Mark 1:1 The Gospel and Gospel Preaching
Saturday, July 12, 2008–A friend of mine at work is a bi-vocational pastor, like I was for 15 years, and he has invited me to preach at his church tomorrow. I will be preaching from Mark 1, but in my studies I looked up an old sermon of mine from 1999 when I started preaching through the Gospel of Mark. I will use large parts of this sermon tomorrow, but I will study the text anew so it will be a substantially different sermon. However, this old sermon struck me as being something that I ought to share on this blog. CAUTION: it is a confrontational sermon that goes along with my Worship War series of stories from my days as pastor.
********** BAPTIST CHURCH
“Preaching the Doctrines of Grace and Making Disciples Beyond 2000”
*********************founded 1955, affiliated with SBC
Bryan E. Walker, Pastor since 1992 Telephone:
Sola Scriptura, Solus Christus, Sola Gratia, Sola Fide, Soli Deo Gloria
Mark 1:1 “The Gospel About Jesus Christ- What Is the Gospel?” 18 July 1999 AM
Introduction: Parking Garage illustration
I. What Is A Gospel?
II. What Is The Gospel?
1. The “simple Gospel” 2.Evangelists, Revivals, Billy Graham 3.Tracts
4. Y’all come evangelism
III. Is There A Problem With The Simple Gospel Today?
1. The Simple Gospel, Baby Boomers and a Postmodern World. 2. Revivalistic Preaching vs. Pastoral Preaching. 3. Competition from other gospels.
IV. The Full Gospel and Our Purpose
1. The Full Gospel, the whole counsel of God’s Word. 2. My Purpose
3. The Three-fold purpose of the Church. 4. Hindrances to our
purpose- lack of hunger for the Word, willful ignorance, pride and
unteachable hearts, rebellion.
Conclusion: Garage ill. or full meal ill. I will continue to preach from the whole of God’s Word and I will continue to preach in depth, providing solid food. Your job is to cultivate a hunger for the Word and obey Him.
Introduction: This morning we are beginning a wonderful journey of examining the Gospel about Jesus Christ, According to Mark. Here we shall see Jesus portrayed as the suffering servant who came to ransom lost sinners from their sin. We shall be asking just a couple of basic questions throughout our study: Who is Jesus? And, What should my response be to Jesus? Tonight we will do an Introducion to Mark’s Gospel including a brief biography of Mark, then, next week we will examine the key vss. of this gospel to get an idea of Marks main points. Then we shall conduct a verse by verse, section by section study of this wonderful gospel that is action packed. After a few weeks of Mark we may begin to alternate with either Genesis or another study.
Let me begin this sermon with an illustration from work this week. At the place where I work we have been constructing a parking garage for the past year. Actually, the planning started in the fall of 1996, and the ground was broken in July of last year. I have learned a lot about construction simply by watching the slow progress step by step. I saw the survey work done, marking off the boundaries; then there were soil samples drilled to see what was beneath the surface; I saw the ground dug up for the temporary parking lot, new dirt brought in and finally asphalt poured, lines painted. Then the old parking lot was dug up, concrete and steel ripped out; a huge hole was dug deep into the rock for the foundation, then a series of 6′ diameter holes were bored deeper still (some up to 60′ deep). Steel rebar 2″ thick was used abundantly in those deep holes then the concrete was poured. Next was the bottom floor of the garage, the forms were constructed, steel rebar laid in and tied together, then more concrete. The columns were next, and step by step the 6 story garage went up. The foreman told me he could only be off no more than 1/8th of an inch in all of his measurements and survey work or the structure would be ruined. 1/8th of an inch could ruin a multi million dollar structure.
When you look at it full of cars now, if you didn’t know about all the foundation work, all the steel and deep concrete, you couldn’t tell because all that work is hidden from view. Hidden, yet absolutely essential! If you ignored the foundation the structure would collapse of its own weight, if the foundation was faulty it may last for a while then deteriorate quickly, maybe a tragic collapse. People will use the garage that know nothing of the foundation and could care less. But the architects, the project managers at my company, the engineers, the construction crew, those who built it, fully appreciate that foundation and all the hidden steel.
This morning we will look at this first verse of Mark’s Gospel and ask the question: “What Is the Gospel?” We will look at what is a gospel, the simple gospel and the full gospel and see how we need all three!
This sermon is needed today because in the world where I work and live there are competing gospels, there are those who do not know the gospel, and here in this church there are different ideas of what the gospel is and how it should be proclaimed.
I. What Is A Gospel?
The word gospel is derived from the old Anglo Saxon “god-spell” meaning good tidings or good history. It is used to translate the Greek word euangelion. This word for gospel appears in Mark more often than any of the other gospels! The Greek word was used to announce history making good news. Its Old Testament roots tie it in with the In-Breaking of God into our world, and that is good news to us! We are not left to our own devices! We have a God who has entered our realm, our world.
But the word gospel came to be used as a word to describe the first four books of the New Testament. Hence we have the Gospel According to Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. A Gospel then is one of these four books. This gospel is not really a biography for they leave out way too much; Mark’s gospel does not include a birth account like Luke and Matthew. Why? We will discuss that tonight. But a gospel has biographical material in it, it is the story of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
A gospel is not a history book, although it is historical. Acts is more of an historical account, but the gospels are not histories exactly. They are definitely historical in that they accurately describe real events, real people in space and time. A gospel is a theological work that proclaims Jesus, who he is and what he did, with the purpose of persuading people to believe in Jesus.
In order for us to preach the gospel we must know the gospel by reading and studying the 4 gospels. These are the primary sources for what we know about the actions, teachings, and character of Jesus. Now let us look at the gospel, the good news about Jesus Christ which is the content of the Gospels.
II. What Is The Gospel?
1. The “Simple Gospel” This is the basic message of salvation that announces that Jesus died on the cross to save us from our sin, that we must repent and believe in Jesus and trust in him for salvation. This is good news because we cannot save ourselves with religion, morals, or good works. This is a message of repentance, of trusting in the resurrected Savior, of being born again. If you are to communicate hope to a lost world, there is no hope in any other name than Jesus, and his atoning death on the cross. This is the core of our witnessing, preaching and evangelizing a lost world.
2. This message, the simple gospel, is the main message of evangelists through the centuries. This is the message of Paul, Peter and the apostles. As Christianity spread throughout the world this simple gospel was always the first message to be proclaimed. In America and in the Baptist tradition the gospel message was and is crucial. As revival fires swept the colonies in the First Great Awakening the gospel was preached with vigor from the likes of Jonathon Edwards, George Whitefield, and the Wesleys.
Many of you have fond memories of years gone by when the evangelist came to town and the whole town showed up to hear the preaching. Maybe some of you were saved in a revival? To hear that fiery evangelist speak about the awfulness of our sin, the dangers of hellfire, the great love of God for the sinner, and the blood of Christ, the precious blood of Christ. The message was of repentance, trust in Jesus now.
And of course there is Billy Graham, the greatest evangelist of the twentieth century. I grew up hearing Billy Graham and I attended a crusade in Tacoma in 1984. His messages are the pure and simple gospel, directed at the lost in an easily understood manner.
3. I have been trained to witness since I was in Jr High School and I started witnessing in the third grade right after I was saved. Witnessing has always been a part of my lifestyle, but when I was trained it was usually with a tract and a personal testimony of my salvation experience. The simple gospel! Most tracts say about the same thing: God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life. But we are separated from God by our sins and are incapable of saving ourselves. Jesus is God’s Son and he died to save us. We must repent and believe in the resurrected Lord, placing Christ on the throne of our lives. Then He will indeed forgive us of our sin and we will go to heaven when we die.
4. The Southern Baptists have been known for a strong missions program, foreign and home. But we are known also for Vacation Bible School, Sunday School, children’s camp and youth camp, all evangelistic enterprises spreading the good news. Traditionally the Sunday morning service has been known for being a revivalistic, evangelistic time as well where the people would invite their lost friends to hear the simple gospel preached. The “Y’all come” mode of evangelism has long been the most popular form of evangelism; that is, invite lost people to church so they can hear the Gospel. It is far easier to invite someone to church, after all, than to actually witness to them. It is less threatening for all involved; just get them into the church and the Sunday School teacher can witness or the youth minister or pastor.
III. Is There A Problem With The Simple Gospel?
1. Not with the content, not at all! God has been using it and will continue using it for all time. But, here are two little known but scary facts: a) The year Southern Baptists baptized the most people was in 1955.b)In 1998, for the first time since 1926 Southern Baptists grew smaller. That is we lost members instead of gained. What does this say about Southern Baptist effectiveness? Another statistic, about 70% of our churches have not grown or have shrunk in the past 25 yrs.
We look around at our church and see all the empty pews and wonder where all the people are. Many of you have children and grandchildren who do not go to church anywhere anymore don’t you? Some still go to church but have left Baptist life; others of you still have children who attend a Baptist church, just not this one. Why? Do you wonder why or do you just accept as fact?
Something went dreadfully wrong with my generation when you can have the most baptisms in the 1950’s but look for them now and not find them anywhere. I am going to explain some things about the gospel and my generation that some of you won’t want to hear, but I respectfully ask you to listen.
My generation was raised on evangelistic preaching Sunday after Sunday, we were taught the gospel, the simple gospel, in Sunday School and at camp. But we wee not discipled, we were never taught doctrine from the pulpit in any organized, systematic way. We were never taught to think christianly. We were not given reasons for our faith, we were just told to believe, do it this way because that is how we have always done it.
Remember my opening illustration of the parking garage? My generation is like a beautiful garage with out any depth to the foundation. We are missing the 60′ piers and all the reinforcing steel. We are a crumbling generation that had a religious experience in the 50’s and 60’s but never received the whole gospel.
2. We were raised on revivalistic preaching for several reasons. I am going to tell you a little about preaching that maybe you don’t want to know, but you need to know and understand. When a pastor invites an evangelist into his church there are a lot of factors that come into play. One factor is that the evangelist has about 20-30 standard sermons (if that many), that are highly energetic, and quite polished. He comes to town for a week and preaches 8-10 sermons then goes on to the next church. He can use the same sermons several times throughout the year. Evangelistic sermons are among the easier kind of sermons to prepare; you can change the text and the illustrations some and have a whole new sermon. The local pastor sometimes had to fight jealousy and envy because of the polished sermons of the evangelist. When the evangelist left town the pastor would hear the comments “Did you hear how great that evangelist was!” etc. To some degree the pastors would feel like they had to get the same results as the evangelist, therefore the pastors would also preach the simple gospel sermons. The people of the church responded favorably to this approach, and the pastor got compliments on his newly improved preaching.
In short, pastors became compared with evangelists in their preaching even though the two jobs are very different! In seminary the preaching professors taught us the different kinds of sermons and the purposes of the different types. I was warned by Dr Tatum in class not to always preach the simple gospel sermon, the evangelistic sermon. Pastoral preaching is far different, but he acknowledged that the people preferred evangelistic preaching. He told us to preach at least half of our sermons from the Old Testament because 2/3rds of the Bible is Old Testament. “We must preach the whole of God’s Word”, Dr Tatum used to say. And again, “The most important thing we do as we preach is to explain the word of God” The 6 types of sermons are: Evangelistic, Devotional, Doctrinal, Consecrational, Ethical, and Supportive.
The pastor’s job in preaching is to communicate the whole gospel to the people through the years, week by week, going through the whole of scripture in expositional sermons. I have studied some of the greatest preachers in the world, I have read their sermons, and heard them preach live and on radio or TV. From the great men of God like John Calvin, Martin Luther, the Puritans, CH Spurgeon, G. Campbell Morgan, Martin Lloyd-Jones, WA Criswell, John MacArthur, James Montgomery Boice, Chuck Swindoll and many others it is clear that the best, deepest preaching in the greatest churches of the world is systematic exposition of books of the Bible verse by verse, with some thematic series occasionally as well. This manner of preaching is far tougher than the evangelist’s kind of preaching. This type of preaching is Gospel preaching, however, it preaches the whole gospel, it provides the deep foundation of doctrine that my generation missed. It provides the hidden steel in the structure that gives it strength and endurance.
3. There is competition out there for the ears of the people. There are other gospels that are heretical and spurious, cotton candy sermons that tickle the ears. Please listen to me here, I do not say this to hurt or harm. In my work place I witness a lot, I share the Gospel with folks virtually every day. People come up to me with questions about the Bible and my faith. I have studied evangelism in seminary and have practiced it all my life. There are false gospels out there that are dangerous but sound a lot like our simple gospel. They use the same words we do but with different meanings.
Specifically in my workplace I am presently engaged in spiritual warfare with about 20 Mormons who I work with, who have a different Jesus, a different God, and a salvation by works- another gospel. This past week a Mormon lady began witnessing to one of my friends who is lost. She has now talked with me and has some questions for me about the differences between Christians and Mormons. Yet, while I am engaged in this kind of evangelistic enterprise, real spiritual warfare, I bluntly get no support from this church because the whole issue of Mormons is taboo here. I have another friend at work who is Jehovah’s Witness, again another gospel altogether. I have some agnostic and atheistic friends, the simple gospel must be explained in depth to them. I have friends who have bought wholesale the health and wealth gospel, an out of balance gospel at best.
The pulpits of America, and in particular this pulpit, ought to be preaching the whole gospel from the whole of God’s Word to prepare God’s people for these kind of encounters.
IV. The Whole Gospel and My Purpose and Our Purpose
1. The Full Gospel contains the simple gospel but is bigger and more comprehensive than the simple gospel. Do not ever get the idea that I am opposed to the simple gospel. It has been said in this church publicly numerous times that I do not preach the gospel. I think what that comment means is that I do not limit my preaching to the simple gospel, the evangelistic revivalistic sermons that I grew up on and that most of you remember fondly. I know that several of you do not like my preaching because I am not evangelistic enough to suit you. Let me reassure you that I preach the whole gospel; the entirety of Christian doctrine supports and strengthens the simple gospel. The doctrine of scripture, of God, of man, all have bearing on the gospel.
Now, if you believe that I do not preach the gospel in any way shape or form, that my preaching is in fact heretical, I have manuscripts and tapes available for us to have a reasonable discussion on the subject. If I do not preach the gospel I deserve to be fired, pure and simple. If I do not preach just the simple gospel the way you like it, but if I in fact preach the whole gospel then i humbly ask you to not put your preferences to the front in such a manner. We all have preferences for sermon texts; we all have our favorite passages. Do you think that i only preach from texts that I want to preach from? Do you think I preach only the easy texts, those that minister to me especially? I preach verse by verse to keep myself honest! I try to let God’s Word speak for itself. That way the Gospel comes out instead of my hobby horses.
In this church the preaching from the Old Testament has always been controversial since I have been here. The thought of a portion of God’s Word, the largest portion, would be so dishonored, so neglected, so reviled by God’s people never occurred to me before coming here. I have been very careful to show you Christ and grace in the Old Testament, the gospel in the Old Testament, yet I know there are those who come to Sunday School and check the bulletin and leave if I am preaching from the Old Testament again. The Old Testament is the 60′ piers upon which the NT gospel is constructed. The OT has the steel of doctrine we need. For too long Baptist pulpits have separated the Law from the Gospel, and my generation has paid the price. My generation is lawless in part because we did not receive the steel supports of the OT Gospel.
Hebrews 5:11-6:3; Eph 4:11-16; 2Tim4:2-5.
2. My purpose is to glorify Christ through leading the church back to sound doctrine, forward into pure worship, effective discipleship, biblical evangelism and being the salt and light of the world. Perhaps preaching is the single most important thing a pastor can do, week in and week out bringing the Word of God to the people of God. Preaching sound doctrine is essential and is not to be relegated to Sunday School alone. The pulpit ministry takes priority over the Sunday School, and preaching the whole gospel from Genesis to Revelation is essential. All of Scripture is about the Lord Jesus Christ, and his gospel.
3. Our Threefold Purpose as a church, our priorities are: First, Worship. We are saved with the purpose of worshipping God, we are God worshippers. Proper worship is built upon the whole gospel, sound doctrine from all of God’s word. Second, disciples, we must make disciples. We must be disciples ourselves; mature believers who do not murmur and complain about God’s word would be a good starting point. Disciples are mature believers who can witness, teach, pray and carry out the ministry of the church. Third, evangelize; evangelism is an out growth of worship and discipleship. My generation was evangelized but never discipled. Discipleship starts in the pulpit ministry. Disciples then go out and evangelize, that is the biblical pattern.
4. There are some hindrances to fulfilling our purpose as a church. Age and physical limitations are certainly understandable. But we must ever be vigilant against the sins of lack of hunger for the deeper things of God. If you do not enjoy the deep riches of God’s Word and complain about studying it Sunday by Sunday I would ask you to pray about your desire for the things of God. Again, I have deliberately patterned my preaching after the best pulpit expositors in the world. If you seriously question my preaching come talk with me about it and I will show you some resources that will hopefully change your mind and get you excited about God’s word.
Sometimes the sin of willful ignorance besets us, which is we get exposed to a little bit of truth that pains us, so we do not go deeper into that area, we stop listening. This is frequently accompanied by a spiritual complacency that says I have learned enough of God; I know the word enough and have no need to press on. This sin can ruin a man, a church. Pride can enter in as well and we can refuse to learn from anyone. Many of you have taught me a lot, and I am grateful. But some of you refuse to learn from me. You may criticize me but when I seek to correct you….
In conclusion, let me say that I love and like each of you, you all have held this church together and have blessed me immensely. I know that many of you do not like my old testament preaching, my doctrinal preaching, and my in depth preaching. You have said that I do not preach the gospel. There is a constant undertow here of complaining and murmuring that quite simply must stop or we will never grow. The options are these: 1) stay the same- this is not a good plan! We are really struggling as a church and need to make some progress. The constant murmuring has a heavy spiritual price! 2) In dissatisfaction you can leave, quit. That is a not a good plan either because this church needs every one of you! That would dishonor the Lord. 3) Fire the preacher. I know that some of you want me to leave, but then I would be just like all the other pastors who were forced out of here or who conveniently left due to some of the same struggles. This would not be honoring to the Lord either.4) Agree to disagree agreeably. If we share different opinions and interpretations of various scriptures, that is understandable. We are grownups here and ought to be able to talk over these differences. 5) Repent and change your minds about the word of God, because, ultimately, that is what the complaints are about. Again, it mystifies me why anyone would complain about expositional preaching. If we do not consume the whole of the Word of God, the whole Gospel, we will be less than what God expects. Studying the Word of God, the Gospel about Jesus Christ ought to thrill our souls and be fun as well as challenging. I urge you as we begin this study of Marks Gospel to take up the challenge of God’s Word.