighted on Christian radio while ignoring the difficult ones Jesus preached on so often. Sunday sermons rarely address Jesus’ most challenging teachings because congregants have little interest in hearing those truths. As a result, a generation of believers understands the gospel only in the context of the benefit they receive from it and know nothing of the cost. They are familiar with God’s blessings and promises but have little familiarity with Christ’s expectations, especially on those topics that lack appeal in our culture. A quick perusal of the local Christian bookstore reveals the same trend with authors. Lots of books address biblical truths we want to hear while few tackle the portions of Scripture that disinterest us.

So where have all the prophets gone? Why are most of our preachers, singers, writers, and evangelists focused primarily, often exclusively, on those aspects of the gospel everyone wants to embrace? Why do so few share that part of the gospel that challenges listeners to follow Christ in full, even when doing so is difficult and runs counter to our desires?

As I see it, there are several reasons for this trend. First, preaching, singing, and writing a message that everyone wants to hear generates more income, popularity, and influence for the pastor, singer, or author. Such attractive perks do not accrue to those who share Jesus’ challenging lessons. Since most want the status, affluence, and power enjoyed by the Pharisees, they share only those Scriptural truths people find appealing. Few are willing to bear the disrespect, contempt, poverty, and social isolation endured by Old Testament prophets and John the Baptist.

Also, most church leaders today have a blind spot with respect to some of Jesus’ most difficult teachings. They have explained away the true meaning of His words for so long that they no longer understand the simplicity of what He taught on subjects such as discipleship, sacrifice, and the dangers of this world. God has withdrawn from them an ability to comprehend His truth on these subjects because they have no desire to preach it.

Finally, congregants insist pastors, musicians, and authors share only palatable truths. They have itching ears that demand soothing words that reinforce their beliefs irrespective of their alignment with Scripture. They use the power of their wallet to demand easily digested spiritual food, even if it results in an imbalanced and nutritionally compromised spiritual diet – like a three-year old who demands to eat only candy and cookies.

But a gospel that captures only half of what Jesus taught, that reflects only half the Scriptures, is no gospel at all. It is a dangerous doctrine that leads down a path to eventual destruction. That is why we need more pastors willing to preach the entire gospel, recording artists willing to sing about the difficult truths Jesus spoke, and authors willing to address the challenging messages of the Bible.

I am not suggesting Christian leaders ignore God’s love, mercy, peace, hope, forgiveness, promises, and joy. Those are as critical to the gospel as His call for repentance, complete submission, obedience, sacrifice, humility, and the full embrace of discipleship. We need both. We need teachers and leaders who share both as the full gospel.

Recognizing the dearth of teaching on several critical areas of biblical truth in this country, I will use this blog to address some of these topics in upcoming posts. The content will challenge most readers and make many uncomfortable, but I encourage you to read the articles anyhow. Avoid dismissing the message as nonsense. Instead, explore what Jesus taught on these matters and ask the Holy Spirit for guidance in understanding. You may find yourself awash with a fresh, exciting faith as a result.