Have you lost interest in the gospel? Are you looking for “more interesting” or “more engaging” things to say? Don’t Christians need more than “just the gospel”?
9 Marks (Mark Dever’s ministry) recently published a profound article (see link at bottom) surveying 18 hours of sermons from America’s biggest churches. The author found the gospel to be either completely absent or very minimally present in these churches during the course of four recent Sunday morning messages.
Prior to reading the article, I would have guessed as much. Why is it… how is it that Jesus’s institution has so minimized Jesus’s primary message?
Why is it that one would find it difficult to understand the gospel and trust Jesus as Savior in many or most of America’s churches?
Why do most churches rarely (if ever) see someone turn to Christ?
We can rationalize that nobody wants the truth or that the world has grown cold—but according to Jesus, there are always tender hearts. The fields are “white unto harvest.”
May we end the days of gatherings of believers who actually believe the gospel but never emphasize it. May we end the days of instructional messages that are not saturated in gospel reality. There should be no dichotomy or polarization between speaking to believers or unbelievers, for the same message that saves the new believer also sanctifies a growing believer. The gospel that redeems us by faith also reshapes us in grace.
Believers need the gospel as much as unbelievers.
Therefore, during this crisis moment, as we approach the strangest Resurrection celebration in many generations—I challenge you to preach the gospel, this weekend and every weekend.
Why preach the gospel again and again?
1. You are staying on mission and commission.
This is the singular message that Jesus gave His followers and told them to take to the world. This is the message that Jesus and every one of His early followers repeated constantly. If we aren’t speaking the gospel regularly, then we simply are not on mission and are not fulfilling our commission.
2. You are engaging the comprehensive message of God.
The gospel presents both love and holiness, justice and mercy. It is simultaneously a diagnosis of sin, a warning of judgment, a cure of hope, and a new life in love. It warns of death and offers life. It resolves God’s righteous anger while pouring out His abundant love—all in the same message, in the same moment of death and resurrection. You cannot present the gospel without explaining God’s justice and God’s love at the same time.
Why is this vital? Because both sides of the message convict the human heart, no matter where it finds that heart. This comprehensive message—a God of love, a God of holiness, reaches out equally to the proud and the broken.
3. You are assuring believers and rooting them in Jesus.
The preaching of the gospel advances sanctification as much as evangelization. You cannot read the New Testament without seeing the gospel repeatedly affirmed to believers as well as unbelievers. It’s not either-or, it’s both—and every Bible message from every part of the Bible can be spoken in a way that accurately brings the gospel to bear on both groups of people at the same time.
Too often, we underestimate the power of the gospel to shape us. We believe in its power to save, but then we default back to a performance-based sanctification model. This is a tragedy that baits and switches new believers—as though God saves us by grace and then accepts us by works. This leads someone from one form of bondage into another.
The fact is, the same grace that saves also motivates and transforms. Grace works—literally. And good works that are not grace works are not truly good. Grace and the gospel produce growth in Christ-likeness just as effectively as it produces soul-security. The gospel addresses salvation and sanctification equally as a “by grace through faith” process.
To say it simply, preaching the gospel makes believers stronger Christians.
4. You are cultivating personal evaluation.
Accurate preaching of the gospel continually brings all of us back to the foot of the cross—where we should live spiritually. It forces unbelievers to examine their foundation of core trust. It equally forces believers to examine the state of their fellowship with Jesus.
The gospel simultaneously calls unbelievers to God and calls believers back to God. It reminds us that our relationship with God—both in its birth and in its life—is never, ever based upon our performance but His, never our goodness but His, never our achievement but His.
Continual gospel preaching keeps believers mindful that the orientation of our relationship with God is not “what we do for Him” but rather “what Jesus has done for us.”
5. You are speaking to searching, open hearts.
Every pastor who ever taught God’s word began his message with presuppositions of his audience. Angry pastors presume that they are always preaching to rebellious people—which becomes a self-fulfilling dynamic. Eventually those pastors are preaching to rooms full of rebels, because everybody else found still waters and green pasture.
If you presume an audience of “only believers,” you will eventually have that. If you presume an audience of “only unbelievers” you will eventually have that. Biblical pastors should presume an audience of seeking hearts—both believing and unbelieving—and should speak to all of those hearts. (After all, they did voluntarily choose to hear the message.)
This is what it means to “feed the flock”—to presume hunger. The only way to accurately and effectively do this is by infusing the gospel into every message.
Beyond that, the Great commission itself should teach us to expect—anticipate—that unbelievers will come within proximity of our message. Our self-help messages will generally set people up for “trying harder.” They will fail the heart. But God’s Spirit will give life and fruit to His gospel message. He takes it far and promises it will not return void.
There are always seeking hearts near you—always people within our church inviting those without to hear the message of the gospel. The more we preach the gospel, the more seed we throw out, the more receptive hearers will come into contact with it.
This moment is a historical moment. When have hearts been more awakened, seeking, and tender than they are right now? No, we can’t gather this Easter, but yes we will be actually speaking the gospel to more hearts than ever. May our gospel message be clear and consistent.
6. You are giving clarity to those who misunderstand it.
Satan blinds minds—it’s what he does. And Christians make a gigantic mistake to presume that A—Everybody gets it, or B—Those who reject it don’t want it. Both of these assumptions could not be more wrong in post-modern, 21st century, biblically illiterate America.
I meet people nearly every week that have never heard the gospel. More so, I meet people who have never understood it. Some think they have, and therefore reject it. What they reject is actually the fake gospel. It’s fun to say, “Yeah, I reject that one too!” It really sets them back. Still others realize the fake gospel has failed them, and they are actively seeking truth but are not sure where to look for it.
A few weeks ago I had the privilege to lead a lady to Jesus while on a flight from Atlanta to Pensacola. It’s too long of a story to share in this post, but the whole one-hour conversation started when I told the lady I was a pastor. As the conversation unfolded, she said to me, “I have really been needing spiritual direction, and actually asking God to give it to me. Could I speak with you about this?”
What a joy it was to tear down the fake gospel she had been taught and to see the light bulbs come on in her head as we explored truth and unconditional love. It was awesome to see God enlighten the eyes of her understanding. People like her are all around us right now.
7. You are equipping your church with messaging and resources.
No matter how much we tell people to share the gospel, most do not and will not—primarily for fear. One of the great sources of that fear is simply, “I won’t know what to say.” For this reason, just as unbelievers need to hear the gospel over and over to understand it, believers need to hear it over and over to develop vocabulary to speak it.
Every time you give the gospel from another passage, another story, through another lens—you equip believers to speak the truth with greater clarity and robustness. A gospel-centered preacher produces a congregation with a vast arsenal of vocabulary and approaches to the gospel, and a growing courage to be able to intelligently answer for our hope.
8. You are pointing to the only and ultimate source of hope.
If you have watched any press conferences or interviews with key global leaders, you’ve probably noticed this. No human being on earth has solid, authoritative answers right now. Nobody knows for sure. Most answers are vague, circular, purposefully ambiguous—maybe, maybe not, we hope so kinds of answers. Rightfully so, as this is a new virus and a radically new global challenge.
For the first time ever, many are realizing they have no place to turn for hope. This presents an amazing gospel opportunity. In some sense it’s an answer to our prayers.
We need more than messages to believers about coping or finding “rest” or “being still.” Sure, these are vital as well. But when the world is melting down, many in the world are searching for hope, and we know Him! If we are silent, there is no hope.
What a privilege to be the voices that point to true and eternal HOPE in a time when millions are acutely aware of their need!
9. Every Christian wants to invite others to hear the gospel.
Why aren’t people inviting others to church? Maybe it’s because they are afraid of what friends will hear or experience at church.
Maybe Christians know that their unbelieving friends are more likely to hear politics and preference than a clear gospel.
Maybe they realize their church doesn’t really display or declare the gospel in an accurate or effective way, and so they don’t invite others.
My firm belief—and experience—is that as soon as Christians are aware that their friends and family will hear a loving, grace-based, clear and accurate gospel message—they will go to great lengths to invite and bring them to church. When you preach the gospel, and your church family knows this to be your commitment, you will open the floodgates of organic outreach and evangelism in your church family. You are giving them a reason to fill the room with unbelieving friends.
What are the results of all of this? Quite simply—a gospel culture, which is the heart of Jesus for His church.
You will build a culture where unbelievers are expected and believers are growing. You will build a culture where people are regularly coming to Christ and growing in the wonderful reality of His grace.
It’s beautiful to see it flourish by God’s grace.
After emphasizing the gospel three separate times in his short, three-chapter letter to Titus, Paul instructed Titus this way:
“This is a faithful saying, and these things I will that thou affirm constantly, that they which have believed in God might be careful to maintain good works….”—Titus 3:8
To paraphrase— “Titus, I want you to constantly affirm these gospel truths I have just described. Continually repeat these timeless and foundational truths (the gospel) so that believers will be able to give continual attention to the good works that this message will produce.”
Do you see it? Yes, unbelievers need the gospel, but believers need the gospel because it is the message of grace that grows us and grows fruit (good works) from our lives.
Bottom line, you can never go wrong preaching the gospel.
And here’s the good news: If you are accurately, contextually preaching any portion of God’s word, you are never far from a gospel connection or implication.
All of His word is a narrative of redemptive history, all of which points to and finds its ultimate fulfillment in His good news—the gospel of Jesus!
Preach the gospel, not just this weekend, but constantly. Let’s see what Jesus will do through these historical events. Let’s be faithful as believers. Let’s be on mission and fulfilling His great commission.
May our churches, once again, be platforms that lift up Jesus. May we clearly declare and display His good news of salvation by grace through faith!
“But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness; But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God.”—1 Corinthians 1:23, 24
Source article mentioned above: