Years ago I presented as my Sunday sermon what I titled as The Gospel According to Mark. In the introduction I clarified that it was not the New Testament Book I was referring to, but my personal ‘gospel’. I wanted to share my personal testimony and challenge the congregation to acknowledge that every believer has a personal ‘gospel’.
In my desire to spread the Gospel of Christ, I’ve encountered many ‘evangelists’ who proclaim a message that is NOT the Gospel, but instead, doctrine and religious pretense. Quite similar to political protesters, they wave posters with scriptural slogans, but seem more intent on imposing their beliefs than introducing Christ.
“Repent” has replaced “accept Christ” as their mantra. Hate has subsequently removed love from the lasting impression these ‘evangelists’ leave. But their message is not confined to street corners; it is being preached in churches as well. A much more subtle (and thereby more heinous) presentation is employed (because we must be more pious) in church. It is a confused version of ‘preaching the gospel’ insisting people must choose THEIR proclamation, rather than rightly pointing to Christ.
The picture of ‘Lady Justice’ blindfolded as she holds the scales is fairly representative of the sum of my experiences. In retrospect – (hindsight being the ever reigning champion) – truly following after the Spirit of the Lord always brings us to the SAME ‘fork-in-the-road’ where HE leaves us to our free-will choice. Although NOT Biblical, it remains equally true – ‘you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink’.
In order to really ‘lead one to Christ’, we must first and foremost realize that it is Christ the PERSON (a living being) we must introduce – NOT doctrine, religion, or church affiliation. ALL those are by-products – POSSIBLE helpful ‘elements and tools’ to aid in the spiritual growth of a true believer – BUT ONLY a TRUE BELIEVER!
The ‘political church’ (as many have sadly become) is NOT embracing Christ the Person, but attempting to provide an organization of like-minded individuals who agree on specific tenants of ‘faith’. Membership is too often based upon requirements quite similar to other secular organizations. Merely naming Christ as the common denominator, but never celebrating nor actually experiencing HIS real being. Conforming to so-called dogma derived from His teachings, GRACE is forsaken and replaced with modern forms of Old Testament Law.
“Who has bewitched you that you should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed among you as crucified? Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh?” – Gal. 3:1-3.
Our relationship with God in Christ is through the Holy Spirit – a SPIRITUAL reality. Attempting to ‘enforce’ morality, conformity, or unity with regard to our common carnality is merely ineffective false religion. We must NOT focus on our physical natures, but on the PERSON of Christ. Issues that divide the church related to ‘sins of the flesh’ continue to drive people away, because those things are NOT conducive to spiritual maturity – but conversely, when remedied they become the obvious ‘fruit’ that GOD produces in every true believer AFTER they have entered into the promised transition from ‘death to life’.
“Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life” – Jn. 5:24.
“We know that we have passed from death to life…”– 1Jn. 3:14.
As with every other relationship in life, it is impossible to ‘lead’ someone to a proper relationship with another person with whom you have not established a prior ‘right’ relationship. You may comment about a person by name without having any personal relationship with them, but the result can only be information – NOT an intimate relationship.
Too many so-called ‘leaders’ in church circles merely proclaim information related to a common historical knowledge of Christ, rather than a testimony of their personal relationship with Christ through the indwelling Holy Spirit. Preaching the Gospel must be consistent with the manner in which it was originally preached and recorded in the New Testament.
“He first found his own brother Simon, and said to him, ‘We have found the Messiah’ (which is translated, the Christ)” – Jn. 2:41.
“Nathanael said to him, ‘Can anything good come out of Nazareth?’ Philip said to him, ‘Come and see.” – Jn. 1:46.
“They said to one another, “Did not our heart burn within us while He talked with us on the road, and while He opened the Scriptures to us?” – Lk. 24:32.
When an actual personal encounter with Christ is experienced, from then on, knowing the TRUTH, no counterfeit experience, teaching, or other deception can nullify who Jesus Christ truly is, or obstruct the legitimate preaching of your personal ‘gospel’.
Whenever the distinction between preaching the Gospel and further ‘educating the saints’ is NOT clearly established and rightly appreciated – false doctrines can result. There is a marked difference between coming to Christ in response to the preaching of the Gospel (resulting in becoming born again) and subsequent life in Christ, whereby instruction in spiritual matters facilitates proper spiritual growth leading to spiritual maturity. The naivety to, or abject ignorance of these facts far too often leads to confusion about many aspects of Christianity.
To borrow from another well-known idiom about horses – too many people have placed the ‘cart before the horse’ in their approach to properly discerning and interpreting the tenants of Christianity. Much of what is proclaimed as ‘how to be saved’ is actually reserved as instruction for those who are already saved, now being transformed into ‘perfection’. Too frequent among such teachers is the erroneous notion that ‘being saved’ is synonymous with ‘attaining perfection’. Scripture actually teaches that ‘perfection’ can only be achieved subsequent to salvation, NOT simultaneously.
“Therefore, leaving the discussion of the elementary principles of Christ, let us go on to perfection, not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God” – Heb. 6:1.
Preaching the Gospel must NOT be confused with ‘instructing the saints’. Right response to the Gospel (thereby creating ‘saints’) ALWAYS precedes their instruction in righteousness (which, by-the-way is Christ’s Righteousness – NOT ours). Mixing elements of ‘instruction in godliness’ with steps to accepting Christ and entering into a right relationship with Him not only leads to confusion, but many false belief systems usually result.
Christ came to set us free and grant us peace and life abundant, NOT burden us with allegiance to rules and restrictions. By His own proclamation, He never intended Christianity to be an entanglement that focuses primarily on THIS life – but a promise of the next, experienced NOW.
” I came that they may have life, and that more abundantly” Jn. 10:10.
“My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” – Mt. 11:30.