Sermons

Summary: Many people today claim to be Christians yet have no idea what that really means. All too often we have stripped Christianity of all its content and meaning in an attempt to win converts. But Christianity does have content. Its content is the Gospel and t

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I read the transcript of an interesting interview this week. The religion reporter from a newspaper was asking a person in her town about his faith. But what was interesting was that she didn’t just ask a couple of basic questions. She started off by asking him point blank what he believed. And like most people, he answered that he was a Christian. But she wasn’t satisfied with that. Most people accept that as a true profession of faith. But to this reporter’s credit, she didn’t. She wasn’t looking for a religious label. So she followed up. She followed up by asking him in-depth questions about what he really believed. She asked him about the content of his belief. He responded that he had a deep faith. He said he draws from the Christian faith. He said he’s rooted in the Christian tradition. He said that his grandfather was a Baptist and his grandmother was a Methodist. His mother was a deeply spiritual person. He went on to tell the reporter that he was a member and regular attender at the same local church where he had committed himself to Christ many years before. That sparked another question from the reporter. She asked him, “Did you actually go up for an altar call?” He responded, “Yes, absolutely. It was a daytime service… and it was a powerful moment….” The reporter followed up, “So you got yourself born again?” He responded, “Yeah….” The interview went on and he confessed to regular prayer that he called, “An ongoing conversation with God.” He talked about maintaining his moral compass and doing the right thing and reading the Bible and following the guidance and teaching of his pastor. He even talked about faith and his personal relationship with Jesus Christ. It sounds like a wonderful testimony, doesn’t it? It is filled with good sounding words and Christian language. If that interview went out on TV, you could almost think the Gospel was being preached with that testimony. But I want you to listen to some of the other things that were said. You see, this was a good reporter. She wasn’t satisfied with sound bites or labels. She wanted to know what he really believed. “Who is Jesus to you?” “Jesus is an historical figure to me…. One that I think is powerful precisely because he serves as that means of reaching something higher.” “And he’s also a wonderful teacher.” The prayer that he calls his ongoing conversation with God? He describes it like this: “throughout the day I’m constantly asking myself questions about what I’m doing, why I’m doing it…. Those are the conversations I’m having internally. I’m measuring my actions against that inner voice that for me at least is audible, is active, it tells me where I think I’m on track and where I think I’m off track.” Things got real blurry when he talked about the content of his belief. He said that he is suspicious of dogma. He is uncomfortable with the concept of absolute truth. He doesn’t believe that his faith is transferable to others. Instead, he believes in what he calls tolerance. He said, “religion at it’s best comes with a big dose of doubt. I’m suspicious of too much certainty….” He flat out denies that people will go to hell if they don’t believe in Jesus. He skirts around the interviewer’s question about heaven by saying, “Whether the reward is in the here and now or in the hereafter, the aligning of myself to my faith and my values is a good thing.” He did say that he believed in sin. But his definition of sin was far from biblical. He said that sin is, “being out of alignment with my values.” And the consequence of sin is, “If I’m true to myself and my faith that is its own reward. When I’m not true to it, it’s its own punishment.” Most telling of all was this statement: “I believe that there are many paths to the same place and that is a belief that there is a higher power, a belief that we are connected as a people.” I don’t know if you’ve figured out who that interview was with. But it was conducted by a Chicago Sun-Times religion reporter on March 27, 2004 as she sat down in a local coffee shop with then State Senator Barack Obama. Why do I tell you about that? Did I tell you about that interview to get you all riled up against our President-elect? No. You shouldn’t get riled-up against him. You should pray for him. You should pray for him because no matter what label he attaches to himself, if he still believes that way, he’s lost. He might call himself a Christian. He might use words like prayer and Bible and sin. He might even throw in the name of Jesus every now and then. He can even describe how he walked the aisle during an altar call and was born-again. But so can a lot of people. There are very few people you meet who will come right out and tell you that they don’t believe in God. Some statistics report that over 80% of people in America claim to be Christians. But the sad thing is, when you get right down to it, they believe the exact same thing our President-elect believes. They don’t believe in anything and still want to claim Christianity. They don’t believe in anything and can call themselves Christian because they have removed all the content from the words they are using. If you believe that there are many paths to God, then you cannot be a Christian. Because if you believe that there are many paths to God, you are calling Jesus a liar. Because Jesus Himself said in John 14:6, “I am the way the truth and the Life, no man comes to the Father but by me.” There is only one way. There is only one mediator between God and man, the Man Christ Jesus. And if you get that wrong, you are not a Christian. They won’t deny that Jesus existed. That went out of style many years ago because it’s unbelievably silly to say that. They will say He was a great historical figure. They will say He was a great example. He was a great teacher. They might even say He was a great prophet. People throughout the world and throughout history have had those words on their lips as they passed from this world into eternal torment. Because Jesus is more than a historical figure. He is more than a great example to follow. He is more than a prophet or a great teacher. He is more than a path to God. He is THE only path to God. In short, Jesus is the Gospel. The word “Gospel” literally means “good news”. That is what Jesus is. The good news is a person and that person is Jesus Christ. If you remove any content from who He is or what He’s done, then the news is no longer good. But in the fullness of who Jesus is… And in the fullness of what Jesus has done... The news is good indeed. That is the gospel. The gospel is Jesus. Our passage this morning is still part of the conversation that John the Baptist was having with his disciples. You remember that John’s disciples had come to him complaining that Jesus was taking away his ministry. Jesus’ disciples were baptizing people right down the river from where John and his disciples were… and they said that all of John’s crowds were leaving him and going to Jesus. And you remember what John said in verse 30. He said, “He must increase, but I must decrease.” But John didn’t just leave his disciples hanging there. In our passage this morning, he explained why that must be so. He had spent his entire ministry pointing people to Jesus, but they still didn’t get it. So he did the same thing that we have to do. He gave them the gospel again. He told them about Jesus again. He didn’t just give them a label to stick on their lost lives. He gave them the gospel. The true gospel. The gospel with content. The gospel that is embodied in a person. The gospel that is Jesus. He gave them three reasons that Jesus is the gospel. Jesus is the gospel because of His place, because of His proclamation, and because of His position. First, Jesus is the gospel because of His place. Look back at verse 31:


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