Why Talk About the Gospel?
As we begin this new four-week sermon series from now through Easter, it may strike you that this is a strange topic to cover in any detail. After all, it is the big idea of what church is all about, right? Why do we need to talk about that? Everybody knows what that is about, don’t they?
Many of you likely know that I write and edit a sports page about the Baltimore Orioles. For Tri-State Fellowship to do a series called “What is the Gospel?” may seem as strange as me writing an article on that website entitled “What is Baseball?” If you don’t know what baseball is, why would you read a site called “The Baltimore Wire?” And if you don’t know what the gospel is, why would you go to an Evangelical church?
Let me stick with the baseball illustration to make my point …
When my father adopted me, he had no interest in baseball whatsoever. It was never a part of his life in any way. But his adopted little kid fell in love with the game at a young age, and he had to try to learn something about it. He did not do it grudgingly, and now decades later I am touched by his efforts … though he never made it to first base in terms of understanding the sport.
My dad loved going to my games at every level I played. He totally enjoyed going to professional games, including taking me to the World Series in Baltimore 50 years ago in 1966. But dad never understood much about the game on the field beyond the very basics. His grasp of the game was not much more complicated than the famous Willie Mays quote to explain how he played baseball, “They throw the ball, I hit it. They hit the ball, I catch it.”
What my father liked about the game was simply being there. He loved the grand atmosphere of it, and he loved watching the spectators in front and to the sides. He laughed at the vendors and the acts and antics that went on between innings. But dad had little clue about the essence of the game itself, but he loved the atmosphere of baseball.
A lot of people are like that about church and the message of the gospel. Church is about the expression of the gospel in teaching, worship, fellowship, and service. But a lot of people cannot honestly articulate many details at all about the essence of the gospel. They love the atmosphere of church … the music and people, etc. They understand in some basic way that it is a good thing to value attending church one day a week. It is an experience, but not a life-changing reality that they can verbalize.
More baseball illustrations … We’re warning you now … We are going to be coming up and in with fastballs in this series. We make knock you down with an inside pitch. In fact, we may even hit you with a pitch!
As in every church, we know that there are people in our auditorium every Sunday morning who do not truly know the Lord Jesus Christ in a personal way, having understood the gospel content and trusted in that message to make them right with God for eternity. We must get the attention of everyone with this truth. For those of you who know Christ, it will serve to remind you of the great grace of the gospel — a very good and timely reminder for this holy season of the year. And for those who need Christ, they may come to realize for the first time ever that he was the true and better pinch-hitter, who hit the ball out of the park, winning the game, and securing eternal victory for all who will humbly receive his invitation to join his team and wear his uniform.
The most grievous thing would be to have people who get to the end of it all and are called out on strikes because they did not understand the game … the grace … the gospel of Jesus.
So step up to the plate. Play ball.
Paul said in 1 Corinthians 9 ….. For when I preach the gospel, I cannot boast, since I am compelled to preach. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel! If I preach voluntarily, I have a reward; if not voluntarily, I am simply discharging the trust committed to me. What then is my reward? Just this: that in preaching the gospel I may offer it free of charge…