Summary: The gospel of Christ makes tough demands on people’s lives, these demands cannot be negated or compromised.
The Hard Gospel
By Pastor David Moore, Braehill Baptist Church, Belfast, Northern Ireland.
Aim: To show that the gospel is “hard,” that its truths are tough and that it requires some difficult decisions.
Text: Mark 10:17-23
Introduction: I will never forget many years ago visiting Belfast city centre toyshops in search for a chess set. I was going through a real chess loving period, and couldn’t get enough of the game, and so I decided to invest in a quality board and pieces. I walked into one store and approached the sales assistant asking “Excuse me, do you have any chess sets?” But to my amazement, and curiosity the assistant replied “Do you want easy chess or hard chess?” Now this threw me, because as I understood it chess was chess, and the difficulty of the game was dependent on the intelligence, strategy and experience of your opponent. So I asked “What’s the difference?” and she replied “Easy chess is with plastic pieces and hard chess has wooden pieces!” Obviously the woman had never played chess in her entire life! You see it doesn’t matter if your chess pieces are moulded out of jelly in the shape of Winnie the Pooh characters, chess is chess.
A few days ago I was speaking with a pastor’s wife who was commenting on some of the problems her husband was facing in the ministry. She said that some folks were complaining because her husband was preaching a hard gospel. Now I know that some preachers can be arrogant, and some can even be outright nasty so as to put people off the gospel and church for life, but the preacher in question here is one of the most gracious men I know both in and out of the pulpit. So it appears obvious to me that his critics are not aiming their barbs at his preaching style, but at the uncompromising message itself. You see there is no such things as an easy gospel against a hard gospel. The gospel is the gospel, and its truths are so vitally important that we must lovingly and graciously make them known, but without an ounce of compromise.
There are certain words within the evangelical vocabulary that are in danger of extinction. Rarely now do we hear the word “repent”, likewise the word “sin” is becoming increasingly rare, and the word “hell” is almost extinct, even though Jesus Himself said more about hell than any preacher. AS I read books on preaching today I am told that I must address my sermons to “felt needs.” That is, I am to scratch folk where they itch. I am not to use negative terms like sin, hell, repent but to speak positively of love grace, heaven. If the church is to grow I have to ascertain what folks are feeling, to determine their needs whether these needs are real or imagined and to shape my sermon around those needs.
“For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables. But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry.” (2 Tim 4:3-5)
It is interesting, is it not, that Paul predicted the day of “felt needs” evangelism, and saw it as people turning away from the truth. It is also interesting that he exhorts Timothy in this context to do the work of an evangelist. The work of an evangelist is to tell the truth
Listen, people NEED to be saved. And whether they know that or not, they need to hear it, and they need to hear it in a way that is clear so that they can make an intelligent decision about Christ and the gospel. Nothing gets my goat more than sitting in an supposedly evangelistic meeting with the preacher “beating about the bush.” If something needs to be said, then say it. Say it openly, say it honestly, if needs be, explain it, and by all means say it lovingly and graciously, but for goodness sake say it.
In our opening text we see the greatest evangelist of all, the Lord Jesus at work. He is approached by a young man whom the Bible describes in Luke 18 as a certain ruler. He was a professional man, a young lawyer, a highly intelligent young man, no doubt upwardly mobile,. Bringing all the zeal of youth to his chosen career. But he was also a religious man. He was a seeker. Notice (vs17) he was eager – he came running, he was earnest – he came kneeling and he was enquiring – he came asking. Now what did he ask? Well he asked “Good Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” On the surface that seems to be a great question, but beneath the surface there is the implication that eternal life can be earned – for he asked “What I shall I do?”