Friday, November 02, 2007

If Faith Comes From Hearing, Then Who Have You Told (Part 3 of 4)

We must also tell people about the cross. There can be no authentic gospel presentation without talking about the cross of Jesus Christ. We are not telling people the whole truth unless we tell people about the perfect, sinless, sacrificial death of Jesus Christ. If our message is laden with promises of what Jesus will do for them in this life, and we make no mention of what Jesus did on the cross so that they can have eternal life, then we are not speaking the truth. We’re no more than salesmen of a commodity, instead of ambassadors of the King.

Paul wrote to the Romans: “For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:6-8).

Paul wrote to the Corinthians: “He (God the Father) made Him (God the Son) who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:21).

Paul wrote to the Philippians: “And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:8).

The writer of Hebrews encourages us to fix “our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2).

We must tell people why Jesus went to the cross; namely, to take upon Himself the punishment we deserve for breaking God’s Law and sinning against Him. Jesus Christ, the sinless and spotless Lamb of God, the Son of the Almighty, was literally crushed under the full weight of God’s holy wrath. God’s wrath was poured out on God the Son. In doing so, Jesus Christ made the full and perfect propitiation (the payment) for our sins. He was the perfect and only possible substitute who could and did take our place on the cross.

The cross should have been our cross. It should have been our hands through which the nails were driven. It should have been our feet through which the nails were driven. It should have been our side through which the centurion’s spear was thrust.

Prior to repenting and trusting Jesus Christ alone for our salvation, it should have been us who had the crown of thorns mockingly smashed on our heads. Why? The reason is that before we received the free gift of eternal life, we claimed to be god, through our unbelief and disobedience. But Jesus was and is God! He didn’t deserve that crown of shame and ridicule, but He bore it willingly!

And for those who have not yet turned away from their sin and received Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, something far worse than six hours on a cross awaits them. God will pour out his wrath against all ungodliness and unrighteousness; and the just penalty will be eternity, not a finite amount of time, in hell.

We must make sure people believe in the only real Jesus—the Jesus of the Scriptures. Jesus is God. He is not a god and the incarnation of Michael the Archangel, as the Jehovah’s witnesses believe. He is not the spirit brother of Lucifer, as the Mormons believe.

He is not a created being as all of the false religions of the world believe—including the two just mentioned. He is not merely a good teacher or a prophet. And He is not merely one path to heaven as the pluralists and ecumenicists would have us believe.

Jesus is Lord! He is God! He is the Alpha and the Omega! He is the beginning and the end, the first and the last! Jesus and the Father are one! He is the only Savior of mankind! He is the way, and the truth, and the life! And, as the writer of Hebrews so beautifully tells us, “He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power. When He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high” (Hebrews 1:3)!

The god of Mormonism is a dead god, because he never existed. The god of the Jehovah’s Witnesses is a dead god, because he never existed. The gods of the Eastern religions are dead gods, because they never existed. The gods of the ecumenicists and the pluralists are dead gods and merely figments of the imaginations of God’s enemies.

There is only one God; and that one God is eternally existent in three persons—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. He is eternal and alive! He alone is the Lawgiver and Judge. He alone is able to both save and destroy. And we must tell people the truth.

We must tell people that Jesus Christ, the King of kings and the Lord of lords is risen indeed. Why? Well, this is what the apostle Paul told the Corinthian church.

“Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain.

“For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. After that He appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom remain until now, but some have fallen asleep; then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles; and last of all, as to one untimely born, He appeared to me also” (1 Corinthians 15:1-8).

And Jesus Christ Himself declared His resurrection. As the apostle John laid eyes on the risen Lord and fell at His feet like a dead man, Jesus said to him, “Do not be afraid; I am the first and the last, and the Living One, and I was (or more literally “became”) dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of death and Hades” (Revelation 1:17b-18).

Yes, we must tell people the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

The Gospel Must Be Spoken Boldly

The gospel must also be spoken boldly. Proverb 28:1 says, “The wicked flee when no one is pursuing, but the righteous are bold as a lion.”

So, what is true boldness? Well, here are a few things it is not—at least not here in the United States where there is yet any persecution on a life-threatening level. Boldness is not wearing Christian T-shirts. Boldness is not sporting “No Jesus, No Peace” bumper stickers. Boldness is not allowing your friends see you carry a Bible. Boldness is not loudly playing a Christian radio station or CD in your car.

Some may argue—some of you may argue—that these are small steps of boldness. Are they really? Considering how few professing Christians speak about Christ, may it not be more likely that these are as big a step as professing Christians ever plan to take and they are merely masks for the fear that keeps most professing Christians from taking a single step that would be counted by our Lord and Savior as truly bold?

I was listening to a sermon by Pastor James McDonald this week, and he gave this definition of boldness. “Boldness is openness or candor, especially in the face of hostility, without concern for the response of the hearer.”

When we wear Christian T-shirts and sport Christian bumper stickers, do we really do so without concern for the response of whoever may see us? Or is it that we want people to think we are a Christian, so long as they don’t respond by persecuting us? Are we concerned with what such a display may cost us, or are we merely concerned with how we look?

Is it that we truly want to testify for Jesus, or are we merely identifying ourselves with Jesus? Remember, it still does not cost a person his or her life to identify one’s self with Jesus, in this country—at least not yet. Millions upon millions of people identity with Jesus, but they don’t know Him as Savior and Lord

True boldness for Christ requires openly and candidly speaking about Christ. The Word of God affirms this.

“And when they had prayed, the place where they had gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak the word of God with boldness” (Acts 4:31).

“But Barnabas took hold of him and brought him to the apostles and described to them how he had seen the Lord on the road, and that He had talked to him, and how at Damascus he had spoken out boldly in the name of Jesus. And he was with them, moving about freely in Jerusalem, speaking out boldly in the name of the Lord” (Acts 9:27-28).

“Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly and said, ‘It was necessary that the word of God be spoken to you first; since you repudiate it and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold, we are turning to the Gentiles’” (Acts 13:46).

“Therefore they spent a long time there speaking boldly with reliance upon the Lord, who was testifying to the word of His grace, granting that signs and wonders be done by their hands” (Act. 14:3).

“And he entered the synagogue and continued speaking out boldly for three months, reasoning and persuading them about the kingdom of God” (Acts 19:8).

“With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints, and pray on my behalf, that utterance may be given to me in the opening of my mouth, to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in proclaiming it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak” (Ephesians 6:18-20).

“For you yourselves know, brethren, that our coming to you was not in vain, but after we had already suffered and been mistreated in Philippi, as you know, we had the boldness in our God to speak to you the gospel of God amid much opposition. For our exhortation does not come from error or impurity or by way of deceit; but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not as pleasing men, but God who examines our hearts.

“For we never came with flattering speech, as you know, nor with a pretext for greed -- God is witness -- nor did we seek glory from men, either from you or from others, even though as apostles of Christ we might have asserted our authority” (1 Thess. 2:1-6).

The gospel must be spoken boldly if we are to bring God honor and glory in our evangelism efforts.

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