The present culture in which we live views the gospel as a ticket to happiness. Therefore, we have a push today to replace the true gospel with the social gospel. Is the gospel of Christ a social band-aid? While that may seem like a far fetched view by many true Christians today, consider the words of a group of people who attend different random congregations:
- There is no fire and brimstone here. No Bible-thumping. Just practical, witty messages.
- The sermons are relevant, upbeat, and best of all, short. You won’t hear a lot of preaching about sin and damnation and hell fire. Preaching here doesn’t sound like preaching. It is sophisticated, urbane, and friendly talk. It breaks all the stereotypes.1
We are living in a culture that is turned off to the truth! In fact, our present culture desires to repackage truth into a soft message that can be tolerated by everyone (or changed by anyone). Many people today reject the idea of a sovereign God who is seated upon His throne and rules over planet earth (and all of creation). Absolutes don’t exist in the minds of many people. It is exactly that type of thought process that has invaded the modern pulpit. In years past it would have been a rare thing to hear the following:
As a pastor to boomers, I’m convinced that they need to hear even negative messages presented in positive terms. It’s the grid through which we filter things. So if we can’t be positive-even when talking about negative topics-boomers will probably not listen. We need to be very careful, therefore, about the tone we take in our services…I’ve made a deliverate practice of aking sure that the messages I direct to my age-group always strike a positive note.2
What did Paul consider as part of the gospel? Was it all “feel good” messages or “ticket to happiness?” As we read Romans 1:16-18, we are absolutely consumed with the fact that Paul saw the gospel as the “good news” of God’s love in grace, but he also saw in that message of the gospel a divine message of judgment.
Romans 1:16 – Paul speaks of not being ashamed of the gospel and that it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone who believes.
Romans 1:17 – Paul speaks of the fact that the righteousness of God is revealed in the gospel to everyone who experiences it through faith (which is a gift from God). He then makes the profound statement as he quotes from the Old Testament text, “The just shall live by faith.”
Romans 1:18 – As Paul continues on his statement about the gospel and God’s righteousness in Christ Jesus, he argues that the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all people who are unrighteous and suppress the truth in their unrighteousness. In a profound way, Paul addressed the wrath of God in the midst of his discussion of the gospel of God. The contrast is evident! Paul seems to hold up two eternal destines – one is rescue from the filth of sin and the other is the deserved wrath of God upon guilty sinners.
If the gospel, as Paul argues in Romans 1:16-18 addresses the unrighteousness of man and God’s wrath upon those individuals, how can preachers silence God from the pulpit in our modern culture? Why would any preacher seek to silence the true message of the gospel while providing a soft and watered down approach? The answer seems to be found in the seeker-sensitive church growth model of numbers!
The goal of ministry should not be focused on keeping the unconverted comfortable in order to boost stats on worship attendance. The goal in ministry should be centered upon what the church actually is according to Scripture – the called out assembly. The main purpose of the pastor is to feed the flock of God by rightly dividing the Word of God each week. In that process, the pastor and the people should work together to do the work of an evangelist by moving outside of the church assembly to the lost culture with the powerful gospel message!
John Piper, in his message titled, “Why Expositional Preaching is Particularly Glorifying to God” from the Together for the Gospel 2006 conference, says the following:
Incomprehensibly in this Christ diminishing, soul destroying age, books, seminars, divinity schools, homiletics teachers, are saying to young pastors, “Lighten up – get funny – do something amusing.” To which I want to say, where is the spirit of Jesus? “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For he who would save his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it. If you do not renounce all your possessions, you cannot be my disciple. If you do not hate your mother and your father, you cannot be my disciple. Let the dead bury their dead. Follow me. Become a slave of everybody. Fear the one who can cast both soul and body in hell, yes I tell you fear him. Some of you they are going to put to death, don’t be afraid – not a hair of your head is going to perish on that block.” Where is Christ? Lighten up Jesus – get funny! From my perspective, which feels very close to eternity these days, these counsels are insane!
What’s at stake today? In an age where eternity is hurdling toward us at break-neck speed, we as pastors cannot waste time with soft and watered down messages! Stephen Olford once said, “There was no “easy believism” in Paul’s presentation of the Gospel. Decision was to be accompanied and followed by devotion. Jesus Christ IS Lord and, therefore, MUST be Lord in our lives.“ Funerals, long trains of mourners in automobiles, and grave side sermons are all too common. Cancer is killing people daily and eternity is forever. Therefore, we must preach faithfully the Word of Christ with urgency, power, and authority for the glory of His name. That task involves telling the old story of good news – but prior to getting to the good news – the true gospel involves a message of sin, condemnation, and the righteous wrath of God (Romans 1:18). When that is preached faithfully, we can expect to see many others come to faith in Christ as Savior and Lord!
I love to tell the story;
’tis pleasant to repeat
what seems, each time I tell it,
more wonderfully sweet.
I love to tell the story,
for some have never heard
the message of salvation
from God’s own holy Word.
Pastor Josh Buice
1. MacArthur, John, Ashamed of the Gospel, 59.
2. Ibid, 143.