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FEBRUARY 14 2016

The Full Gospel

 

[I. Introduction] This morning I would like to speak to you about the full gospel. There is a good, Christian organization called the The Full Gospel Business Men’s Fellowship started in 1953 by Demos Shakarian because of a vision he received in 1952. The main purpose of the Fellowship is to spread the gospel, especially among business people. And they have been quite successful in this. They call themselves “Full Gospel” because they rightly believe the gifts of the Spirit continue today. Since many denominations leave out the working of the Holy Spirit in both practice and teaching the term “full gospel” communicates that there is more to the good news  than salvation from hell. Indeed, there statement of faith states in part,

 

We believe that the precious Holy Spirit of God is working in our lives today, through His giftings and fruit, to bring about the will of the Father. I am personally seeking His fullness in my life.

 

I have never been to any of their meetings but have heard good reports. It is true that we need a better understanding of the Holy Spirit’s work in our lives as well as a greater presence of His working in our lives. The Holy Spirit’s presence and operation in us is a neglected part of the gospel.

 

However, this is not what I wish to address in speaking of the full gospel. I wish to preach on something more fundamental. The full gospel is an important consideration because many, maybe even some among our number, have believed only a partial gospel. At best, believing only a partial gospel will result in an unsanctified life for one who has been saved with the outcome of great disappointment at the Judgment Seat of Christ. At worst, believing a partial gospel may result in a false conversion. Two telling activities of those who have made some kind of profession of faith but have not been born again are that they stop meeting with the church or seldom come, and they seldom read the Scriptures (or listen to the Scriptures if they cannot read). When God changes a human heart He imparts a desire to be with God’s children and a hunger for His word. When these are lacking it is a sure sign of a false conversion. Therefore, the partial gospel must be exposed and the full gospel must be proclaimed.

 

Our Scripture reading this morning is from Mark chapter 10.

 

            And as he was setting out on his journey, a man ran up and knelt before him and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. You know the commandments: ‘Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.’” And he said to him, “Teacher, all these I have kept from my youth.” And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.

            And Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How difficult it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” And the disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said to them again, “Children, how difficult it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” And they were exceedingly astonished, and said to him, “Then who can be saved?” Jesus looked at them and said, “With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God.” Peter began to say to him, “See, we have left everything and followed you.” Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last first.”

(Mark 10:17-31 ESV)

 

This account appears in all three of the synoptic gospels. Matthew adds that he was a young man. Luke adds that he was a ruler. We just read here that he was wealthy. This rich ruler comes to Jesus and kneels before him – a sign of both humility and respect. He asks a question: “What must I do to inherit eternal life?”  Jesus answered him by telling him to keep the law. Some grossly misunderstand his answer, thinking that we can receive eternal life by keeping the law of God. Rather, Jesus was trying to show him that he was not and could not. When he answered that he had kept all the law, Jesus showed him that he had not even kept the first commandment because he was putting his money above God. His money was more important to him than God was.

 

Let us take note of something. In Jesus’ answer in verse 21 he says: “You lack one thing…” sell your possessions, he says, “and come, follow me.”

 

This is the missing part of the gospel in modern times: to follow Christ. This was clearly understood for 1800 years of church history. Only for the past 100 years or so has this been left out of the gospel. To follow Christ is part of the gospel.

 

That this is part of the gospel can be seen in that Jesus is answering the man’s question of how to receive eternal life. Then, when Jesus says that it is very difficult for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God, we read in verse 26, “And they were exceedingly astonished, and said to him, “Then who can be saved?” The subject is still salvation.

 

In verse 30 Jesus is still talking about receiving eternal life in the age to come.

 

[II] The word “gospel” means “good news.” What gospel are we telling? There are many gospels out there. Bill Hull, in his book Conversion & Discipleship, identifies six popular gospels being promoted today.

 

[A] There is Forgiveness Only gospel. This is what is often proclaimed and accepted as the gospel in evangelical circles. It teaches that we receive the forgiveness of sins because of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross and our belief in it. What is wrong with that? It is true. It is not so much what it says as what it leaves out. It is a partial gospel. Sometimes the Forgiveness Only gospel leaves out repentance. In that case, it is not even able to save. In its more favorable representations it includes repentance, but the focus is still on forgiveness and the call to follow Jesus is left out. In other words, discipleship is missing. But following Jesus is part of the gospel.

 

The symptom that we have exercised faith in a Forgiveness Only gospel is that we have the impression that we believe certain facts about what Jesus accomplished and now we are on our way to heaven. We may try to avoid certain sins, but our lives do not look too much different than our neighbor or our coworker.

 

Picture a large manufacturing plant in your town or city that produces shoes. The management has invested great sums of money and many man-hours into the plant to produce the finest shoes possible. Money has been spent on salaries for the employees, machinery for shoe making, and materials from which the shoes are to be made. The plant is now in operation with hundreds of workers scurrying to and fro. Machines are running full blast, and activity is at a maximum.

One day the president asks the production manager, “How many shoes have we produced so far?”

“None,” the manager answers.

“None?” the president exclaims. “How long have we been in operation?”

“Two years.”

“Two years? And still no shoes?”

“That’s right,” the manager says, “No shoes, but we are really busy. In fact, we have been so busy that we are all nearly tired out. We’ve been very active at our jobs.”

 

“What’s wrong?”

“Well, we’ve got this picture of what a shoe is supposed to look like when it is done and we have this machine that makes the sole of the shoe. But no one takes the sole and attaches the rest of the shoe.”

 

That is similar to what the church is doing in the modern era. We have a sole, the most basic precepts of the gospel, but we don’t finish the shoe: the covering and the holes for the laces. We have left out discipleship.

 

[B] There is the Gospel of the Left. This is also called the social gospel. It is concerned with helping the poor and with curing injustice in the world. Now the church has been called to help the poor and to confront injustice. The trouble with the social gospel is that is all it insists on doing. It is completely oriented to this world and this age. Almost invariably, those who promote it have a low view of Scripture. They do not view it as infallible. Though Jesus did. They accommodate themselves to the ways of the culture. Jesus did not. They decide for themselves what is sin and what is not. Jesus and the apostles understood sin to be in accordance with what God has revealed. They reject hell altogether or only consign the absolute worst of humanity to it. Everyone else gets to go to heaven. But Jesus said,     “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.” (Matthew 7:13-14 ESV)

 

It is a gospel without power and without urgency. It, too, is a partial gospel; but all the essential parts are missing. So, it is a false gospel and cannot save.

 

[C] There is the Gospel of the Right. This is characterized by an emphasis on doctrine. While the gospel of the Left ignores doctrine and tries to make faith all  about helping the less fortunate, the gospel of the Right largely ignores many of the virtues taught by Christ and the apostles such as compassion, kindness, unity, and peace, and makes faith all about having one’s doctrines correct. In its more extreme forms it does not even consider others to be Christian who disagree with their list of doctrines. While there are, indeed, some essential doctrines, such as the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ and the deity of Christ, the gospel of the right expands the list and excludes those who do not comport.

 

[D] There is the Prosperity Gospel. It teaches that God guarantees health and financial wealth if we have faith and practice certain principles. It teaches that faith is a force, that words are a container of the force and we can speak reality into existence. It is a mixture of some biblical truths with error (God does have a desire for us to be healthy and not in poverty, but He also will use illness and deficiency of money as a means of awareness to His will when we are stray from it. The notion that faith is a force is not biblical at all.) It creates a sense of entitlement from God and, at best, is immensely imbalanced. At worst, it can lead to death. I had a friend, Willie Kilgore, who loved the Lord and was a street preacher. We used to got to events together, hold banners and pass out tracts. He would often preach to the crowds waiting to get into a venue. The Lord used him to bring others to faith. He was always talking to people about the Lord. Although he did not start out embracing this so-called gospel he eventually did. In March of one year he was diagnosed with throat cancer. With the proper treatment he had an opportunity to conquer it. Because he was under the teaching that healing was promised by God he declined treatment and just “exercised faith.” He died late that same year. He was only in his 40’s.

 

The Prosperity Gospel misses the most important call of the true gospel: the call to discipleship, which is a call to self-denial.

 

[E] There is the Consumer Gospel. This is the message that says that God will meet your desires. Everything is geared towards our self-interest. What are we pleased by? What does not please us? I don’t like something about a church. I will just move on to some other church. But then, I will find something I don’t like about that church, so I will move on to another. The gospel is not about pleasing us. It is about pleasing our Master, our Friend, our Elder Brother, the Lord Jesus.  As all the others, it is a gospel that leaves out discipleship.

 

[F] Then there is the Gospel of the Kingdom. This is the right one. (You know that preachers always leave the correct choice last.) It is the gospel preached by Jesus and the apostles. It is a full gospel. We see this from the very beginning of the gospel narratives.

 

In Matthew 3:1-2 we see that this was the message of John the Baptist. “In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.’”

 

What is a kingdom? A kingdom is the sphere where the rule of a king is established. The kingdom came when Jesus came, especially when He rose from the dead and began the church by the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. And, as we have seen in recent weeks, there is coming the manifestation of the kingdom in glory when Jesus returns to the earth.

 

This was also the message of Jesus Himself. “Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand, repent and believe in the gospel.’”

 

Notice two things about what both John and Jesus proclaimed. They both announced the kingdom of God. And they both commanded repentance. That means a turning away from sin and a turning to live for the Lord Jesus. The gospel of the kingdom is the good news that we are set free from the bondage to sin and self and are released to live for Christ and His kingdom.

 

I attended a Christian concert a couple of weeks ago where my favorite Christian artist, Rory Cooney, performed along with others who I admire, including Michael Joncas and David Haas. The concert was wonderful and, afterwards, there was a reception with food and drinks. I had the privilege of sitting at a small table with Rory, his sister-in-law, and a couple of others. A topic that came up was favorite musicals – both on stage and movie versions. Near the top of everyone’s list was Camelot. I have never seen that musical but I know it is quite popular. Camelot is the castle and court of the legendary King Arthur. The musical began running on Broadway in 1960, went on to 873 performances, and won four Tony Awards. The cast included the luminaries Julie AndrewsRichard BurtonRoddy McDowall, and  Robert Goulet. The movie version in 1967 starred Richard Harris and Vanessa Redgrave.

 

Camelot is an idyllic kingdom and King Arthur is a nearly perfect king. He is brave, a great warrior who protects the realm. He has faith in God. He is a just and good ruler who cares about the kingdom. What Arthur is in legend, Christ is in reality. What Camelot is in legend, Christ’s kingdom will be when it comes in its fullness.

 

Even now, in its hidden form, it is a place of freedom and joy. The gospel of the kingdom is good news! Yet, because we live in a fallen world and we ourselves are fallen, we need to be discipled. We need to unlearn the old things and to learn the ways of the Lord. Therefore, Christ calls all those who answer the call to the kingdom to become a disciple. It is not optional. It is part of the full gospel.

 

[III] Christ has called us out of the world in order to be His disciple. This is good news.

 

            And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself? For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when he comes in his glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.

(Luke 9:23-26 ESV)

 

 

The phrase, “come after me,” means follow me. Jesus is saying that if anyone wishes to be a follower, a Christian, they must deny themselves. They must take up their cross – that means be willing and ready to suffer rejection and even death. Then they must actually follow Him – that means learn from Him, obey Him, and emulate Him. None of these actions earn eternal life. Doing these things will not do one iota to make you right before the eyes of God. Jesus is describing what the life of a disciple looks like. Belief in the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ comes first, and what it accomplished. That makes us ready to be a disciple and it begins the path of discipleship. For without the forgiveness of sins and the power of God we cannot be one.

 

Discipleship must follow a profession of faith.

 

Still, there is no Savior without His being King in the kingdom for each person. Another way of saying that is there is no Savior without His being Lord for each person.

Another way of saying that is there is no Savior without discipleship.

 

[IV] What are we to do? If we are not actively engaged in discipleship, if we are not seeking the kingdom first, then we need to change our minds and either consecrate ourselves or re-consecrate ourselves to Jesus anew.

 

We need to reject a Forgiveness Only gospel or any other partial gospel and embrace the gospel of the kingdom.

 

We have all had to fill out questionnaires at one time or another. Sometimes there will be a question and then they give you two choices to choose from.  What if you had to fill out a questionnaire that asked this question: “How would you most accurately describe the way you live right now?” and the answers were, “I am actively following Jesus.” Or, “I am living my life and I have a guarantee of heaven.” Maybe they are both true, but which is most accurate?

 

It is safe to say that many Christians would select the second option. They have said a prayer or maybe even were baptized, maybe attend church regularly but, other than church attendance, their lives do not look too much different than their neighbor.

 

If you cannot answer, “I am actively following Jesus,” then we must have a change of mind. Instead of wearing just a sole at the bottom of our feet, we can have a whole shoe.

 

There are two simple things that we can do to change our lives. The first is simply to confess to the Lord that we have not been following Jesus as we ought. We tell Him that and we tell Him that our mind and heart are set to do that henceforth.  And, may I suggest, that we do not do that only one time but every morning!

 

The second thing I recommend is to read the gospel of Matthew, three to five chapters a day and highlight those portions that show Jesus saying and going something and then answer this question: “Does this passage call me to practice something like this?” And, “How can I do that?” Write your answer in the margin of your Bible. Doing something like this is a beginning and it may get you out of your comfort zone.

 

But you must know that Jesus call us out of our comfort zone. That is part of the full gospel.