by Mike Ratliff
1 What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the Word of Life— 2 and the life was manifested, and we have seen and testify and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was manifested to us— 3 what we have seen and heard we proclaim to you also, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ. 4 These things we write, so that our joy may be made complete. (1 John 1:1-4 NASB)
What sort of Christian message is it that is not Christ centered? A few years ago I listened to a sermon by Ed Young Jr., Pastor of a church in Grapevine, TX, that was preached prior to Super Bowl Sunday. The church had advertised that there would be a drawing and giveaway of Super Bowl tickets at the end of the service that day. Of course it was nothing more than an “bait and switch” project to get people to come to church so they might win the tickets. The stated reason for doing this was so they would hear the gospel preached. I listened to the sermon and I can tell you right now that the gospel was not preached. Jesus was mentioned maybe once or twice. The only mention of salvation in the sermon was Ed saying that God’s goal is to make everyone joyous and that all we have to do is have Jesus come into our lives so we can have that joy. There was no mention of sin as being the problem that makes salvation necessary to avoid the wrath of God. In fact, there was not one mention of God’s law nor Christ’s horrible death on the cross that atoned for the sins of God’s elect. All Ed said was that we must have Jesus come into our lives so we could have joy. He never once mentioned how that takes place. There was no mention of eternity. His sermon was all geared to living in this life joyously now rather than in a vain search for happiness.
While there were elements of truth in that sermon it did not qualify as a preaching of the gospel. Jesus was not even the central figure in that sermon. The people needing joy were central. God was seen as someone doling out joy to all who came to have Jesus enter their life. I tried to imagine myself as a nonbeliever in the auditorium hearing that drivel. Even though sermons like that are called “seeker-sensitive” they do not serve the role of bringing the lost into the Kingdom. Instead, they only confuse them.
Christ must be central to all that we teach or preach. The cross must be presented as God’s solution for Man lost in sin with no hope of salvation without His divine help by His grace. On top of this, I was very disturbed by the flippant treatment of my Saviour by Mr Young. Jesus Christ, my saviour and Lord, is God the Son. He is all God and all Man. To see Him treated as if He is a nothing more than an add-on to people’s life so they can have joy deeply offended me. Perhaps that was the Holy Spirit generating some Righteous Indignation! Let’s look at a real picture of our Lord Jesus Christ.
1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. 4 In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. 5 The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it. (John 1:1-5 NASB)
Jesus Christ, the Word, is eternal. He was there at creation not created at creation. All life comes from Him. He is the only hope for Man. His light cannot be extinguished by the darkness of evil. Eternal life comes to men only through Christ. The focus of the gospel is this, not that men can have joy, but that the purpose of gospel is to accomplish God’s plan to save those chosen before the foundation of World.
3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, 4 just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love 5 He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, 6 to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. 7 In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace 8 which He lavished on us. In all wisdom and insight 9 He made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His kind intention which He purposed in Him 10 with a view to an administration suitable to the fullness of the times, that is, the summing up of all things in Christ, things in the heavens and things on the earth. In Him 11 also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will, 12 to the end that we who were the first to hope in Christ would be to the praise of His glory. 13 In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation—having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, 14 who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of His glory. (Ephesians 1:3-14 NASB)
There is nothing haphazard about the gospel. All those God saves must come through Christ. When they do they are adopted into God’s family as Christ’s brothers and sisters. All in Christ are forgiven of their trespasses according to God’s grace. All things are united in Christ. Again, is the purpose of the gospel to make people joyous? I read in that passage above that God is glorified in this and that is the purpose of His wonderful plan whereby He saves us who deserve nothing but Hell.
6 There came a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7 He came as a witness, to testify about the Light, so that all might believe through him. 8 He was not the Light, but he came to testify about the Light. (John 1:6-8 NASB)
Before Jesus started His ministry, His forerunner was sent to prepare the way. Of course, he was John the Baptist. What was his message? He came as a witness to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. His message was a call to repent. If we study John and his ministry don’t we see that Jesus’ Incarnation was the most profound and impacting event since creation? It was so important that John was called to prepare the way. Jesus said of John that he was the greatest ever born of women. John’s message was used by God to prepare the hearts of the people for Jesus’ ministry. Did God do all of this so He could make people joyous?
9 There was the true Light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man. 10 He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. 11 He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him. 12 But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. (John 1:9-13 NASB)
Jesus came to the Jews, but most of them rejected Him. However, many did believe. These were those whom God saved and adopted as His children. They were saved according to God’s will not their own will nor that of anyone else. Did they give Jesus a tryout so they could have some of His joy?
14 And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth. 15 John * testified about Him and cried out, saying, “This was He of whom I said, ‘ He who comes after me has a higher rank than I, for He existed before me. ’” 16 For of His fullness we have all received, and grace upon grace. 17 For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him. (John 1:14-18 NASB)
Jesus Christ is God. He is the Word who became flesh. He is both God and Man and the center of God’s eternal plan of salvation which required a perfect sacrifice to take Man’s place to endure His Wrath. God’s Law was broken by Men. All Men are born dead in their trespasses and sins as a result of that crime. The Word became a Man to live a perfect life in complete obedience to God’s Law. He is the Lamb of God completely flawless and unblemished. He laid His life down to pay the price for our sins. His death was horrible yet He sacrificed Himself willingly in obedience to the Father’s will. To flippantly use Jesus as an add-on so people can have a little joy in their lives is a huge slap in the face to my dear Lord and Saviour.
My brethren, the misuse of our saviour this way should break our hearts as well as light a fire in our hearts full of righteous indignation. Back when I heard that sermon it most certainly did with me. What should we do? Let’s start at the throne of grace. Let’s take our petitions to God, in brokenness and humility. Seek His face and implore Him to send His fires of Revival into His church. It will be only by a moving of the Holy Spirit that preachers like Ed Young, Jr will be silenced in shame. I heard from a dear brothers and sisters in Christ from all over the world. They tell me that this “seeker-sensitive” nonsense is everywhere in the church in their countries. That is heartbreaking as well. The Compromised Church is worldwide now.
Soli Deo Gloria!