By ETHELBERT Okere
Beloved, when you sit at a church service or any form of meeting listening to the preaching of a pastor, evangelist or by whatever appellation, be careful of what you are listening to. The common thing is to believe that you are listening to the “gospel”, which means, “good news”. Do you ask yourself, what is the “good news”?
Beloved, I can tell you that it is not every preaching that is the gospel or good news. It might be coming from the most popular pastor or evangelist in town but many mistake ordinary teachings from the Bible with preaching the gospel. Of course, there are a lot of beautiful stories in the Bible, whether in the Old or New Testament. But not all of them are “the gospel”.
Brethren, the message or preaching you should listen to is that of reconciliation. The Lord Jesus told us to preach the good news of what His death and resurrection accomplished for mankind. This accomplishment is the reconciliation with God, the Father, through the death and resurrection of Christ Jesus. To the preacher, what the so-called sinner you are preaching to should hear is that all he needs do is to believe that he has been reconciled with God through Jesus. Let us hear directly from Bible: “And all things are of God who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ and hath given us the ministry of reconciliation, to wit that God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself, not inputting their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation” (2 CORINTHIANS 5:18-19, KING JAMES).
For more clarity, let us read from the Good News Bible also: “All this is done by God who through Christ changed us from enemies into his friends and gave us the task of making others his friends also. Our message is that God was making the whole human race his friends through Christ. God did not keep an account of their sins, and he has given us the message which tells how he makes them his friends” (2 CORINTHIANS 5:18-19 GNB).
Beloved, it is clear that the message (or gospel) the pastor, evangelist etc is to preach is that of the reconciliation of God and mankind through Christ Jesus. In the above Scripture, we can see that God does no longer take into account the sins of mankind because of this reconciliation. In spite of the sins of man, God was so eager for this reconciliation that he gave up his son, Jesus, to be sacrificed so that all the sins of mankind can be remitted; to make man qualify for eternal life. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son that whosoever believed in him should not perish but have everlasting life” (JOHN 3:16 KING JAMES).
Beloved, the above Scripture is not just a statement; it is a declaration by God, an order to the effect that anyone who BELIEVES in his Son, Jesus, should not perish but have everlasting life. So, what does it mean to “believe” in Jesus? It is simply to believe that through his (Jesus’) death and resurrection, we are reconciled with God, the Father, because at the cross, Jesus, the son, took all the punishment that were meant for mankind for his sins. It is because of this that God no longer takes into account the sins of mankind, that is those who believe. In other words, believing in Jesus means to accept that through his death and resurrection, all the sins of the believer, past, present and future, are forgiven and you became eternally righteous before God. Yes, it is as simple as that yet so difficult in our last outing we saw that Jesus told the people that it is for their interest that he goes so that he can send to them the Holy Spirit; and that when He comes, He will convict mankind of sin…”because you do not believe in me” (John 16:8)
Many Christians see this as “cheap”; that it is too good to be true. Thus, they argue that believing is not enough and that you have to earn your own righteousness. This is a trap set by the devil and many Christians have, unfortunately, fallen into it. The devil wants you to deny Jesus, by not accepting that what he achieved on the cross is sufficient to earn you eternal life; meaning that you need to work for your own salvation. To be sure, many Christians genuinely and sincerely want to work for their salvation on their own but unfortunately, that is not the expectation from God because, it means a rejection of his beloved son, Jesus.
In place of the reconciliation with God through Jesus, what the devil wants us to live with is condemnation. The devil is the accuser who is always reminding you of your sins and makes you to constantly believe that you can never make it right with God, contrary to what Jesus achieved for mankind. Beloved, the choice is yours on whom to believe: the devil or God. God has sought your reconciliation after the alienation through the fall of Adam. This He has done through sending Jesus. Let’s see what the Bible says about what the fate of mankind was with God following Adam’s fall and what it became following the coming of Jesus: “It is true that through the sin of one man death began to rule because of that one man. But how much greater is the result of what was done by the one man, Jesus Christ. All who receive God’s abundant grace and are freely put right with him will rule in life through Christ. So then, as the one sin condemned all people, in the same way the one righteous act sets all people free and gives them life. And just as the mass of people were made sinners as the result of disobedience of one man, in the same way the mass of the people will all be put right with God of the one man”. (ROMANS 5:17-19 GOOD NEWS BIBLE).
Beloved, these are self explanatory. Notice the phrase, “sets all people free and gives them life”. Beloved, there are no hyperboles in the Bible. There are no exaggerations in the Word of God. “Free” means free and “All” means All in every ramification. Yet, that is what the devil wants us to reject and instead, wallow in self pity. Unfortunately, he, the devil, finds company in some preachers who, instead of preaching reconciliation, help the devil to propagate condemnation.
Beloved, reject any preaching that makes you feel condemned even if it comes from the most popular pastor in town. Jesus, whom such preachers purport to talk about, never condemned. Let us see what Jesus told his disciples about what he came to do on earth as recorded in Luke 9:54-86. When the people of certain Samaritan village refused to allow Jesus entry, his two disciples, James and John, said to him: “Lord, do you want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them just as Elijah did” (LUKE 9:54). But how did Jesus reply? He said: “You do not know what manner of spirit you are of. The son of man is not come to destroy men’s live but to save them” (LUKE 9:55-56). Here, Jesus was comparing the spirit of Elijah, which was that of judgment and condemnation, with the spirit of grace, righteousness and forgiveness which He, Jesus, personalizes.
Unfortunately, some preachers still argue that allowing Christians to believe that they become righteous just by believing in what Jesus achieved on the cross would make people live sinful lives. This fear might be genuine but for how long shall we continue to be economical with the Word of God. Preachers should leave their own man-made moral standards and preach the gospel the way it is written in the Bible. In any case, and as we have seen severally in this column, only the grace of God and a deliberate acceptance of his abundant love can stop man from sin.
In spite of the growth in the number of churches, half of the people are yet to form the habit of going to church services regularly simply because they believe they cannot cope with the tone of condemnation employed by most pastors. Thus, they prefer to stay on their own and deal with God personally. This is a negation of the spirit of the gospel because communion with fellow Christians is a requirement for divine atonement. Brethren, let us cease seeing Christianity as a struggle. It is a relationship with God the Father who is always longing for our company even with our baggage of sins. Say Alleluia.