It seems that with so much distortion of the Gospel upon our own pulpits, we are faced with a new scenario of having to revisit the Gospel message with people we would rather assume (rather than confirm) are fellow Christians. How does one discuss the Gospel message with a fellow believer without coming off as judgmental and as questioning another person’s salvation? There are times when a person’s answers to questions such as “How did you came to know Jesus?” or “What does Jesus mean to you?” are bound to make you wonder whether or not the person is truly born again. But then again, the problem could be traced back to what is being preached on our pulpits.
I am not in any way suggesting that there is a specific formula for how people ought to answer these questions or convert into Christianity. But I am convinced that there is a specific message to be preached, heard and received; and this message is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This message is the story of the fall of man, the life of Christ, His death, resurrection and what the Cross means to a Christian. It is true that God wants us to be people who are more moral, more charitable, and more caring (1 Thessalonians 4:3-6). It is indeed true that it is God, the Holy Spirit, that helps us become these things. It is also true that Jesus is the standard that we should aim to attain in our sanctification (Romans 8:29). But these are not the whole story. These are simply effects of a much more foundational story, the fact that through Christ, we are reconciled to God: We, who were once enemies of God are now His children, our sins are forgiven and we stand justified before Him.
Without faith, even the most supernatural displays of holiness are simply splendid sins. The Bible, in 1 Corinthians 13, says that without love, even the most SPECTACULAR display of supernatural power is vanity (vs 2). Without love, even the most SENSATIONAL preaching of the Word of God is no proof of right standing before God (vs 1). Without love, even the most SACRIFICIAL form of giving is simply pointless extravagance (vs 3). The same chapter then goes ahead to describe what true love looks like, and a closer examination of the list of descriptors (vs 4-7) will show that this list is the Fruit of the Holy Spirit described in Galatians 5:22-23. In other words, without the Holy Spirit, we are not children of God; we are still His enemies. We receive the Holy Spirit when we HEAR the message of the Gospel, BELIEVE the message and CONFESS that Jesus is Lord (Romans 10:5-10). We receive Him by Grace through Faith. The Bible is very specific about what the object of saving Faith is. It is not just believing that Jesus was a great teacher or a great moral compass, it is believing that He was the Son of God, even God Himself, who was the atoning sacrifice for our sins.
It is therefore essential that we exercise extra discernment especially amidst the furor of false preachers and teachers supposedly being exposed amongst us everyday on the news. Let us not be carried away by worldly patterns even as we consider such scandals as they are aired on mainstream media. What I mean by this is that we must never forget that we, unlike the world, do not evaluate preachers based upon whether or not their miraculous feats are true or not. We do not make conclusions based upon mere scientific or journalistic observations, but against the Word of God. Our standard, the Word of God, is much higher – and much deeper. This is because the Word of God actually shows us that it is not the reality of a preacher’s miracles that authenticates the preacher; it is the fruit in his life and the Truth in his lips (Matthew 7:16).
False teachers who perform real miracles are more dangerous than false teachers who are also false healers.
A disturbing illustration of this in the Bible is the woman that Paul exorcised in Acts 16:16-19. Even though the demon-possessed woman was telling correct FACTS about people’s futures and correct FACTS about Paul and Silas, she still needed to be delivered because her life was not in SUBMISSION to God but to an evil Spirit (hence also the reason why she made a lot of cash out of it). She was not operating by the Holy Spirit, but by an evil Spirit. Again, I repeat, it is not the supernatural manifestations, visitations and visions that these self-proclaimed Apostles claim that validate or vindicate them, it is the Word of God (the Bible, to be exact) that does.
I say this being well aware that, in light the recent incident of the exposure of Apostle Njoroge on NTV, very few Christians actually bothered to examine Apostle Njoroge’s teachings and whether or not they adhered to the Word of God. I am aware, of course, that there are some of us who simply classified Njoroge amongst the false prosperity Gospel clique, but this classification was seldom based upon the personal, deliberate, examination of any of the Apostle’s sermons against the Word of God. Many of us simply dismissed him because the guys we depend upon for biblical opinions had dismissed him. Majority of us dismissed him using a worldly standard, that the news feature showed he faked a miracle. This is not how we make our decisions, saints. The world does not set the standard. God’s Word is our standard, not the provability of miracles. His Word is the final Word.
Lastly, another point of concern is the changing message on our pulpits. Observational experience shows that more hands will be raised up in church if a pastor sensitizes people to take part in changing their society than if he simply preaches the Gospel and calls people to personal faith and repentance. My experience also show that more people are willing to publicly admit that they have been unconcerned about politics and their environment; but very few are willing to publicly admit that they have been adulterers and thieves. It therefore logically follows that it is more pragmatic to preach the social change message IF we want to see any VISIBLE change in our society and its system. But is this what the Bible prescribes? The Bible clearly teaches (Romans 10) that it is our responsibility to preach the Gospel SO that hearts may be reconciled to God, THEN WE will see visible change in the lives of God’s people.
This does not mean that the Gospel (or its preacher) is out of touch with reality. On the contrary, the Gospel is the ONLY MESSAGE that provides a fundamental diagnosis and prescription to all the superficial problems affecting society. To preach systemic and social change devoid of the Gospel is to paint white-wash on tombs. It is to build upon a foundation that is not Christ. But to preach the Gospel as the foundation of true social change is to preach a change that inevitably impacts even these systemic and social problems. True change is not always visible. But then again, visible change is not always true. There are numerous platforms where Christians have the opportunity to preach systemic and social changes; but God has given us the pulpit as the one place where we can be faithful in preaching the most important and the most powerful message of all – the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
If you are a preacher and teacher of the Word, please consider this post as you pray about what you prioritize in your preaching and teaching. If you are a congregation member, please pray that God will transform the preaching in your church in light of the outlined concerns. But most importantly, may we not be silent when God’s pulpit is undergoing a degradation amidst pressures of staying relevant, contemporary and liberal. The Gospel is still the most timely and the most timeless message of all. It is what God uses to cause a fundamental change of heart. May we strive to preach it as if the lives of our hearers depended on it…. because, well, they actually do.
In His service and for His glory,