The Gospel Is God's Power

By: Tom Lipkin, Finland
From: October 2009
Found in: The Gospel of Grace
The apostles preached the simple Gospel of God’s love and grace through Jesus, and God confirmed His word by healing the sick. Are we today preaching the pure Gospel, or are we also preaching self-righteousness?

Is the Gospel God’s power everywhere?

Imagine a fierce sermon and a frightened crowd who feels sinful, judged and uncomfortable. Yes, sometimes a sermon can really make people frightened, worried, feel inferior, and judged.

Still, a sermon is one of the most wonderful tools God has given to the church. It can also arouse faith, hope and love. A sermon can have a liberating and refreshing effect and make the heart “bubble” with joy.

...before we even really realize it, the Law will steal from us a great deal of the freedom and joy that God has given to every believer.

The first disciples preached God’s love

The first disciples used sermons and preached the Word when introducing Jesus to people. Before Jesus was received up into heaven, He told His disciples to preach the Gospel to every creature. He Himself promised to confirm the Word if the disciples just preached it (Mark 16:20). What a magnificent dimension God set for preaching!

...there has always been a tendency to preach something other than the Gospel.

He Himself promised to confirm the preached Word.

The sermons in the Acts concentrated on God’s love towards all people through Jesus Christ. The apostles simply preached the core of the Gospel that Jesus is God’s gift and what it meant for people to receive Him and believe in His death and resurrection. Through the simple Gospel, God confirmed His word by healing the sick.

He Himself promised to confirm the preached Word.

At that time, they did not preach with a pointed finger about all the possible “faults” people might have had. They did not preach in a judging or blaming tone. They did not put burdens on people by demanding different things from them. Paul did not preach about how “horrible” the idolatry in Athens was or how “awful” a lifestyle the Corinthians had. Nor did Philip preach judgment over Samaria because of its different religions. No. The disciples simply preached Jesus. They preached God’s grace that everyone could receive. They preached God’s favor that comes upon people who receive Jesus’ grace. Jesus was the centre of everything. One’s deeds did not impress God in any way.

The consequences of preaching self-righteousness

These basic truths have never changed. Nevertheless, there has always been a tendency to preach something other than the Gospel.

In sermons we so easily set our eyes on ourselves and on all that we should do to “have revival.” The consequence of this is often only depression. We
This is what a sermon is all about. It should paint a picture of Jesus before the listener’s eyes and teach about what having Him in our lives means to us on a daily basis.

That is why Paul says: “How terrible it would be for me if I didn’t preach the Gospel!” He saw all people “crucified in Christ” and wanted to present all people as “perfect in Christ” before God. Paul knew very well that nobody was righteous. Even sanctification is a gift we receive through Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 1:30). If the focus when preaching about sanctification is on “us,” instead of it being on Christ, it easily can lead to creating guilt instead of life.

The “smallest bit” of self-righteousness must go.

When the Gospel is preached, people will be lifted up from guilt and defeat. Jesus said to a sinful woman in John 8:  “I don’t condemn you either. Go home, and from now on do not sin anymore.” The power of sin broke in that moment. When the power of sin was broken, Jesus set her free to live. Jesus is the same today, too. Through sermons and teachings, guilt and a feeling of inferiority will disappear. The power of sin will be broken. A sermon should create hope and faith and then the listener will feel Jesus’ beautiful love again. Maybe you, too, have been caught up in the trap of guilt. Let the Holy Spirit help you. His duty is not to show you your failures, but to show you how precious, loved and righteous you are in Christ regardless of your failures. Only God’s grace can break the power of sin. Grace not only takes away sin and guilt, it also makes the pressure to succeed, the self-centeredness, the habit of comparing oneself to others, and the feelings of insufficiency disappear. is impossible for man to approach God if the basis for that is even just the “smallest bit” of self-righteousness.

Jesus is our example in every possible way. Some of Jesus’ first recorded words were: “Repent and believe in the gospel!” What does repenting mean? It means that we no longer try to please God with our own deeds. No matter how good these deeds are, they are called dead deeds. Instead, we are called to walk in faith. This means that we understand that every good thing we experience is a gift from God to us and a part of his wonderful grace. Jesus showed us that it is impossible for man to approach God if the basis for that is even just the “smallest bit” of self-righteousness. All blessings are to be received as a gift only.

Of course the Bible speaks about things that are right and that are wrong. In the Bible we can find lots of everyday wisdom and good pieces of advice. But the Bible is not just a moral book. All religions have a certain moral. The Bible really is, from the first pages of Genesis to the last pages of Revelation, just about one person - Jesus Christ (Luke 24:27). All preaching should lift up Jesus. That is when Jesus Himself will confirm the Gospel. Many believe that Jesus does miracles more easily in Africa or Asia. But Jesus does miracles in any place where His Gospel is being preached; in any place where “someone” receives in faith. Jesus does not discriminate against any nation. There is only someone needed who will preach and listen and Jesus will confirm His Gospel with miracles. You can be that “someone” who will preach or that “someone” who will receive.

Preaching the Gospel does not mean that all sermons should be like the ones on Easter. Nevertheless, the core of the Gospel should always be the reason for all preaching.

By: Tom Lipkin, Finland

Pastor of Vaasa City Church, Finland

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