Wherever you go, if Vermont is mentioned, one thing usually comes to mind, maple syrup. When it is pure and undiluted, it's flavor is unique and delicious on anything whether it's pancakes or ice cream.
In the same way, when the pure uncompromising word of the Gospel of Christ is preached, it is unique, it is distinctive, and full of the power of the Holy Spirit to transform a life from hopelessness, to one of light, and a life of serving him and sharing eternity with God in heaven when this life is done.
What is the pure Gospel; it is best here to let the word of God speak for itself: As I read them, focus on Christ, and what He says about himself, and what is said about him by his disciples.
Matt. 18:11, and Luke 19:10 Jesus says, "For the Son of Man is come to save that which was lost."
John 8:8-10 "All that ever came before me are thieves and robbers: but the sheep did not hear them. I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture. The thief comes not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that more abundantly."
John 14:1-3 "Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe in me. In my father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go to prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, the ye may be also."
John 14:6 "I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man comes to the Father, but by me."
Then, as Philip says to Jesus, show us the Father, the Lord says to him. "Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? he that has seen me has seen the Father."
Luke 24:44 "These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fullfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me. Then he opened their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures, And said to them, Thus it is written, and thus it behooved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day: And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem."
Acts2:36-38 "Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God has made that same Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ. Now, when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do? Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the Holy Ghost."
1Cor. 15:17-20"And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are in your sins. Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable. But now is Christ risen fromt he dead, and become the first fruits of them that slept."
Many more scriptures could be read, but these tell us what we need to know; Jesus came for one reason, to save sinners (like me) and accomplished the work on the cross. There is no other name under heaven by which we can be saved.
In His love, patience, and compassion, he walked with us, became one of us, and associated with us in our pain and sorrows. His emphasis to us was to first come to Him for salvation, live for the day, love each other, bear with each other, and trust Him in this life and the next. His yoke is truly easy, and His burden light.
Why would anyone not want to embrace this wonderful good news?
1John 3:15-17"Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passes away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever."
Let's face it, we love the world. Many Christians also love the world. Many churches today have become merely places of employment, with all the competition, and status of secular society. In Phil. ch. 2:3-11 we are told of Christs humbling himself and becoming a servant, counting himself as nothing, which is supposed to be our example. But we have lost this. Many leaders in churches today don't want to be seen as servants, places of ministry have become battle grounds of strife because of egos and envy. Most of the books, and Christian music is geared to sell a popular message that God is love, with no consequences for our behavior, or how to get everyone to like you. Jesus tells me in John I will be hated if I choose him, the world is not going to love me. Unbelievers observe this, see it as hypocrisy, and do not hear Christ clearly proclaimed for who He is. The emphasis in the church is not supposed to be who is who in ministry....it is supposed to be the risen Christ, and his victory on the cross for us.
We need to come back to the example Jesus gave us when he washed the disciples feet. Our service should be as with a towel, and a basin.
I agree with Paul (1Cor.2:2)when he says"I've determined not to know anything among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified." I've listened to many sermons, and teachings over the years. The only ones that left a lasting impression on me was when the individual lifted up, and proclaimed the power of the cross, the resurrection of Christ, and came away realizing the person hardly ever mentioned himself. The scriptures came alive as the word of God was expounded on. We need to get back to this in the church. We have no power to save people, that is what Jesus came to do.
Whenever the Lord gives me the honor of witnessing for Him, I make it clear to the person; don't look at me as an indication of perfection. Without Christ, I'm as lost as anyone. Don't measure your salvation on me, I may fall, I may fail you. Look to Jesus, He has done it all for us. When you embrace Him, His victory is yours also.
Another reason people choose to not come to Christ is denial of reality, Satan deludes us into believing nothing will ever change.
For many years I worked in nursing, and took care of the elderly. I noticed something in almost all of them, none of them wanted to talk about or deal with the reality of death. No matter how old they were, most of them seemed to want to live as if it was never going to happen to them. Sadly, people live in this self induced illusion and they quickly change the subject because it is too uncomfortable to really look at. We all have done this. But, this is one of Satan's most effective tools. One after another, they live out their lives in apathetic limbo, and drop into hell, a wasted life.
We are here on this planet a few years, and we are gone. We are not going to keep anything we work for or strive for down here. There is nothing wrong with enjoying life, or it's pleasures, but we aren't going to hang on to them. Over and over, Jesus made it clear, to lay up our treasures in heaven, where moth or rust cannot destroy. But, we are dull of hearing, and full of ourselves.
The power and gifts of the Holy Spirit are taught in a vague, muddy way, because very few people know the word of God well enough to teach it with authority. The devil loves this, because he is working overtime teaching kids and adults alike how wonderful and harmless witchcraft, sorcery, and occult practices are. You can learn all you want about the darkness of Satan's world, while Christians sit in timid ignorance, afraid to expound on the power Jesus came and died to give us against this onslaught of the devil. Jesus said it well when he said the devil comes to kill, steal, and destroy. If you are serving the devil, you will find him an unmerciful taskmaster; when he's done using you, he will destroy you.
I am convinced that it is impossible to live in victory as a Christian today without the power of the Holy Spirit. The darkness is too great, and we are so close to the end, that Satan has unleashed untold numbers of demons to steal as many souls as he can. We are clearly told by Christ to ask for and receive the Holy Spirit to have to power to witness, and live in the present darkness and overcome it.
We've read and quoted these verses and other's like them;
Mark16:17,18"And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover."
Luke 10:17-19"And the seventy returned again with joy, saying, Lord, even the devils are subject unto us through thy name. And he said unto them, I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven. Behold, I give unto you power to tread on serpents adn scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy: and nothing shall by any means hurt you."
The scriptures are full of verses telling us of the power of God, delegated to us, if we will learn how to appropriate it. Ignorance is not bliss, but most christians choose to remain in unbelief. Jesus tells us over and over, believe in Me, trust Me, ask and you shall receive......do we believe Him? And as I ask this I'm looking into myself, not pointing fingers at other's.
When the uncompromising Gospel is preached we can expect these things;
1. opposition and adversity
4. some will pervert the message
5. the purer the message, the greater the help of the Holy Spirit to us, giving boldness and courage
In Acts ch. 5, when Peter and the disciples were brought before the council, and strictly told not to teach in the name of Christ, his answer was "We ought to obey God rather than men." Further in the text the council members made this statement "And now I say unto you, Refrain from these men, and let them alone: for if this counsel or this work be of men, it will come to nought: But if it be of God, you cannot overthrow it; lest haply you be found even to fight against God. And to him they agreed: and when they had called the apostles, and beaten them, they commanded thay they should not speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. And they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name." These men knew who they believed, and why they believed it, they were willing to die for him.
I pray a lot that God's church would come back to this mindset. His power to save, heal and deliver follows those who are dead to themselves.
We are not all called to be preachers, or evangelists. But, we are all called to be ambassadors for Christ, witnessing as God gives us an open door to do so. In a teaching I listened to once, an elderly gentleman made this statement, and I agree with him, "The Lord just told me to sow the seed, and leave the results to Him." If we do this, each of us will reap a harvest.
When I'm standing in heaven, and look around, I hope to see the faces of those I've had the privilege of sharing Christ with. The only thing we are going to take with us when we leave, is people.
May the Lord help us have the courage to speak as often of Him as we can, and be as clear and pure as possible, while there is time to do so.