Category Archives: The Gospel

The Deepening Gospel

I often pray our Lord Jesus would overwhelm me with the breadth, length, height, and depth of His love (Ephesians 3:18-19). After recently reading Lane Ortlund’s book, Deeper, I more intensely asked the Spirit to take the Gospel and the love of Jesus deeper into my life. I did not realize how painful that process would be.

After allowing my anger and frustration to vent as I preached the Gospel at an open air event last month, the Lord really humbled me when I had to apologize to several people I deeply love. I blew it big time, but truly “where sin abounds, grace abounds all the more” (Rom 5:20).

The Lord took me back to my childhood to expose some life-long sinful motives. At 19 years old, my Dad parachuted into Normandy on D-Day. Knowing he experienced the Battle of Bulge, Korea, and Vietnam, as a Christ follower, I longed to be on the front-lines to advance Christ’s Kingdom.

Anything less was failure.

So, for the last 43 years, I have been driven to be the pacesetter and the front-line guy in ministry. I had the sinful motive to gain the approval and applause of the committed Christian community. It was part of the reason I moved to Chapel Hill to join the Navigator ministry, went on staff with the Navs in Columbia, became a pastor, and went into open-air preaching. I had to prove myself as that front-line guy who would do what few would do. Just like my Dad.

To be clear, none of those things are wrong or sinful in themselves, but for me, so much of it was to prove myself worthy to the Lord and to other believers. In spite of me, the Lord used me and grew me through it all.

Sin always takes us deeper than we could ever imagine, but the Gospel and the love of Jesus is so much deeper and greater. The Cross has become so much more encompassing and Christ’s resurrection much more powerful. I praise our Lord for the tender discipline and mercy He has shown me through this past month.

How are you doing in terms of the Lord exposing your sinful motives and taking the Gospel deeper into your soul? The way of Calvary in our lives is difficult, but so very worth it as the Lord takes the Gospel and His love deeper into our hearts.

The Missing Ingredient in Many Gospel Messages

Therefore did that which is good become a cause of death for me? May it never be! Rather it was sin, in order that it might be shown to be sin by effecting my death through that which is good, so that through the commandment sin would become utterly sinful. –– Romans 7:13

So you go to see your family doctor and he tells you, “We are rushing you immediately to the hospital for the surgical removal of most of your digestive system including your pancreas, gall bladder, part of your bile duct and stomach. Then you will undergo intensive radiation and chemo therapy. Your chances of survival poor at best.” What would you say? Most of us sane folks would say, “Doc, you have not even run any diagnostic tests! What do you think I have?” We want the tests and diagnosis before being given the prognosis. That is the missing ingredient in many Gospel messages. Most Gospel messages invite people to come to faith in Christ without ever identifying the sin problem and giving an accurate diagnosis. We may tell people they are sinners, but God has given us the Law to show us how “utterly sinful” we are and to expose our moral depravity. The missing ingredient in most Gospel presentation is the use of the Law to show sinners they desperately need a Savior.

How did Jesus share the Gospel with religious people who thought they were good? He preached the Law to show them how utterly sinful they were (see Mt 5:17-48; 19:16-22; Luke 10:25-28). He always preached Law to the arrogant and self-righteous, but grace to the broken and sinful (Luke 18:18-20; John 3:1-17). How did the Apostle Paul preach the Gospel? He used the Law, then trumpeted the grace of the Cross.  Just look at the most comprehensive epistle on theology we have in the New Testament: the epistle to the Romans.  Paul spends the first three chapters exposing the utter depravity of man.  It is only after he repeatedly points to the Law’s purpose to expose our utter sinfulness before a holy God that he proclaims the grace and mercy and love of God through the life, Cross, and resurrection of our Savior.  The Law is like a mirror that diagnoses the problem of total depravity in our lives. Once the “patient” understands how much trouble they are in before a holy God due to their sinfulness, they will be far more eager to hear of the Cross of the Savior and their need for repentant faith, if indeed the Holy Spirit is bringing true conviction of sin in their lives. As Ray Comfort states in The Way of the Master, “Biblical evangelism always proclaims the Law to the proud but grace to the humble.  With the Law, we should break hardened hearts, and with the Gospel we should heal broken hearts” (pp. 50-51).

Just listen to what the Apostle Paul says about the use of the Law as the mirror to point us to the need for the Gospel:

Romans 2:22-24: You who say that one should not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? 23 You who boast [a]in the Law, through your breaking the Law, do you dishonor God? 24 For “the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you,” just as it is written.

Romans 3:19-20: Now we know that whatever the Law says, it speaks to those who are under the Law, so that every mouth may be closed and all the world may become accountable to God; 20 because by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight; for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin.

Romans 7:7-9: What shall we say then? Is the Law sin? May it never be! On the contrary, I would not have come to know sin except through the Law; for I would not have known about coveting if the Law had not said, “You shall not covet.” But sin, taking opportunity through the commandment, produced in me coveting of every kind; for apart from the Law sin is dead. I was once alive apart from the Law; but when the commandment came, sin became alive and I died.

The Lord Jesus and Paul both used the Law of God to expose the sinner’s depraved heart and life. God has given us the Law to show His perfect and righteous standard so that we may see our depraved hearts and lives.  Without accurate testing and diagnosis, the sinner has no idea of his desperate need of a Savior. This is the missing ingredient in so many Gospel presentations.  We must again return to using the Law of God if the grace of God is going to truly become amazing!