Wednesday, November 21, 2007

What's the Answer for a Culture in Decay, Decline and Despair?
The Lord Jesus Christ: Immanuel, God with us

The Sufficiency of the Gospel
The church has the most powerful, explosive, life-changing, transforming truth in all of history - the gospel of Jesus Christ! It [the gospel] saves one for eternity (John 6:39, Ephesians 1:3-14); it completely changes someone into a new creation (2 Corinthian 5:17); it forgives sin and cleanses us thoroughly from our sin (2 Corinthian 5:21, Ephesians 1:7); translates us from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of light (Colossians 1:10-14; 1 Peter 2:9); grants us eternal life (John 3:16); secures heaven as our home forever (John 14:1-6); it overcomes death for it is eternally built upon the foundation of the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead (1 Corinthians 15:50-58); it defeats sin and brings us into intimacy and peace with God forever (Romans 5:1); and it is rich in grace and mercy (Ephesians 2:1-10) without which we would all be forever lost with no hope (Galatians 5:2-6).

It is completely efficacious for the believer in Christ, past, present and future (Romans 8:20-30). We are saved (Ephesians 2:8-9); we are kept (John 17:12, Jude 1); and we will be presented one glorious day (Jude 24). IOW, we are justified; sanctified; and glorified (Romans 8:29-30) through the gospel of our risen Lord and Savior - Jesus Christ the Righteous. Is it any wonder the Apostle Paul boldly proclaims, "For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes." (Romans 1:16). And again in 1 Corinthians 9:16, "...for woe is me if I do not preach the gospel."

Spiritual Substitutes 
Sadly, not many today are saying that anymore. If the gospel of Jesus Christ is all sufficient and accomplishes all saving grace, then why is the church not about proclaiming its truth with the boldness and conviction it demands? One significant reason is that the true gospel has been replaced by a different gospel (Galatians 1:6-8). One that is watered down, convoluted, a cheap imitation disguising itself as the real thing. Some of these "other gospels" are: pragmatism - just give me what works; entertainment - I want to feel my God not know my God; pop-psychology - God and His word are deficient, man's word and philosophy is sufficient; the self-esteem movement - denying yourself is passé, self-love is everything; mysticism - truth has been replaced with experience; easy-believism - just raise a hand, sign a decision card, walk an isle and presto... you have an instant Christian. The Emergent/Emerging Church - where postmodern culture, not biblical truth--is dictating how the church should function and be defined; human potentiality movement - coming to Jesus to have a better marriage, more fulfilled job, or to realize your best life now, instead of honoring Him as Lord of your life regardless of personal benefits; and most recently, "Evangelical Co-Belligerence - (ECB)" - political remedies for moral maladies is now the latest trend to try and stop the tide of decay of family values plaquing our nation.

As popular as some of those things might be, none of them is the gospel of Jesus Christ!

This kind of Laodicean thinking has produced a Jesus who can elect but cannot save; who can knock at the door, but cannot open it; who can justify, but cannot glorify; who can make decisions, but cannot make disciples.

Is it any wonder that J.I. Packer says of American Christianity that it is, "

success oriented, manipulative, and self-centered. Three thousand miles wide and one inch deep."
The Almost Christian
What is then the true gospel and what are its components? What did Jesus really mean when He said, "Follow me!"? (Matthew 28:19). This is one of the crucial issues facing the evangelical community in our day. Contrary to popular opinion it is not materialism; it is not communism, it is not Marxism, narcissism, or hedonism. The issue today is the reverence for and the purity of the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. That alone is the rudder that guides the church - it is the nexus of the matter.

Take away the truth of the gospel and the church turns into a religious bar serving up whatever mixture of intoxicant faith that will be imbibed by those who are drunk on their own righteousness never desiring to be awakened from their stupor. And the lamentable thing is that they think they are saved. That is precisely why I am a firm believer that many people attending our churches week after week have made some sort of emotional verbal assent to Christ, but are not truly regenerated. They enjoy all the niceties of worship, fellowship, music, service, communion, etc, but have never been confronted with the reality of their sin, their need for a Savior, the eternal consequences of rejecting Christ, the awfulness of the wrath of God, the necessity for submission to the Lordship of Christ, the complete atoning work that Jesus accomplished on the cross, what His grace entails, and so crucially, what kind of faith is saving faith. Otherwise their epitaph will read, "They did not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved" (2 Thessalonians 2:10b).

I am utterly convinced, that one of the greatest mission fields in the United States today is the local church.

Walking an Aisle--the Narrow Road that Leads to Heaven?
Have you ever attended an evangelistic outreach service at a concert, missions conference, church meeting, etc..., where you heard gospel altar calls or appeals such as, "accept Jesus in your heart today"; "just lift up you hand and walk this aisle and you are saved"; "say this sinners prayer with me and if you do you're a Christian"; "make Jesus Lord of your life"; "there's a God-size hole in your heart and He alone can fill it"; or "just be bananas over Jesus"?

As familiar sounding as these phrases are, it may surprise you that not one of them is even remotely biblical or associated to the gospel according to Jesus. He does not want your hand raised, beloved, He wants your life surrendered! (Matthew 7:21). He doesn't desire you to be bananas over Him, but He does desire that you are obedient to Him (John 14:15, 15:14-16). There is not a hole in your heart to be filled but your entire life to be transformed (Colossians 1:10-14). You don't make Jesus Lord of your life - He is Lord... period. The question is will you submit to Him as Lord and honor Him for who He is and all He claimed to be (Hebrews 1:-8; John 1:14, 8:58; 14:5-9)?

No Cheap Grace Allowed
Have you considered the cost of what it means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ... to follow Him? The content of the gospel is confessing Christ as Lord and believing in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead (Romans 10:9-10); believing on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved (John 1:12, 3:15-18); that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures (1 Corinthians 15:3-4); for by grace you have been saved by faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, that no one should boast (Ephesians 2:8-9). Here we have a glimpse of the saving work of Jesus Christ. It requires believing, confession, trusting in His complete work from the cross to the resurrection, it is by God's grace and His enabling faith, and it is His gift to you - you can't earn it no matter what.

Notice that coupled with God's loving grace, is the call for our conformity and submission to all He commands. Though we do not participate in our salvation; we do participate in our sanctification--and yet, it is still all of grace (John 15:5). This is a mystery beloved: God's sovereignty and man's obedience woven together in our sanctification--ouyr daily growth and conformity to Christlikeness (Titus 2:11-12).

Let's look at three essential commands of the Lord to become His disciple: that you deny yourself; take up your cross; and follow Him (Matthew 16:24).

"What Does it Mean to Follow Jesus?"


To deny yourself means to come to the end of yourself; to be done with yourself; to see yourself as bankrupt from any ability to save yourself; to not place any trust whatsoever within yourself to be saved. The Lord did not come to "complete us" or to help us "get in touch with ourselves." Far from it. The Lord is calling for us to be finished with ourselves: our desires; our goals; our ways; our own truths; our agendas; our self-made religious whims, ceremonies or inventions. We must "deny" ourselves to be His disciple. John Calvin says it this way: "the sum of the Christian life is the denial of self"- and I thoroughly agree with him. We must come to Christ not putting our confidence in our own "goodness", because we have none (Romans 3:10), but solely in what Jesus has done for us. The prophet Isaiah brings us to the end of our own righteousness by affirming, "All our righteous deeds are like filthy garments" (Isaiah 64:6). I recognize this is a hard way, for our entire culture shouts at you to trust in yourself, you control your own destiny, it is personal power and self esteem that will set you free. The most flamboyant, bold, misguided, foolish example of this is the recent fascination with psychic power. Out of all the religions in this world, and there are thousands of them, there are really only two kinds; the religion of human achievement; and the religion of divine accomplishment. The religion of human achievement says that man is good, man can save himself, man can earn his way to heaven through good works, etc...

Christianity on the other hand says man is totally depraved, completely sinful, by nature children of wrath, sons of disobedience, none are good, and, in fact, no one does what is good (Roms. 3:10-18). Christianity says human achievement cannot save and that to have salvation someone must have divinely accomplished what man could never do. Jesus Christ fulfilled on the cross what no man or manmade religion could ever do - satisfy God's wrath against all sin and abolish the penalty of sin. He "died once for all, for all time" (Hebrews 10:12). His sacrifice is complete not requiring any additional word. When Jesus cried out on the cross "It is finished!" He was proclaiming that He had achieved the atonement as the Captain of our Salvation (Hebrews 2:10). When any man embraces, surrenders and submits to Jesus Christ, by grace, as Lord and Savior of his life (2 Corinthians 4:5), he then has as Paul says, "peace with God" (Romans 5:1). In other words, the war is over. "If God is for us who can be against us?" (Romans 8:31). The answer is clear... no one. And the converse is also true, if God is against you who can be for you? The New Age movement? Buddha, Mohammad, or Krishna? No. Sun Young Moon, J.Z. Knight or Shirley McClain? No. Can praying on your rosary or trusting in the Pope in Rome? No. You must deny yourself; jettison all confidence in your own ability to save yourself and cling to Christ alone.

That is why Jesus says in the Sermon on the Mount, "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 5:3). "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but by Me" (John 14:6). Jesus is absolutely exclusive in His claim. He is the only living and true way! There is no other way to heaven no matter how noble, good, or satisfying it may seem. You must be bankrupt of human achievement, and place your belief only in Christ for your redemption (John 3:16).

All people in the world have one thing in common - a sin nature. We are all born into this life with sin in our heart that needs divine healing. It's difficult for us to imagine this when we see little new-born babies who are so pure, gentle, sweet and innocent. Scripture tells us though that we are "by nature children of wrath" (Ephesians 2:3); "behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me" (Psalms 51:5); and again the Psalmist affirms this reality when he says, "the wicked are estranged from the womb; those who speak lies go astray from birth" (Psalms 58:3). That is why our "old man"; our "old self"; our sin nature needs to be dealt with. We need a new nature that is not rooted in sin but rooted in righteousness! (read Ephesians 2:1-10). Two natures cannot co-exist with each other (read Romans 6) and that is why in order to receive a new nature the old one must be brought to Calvary and crucified!

The Apostle Paul was proclaiming this truth when he explodes with this amazing statement in Galatians 2:20. "I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ Jesus lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and delivered Himself up for me." And again in Romans 6:6 he says, "knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, that our body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin." When we come and place our faith and trust in Jesus Christ and what He has accomplished at Calvary, at that moment we are crucified with Him. Our old self or nature is executed, put to death, and we are made alive unto creations in Christ Jesus our Lord! That is painful for the old man doesn't want to die, but live. Oh friend, but we must come the way of the cross if we desire to have eternal life in Jesus Christ.

Last but not least, we must follow Him. I can't think of a better definition of a Christian than one who follows Him--who obeys the Lord and His Word. The masses would come from miles around to hear our Lord preach, see Him perform miracles and acts of healing. However, Jesus said to the onlookers that they would have "to eat His flesh and drink His blood" if they wanted to be His disciples (John 6:37ff). What did He mean by this? Every time Jesus said follow Me, He was headed to the cross. He was meaning to partake of the crucified life. As my friend, John MacArthur, so susinctly says, "to give all that you are for all that Jesus is." This means that we must love Him more than all other loves - father, mother, brother, sister, son and daughter. Jesus isn't saying "hate your families." But what He is saying is, that He must be first love of your life. (read Luke 14:26-27; Rev. 2:4). The gospel is Jesus Christ and Him crucified, buried and risen bodily on the third day. It is good news that there is eternal life in Christ, victory over sin, hope beyond the grave for those who place their faith and trust in Him. Oh my dear friend, consider the cost.

  • "The Gospel According To Jesus" by Dr. John MacArthur;
  • "Faith Works" by John MacArthur;
  • "A Guide To Christ" by Solomon Stoddard;
  • "Gospel Fear" by Jeremiah Burroughs

1. What is the most important thing in the world to you? At what cost would you be willing to give it up?

2. Read through the Gospels of Matthew and John. What did our Lord require of those who would be His true disciples?

3. Why is it unbiblical to assume that you can take Jesus as Savior, while not acknowledging Him as Lord of your life?

4. In what ways is the Gospel according to Jesus different from the "easy-believism" that much of contemporary evangelism espouses today?

5. Pray that the Lord will give you an understanding of what His work on the cross cost Him, what your life in Him will cost you, and what the cost would be in rejecting him.


The Man said...

Awesome article. I am no where near as conservative as you are politically but you captured my thoughts about the over-reliance of Christians on political methods.

Joe Branca said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Joe Branca said...

Some wonderful points made in this paper. Concerning Life Application #2, it is an interesting and beneficial project to work through the Gospels and all the commands of Jesus to his disciples and others, concerning what is involved in following him.

What is sometimes overlooked is how we need to be sensitive to that particular time in redemptive history, i.e. when the old covenant was passing away and the new covenant was being inaugurated, in order to better understand some of the more difficult sayings of Jesus.

It should be clear that at least some sayings of Jesus ought to be taken as temporary. These are the kind that would hold as long as the old covenant was still in effect. For example, Jesus' instruction to the leper to show himself to the priest and offer the sacrifices that Moses commanded (Matt. 8:4). Now we can say that if the leper refused this command, this would have been an act of disobedience and evidenced an unbelief in the person of Jesus. But at the same time, we obviously do not take this command to be binding up to this day, it was tied to the temple program still in force at that time.

Jesus of course also gave an enormous body of commands that are binding on his disciples throughout the church age. Matt. 28:20 - "... teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you." From the beginning it was clear that Jesus' teaching had absolute authority and that all disciples of Jesus are to be in submission to his teachings.

So when is it temporary and when is it binding on all? Here is a basic principle that helps us understand whether his teachings carry through today or not (credit goes to Lee Irons): Any command tied to temple worship or to the circumstances of Israel as a typological kingdom in the land, would obviously be temporary.

What can be tricky is discerning the commands that are unique and have to do with that particular moment of redemptive history in which Jesus was going about preaching the kingdom of God and healing people.

Case in point: Jesus' command to the rich young ruler to sell all his possessions and give to the poor and to follow Jesus. This command must not literally be carried by all believers. Jesus was not advocating some form of asceticism. Rather, this particular demand addressed the fact that the Jews had become attached to the temporal blessings in the land, blessings promised to those who generally kept the law, at least in its more external requirements. So within that context Jesus came as the Messiah announcing that the eschatological kingdom had arrived in his person and work, and that the land and riches in the land were now giving way to that to which they pointed.

Thus through this particular situation, Jesus was instructing Israel as a whole that something new was occuring in redemptive history -- now they are to gain a heavenly reward, rather than an earthly one, and this reward is gained not by law-keeping but by believing in Jesus and following him in the way of the cross.

It is not always clear when Jesus' teaching is literal and when it has a more spiritual meaning. But it helps to use the rest of the NT as a guide. In the above example, if we take Jesus' command to the rich young ruler as binding on all rich people who come to Christ, then we end up with a contradiction between Paul and Jesus. For Paul does permit wealthy Christians to retain their wealth, granted they don't put their trust in it and as long as they are generous and willing to share (1 Tim. 6:17-19).

just some things to consider


Anonymous said...

Amen. I put a link to this post on my blog. Thanks for speaking the truth in a world of deception

Steve said...

Excellent post. Thanks.

donsands said...

The Word is sharp as a razor, and it cuts through, down to the marrow of the soul.
Keep on preaching my brother. Excellent words. And much needed.

Tim Brown said...


Thanks for posting such a timely article. I will admit that it is so easy for me to get off track. In blogging, it is so easy to focus on what is wrong, instead of the solution.

While it is imperative to know what the devil is doing and how to discern it, our focus should mainly be on the solution -- Jesus Christ, His finished work and the simplicity of how we are to respond; in repentance and faith.

Blessings, brother and thanks.

Anonymous said...

Wonderful post and wonderful message. Keep it up!

Mike Ratliff said...

Yes, it is treason for "Christians" to substitute any other message for the Gospel. Thanks for this heart pummeling message Campi!

In Christ

Mike Ratliff

Marcia said...

I just now got around to reading this post in its entireity. It is so, so true.

It is sad how many people don't even know they are being deceived.

I blogged a little bit about this myself, although my little post is not in any way as good or as thorough as this one.

Marcia said...

Oops, bad link. Try this.