The Offensive Gospel

It’s hazardous to preach the Gospel these days, as any offense made in our culture of “openness and toleration” will eventually get you canceled. We see this happening where Pastors are imprisoned for preaching the Word of God, calling all sinners (including those caught in sexual sin) to the grace of repentance and forgiveness in Jesus Christ. We read of people being silenced on Social Media for holding to Biblical teaching on morality and decency, while pornographic messages are freely displayed and celebrated. Faithfulness to the Gospel will win you no friends in this world today.

But this cancellation doesn’t necessarily come from those outside the Church. Preach the Gospel faithfully, consistently, and boldly, and there will even be some within the pews that will not like what they hear, and will either leave or work to push the pastor out the doors. The Gospel, as Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians is folly to those who are perishing.

On this note I wanted to share something that I read in D. Lloyd-Jones’ message on Romans 1:16-17 on the Gospel of God. Lloyd-Jones writes,

The gospel of Jesus Christ is always offensive to the natural man. If you find the natural, unregenerate man praising either the preacher or his message then, I say, you had better examine that preaching and that preacher very carefully. There are many ways in which we gospel is presented which are not offensive. Have we not read or heard sermons from those who depict Christ as a great hero and example? No one has ever been offended by that; in fact the world likes it. You present Christ as a great exemplar, and people will say, “That’s fine, that is marvelous.” What they are really saying is this: “Now I am going to follow Him; I am going to be like that. I can, of course! I have simply to make the effort.” There he I, rise up and go after Him. And the people are ready to do it because they think they are capable of doing it. When you tell them that He is One whom they cannot imitate, that He condemns all, then they will begin to show their teeth and hate your for it; but present Him as a hero, it will not annoy them.

Or again, take Christ’s teaching. The teaching of the Lord Jesus Christ is presented by some people as the most beautiful teaching in the world. The world likes it for that reason; it believes that it can take it up and put it into practice. But when the Sermon on the Mount is truly preached, when a man begins to know that it is to be “pour in spirit” and to “mourn,” and to have a “hunger and thirst after righteousness,” when he faces the real spiritual exposition of the law, he hates it because it condemns him; he does not want to feel “poor in spirit.” If we preach the gospel as beautiful teaching it will never annoy; it will never hurt.

Or how often is the Lord Jesus Christ presented as someone who can help us with our problems? “Are you in trouble? Is some sin getting you down? He is waiting for you, and He will take all your troubles away.” That never offends anybody. Such a “gospel” cannot offend people, because they are in trouble and they want help, and here is someone who is ready to help them at any moment. They only have to come to Him and He will do everything for them. Oh, how often has the Christ, the Son of God, been preached as if He were but a super-psychologist, who can help people to resolve their difficulties and to solve their problems and put everything right, and make them happy once and for ever! That does not offend anybody.

Do you know it is possible to preach the cross of Christ in a way that makes people applaud it? It is possible to preach it in such a way that it does not offend anybody. When the cross is truly preached it is a stumblingblock to Jews; it is folly to the Greeks. They hate it. It is an offense. And it is an offense to the natural man today.

The offense of the cross is this – that I am so condemned and so lost and so hopeless that if He, if Jesus Christ, had not died for me, I would never know God, and I could never be forgiven. And that hurts; that annoys; that tells me I am hopeless, that I am vile, that I am useless; and as a natural man I do not like it.

D.M. Lloyd-Jones, Romans: An Exposition of Chapter 1, The Gospel of God. (The Banner of Truth Trust; 2020) Pages 26264-266.

What we have to come to terms with is the humbling, wounding, offensive reality of the Gospel. We must come to see it as God’s merciful truth, painful though it may be. Only then can we understand the fact that, though I am hopeless, vile, useless before God in my sins, God has laid upon Christ my sin so that through faith in Him I have forgiveness and peace.

Though the world will certainly block their ears and cover their eyes, though the Church will certainly face growing tribulation because of it, we must never be ashamed of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The Gospel is an offense to the natural man, but there is no shame in it, for it is the power of God for the salvation of all who believe.


Finding Goodness in the Wilderness

I have heard it said that a preacher cannot preach a text from the pulpit without first having wrestled with it in prayer.

Unfortunately, I have heard, and even preached, a few sermons that sound and feel like very little wrestling ever took place. In fact, it seems that when the passage took the ring for the bout to begin, some preachers forfeited the match, and rather than wrestle with the text in the heart, they give a walking commentary through the text and never get closer than an arm’s length away.

All that to say, my preparation for this Sunday’s message is coming out of a few rounds of wrestling.  I’m preaching through Romans 8, one of the greatest chapters in Scripture, full of promise, hope, and glory. I’ve heard one Pastor call this chapter the “Tion” chapter; where we read of condemnation, election, redemption, justification, adoption, sanctification, and glorification – all in one chapter! Yet in the midst of preaching through this beautiful chapter, I have been wrestling with assurance and vocation, struggling with the “old man of sin,” and feeling like my prayers are lacking in zeal and effectiveness.

This wilderness experience is a dry and barren land where there is no drink (Psalm 63). Whether I came here by some sin that I have been harboring in my heart, or whether God has chosen to hide His face from me for a period, I do not know.  But I walk in the wilderness hearing the promise of Scripture, that “for those who love God, all things work together for God, for those who are called according to His purpose” (Rom 8:28).  All things, even this wilderness, God is using for the good of those who love Him.

What good can come from the wilderness?  Let me share with you what I read from Martin Lloyd-Jones* sermon on this passage:

God, as it were, averts His face, turns away from us, and we feel that we cannot find Him. This is a method that God often uses for the good of His people… It is a way of convicting them, and of humbling them; it is a way of getting them to repent and admit that they have been wrong and are sorry, a way to make them ask for forgiveness and for restoration. For this reason sometimes there are periods of dryness and barrenness in the life of the Christian… It is one of the ways of God doing us good.

Even such an experience of barrenness and aridity and dryness of the soul in one’s spiritual life can be used to our advantage; it makes us desire Him more; it makes us seek Him more, and long for Him. There is nothing in life which is of greater value than the experience that you have when such a period is suddenly ended, and when God again smiles on you… When the period of withdrawal ends you enjoy the nearness and the presence of God to a greater degree than you have done before.  All these things are to comfort us. All things are made to work together by God. What appears to be so wrong, and so opposed to us, is meant and designed for our ultimate good.

If you find yourself in the wilderness, learn to hunger and thirst for the righteousness of God. Long for Him, cry out to Him, and wait upon Him. He will fill your heart with good things, He will make your cup overflow. God is working through all things for your greatest good, for your salvation and life in Christ! Trust and rely upon Him.

*D.M. Lloyd-Jones. Romans: An Exposition of Chapter 8:17-39, The Final Perseverance of the Saints. (Zondervan: Grand Rapids, MI, 1980) pgs. 174-175.