"Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel" said Paul

2 Tim 4:1-8; 2 Cor 11:2-4; 1 Timothy 1:3-11; 1 Cor 1:17; 2:1-5

We’re coming up to Easter and our huge gaze at the cross begins. Now…does anyone want a flowery cross? Anyone like a smooth, beautiful, decorated, nice cross? Yes, we all do. Well, yeah, that would be nice. Oh, we all want a lovely cross.

One of the benefits that I find of having a few days off, which I’ve had during the last week, is the benefit of thinking deep. Gazing in to the pure blue eyes of a child we brought into the world, a great burden blew up in my heart. I am a concerned father. I worry for my daughter. I worry for my son. I worry for my grandchildren growing up in the church today. I worry for the Army, I worry for the church, I worry for the gospel, I worry for the justification of the blood of the martyrs who’s blood has been spilled for the glorious gospel.

Why?. I am concerned because we are in a day of false gospel. I’ve heard it preached from Army platforms. Soft, easy to digest meal of the word served up on a plate of compromise. We don’t want our church to appear strange, that preaches difficult things, that calls to sacrifice, that calls to duty, that calls the rest of the church account for their apalling doctrine. We’d rather show people a nice film and give them platitudes than talk about the cutting edge of the gospel.

The devil wants to get as many people to church on Sunday morning as possible. Yes, its true. Don’t believe me? Oh yes, the devils main purpose is to pack as many people as he possible can into the pews to hear the mamby-pamby message on how to cope, to be stroked with nice words and platitudes of a nice fuzzy God will nice fuzzy love.

Look, its happened before. Look at Isaiah 30:10.

“They tell their seers. “See no more visions! And to the prophets “Give us no more visions of what is right! Leave this way, get off this path and stop confronting us with the Holy One of Israel!”

In other words, don’t speak to us about taking up the cross, about being persecuted for the sake of the gospel, or about having to endure hardship like a good soldier of Jesus Christ or any of that stuff. Now, you just stand up there and tell us all how great we are, how lovely we are, how much you need us and need our money to keep the church going..that will do just fine thank you very much.

Can I set you a challenge? I challenge you to go to any Christian channel on TV, almost any church in the UK and you see if you can try and get yourself saved! You’ll have a job because they are all wanting you to be happy happy happy, not holy holy holy! “God doesn’t care what you do, he just loves you.” You know, that’s the response in this weeks Salvationist to one of our soldiers challenge about skimpy costumes and erotic dancing at a Salvation Army youth event…oh, God doesn’t look at the outer appearance, he only looks at the heart. What a twisting of scripture…God is HOLY, he wants us to be HOLY. Our business is not to use the means of the world to attract the world…we are not to hand them out their own medicine, we are not to entice them to the gospel, we are to throw them down at the mercy of the cross.

God loves us with a passion, he loves us with a suffering. And yes, we should preach about the love of God, of course. Yes, we should expound the blessings that are to be found in Christ, the riches of his grace. We should talk about biblical principles for living. But the riches and benefits of salvation are only for those who are saved!

What happens when you do not preach the penalty of sin? What happens when you tone down sin to the level of an unfortunate mistake? Society develops no fear of God. If you want to loose your kids take the fear of God out of the church. Then its eat drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die. Everyone did what was right in their own eyes…why? Because there is no fear of God.

If there is no sin, repentance, judgment and holy living, the houses will come tumbling down. People will choose enticing words, sweet words instead of the real meat of the gospel. This teaching will not stand up to the heat of the battle. People will fall away because their sweet gospel has left them spiritually fat and unhealthy.

I hear Paul say that the gospel is an offense, a stumbling block to the Jews, absolute foolishness to the Greeks.

I haven’t been beaten up for the gospel since I was at school. You see, in the days when I read the scripture, learned the scripture, told my friends the scripture and the message of it I endured hardship for the gospel. But then because I didn’t like that much, I changed my message to ‘God loves you and wants to give you an abundant life, which was nice, but convinced no-one for their need of a saviour.’

I’ve repented for changing the gospel, several years ago, and resolved that I’d glory in Christ alone, him crucified. What I ask myself is, is the gospel I preach the gospel of Jesus, or is it the gospel of another Jesus. Does my word have the power to save, or do my words have a form of godliness without the power?

When people start wandering off to a different gospel which sounds attractive, we shouldn’t be surprised. There are so many place to which one can go to hear a nicer gospel. But as the prophet Jeremiah says: “A horrible and shocking thing has happened in the land: the prophets prophesy lies, the priests rule by their own authority and my people love it this way. But what will you do in the end?”

We are to be presented to Jesus, the husband, the groom, spotless and without blemish, no wrinkle or default. We are invited to the wedding supper of the lamb, who was slain, but was raised to life ad exhalted to the right hand of God.

What is it that Mary Poppins used to sing? “For a spoonful of sugar…” Friends, we cannot apply the gospel of Mary Poppins to the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. The gospel is offensive, the cross is ridiculous, shameful, utterly detestable to the world that doesn’t think that they need a saviour, but o the world needs a Saviour.

I need a saviour, but I need to taste the bitter medicine of the gospel, convincing me of my total depravity, total sinfulness before God so that I might know indeed that I need a saviour. I need to first be reviled at my sin before I can benefit from the curative properties of the gospel. Sweetness. Isn’t it true that its often the vilest cough mixture that does best for your cough? The Gospel is the cure for sin, suffering disease and friends we must continually preach, uphold and live out.

yours

Andrew

17 thoughts on “"Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel" said Paul

  1. Andrew – this is stirling stuff. For too long we have have placed an over emphasis on what we are ‘saved to’ and fogotten completely what we are ‘saved from’.Thank God for our doctrines at least we can’t be slung out for preaching the truth!St Mary Cray will be with you on Good Friday in both style and content.Yours ‘under Christ’ Andrew

  2. So true Andrew. Not only do we so often preach a false gospel, that is really no gospel at all, but in our crazed attempts to be ‘relevant’ we become irrelevant by preaching not a cure for the true diagnosis, but a placebo for a completely wrong diagnosis (sorry for getting medical again!)

  3. You’ve stirred me….I hope we stir others up to do the same but also to stop the stirrers in our midst who are doing the opposite of what we have been called to, but through our message, there will be conviction that what the gospel says is ‘gospel’ – there is not other – thats our answer – you’ve given it – fan the flames, stir up the gifts of us each today this week and on….Prayers, Matthew.

  4. Andrew,Your passion is not hidden! Like you, I have great worry for my children. Sometimes I like to sneak into their rooms when they are asleep and just sit on the floor and pray and cry over them.I have given up watching ‘Christian’ TV here – too much prosperity gospel, too many easy ‘fixes’. Sad to say, there are too many people who just eat that stuff up.We really walk a tightrope when preaching the gospel. If we go too far one way we run the risk of only scaring people into heaven, but by going too far the other way we preach a candy-coated gospel.I think there is some merit in ‘relevance’, although we need to be cautious as well. William Booth was willing to use things of his day to help proclaim the gospel. The key is finding things that people understand or identify with, but not watering down the truth.Have a great Easter and may your people encounter the Risen Christ in a real, personal way as they gather this Sunday.BlessingsWilliam

  5. William…where will we scare people to? A second Hell? The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. Unless a person is convinced of his illness he will never be convinced he needs a cure.As for relevance, too often it has been to the peril of the authenticity of the gospel. I’m more interested in prophetic relevance…being relevant only in as far as it serves the purpose of Christ and even then not compromising our witness. (i.e the erotic dancing at the youth rally!)

  6. Andrew,Jesus placed a seemingly high priority on being relevant. He always told parables about things that his listeners could identify with. I said that the ‘key is finding things that people understand or identify with, but not watering down the truth’. so, yes I am talking about being relevant for the purpose of the Gospel. If we get to know our people then we will find ways of effectively reaching them. If they can’t identify in some way with what we are saying, then we’re all wasting our time. Although I did read about the youth rally you talked about, I wasn’t there, so I can’t really comment on that.I’ll also calrify what I meant about ‘scaring people into heaven’. If all we do is tell people that they are going to hell if they don’t accept Christ, then we are shortchanging the power of the Gospel. What I meant was that surely there’s more to Christianity than the fear of avoiding hell. Aren’t there positive things we can share? Aren’t there greater rewards than just avoiding hell?It’s not up to us to decide who is going to hell. But at the same time we shouldn’t ignore the reality of hell. Even our O.& R. tells us to avoid controversy with unbelievers and not to ridicule their views nor denounce them personally. We are treading dangeorus ground when we decide who is and isn’t going to hell.Preach the Gospel and allow the Holy Spirit to do his work.BlessingsWilliam

  7. William, I believe that fire and brimstone preaching is harmful. That is not what I am talking about. I’m talking about helping people to realise they need a saviour, not a pep up in life. The fruit of salvation are not really legitimate ‘hooks’ for evangelism. Jesus method was law to the proud and grace to the humble. If a person is humble and ready to receive the gospel, we preach the gospel of grace (eg Nicodemus). If the sinner is not humble before God, recognising his need by the conviction of the Holy Spirit, we use God’s law (Ten Commandements) to bring knowledge of sin. ‘The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul’ (Psalms somewhere). Lets look at the example of the Rich Young Ruler. He came up to ask Jesus how to get to heaven. Why didn’t Jesus tell him? Because Jesus knew that he wasn’t humble before God, recognising that he was a sinner so Jesus brings conviction of sin using the law. Now, if this happened to day, we would say ‘just believe in Jesus, read your bible and come to church and you’ll be saved.’ Jesus clearly didn’t say that….before him was a person who didn’t know he needed a saviour.Lets take the example of the Samaritan woman. She is at the well, Jesus begins the conversation. Now, Jesus could have said…’by the way, if you believe in me you will live forever.’ Firslty, he used the law of God to bring conviction (i.e she had broken the 7th commandment). Jesus pointed this out, she was convicted by the law of God…Jesus then preached the gospel of grace.Law to the proud, grace to the humble. The purpose of the law is to ‘stop every mouth.’And no, there is no greater award than avoiding Hell. Hell, after all is what we deserve, and its only by God’s grace we avoid it through Jsus Christ.Yes, we avoid controversy, because we don’t want to address the mind, we want to address the conscience, which is the knowledge of good and evil…for by addressing the conscience with God’s word, the conviction of the Holy Spirit is more effectively able to do his work.I choose not to evangelise by clever methods or gimmicks, but to let the Word of God do what it was intended to do and allow the Spirit full reign. Its the quality of the seed that matters, not the skill of the sower. On the contrary, if we are failthful to sow the full seed of the gospel, the Word and Spirit do the work.

  8. Andrew,I’m not talking about evangelising by ‘clever methods or gimmicks’ as you put it. I’m talking about the need to ‘adapt your measures to your circumstances and to the necessities of the times in which you live’, as Catherine Booth (quoted in a recent post by Chris Hinton).I agree that it is the quality of the seed that matters, but we better make sure we’re not using seed that’s ‘out of date’.

  9. There is a fundamental difference between changing our methods and changing the gospel. I am all for adaptivity. But we adapt the gospel at our peril. Adapt the methods, of course, but not the message. “Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel” says Paul.The suggestion that the seed of the Word of God goes out of date is proposterous.

  10. Okay, before I try to explain myself, again, tell me what you believe to be ‘the seed of the Word of God’. Also convince me that we can ever present 100% truth completely free of bias. Then I’ll excplain what I meant by ‘out of date’.

  11. Matthew / WilliamThe ‘seed’ has no sell by date. The word of God is the same today as yesterday and has no shelf life.The method of putting it in the ground may change but it is the last part of that statement and not the first that we need to hang on to.We are going to have a revival. We are going to reach the unsaved working class people of today. We are going to get the ‘Grant’ and ‘Phil Mitchells’ of this world to the Mercy Seat. We are going to get men from the bookies to the bible study and from the pub to the prayer meeting – I believe that passionately. The question is how?One thing is certain it will not be by sitting down and designing a methodology which we think is relevant to today’s needs. It will be by waiting on God for the right words and then by confidently preaching.Jesus preached where the people were with words they could understand by the power of God. The same was true of Peter, Paul, Luther, Wesley, and Booth – even good old Billy Graham!What we have to do is preach to the people where they meet with words they can understand by the power of God and we will win them.When GSR was asked in ‘Heathen England’ the question ‘How do you deal with people’s objections’ his reply was simple “Generally we overcome them with spiritual power” – Hallelujah! Let’s have more of that.Yours irrepressibly ‘under Christ’ snd over the devil

  12. So, I’ll clarify what I meant. I never said ‘seed of the Word of God’. I just said ‘seed’. I agree that the truth of the Gospel message is timeless and has no shelf life. No argument there.All I said was ‘seed’. Andrew assumed that I was talking about ‘seed of the Word of God’. If I had been then I agree the thought is preposterous.The reason I just said ‘seed’ is that we need to make sure that we are even sowing the right seed. Some of the seed being sown today (and in the past) has not been ‘good’ seed. Sometimes the sower does not even know this.Andrew Bale wrote: ‘What we have to do is preach to the people where they meet with words they can understand by the power of God and we will win them.’ Can’t argue with that. But that is where methodology comes in. There are times of waiting for God’s word, but we also have a responsibility for using the brains that God has given us.Of course, in all things there needs to be balance. Dry intellectualism won’t get people saved, but there has to be some thought that goes into it as well. Every time we open our mouths in Christ’s name we are offering an interpretation of the truth, so we better make sure that we are offering Christ’s truth.John Stott wrote: “In our evangelistic proclamation we must address the whole person (mind, heart and will) with the whole gospel (Christ incarnate, crucified, risen, reigning, coming again, and much else besides). We shall argue with his mind and plead with his heart in order to move his will, and we shall put our trust in the Holy Spirit throughout…Our objective is to win a total man for a total Christ, and this will require the full consent of his mind and heart and will.”

  13. I believe that the problem we have is that too often we present the gospel as an add on to life that people might like to include in their lives like double glazing and a time share apartment, not vital but nice to have for protection and somewhere to go when you need a bit of a break and some comfort. But the gospel is not an optional extra but rather a vital lifeline for a sinking ship.Is the problem that Christians have often seen their church as the sinking ship and rather than let it go under they have let people treat the gospel as an “add on”?Our friend David Robertson at Arnold Army once commented that he was a little tired of Christians being so grateful when new people came to Church to support us. We seem to view them as offering us something, their presence, their time and their money when in fact it is we who are giving them the chance of discovering the keys to the kingdom. We need to be far less apologetic and much more confident in the real gospel. I agree.God bless Carol

  14. So, I reitterate the points in my original message.1) the gospel is not “come to Jesus because he has a wonderful plan for your life…an abundant life…he will fill the whole in your life”2) the gospel is “recognise that you are a sinner needing a Saviour, repent, put you faith in Jesus to save you from Hell. Then, continue to submit to the Lord and live a holy life. Your life will be abundant in that it will be full, but don’t expect a bed of roses.”3) We have re-evauate HOW we preach the gospel as it applies to the sinner. We must remember the place of the Law in preaching the gospel. Dr Martin Lloyd-Jones, Wesley, Spurgoen, Whitfield, Graham, Booth all the rest recognise that the gospel is not the gospel unless you first expound the law, which shows man his need for a saviour. Law to the proud, grace to the humble.A little testimony: when I stopped preaching ‘Jesus will fill the God shaped hole in your heart’ and started to preach ‘you have broken God’s law, you need someone to pay your fine’ the main difference is that people have started to get saved!The only thing that gets people saved is when they recognise they need a Saviour.As for relevance, the most relevant thing ever in my life was when someone spoke to me about the reality of the danger my soul was in. In the last 6 months I’ve spoken to at least 3 unsaved people a week about the gospel, explaining to them, using God’s law, that they cannot get to heaven on their own merit. I’ve pointed out that we can’t meet God’s standard and that we need to repent and put our faith in Jesus. Have you ever had someone ‘thank you very much’ for sharing the gospel with them? It’s been my experience that since I’ve started to explain it pure and simple that people understand their condition and are thankful that someone has taken the time to warn them.

  15. The comment by Ray Comfort on the right of my main blog is a helpful cotribution to this discussion wherein he talks about the place of the Law in preaching the gospel. Paul said that the Law is a schoolmaster to bring us to Christ (Galatians somewhere).

  16. Where exactly did Paul say that? Are you referring to Galatians 3:24? (Therefore the law was our disciplinarian until Christ came, so that we might be justified by faith. [NRSV])If you are that’s not a good verse to use for your argument about the law, especially if you take it in its context (which is how we should look at Scripture). Verses 25-26: ‘But now that faith has come, we are no longer subject to a disciplinarian, for in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith.’What I see in Galatians as a whole is Paul arguing against the law, not that we should ignore it, in favour of the Gospel of pure grace.

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