Wouldn’t you like to think the good news Ð that God loves you and has sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to die for you Ð would be joyfully received by all people? It isn’t. It wasn’t received two thousand years ago in Corinth, and it isn’t received today by millions of people in America .
Paul writes, “I told the people that, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. I went on to tell them, ÔIf you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.’ I also assured them that anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame. But not all received this message.”
Why is it that not all people believe Christ is the answer for their lives? This is a question that all believers should ponder. Paul gives us some answers, and that is what this sermon is all about. It’s a word for the Church to consider seriously. Take a look at four reasons why millions of people turn their backs on Christ, by either treating Him indifferently or rejecting His promises.
1. THE MESSAGE, KNOWN AS THE GOSPEL, DOES NOT MAKE SENSE.
Millions would say it is an offense to human intelligence to believe that Jesus could save us through His suffering death, and resurrection. Paul writes, “Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? . . . Greeks look for wisdom, . . . the gospel is foolishness to Gentiles.” (I Corinthians 1:20f)
In spite of the moral chaos in our day, we still believe that given enough time, we will solve our problems through all of our learning. Our prisons are full. The number of addicts increase annually and present a terrible problem to the social welfare departments of our nations. Homes end in divorce and children live in single-parent homes without the blessing of having both parents around. And yet the human intellect keeps on studying the problem believing the human being is basically good. If you can give a person enough education or enough psychotherapy, all will be well. Humans have the capacity to right the wrongs in their lives. They simply have to be educated to pick themselves up by their bootstraps and get on with it.
How sad. Confidence in the human intellect is a major reason why millions of people have nothing to do with the Gospel.
2. WE NEED FACTS TO BELIEVE. PROVE TO US THAT THE GOSPEL IS TRUE.
While the Greeks wanted the Gospel to be intellectually understandable, the Jews wanted to be shown that the Gospel was true. They lived with the Old Testament teaching that anyone who is hung on a tree is under the curse of God. Jesus hung dying on a tree. This is hardly evidence to believe that He was God’s appointed Messiah. These people anticipated an earthly ruler who would come and set Israel free. He would drive out the Romans, and Israel would reign supreme. This was not the kingdom Jesus had come to establish.
These people would say, “Give me one bit of evidence that Jesus is the Christ, and I will be open to the Gospel.” You can point them to the millions of lives that have been changed and who have gone on in life to bring blessings to humanity, yet they will not believe these changes have anything to do with Jesus Christ. They continue in their unbelief by asking, “Why do all these bad things happen to good people?”
The conversation continues, “So much of Christianity deals with life after death, and the opinion that those who have received Christ as their Savior will spend eternity with Him. Prove to me that there is a life after death, and don’t give me this Ôfaith bit.'” While they accept many other blessings in faith, this type of trust does not apply to a person’s spiritual life.
3. THEY HAVE NEVER MET CHRIST.
Paul writes, “If you confess with your mouth, ÔJesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”
Many people know about Jesus. Intellectually they give assent to the teachings about Jesus, but have yet to meet Him. They have not experienced what it is to have their sins forgiven and enjoy the peace that passes all understanding. There is seldom a week that goes by that someone will tell me of their personal relationship with the Lord. “I thought I was a Christian. I had a good understanding of the basics of the Christian faith, but it was not until recently that I met Jesus as a living Lord.” Accepting a doctrine and meeting the Savior are two different matters.
These people, who have never met Him but have a good intellectual understanding of the Christian faith, are often found in the congregations. They are not the hard core unbelievers who couldn’t care less if the Christian faith ceased to be. They are faithful and might be very active in the activities of the church. They would defend the church. They are only a short distance from meeting the Savior, and given time, we can be confident that the Word planted in their souls at a young age will bring forth fruit. This is why it is so important for our churches to have strong Sunday schools and confirmation classes.
4. THEY ARE OFFENDED AT THE BEHAVIOR, ATTITUDE, AND SPIRIT OF THOSE WHO CLAIM TO BE CHRISTIANS, YET PRESENT THEIR LIFESTYLE AS INCONSISTENT WITH THEIR CONFESSION.
Now we know that, even though we are Christians, we are not perfect. We are saints and sinners at the same time. We also know this can be an escape for those who simply do not want to deal seriously with God and their relationship with Him. Nevertheless, we cannot take the accusation of the unbeliever lightly. What offends them? Let’s look at some of their statements that might speak to all of us:
“When my husband lay sick for many months and finally died, my unbelieving friends showed more concern than my Christian neighbors. Never once did they offer to help me in those difficult days and long nights. If they believed that Joe was dying and he didn’t believe in their Savior, why did they not come and share the Good News with him?”
“I never was cursed at more and treated so unkindly in a business transaction than I was by an officer of your church who presents himself as one of God’s children. It is difficult for me to understand how one can get so out of control when he talks about the power of God in his life. I know we can all get upset when dollars are involved, but I expected more understanding from this person because of his faith. If this is Christianity, I can get along without it.”
This is a very sad accusation. Do Jesus’ words apply when He says, “It would be better that a millstone be tied around his neck and he be thrown into the sea than to be a stumbling block to one of these little ones?”
A child says to her parents, “Do you have to go away again tonight? I have been with the babysitter so much today. I want you, mommy and daddy, to be with me now.”
The parents reply, “We would rather stay home with you, but our friends are having this party tonight, and it is very important that we be with them. We’ll make it up to you.”
Might those words ring in the child’s ears even after she is an adult? Could she then ask the question, “Who was more important that night? Was it I or their friends?” Now the little girl has her own children, and she learns what God has to say about parenting a child. Where was her parents’ Christianity when they were busy climbing the social ladder at the expense of their children’s feelings?
Well, Paul has a word for the Church: “To the weak I became weak to win the weak for Christ. I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I might share its blessings.” In these words God is telling us to live with a sensitive ear. Without compromising your Christian convictions, learn what it is to be adaptable and be all things to all people that they might see Christ in you. When that unbelieving person visits with you, he or she might not agree with your Christian belief, but they will know that you are different, for the Spirit of Christ dwells in you.
Here is a word to the Church: Let the Gospel be an offense to the wise and learned. They will one day discover that human knowledge is not adequate for the difficulties of life. Let those who want proof trust their own insights until they discover that, only by trusting the Savior can they find real peace. But never let those who claim Christ as their Savior be an offense to those who yet have to meet Him.