Summary: This is a revised and simplified version of an earlier message. The purpose is to help people understand what the true gospel is.
Title: Will the real Gospel please stand up?
There seems to be a lot of confusion today about what the real Gospel is. The word gospel means good news. That’s something to be really happy about. But a lot of the gospels I hear about today don’t sound like good news to me.
One of the Gospels that I hear a lot about now-a-days is the one that says you have to prove yourself worthy of salvation. In other words you’ve got to try and earn it. But lets take a look at some people who are trying to "earn salvation" and lets see if what they are doing sounds like good news.
I grew up Catholic and I was taught by Benedictine monks, so let me start off by mentioning a few of the things that I am familiar with from my background. I’m sure you have all seen monks wearing their long robes and they also have a rope tied about their waists with knots in it. I don’t know if you realized it, but they don’t wear that rope for decoration. They actually use that rope to beat themselves! It is a practice called asceticism. This is something they do to try and make themselves better, to make themselves more acceptable to God. Now I don’t know about you, but that doesn’t sound like good news to me. I don’t think if we put a sign on the front of this church "come on in and get a free rope to beat yourself with" that many people would rush in for their free rope! That is just not something to be very happy about. There is a traditional Catholic order called Opus Dei. In one of the books written by the founder of this order Josemaria Escriva, he starts off by saying "O wonderful pain, glorious pain, etc." He said "to get to Heaven we have to suffer", He also practices asceticism. Is suffering and pain God’s path to earn salvation? I remember going to a shrine and watching people going up stone stairs on their bare knees in an attempt to earn something from God. You can see Catholics doing this at Fatima until their knees are bloody! But even this self inflicted suffering is still not enough to get a catholic into heaven. If you are Catholic you are taught that when you die you go to a place called purgatory and there you have to be burned in flames to pay for your sins. If that were true I can just imagine the shrieks of horror and pain as people would be dropped into the flames of purgatory. Does that sound like very good news to you?
I don’t want to just pick on the Catholics. Other religions have similar ideas. The Jehovah’s Witnesses make you go door to door witnessing to earn your salvation. If you don’t go witnessing their God drops you! The 7th Day Adventist follow the teachings of Ellen G. White, who wrote, "Jesus has purchased redemption for us. It is ours, BUT we are placed here on probation to see if we will prove worthy of eternal life." With them obtaining eternal life depends on proving your worthiness. In other words you have to "earn it"
In the movie "Saving Private Ryan," Tom Hanks portrays an Army captain whose unit is assigned to find a private named Ryan in the dangerous time right after the D-Day Invasion. Ryan’s brothers have both been killed in combat, and, he doesn’t know it, but he is his mother’s only surviving son. The mission involves the captain’s unit in brutal battles with the Germans. But Private Ryan is finally located and his life is saved by his captain who also dies in the process. As Private Ryan attends to his dying rescuer on a bridge, the captain speaks his last words in a hoarse whisper – he says "Earn this." The camera then changes from the young private’s face to the face of an old man, standing by a white cross in the cemetery at Normandy. It is Ryan many years later, near the end of his life. He kneels by his captain’s grave and says: "Every day of my life, I’ve thought about what you said to me that day on the bridge. I’ve done my best. I hope at least in your eyes that I’ve lived up to all you gave for me." Since the time Jesus was crucified on the cross. People have been looking at His sacrifice and many have tried to "earn this". But is that the good news of the Gospel? Do you have to try and "earn this"? Have you ever been confused about what the real Gospel is? Does God possibly have anything to say about this? Sometimes I want to say will the real Gospel please stand up? Today I want to challenge you to look into the Word of God to see which gospel God said is the real one.