Ancient Jewish people who were supposed to be custodians and stewards of the message of God’s love and to prepare for the Coming of the messiah – they convoluted and complicated the gospel and made the way to God’s presence so burdensome, so heavy and unattainable – so some people said: “What’s the point? I am never going to make it anyway – so why try?” so they stayed away.
With that background, think with me. God didn’t choose someone else to represent Him but He decided to represent Himself in the person of Jesus Christ. Because, only if you understand something so well, will you be able to simplify it. And who could be more qualified to represent God than God Himself. No wonder Jesus said: “If you have seen me you have seen the Father … I and the Father are One – No man comes to the father except he comes through Me.”
So, think about it – if the coming of Jesus was the simplification of God’s intention and the clarity that was needed to remedy an unclear message – and if His coming was the articulation of the Mind and heart of God – then – ah then by extension, by application, by inference, by deduction, and every possible law of logic – any deviation from preaching Christ is in actual fact an attempt to undo what he came to do -even if you do it in His name.
In fact, it is the simple that confounds – the complex only confuses.
And when preachers or religious institutions, like the church, make the gospel complex and complicates the plan of salvation – then we are actually un-Christlike in our approach even when desiring people to be Christlike.
You can negate the positive and undo your good intentions and minimise your effectiveness as an instrument of God by complicating the simple. There is so much more to add to this point but let’s move on.
So what is the way to simplify and not complicate the preaching or teaching of the Gospel? I want to suggest just two ways for now. In some other presentation, we can get into more detail.
So, lets get straight into it: I will share it in the negative form so it is received as a warning and appeal at the same time.
- Let us not preach a polluted gospel.
- Let us not preach a diluted gospel.
- How does something get polluted?
To pollute something is to contaminate it with harmful or poisonous substances. This would mean that to add anything to the pure Gospel of the Scriptures – would contaminate it. God’s provision, intervention and love is so pure and complete. The best words to describe this would be the Words of Christ when He said: “It is finished”. Just remember that God did not start something and hope for you to finish it – in terms of salvation – No! Salvation starts with God, continues with God and Ends with God. It is all about God, always has been and always will be. So when we impose standards that have no biblical mandate, or teach that our works will save us or even that keeping the law as a means of salvation is an imperative – then we are adding an unauthorised ingredient to the recipe of salvation – and that is what pollutes the gospel. So let us not add to the Scriptures or impose our pet ideas with prescriptions that are onerous or burdensome to the simple, pure gospel. Let us not act like we are superior or have some inside knowledge of what it is to be saved outside the Scriptures. As Preachers, and at this time – I want to make it clear that even as Preachers, we are just sinners saved by Grace. We should never forget that second part: saved by Grace. Let us not pollute the Gospel by applying scriptures out of context and imposing political agendas, preconceived ideas, pet peeves, and triangulated theories.
So we must not add to the Scriptures and more specifically to the message of salvation that is found in Christ Jesus alone.
2. Let us not preach a diluted gospel.
If a liquid is diluted, it is mixed with water or another liquid, and becomes weaker. A dilute liquid is very thin and weak, usually because it has had water added to it. When something is diluted, its integrity is compromised – its value diminishes and uniqueness minimised. In other words, its power is undermined. You can do this by adding or subtracting.
Instead of warning the lost to turn from their sins, false teachers tell people to be at peace in their sins because God is too full of grace to expect them to change. They give diluted medicine, which gives people a false sense of security.
The Scriptures refer to false teachers as those who build a wall and “plaster it with untempered mortar” (Ezekiel 13:15). In Bible times, lazy builders would stack bricks with no mortar and then put a plaster veneer over the bricks to hide it. Without the mortar, there’s no stability. (Today we use concrete to hold the bricks together.) The wall might have looked solid from the outside, but a donkey could have kicked it over because it had no real strength.More than 500,000 were killed or injured in the 2010 Haitian earthquake. One of the principal causes of these casualties was untempered mortar. Greedy contractors skimped on the percentage of concrete they mixed into the mortar and expensive iron rebar, which reinforces the concrete. It made for pathetically weak walls, and as soon as the massive earthquake struck, the fragile buildings crumbled.
We are not saved by obedience, of course. That is legalism. But obedience is not legalism if it’s a response to God’s love, a response to having already been saved. “If you love Me, keep My commandments” (John 14:15).
One way the gospel gets diluted is when people are encouraged to have enough faith to believe that God will forgive them, but not enough to believe that He will keep them from sin. It’s a gospel that says God accepts you as you are and doesn’t care if you change. The Bible says the gospel is not just about justification, but also about sanctification. You can come to Jesus just as you are. That’s good news. But He loves you too much to leave you that way. That’s good news too! You can be changed to be like Jesus. He can transform you so you become a new creature. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17). That’s great news!
It’s a constant temptation churches face when measuring success. They ask, “Is it growing?” Very rarely do we measure the success of a church by how godly the people are. Instead, we measure success by numbers, and that can be a mistake. We’re tempted to make it easier to be a member. It becomes a mindset to just get them in the door and worry about the rest later. So we dilute the message little by little to make the medicine easier to swallow.
Pastor John MacArthur says, “Watered down, diluted theology will fail to produce deep reverence, deep worship, deep repentance, deep humility, deep understanding of God’s nature, His work, His ministry, His laws, His standards, His principles. It fails to make people of God, people that are God-centered.” He’s right. An undiluted gospel is going to involve real repentance for sin, a sorrow for sin, and a turning away from it. Repentance means “remorse, regret, contrition for past sin. To change for the better as a result of remorse or contrition for one’s sins.” The first thing John the Baptist said when he started preaching about the kingdom of God was, “Repent.” The first thing Jesus said was, “Repent,” and if He tells us to repent, it means we can and we should.
Jesus said, “I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance” (Matthew 9:13). Obedience is not optional for those who profess to have experienced the transforming power of Christ. Diluting the gospel may bring more people into church but they will have a shallow and wavering faith. As preachers, we must not make our people dependent on us – we must inspire them and encourage them to study the Bible for themselves. They must not be hearers only but doers of the Word.
There you have it: let us not pollute nor dilute the gospel when we preach. If we heed this counsel then we will preach an unconvoluted message that is easy to follow and apply in our lives, through the power of the Holy Spirit. We don’t want our message to be convoluted. A convolution is simply a thing that is complex and difficult to follow. When the preaching of the gospel is unpolluted and undiluted then it becomes naturally unconvoluted. I think this is why God tells us not to add or subtract to the truth, in the book of Revelation, because when we do – we run the risk of either polluting or diluting the truth thereby making it convoluted. Remove the complexity. The mark of a learned person is their ability to simplify and articulate the deep, complex things in the language of the layman.
May God bless us, who are called to preach to the world, with the wisdom and deep connection with Him to represent Him as He would want us to.