Summary: This sermon challenges our claim to believe. The thought process was started by a wonderful sermon submitted by David Moore entitled The Hard Gospel.
Sermon for Mark 10:17-31
October 15th 2006
I’m one of people that can’t seem to shut their brain off in the evening. The other night my mind was churning because someone had mentioned to someone that pastor lately had been preaching a “hard” gospel. My puny little mind wandered to a time when I was shopping for a chess set for Noah.
I went into a store where a young girl waited on me. I told her I was looking for a chess set for my son. She asked if I wanted an easy set or a hard set. I had never heard of this so I asked her what’s the difference. She said the easy chess set had plastic pieces—the hard chess set had wooden or marble pieces. Now I’m not a big chess player, but even I know it doesn’t matter what the pieces are made of—there is no easy chess —chess is chess—the rules are the same—and to me all chess is hard.
In the same manner there is no such thing as an easy gospel. The gospel is the gospel and its truths are so important that I must lovingly and graciously make them known without an ounce of compromise. That is my calling!
Paul’s letter to Timothy addresses the issue. It says, “Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. But keep you head in all situations, endure hardship and do the work of an evangelist.”
Yet there are certain words within the evangelical vocabulary that are in danger of becoming extinct. Rarely now do we hear the word, “repent.” As even less what it means. Likewise the word “sin” has become a turnoff to those seeking relief. And the word “hell” I can’t remember the last time I heard a sermon on this forbidden subject, although Jesus said more about hell than any preacher I’ve ever heard.
I take the proclamation of the gospel very seriously. That is why I’m always buying books to see if perhaps I might learn something—anything. The last book I read on preaching today said I must address my sermons to “felt needs.” That is, I am to scratch people where they itch. I am not to use negative terms like sin, repent, or hell. I should speak positively of love, grace, and heaven.
It went on to say if the church is going to grow---grow into what---I might add---I must figure out what you are feeling, to determine your needs whether these needs are real or imagined and shape my messages around those needs. Horse hockey!
People need a Savior! People need to be saved! We need to hear that! We need to hear it in a way that is so clear that we understand what it means to make a commitment to the gospel of Jesus Christ. And folks trust me. It is not easy! Repent and believe is the most difficult thing you will ever do in your short-lived life.
Nothing gets my goat more than sitting in a meeting where people beat around the bush. I believe if something needs to be said, then say it! Say it openly, say it honestly, say it lovingly and graciously. If need be, explain it, but for goodness sake say it. And that’s what I’m going to do this morning. Since there is no such thing as a good Lutheran, I’m going to be a bad Lutheran and say what a thing really is.
In today’s gospel reading we see a man approach Jesus. Now picture yourself as this man or make it a woman. He must be a “religious” person like us cause she knows all the commandments. She is also concerned about eternal life, like us cause he asks, “What do I do to get it?”
So what did Jesus do for this man? What does Jesus do for you? How did he answer Him? How does he answer you? Did Jesus present him with an easy gospel, luring him/you into following by embarking on a user-friendly sermon? No! He said, “You lack one thing; go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.”
Jesus presented this person like you and me with a hard gospel, very hard gospel. Jesus calls for commitments to be made by those who claim to believe, and anyone who thinks otherwise is being deceived. It’s easy to claim to be religious. It’s easy to memorize the teachings. It’s easy to say “I Believe.” But do we mean it? Really? Think long and hard before you answer this simple question, cause I feel this person in the gospel is more like you and I than we care to admit when it comes to believing.