THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO JESUS
Great multitudes followed Jesus as he traveled to Jerusalem. The masses pressed to touch Him and perchance receive something from Him. They tore the roof where He sat and taught. Crying out from the roadsides, "Jesus Son of David!" The crowds swelled when He broke the bread and blessed the fishes and fed them. Innumerable flocked to His side as He healed their children and cast out their demons. But in the midst of the fanfare and tumult, Jesus saw the condition of their hearts and motives of their souls, He turned to the multitudes that followed Him and said,
"If any man come to Me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife and children, and brothers, and sisters, Yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple. And he that does not bear his cross, and come after Me, cannot be My disciple." (Luke 14:25-27).
Jesus quickly separated the wheat from the chaff, the sheep from the goats. He knew that some only followed Him for personal gain and purpose. His requirements went beyond superficial sacrifice,
His doctrine was one of loss to gain, die to live, serve to be great, follow to lead. This went against the theology of the day. Theirs was to lord and to loot, to overpower by the strength of the law alone. To demand usury and obedience by fear instead of love. Church had evolved into a market place instead of a safe place. You may not leave with your livelihood!
Jesus words shattered their presumption and pride. It shocked the masses and offended the religious. It contradicted everything that was comfortable and amiable. He crossed every sacred line and stepped on every holy ground. He refused to please the crowd. His was a message of death and resurrection, something they did not want to hear. He met every excuse with a challenge. Every religious chide with truth. To the zealous follower when faced with the reality of His message and what it would cost him, Jesus said, "Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and preach the Kingdom of God! To the one that cared for house and home more than the cross, He replied, "No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back is fit for the Kingdom of God " (Luke 9:60). It was the gospel according to Jesus
THE MESSAGE OF THE CROSS
"For the message of the cross is foolishness to them that are perishing " (1st Corinthians 1:18)
The cross was the power to save, but it was also the power to crush every self-motive and self-ambition into dust. It was not a message just of glory but one of guts. It demanded all of man or woman. It left nothing to chance; it was all or nothing. The cross was the price tag of discipleship, the reward for a life less pleasurable, and the only means to revival. To the Jews, it was a stumbling block, and to the Greeks foolishness. To the Pharisee and the religious it was a threat, that eventually meant death to the one who published it. But to utter horror their plotting had only led to the cross, which had only led to His glory! See His message was not one of hopelessness! It was one of absolute victory! Its road of suffering led one through the portal of eternity to embrace immortality! It was the gospel according to Jesus
Yet the modern day clerical cant is one of no suffering, no sacrifice, no blood, no cross. It is a crossless Calvary some preach today. Void of Its power and conviction, scars and thorns. The murderous thief next to Christ recognized this paradox as he exclaimed, "Lord, remember me, when you come into Your Kingdom." He identified with the cross and its ability to save, he comprehended that the blood that splattered on His body as the Man next to him convulsed and heaved, somehow cleared him of his guilt and crime. He knew that this man hanging next to him had hid in His heart the mysteries of the universe, of eternal life and immortality. In His furrowed bloody brow was the care of the Creator for a lost pitiful soul like himself. The thief had taken up his cross as well. Only this time he accepted its price and its demand, in exchange was his soul, his eternal existence in paradise. He happily followed.
Today it is torture to motivate the modern day Christian past the ritual of Wednesday and Sunday. To propel them past ground zero of Sunday school into the streets and Samarias of America. We mourn as they did in Acts 8 never shaking off the dust of our systematic theology and becoming a tangible presence in our cities and streets. Our light is hidden "under a bushel" and the skies are filled with the smoke of its smoldering. O God give us Philips that will rise from the ashes of our religion and invade Samaria with a power greater than the psychics and the witches that foretell a fantasy instead of the Truth! That will take up their cross and follow You!
THEY WORLD NEEDS TO SEE SOMETHING GREATER
"And the multitudes with one accord heeded the things spoken by Philip, hearing and seeing the miracles which he did " (Acts 8:6)
The world is not demanding a "better" gospel, they are just expecting a better demonstration of It! They want to SEE His love not just hear about it! They want to touch Jesus by touching us, not just receive something in the mail or touch a hand over the television. They want to TOUCH flesh and blood. They want to see the tears of compassion in our eyes, not some pious religious disguise. THEY NEED TO SEE JESUS IN YOU AND I! The psychics will change their message when they see a greater demonstration of prophecy and power! The soothsayer will bow at the feet of Jesus when her heart is laid bare by the cutting sword of the Word of the Lord! The greedy businessman will confess Christ when he comprehends the riches in glory in Christ Jesus! WE NEED TO SHOW THE WORLD SOMETHING GREATER THAN THE TEMPORARY TAPESTRIES THAT DISTRACT THEM! We need to communicate the gospel according to Jesus
"Surely I say to you, there is no man that has left house, or brothers, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for My sake and the gospels, but he shall receive a hundred fold now in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the world to come eternal life " (Mark 10:29-30).
The crowds that faced Jesus were given an ultimatum, All, or nothing. There was no "Grey" on the canvas of obedience. Like Peter they would have to confess, "Lo, we have left all and followed you " The gospel message was not a retirement plan for the rich, but a rescue for the poor. The only answer to the leper, the only hope for the sinner. It was the midnight cry to the dying, the light of hope to the shipwrecked and blind. It was not a "winning ticket" for the selfish; it was the lifeline to the drowning, a remedy to the sick and destitute. Jesus never stepped on this side of eternity for the righteous, but to call sinners to repentance.
"Many will say to Me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in your name, and done many wonders in Your name? And then I will declare to them, I never knew you " (Matthew 7:22-23).
ONE LIFE FOR SALVATION
The qualification for Heaven is found in Matthew 7:21; "Not everyone who says to Me, "Lord, Lord" shall enter the Kingdom of Heaven, BUT HE WHO DOES THE WILL OF MY FATHER IN HEAVEN." The sheep and the goats both stood before Jesus, but only one reigned with Him. Only one remained with Him.
The sheep were the ones who had recognized Jesus in the face of their brother, the least of them, the weakest of them. The only difference between the sheep and the goat, was what they did, and didnt do. Now is our only chance to reach out to the lost! We have all of eternity for revelation, but we only have one lifetime for salvation! We have all of eternity to discover the mysteries and depths of creation, we only have a one life that "is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away " to reach out and change a generation from its course of destruction to deliverance. It is now or never.
"Then Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, One thing you lack; Go your way, sell whatever you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in Heaven; and come, take up your cross, and follow Me " (Mark 10:21). The gospel according to Jesus.