The message of the gospel of Jesus Christ is one of grace, forgiveness, salvation, change and hope. It promises a new start for everyone who believes. It is the ultimate positive message. Because of that, it has been adopted and co-opted by many causes—political, social, philosophical and religious. It has been used by teachers of positive thinking and by preachers of social transformation.
But what is the heart of this gospel? What did Jesus teach and stand for? And what is the Lifestyle of the Cross? The core of the gospel is the message of the redeeming power of the cross of Christ. It is a picture of both suffering and victory. Both elements are absolutely necessary to the message.
Certainly the gospel is adaptable enough for presentation in any culture. But its truths and standards must not be changed to accommodate the fashions and feelings of the world.
Of course we must always be concerned with relevance. But this is not achieved by compromising the message. Whenever the biblical message of the cross is made to conform to human wisdom, you have a distortion of the message.
If we add to or subtract from the gospel message, or present it in any way other than in its pure, straightforward, biblical form, we dilute it, change it into something else, and take away its power to save.
So how do we convince the world our gospel is the truth? The answer: We don’t. The Spirit convinces. How will our message stand out as different? The demonstration of the Spirit’s power. We can go out with confidence, not intimidated by the skepticism of the world or the zeal of the cultists. We can go with confidence that the true gospel of Jesus Christ is powerful in itself, and that the Spirit of God works within it and us in a way no other religious group will ever experience or manifest.
As a pastor I preach and teach and witness with the desire that the faith of my hearers will lie not in my seminary training or the logic of my presentation (though God can and does use such things). Rather, their faith must ultimately be in God and in the power of the cross of Christ, in the power demonstrated in the resurrection of Jesus, in the wisdom of God’s Word, and in the conviction of the Holy Spirit.
To be an effective witness requires obedience (to live and speak the message of the cross) and trust (in God for the results), and not personal magnetism or even lengthy training.
This understanding should free anyone who wants to tell others about Jesus, but who hesitates because of perceived personal inadequacy, or who is intimidated by the hardened hearts of sinners. We are not the ones who accomplish the crucial work of conviction in the hearts of those to whom we speak. We only need surrender ourselves to be God’s speakers and instruments.
Read more from The Lifestyle of the Cross.