The gospel is good news. The good news grows out of some very hard truths.
C. H. Spurgeon said, "If you really long to save men’s souls, you must tell them a great deal of disagreeable truth."
Salvation always has been and always will be on the Lord’s terms. We don’t get to heaven by believing what we want to, that is a sure fire way to get to hell. We must believe and accept what God says in his word. Admittedly there are some hard truths to digest for the natural man.
Paul alludes to these hard truths by referencing the offence of the cross! The cross has become a mere symbol of Christianity. Everyone wants a cross hanging around their neck, affixed to the walls of their homes, afforded a prominent location in the sanctuary, and in general displayed as some kind of religious trinket. Many people express devotion to the cross without even understanding the substance of the cross. About the most people can tell you is that Jesus died on a cross. Maybe that he died for sinners on the cross. But yet even as they speak the words they fail to appreciate the gravity of them. The substance has become as clichéd as the object! A good part of the religious world even likes their crosses with Jesus still hanging on them!
Then of course, our evangelistic zeal languishes because we are loath to present disagreeable truth. We love the lost but not to the degree that we are willing to speak disagreeable words to them, even if those disagreeable words are what they most need to hear.
Ignoring them does not change reality. If the doctor diagnoses you with cancer how would you feel if he came to you in your dying breath and said I knew this would happen, but it is so disagreeable to tell people they have cancer. It surely is! But part of a doctor’s responsibility is to tell us disagreeable truth. If a doctor were to conduct himself in such a manner we would think him to be among the cruelest of humans. When it comes to our health we want to know the truth no matter how disagreeable. When it comes to our health doctors have an obligation to tell us the truth no matter how disagreeable. However when it comes to spiritual health people bristle at the messenger and consequently often times the messengers temper the message.
The cross, even though it is good news, requires us to proclaim and embrace some hard truths!
1 Cor. 1:18 – For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.
I want to consider some of the hard truths that pave the road of good news to the cross.
Man Is Completely Ruined
Man in his natural state has nothing good in himself.
Nearly everyone believes that everybody has a little good in them. They have a light within. They have a spark of goodness. They are not all that bad. We had a President once that made reference to our better angels. Makes for a good speech but lousy theology! I am convinced people love to believe this about others because it would by default make it true of them also. The problem is the Bible teaches no such thing! It is agreeable but it is wrong.
Proverbs 14:12 There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.
Proverbs 30:12 There is a generation that are pure in their own eyes, and yet is not washed from their filthiness.
Jesus said, "Broad is the way and wide is the gate that leadeth to destruction and many there be which go in thereat."
The disagreeable truth is that there is nothing good in the natural man.
Ecclesiastes 7:20 For there is not a just man upon earth, that doeth good, and sinneth not.Psalm 14:2-3 The LORD looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand, and seek God. They are all gone aside, they are all together become filthy: there is none that doeth good, no, not one.
Isaiah 53:6 All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.
Romans 3:10 As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one:Romans 3:23 For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;
Isaiah 64:6 But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.
Man Can Do Nothing About It
Man convinces himself he can do something to gain favor with God. I'll get baptized. I'll do better. I'll go to bible study. I'll quit cussing, drinking, and using tobacco. I'll get married. I'll give to charity. I'll confess my sins. I'll believe in Jesus.
The way this "believing in Jesus" is so often presented is that people end up trusting their believing rather than Jesus and that will not save. All the believing in the world will not save. Jesus saves! We believe lots of things. There is nothing remarkable about believing. It is trusting the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ that saves. Men are saved because of what they believe, or better yet, in whom they believe!
The disagreeable truth is that there is nothing a man can do to gain favor with God.
Ephesians 2:8-9 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.
Titus 3:5 Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost;
Romans 3:20 Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.Galatians 2:16 Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.
Romans 9:16 So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy.
Man Must Repent
To hear many today you would think the bible teaches that nothing has to change for a man to be right with God. It is the whole "come as you are" mentality. Why does this even have to be said? I think often times what is meant is stay as your are. Jesus said, "Repent and believe the gospel." Repenting is not come as you are but come repenting! I'm constantly seeing things like, "You are important to God for who you are." This reeks of arrogance! I don't think people consider how some of the pithy sayings diminish the infinite grace and mercy of God. He didn't save important people. He saved sinners, rebels, and transgressors. So much gospel preaching has become man centered instead of God centered! Because we want them to come as they are instead of commanding all men everywhere to repent we have had to accommodate people with contemporary worship and seeker friendly services. Often what we are trying to do is contrary to what God is trying to do.
Psalm 1:5 Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous.
Then of course you have the whole self-esteem, self-love, self-image cult. A doctrine in which we are encouraged to love who we are, have a positive self-image, and maintain a high level of self-esteem. This is not a message that is compatible with repentance. When the bible calls people to repentance it is premised on the reality that we are not right. That we need to be changed. Repentance implies change. Self-love implies everything is OK. It is agreeable but wrong!
Romans 3:23 For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;
All have come short! You might love yourself but you have come short. You might have a healthy self-esteem but you have come short.
People have been conditioned to revolt against anything or anyone that would demand change, even God. Modern ministry has mutated away from sinners needing to repent to we need to change the way we minister to them. The problem is that the bible teaches no such thing. It is agreeable but wrong!
The disagreeable truth is that men everywhere must repent!
Acts 17:30 And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent:
Acts 3:19 Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord;Acts 20:21 Testifying both to the Jews, and also to the Greeks, repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.
Matthew 4:17 From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.
Luke 13:3 I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.
Luke 24:47 And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.
Man Arrives At The Cross
Having negotiated the stepping stones of disagreeable truth we arrive at the foot of the cross.
We arrive there as humbled sinners. We do not come saying, "I'm not that bad." We arrive acknowledging we are completely ruined sinners.
We arrive there as helpless sinners. We do not come saying, "I can do something." We arrive acknowledging that we are needy sinners.
We arrive there as repenting sinners. We do not come saying, "I'm OK." We arrive acknowledging we need to be changed.
When our humbled hearts look up we see the glories of redemptive love!
We see a sin-bearer!
2 Corinthians 5:21 For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.
1 Peter 2:24 Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed.
We see a sacrifice!
Hebrews 9:26 For then must he often have suffered since the foundation of the world: but now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.
We see a substitute!
Romans 5:8 But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
We see a Savior!
Acts 16:30-31 And brought them out, and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved? And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.
Embracing the hard truths leads to the good news of the gospel! The cross ceases to be a piece of art, or jewelry, or a religious symbol and becomes, because of what took place there, "the power of God unto salvation."