Are we compromising the exclusive Gospel?
("The Therapeutic Gospel" Part III)
By PASTOR JOHN ANDERSON
"Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you more than God, you judge. For we cannot but speak the things we have seen and heard!" (Acts 4:19-20)
If, as John Davison Hunter's study tells us, the Church has replaced discussion of sin, repentance and redemption with the therapeutic language of self-esteem and self-love; then one profound consequence can be that the Church easily gives in to society's hostility toward the exclusiveness of the Gospel and avoids presenting Christ as the only way of Salvation.
Our Lord's own narrow statement may now be an embarrassment to the modern Church: "I am the way and the truth and the life; no one comes to the Father except through Me." (John 14:6)
Of course such "dogmatism" as this by Jesus is not politically correct today. Congenial religious pluralism rules. Our culture has blithely embraced an ecumenical god, a god sitting high atop the religious mountain with Hindus, Buddhists, Animists, Christians, Moslems, Jews, etc, all happily climbing the mountain toward him.
(Of course this model powerfully distinguishes the Gospel of Christ from popular religions; because the Gospel of Christ is not the story of man climbing some mountain to God; that is a system of works, the earmark of man-made religious systems. No, the Gospel of Christ is the gracious story of God in Christ coming down to man, to us; being born among us, living among us sinlessly, and dying and rising from the dead among us to provide us Redemption.)
Our culture continues to try to expunge God and Christ from the public square, and increasingly is antagonistic when the Church attempts to be true both to its biblical message that Jesus Christ is our exclusive Savior and Lord, and to its biblical mandate to preach that message to the whole world. For instance, some months back Southern Baptists were called "intolerant," "unloving," "fanatics," who fostered "an environment of hate against other religions" for targeting evangelism toward other religions such as Moslems, Hindus and Jews. Even White House press secretary Joe Lockhart cited the president's "opposition to whatever organization, including the Southern Baptists, that perpetuate religious hatred." One religionist caustically said on national TV that Christians believed that those in other religions go to the "eternal barbecue."
We should not be surprised at the mockery of Christian beliefs in a society where a play in New York City not too long ago depicted a Jesus-like character as a homosexual who has relations with gay apostles, and an art exhibit featured a religious icon with elephant dung on it. Can anyone seriously imagine Islamic views being held up to such ridicule (such as a man having more than one wife)? Or Jewish ideas of kosher? Or Martin Luther King, Jr. depicted in a vulgar way? It wouldn't happen.
One source of such mockery is the liberal far-left, from those who will not abide viewpoints at variance with their radical, godless views; the kind who seem to set the standards in Hollywood and the media, where moral absolutes are disdained and Christians many times are characterized as self-righteous, superficial, and narrow-minded.
Notwithstanding how hostile our society is, the important question for us in the pulpit is how often have we flinched at proclaiming the Truth of the Word of God, or shrunk at preaching Christ, clearly and compassionately, as the only way to the Father; and rather, perhaps interested in good PR or keeping our attendance up, have packaged our Lord amiably as the best way, the preferred way, the exciting way, as the One who is there to make us successful, prosperous, meet our needs and care for our problems?
If we have replaced the good news with nice news, nice accommodating, therapeutic news, do we even have a redemptive message? And could we be termed traitorous?
In today's world, will we faithfully and lovingly expound Scripture on issues like shedding innocent blood, immorality, homosexual perversion, and other sins? Or will we avoid it?
Of course the animosity the Church is facing now is not new; the Early Church faced the same thing. Peter and John, when told not to speak or teach in the name of Jesus, answered firmly and respectfully: "Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you more than God, you judge. For we cannot but speak the things we have seen and heard!" (Acts 4:19-20)
Peter and John could not but speak! They had such a gripping inner compulsion that they could do nothing other than give voice to what was inside them. They "had been with Jesus" for over three years, had listened to Him teach, listened to Him pray, watched Him feed thousands, heal the sick, raise the dead, and then die on a Cross and rise from the dead to provide us Salvation. Plus Jesus had commanded them to go into all the world and proclaim the message everywhere.
And now they are being told not to speak. Just as soon tell the sun not to rise or birds not to sing or water not to be wet as to tell these men not to speak of what they had seen and heard. (Acts 4:13)
So, against persecution, against opposition there they stood. They had the sure Word of the Lord,Äìthey would speak! To not speak would have been a betrayal of their mandate from the Lord.
For such passionate purpose, the Early Church was persecuted; some of them paid with their lives; but they spoke; and because they did, we have the Gospel today.
Give us an America filled with such preachers! Humble, godly, loving men; yet unrelenting, courageous, giving no ground; men anointed with the Holy Spirit, impelled because "they must speak!"
Think of the impact of 5,000 such biblical preachers on our nation! Or only 500! Or only 5! Or only 1. After all, there was only one Peter, one John, one Paul, one John the Baptist, one John Wesley, and on and on.
Our times cry for such men. And amidst fouled politics, fouled media, fouled entertainment, fouled public standards; amidst the ocean of blood we have shed in the womb; amidst our Sodom-like perversions; amidst our pride and self-absorption; such men could be a catalyst for the spiritual awakening we want to see.
Let's repent of being embarrassed by the authoritative urgency of Peter and John. We face a hostile society like they did. And we need their conviction, anointing and passion.
May we be as true to God's Word and God's
Heart and the exclusiveness of the Gospel as they were!
Let us pray: "Our loving Heavenly Father, we
in the pulpit repent of betraying the message Your have called us to
proclaim. In our arrogance we have thought we know better than You what
we are to say, and how we are to say it. We have become men-pleasers,
focused on keeping our attendance, and