We live in a world where, if you are going to get your message across, you have to get hard and passionate and fiery. If you are trying to browbeat sinners and idiots and fools into right living, that would be the way to go. You’d be more like a football coach than an art teacher. We think if we are going to get heard with the gospel, we have to join the fray and get mad.
But it is strange to get fiery and angry about the gospel. It’s like getting mad at your children and barking at them when you are offering them a treat: “You need to GET in that car, and we ARE going to the ice cream store downtown, and you WILL get a double scoop of your favorite. Do you UNDERSTAND?” What’s the point? They should be thrilled to do it! If they did balk, you would get down and say, “Listen, it was a joke. We’re talking about ice cream! Load up sweetheart!”
The gospel is an awesome gift. Why bark at everyone about it? You know that if you are going to have a special prayer night, you could advertise all over town and announce it for weeks and everyone but three people will say they never heard about it. If you whisper in a corner of the church once that you are going to have a BBQ dinner once, you’ll have 300 people show up. The gospel is a BBQ dinner, so we should stop scaring people off!
I’ve noticed that when people ask me about my work, and I tell them I am a programmer, they start trying to talk shop with me about computers. I guess they want to kind of prove that they are cool too. Some of them say they want to learn to program, or they tell me their ideas for something. The truth is, I’m sick of it and I envy them for not having to do it. I do it to pay the bills. I think they’re cool for having avoided it. I used to think programming computers was cool; I was once a children’s entertainer by trade, and I thought this wasn’t a legitimate line of work. I wanted to be more legitimate, so I went into database development. It sounded smarter. What a ridiculous idea!
The gospel is simply great news, just excellent and joyous news. It is ebullient! Yes, ebullient. Ebullient ebullient ebullient! People are going to say, “You’re wrong! You can’t compare the gospel to ice cream!” You know, that is true. You can’t do that. The gospel is much better than ice cream; ice cream can’t even come close. The gospel is pure love coming at you whether you deserve it or not, all the time. It is joy, it is freedom, it is security, it is our entrance into real fellowship and belonging, it is a big cause that is important. It is a huge gift, it is forgiveness of everything forever and complete acceptance from now on to eternity. Good Lord, what do you want?! It is like getting that lucrative dream job you wish you had, except — you don’t have to work! Ha!
But we who really do believe have this feeling that it is just too easy. We have to get angrier and more passionate about it. We have to throw some big words in there, like “soteriological” and “Christology”. We want to be legitimate. But we don’t need to be legitimate. Jesus is legitimate. Instead of preaching to make it simple and wonderful and appealing, we’re preaching to make it seem like we are the passionate smart cool kids. This is simple stuff: Jesus died for sinners to receive eternal life (John 3:16). John 3:16 actually is a key verse, and its obvious meaning isn’t erased because of “context”. Keep it simple, and keep it clear. It is simple and clear.
Does it seem like that in your church? Is your pastor trying to nail you and convict you and lay the burden on you heavy? Does it seem like grace is complicated? Or is it an awesome message of release and freedom and love and fellowship? Is there fellowship? Why don’t we have more joy? Why do we often walk out of church with a heaviness and a burden or even confusion instead of being lifted up and encouraged and with a pep in our step? It’s because what we need is the power and simplicity of the actual gospel. It is truly so rarely emphasized.
1 And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. 2 For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. 3 And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, 4 and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, 5 so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.
1 Corinthians 2:1-5 (NASB)