02
Feb
12

The Gospel Message

Accurate communication can be difficult. This is especially true since there are no perfect communicators and there are no perfect hearers/readers. There may be times when we think we have communicated an idea with crystal clarity, when we discover the person who heard or read our remarks completely missed the point we were making.

A woman who had heard me preach every Sunday morning for eight years said to me, “Just like you have always said, ‘As long as we do the best we can, God will certainly accept us.’” The truth is, I had never said anything of the kind. Either I had been a very poor communicator, she had been a very poor hearer, or perhaps it was a combination of the two.

There is no message that deserves proper communication as much as the message of the gospel. Men and women’s souls hang in the balance. It seems people are always trying to fine tune the message to make it more intelligible. In the process, they usually make it less so.

Some have suggested we should omit any call to repentance since that may give people the idea they need to amend their ways so that God will accept them. Others insist we must, in our initial gospel presentation, explain that faith will always produce a life of obedience to Christ. The reality is we do not need to fine tune the gospel at all. We simply need to proclaim it as Jesus and the apostles proclaimed it. If people misunderstand us and think we are teaching that we may go on living in sin so that grace might be more fully manifested, we are in good company. This was the charge leveled against the great apostle to the Gentiles. If, then, we are not open to the same charge whenever we preach the gospel of justification through faith alone, our message must be different from that of the great apostle himself. Dr. Lloyd-Jones wrote.

The true preaching of the gospel of salvation by grace alone always leads to the possibility of this charge [antinomianism] being brought against it. There is no better test as to whether a man is really preaching the New Testament gospel of salvation than this, that some people might misunderstand it and misinterpret it to mean that it really amounts to this, that because you are saved by grace alone it does not matter at all what you do; you can go on sinning as much as you like because it will redound all the more to the glory of grace. That is a very good test of gospel preaching. If my preaching and presentation of the gospel of salvation does not expose it to that misunderstanding, then it is not the gospel (Lloyd-Jones, Romans, 1973,8).

We must never give sinners the idea they must bring something of merit with them when they come to Christ. Charlotte Elliott was born in the late 18th century. She became disabled in 1821 and remained so until her death in 1871. In May of 1822, Dr. Caesar Malan of Geneva, a friend of her father, came to spend some time with her family. As he conversed with Charlotte he discovered she was a stranger to Christ and the joys and comforts of the Christian faith. At first, she resented his efforts to witness the gospel to her but later asked forgiveness for the way she had treated him. She asked his counsel as to how she might find Christ. He saw that she was being held back by her own efforts to make herself better and to save herself and said to her, “Dear Charlotte, cut the cable. It will take too long to unloose it. Cut it. It is a small loss anyway. You must come to Christ just as you are.”

I was not until twelve years had passed that she wrote a poem that was first titled, “HimThat Cometh to Me I Will in No Wise Cast Out.” She penned the hymn on a day when she had been feeling especially despondent over her helplessness and apparent uselessness. She had lapsed into spiritual depression and was questioning the very reality of her faith. The night before she wrote the hymn she had been exceedingly troubled by doubts and fears. Concerning her experience on the next day Bishop H. C. G. Moule, wrote as follows,

. . . the troubles of the night came back upon her with such force that she felt they must be met and conquered in the grace of God. She gathered up in her soul the grand certainties, not of her emotions, but of her salvation: her Lord, his power, his promise. And taking pen and paper from the table, she deliberately set down in writing for her own comfort the formulae of her faith. So in verse she restated to herself the gospel of pardon, peace and heaven.

Today, we know her poem by a different by a different title. It reads as follows,

Just as I am, without one plea
But that thy blood was shed for me,
And that thou bidd’st me come to thee,
O Lamb of God, I come.

Just as I am, and waiting not
To rid my soul of one dark blot,
To thee, whose blood can cleanse each spot,
O Lamb of God, I come.

Just as I am, though tossed about
With many a conflict, many a doubt,
Fightings and fears within, without,
O Lamb of God, I come.

Just as I am, poor, wretched, blind;
Sight, riches, healing of the mind,
Yea, all I need, in thee to find,
O Lamb of God, I come.

Just as I am! Thou will receive,
Will welcome, pardon, cleanse, relieve;
Because thy promise I believe,
O Lamb of God, I come.

Just as I am! thy love unknown
Has broken every barrier down;
now, to be thine, yea, thine alone,
O Lamb of God, I come.

I cannot imagine a better expression of the manner in which we should invite sinners to Christ. Another hymn-writer expressed the gospel in this way,

Come ye sinners, poor and wretched,
Weak and wounded, sick and sore;
Jesus ready stands to save you,
Full of pity joined with Pow’r.
He is able, he is willing, doubt no more.

Let not conscience make you linger,
Nor of fitness fondly dream;
All the fitness he requireth
Is to feel your need of him;
This he gives you;
‘Tis the Spirit’s rising beam.

Joseph Hart 1759

Both these hymns express the same thought. Sinners do not have to do anything to make themselves better or prepare themselves to come to Christ. You do not need to change, just come.

But, if you are thinking, you will ask, what about repentance? Don’t sinners have to turn from sin when we come to Christ? I would unequivocally answer yes! So, is that not a contradiction? Not at all. The call to repentance is not a call to amend our ways. It a call to understand that we cannot ameliorate our ways. It is a call to bring our sins to Jesus that he might change us. The sinner who comes to Jesus in faith and repentance is a sinner who has come to understand his absolute helplessness to do anything about either his guilt or his pollution because of sin. Additionally, he has learned that his sins are a great burden from which he longs to be free. He has grown tired of his nagging and accusing conscience and wants more than anything to be freed from this load. It is futile to tell him to leave his sin; he has tried to mend his ways through self-reformation time after time and knows himself to be a miserable failure. Our message to sinners is “Stop trying to free yourself.” You will fail every time you try. I have never been a life-guard, but I have been told that life-guards at times must disable those they are attempting to save, because the intended victim persists in trying to save himself. Don’t wait to “Rid your soul of one dark blot,” but come to him “whose blood can cleanse each spot.” You will never be ready; you will never be fit. The good news of the gospel is that he is ready; he is worthy; he is able.

We don’t invite sinners to Jesus that he might forgive their sins and then leave them in those very sins for which he has forgiven them. We invite them to Jesus to be saved from the sins themselves. When the outward call of the gospel is accompanied by the internal and effectual call of the Father and the regenerating work of the Spirit, to slightly paraphrase John Flavel’s words, “we see not only the weapons of hostility falling from sinner’s hands, but the enmity itself falling from their hearts.” This is why the Scriptures talk about God giving repentance to sinners.

C. H. Spurgeon wrote, “. . .the gospel is for the lost, to remove their despair.”

He describes his own experience of conversion as follows,

When I was under the hand of the Holy Spirit, under conviction of sin, I had a clear and sharp sense of the justice of God. Sin, whatever it might be to other people, became to me an intolerable burden. It was not so much that I feared hell, but that I feared sin. I knew myself to be so horribly guilty that I remember feeling that if God did not punish me for sin He ought to do so. I felt that the Judge of all the earth ought to condemn such sin as mine. I sat on the judgment seat, and I condemned myself to perish; for I confessed that had I been God I could have done no other than send such a guilty creature as I was down to the lowest hell. All the while, I had upon my mind a deep concern for the honor of God’s name, and the integrity of His moral government. I felt that it would not satisfy my conscience if I could be forgiven unjustly.

Once sinners are thus convinced, we do not need to persuade them to leave their sins. Those sins will now be the great burden of their souls.

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3 Responses to “The Gospel Message”


  1. 1 Jack Fenwick
    February 8, 2012 at 8:51 pm

    Hi Andy,
    Keep up the great work in defending Gospel grace. I followed your discussions over at Paul’s Passing Thoughts with heartbreaking sadness. It’s tragic to see an individual so hardened in his heart toward the Gospel. His latest post show his utter contempt toward Christ and those who love grace!

    Grace and peace,
    Jack

  2. February 8, 2012 at 9:00 pm

    Jack,

    Thanks for your encouraging comment. I feel as if I may have been banging my head against a brick wall when corresponding with Paul. The gospel always seems to be under attack from one side or another. Thanks for commenting. Drop by anytime.

    Randy

  3. March 3, 2012 at 2:46 am

    “The sinner who comes to Jesus in faith and repentance is a sinner who has come to understand his absolute helplessness to do anything about either his guilt or his pollution because of sin.”

    Amen!


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