Thom Rainer, president of LifeWay, said “When the preferences of the church members are greater than their passion for the Gospel, the church is dying” (credit to Tim Challies for finding the quote). How true is that? It amazes me how often churches, and pastors, forget the simple fact of why they got into the ministry in the first place. Jesus. The Gospel is the good news! Jesus paid for our sins so that we can spend eternity with God! But the good news comes with a cost. You see, many Christians think that so many dismiss the Gospel message because it’s too simple. While it is simplistic in a shallow sense, I don’t think it’s the simplicity of the message that is the greatest deterrent. No, I think the main deterrent is the cost that we must pay to accept it.
To accept the Gospel as truth, we must accept the overwhelming fact that we are not good enough. The best of the best of us is but a filthy cloth whence compared with the glory and the splendor of the one true God (Isaiah 64:6 – not quoted). That hurts. The pain of accepting the Gospel is hard for us here in America, because we are told, taught, ingrained with the idea that we are capable of doing anything. Anything you can do, I can do better. “Well you need this Jesus to save you? Ha, I can do better. I can save myself!” or “I don’t need saved.”
It’s quite sad that many Christians who believe the Bible is truth go on and teach their children the lie that they can do anything. It’s a great thought, it really is. It’s nice, makes for a level playing field and doesn’t exclude anyone. Unfortunately, it’s not true. Not everyone can will themselves into a professional football career, or be accepted into MIT, or win the lottery. Life is not a level playing field, and we’re not helping our children by telling them that they are all winners by participating. Not everyone wins. I don’t recall any major military battle decisively being won by both parties. (We can do all things through Christ who strengthens us, but remember, it’s God’s will not ours.)
Galatians 2:20, Luke 9:23, and Mark 8:35 all talk about denying, or dying to one’s self, or dying of the sake of the Gospel, and taking up your cross to follow Jesus as the way to truly save your life. Lose your life to save it. This seems contrary to everything we are taught. We’re taught to better ourselves. We’re taught, and we’re teaching our kids, that everyone wins. But the Bible makes it clear that the gate is narrow, the path is hard, and few will even find it (Matthew 7:13-14).
Giving up yourself means that you no longer live for your own desires, you live for God. You give yourself willingly to God’s will, becoming a bond servant to Jesus and the Gospel. There is no more important thing to teach and to share than this Good News. Without it, there is no point in life other than propagating the human race. The Gospel is the means to salvation, faith in Christ starts in knowing what Jesus did. If a child grew up in a house without electricity he wouldn’t have faith that a light switch would turn on a light. It’s hard to accept the fact that we aren’t good enough, strong enough, clever enough to get into Heaven on our own. The fact is, people are prideful enough, selfish enough, and stubborn enough to endure an eternity in Hell just to try and prove God wrong.
We must let go. Embrace the help, embrace salvation. Realize that you are fighting a losing battle, but the God that made the Universe is offering to take care of you and make you a winner. Lose the pride and accept the help. If you would accept a free drink at a coffee shop because the person in front of you paid for it why would you not accept an eternity filled with no more pain, no more sorrow, no more fears (Revelation 21:4)? With God, with Jesus, you win because He wins.