The most humbling and challenging thing we face in this day, the great concern of our hearts, ought to be a recovery of the gospel of God's glory! I am convinced that what men today call the gospel is not the gospel at all but is the preaching of another gospel, another Jesus, and another spirit.
1) Today's gospel emphasizes what men should do for God rather than what God must do for men! My friend, salvation is not something you do for God, or something you do for yourself or something the preacher does for you! "Salvation is of the Lord." The whole of the work whereby a lost sinner is saved from his natural state of sin and ruin, and is translated into the kingdom of God and made an heir of eternal happiness, is of God and of Him only! Psalm 3:8 "Salvation belongeth to the Lord." Psalm 37:39 "The salvation of the righteous is of the Lord."
Men today plead with sinners to accept Jesus; men of old pleaded with God to show mercy. "Lord, be merciful to me, a sinner." Men today boast that they have accepted Jesus. Paul said, "I obtained mercy." "Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord." Men today sing "I Choose Jesus." The Apostle wrote "Whom He foreknew, He predestinated, He called, He justified, He glorified." "I thank God," Paul said, "that from the beginning He chose you to salvation."
2) Today's gospel emphasizes gaining heaven and missing hell, rather than being saved from sin and vitally joined to Christ. The message one hears from most pulpits today is, "Wouldn't you like to go to heaven when you die?" "Of course, I would, who wouldn't?" Religious man's goal is to somehow make it to heaven when he dies. Paul's desire was "to know Christ, to win Christ, and to be found in Him." David's heart panted for the living God. Early believers knew that salvation was to be in Christ and heaven was to be with Christ.
Congregations today are drenched with the terrors of judgment and hellfire. Men are made to fear hell and to devise ways to escape the terrors of the damned. Men of old were concerned about forgiveness of sin and being justified in the sight of God. Job 25:4 "How then can man be justified with God? Or how can he be clean that is born of a woman?" Psalm 51:10 "Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me."
There can be no true repentance before God without a knowledge of my sin and a desire to be done with it and there can be no saving faith in Christ where there is no genuine repentance. We cannot give any man a title deed to heaven to whom the Holy Spirit has not given an interest in Christ. I John 5:12 "He that hath the son hath life; he that hath not the son hath not life."
3) Today's gospel is a sermon to the head rather than a message of grace to the heart. We know what we believe, and when we believed. Paul said, "I know whom I have believed. We are called Calvinists, Lutherans, or Wesleyans because we agree with these men. The believers of old were called Christians because they knew Christ, loved Christ, and were like Christ. Our heads are full of facts, doctrines, traditions and truth; their hearts were full of love for Christ. While we argue the sovereignty of God; "Noah moved with fear." While we debate the fall of man; Paul cries, "O wretched man that I am." While we write essays on the atonement; Thomas falls, crying, "My Lord and My God." We preach the resurrection; the disciples walked with the risen Lord. We look forward to life after death; Paul longed "to be with Christ."
Preachers today are licensed and ordained by the church; men of old were ordained and sent by God. Preachers today go forth armed with degrees and credentials; men of old went forth anointed by the Holy Spirit. Preachers are questioned by committees and hired to preach what the church believes; men of old came preaching, "Thus saith the Lord." Preachers today give themselves to programs, visitation, church business; men of old "gave themselves to prayer and the ministry of the Word." Preachers today preach and men are persuaded to move their membership; men of old preached and "they were pricked in their hearts and cried, 'Men and brethren, what shall we do?" Preachers today pray and the organ plays softly; Elijah prayed and the fire of God fell. Preachers today are afraid that they will offend someone; Paul was afraid that he would not. If there is no offense, the cross has not been preached.
4) Today's gospel calls on men to stand up for God; the gospel commands men to bow the knee and confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. The two-fold message of evangelism is (1) all flesh is grass, and (2) Behold your God! It is the message which strips man of all glory and gives all the glory to Christ. The results of preaching the gospel of God's glory will be a sense of the awful presence of God, breaking the hearts of sinners and bringing them to the feet of Christ for cleansing. Gone will be the voice of the proud sinner who stands in the church, beset on every side by soul winners, debating whether or not he will recognize the Lord and let God save him. Gone will be the voice of the self-righteous sinner who debates whether or not he will let Jesus come into his heart. Instead we will hear broken hearts and contrite spirits cry:
Preachers today have made a beggar of the Lord of Lords! No, my proud religionist you are the beggar! God is not obligated to do anything but damn you, to the eternal praise of His justice. If you keep listening to the wrong voices, your lot shall be with those before you, of whom Christ said, "I am come in my Fathers name and ye receive me not, let another come in his own name and him ye will receive."
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