How important is it to hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ preached each and every Sunday? That we would even need to ask this question nearly 2,000 years after the Church was first established is heartbreaking to me. I’ve been told by Christians and even pastors that it is not realistic to expect to hear the Gospel preached in every sermon message. "Sometimes we’re talking about a different subject," they tell me, or "it doesn’t fit in with section five of our 10-part sermon series." Or this one: “If you think you need to hear the blood sacrifice being preached in every message, you’re not going to be happy in any church.”
Really? Am I that demanding that I’ve placed an unfair, unrealistic expectation on our poor pastors who are just trying to reach the lost?
Imagine Paul, or Peter, or John, or even Jesus Himself sitting in a typical seeker-driven service on any given Sunday morning and not hearing the message that martyrs still die for: That we are born sinners into sin-filled world at odds with God and that while we still hated Him, He came to earth as a sinless sacrifice, whose blood on the cross atoned for our sins and the punishment we deserve. He rose from the grave and appeared to hundreds of witnesses, who saw Him ascend to heaven, and those witnesses have been sharing that Good News ever since, that those who believe in Him can repent of their sins and be reconciled to God forever. It is through Christ alone that we are offered Mercy and Grace. Only In His perfect sacrifice, He exchanges His righteousness for our Sin.
In the time you took to read that, 30 seconds have passed. Surely 30 seconds of these life-giving words of the Gospel is the message that we all must hear over and over again. Not just so that we can be saved, but so that we can have real life to the full. A Sunday service without the Gospel regenerates no one.
It is good to talk about making good choices, or treating each other in love. It’s good to sing worship songs and teach about putting God and money in proper perspective. But not at the expense of The Gospel. Because if I am still steeped in my sins, unrepentant without knowing who Jesus is, and I’ve just sat through your sermon series on how to have a good marriage or how to feed the hungry, I am still going to Hell when I die.
Unfortunately, many Christians today don’t know what the Gospel is. If you were to ask, they might say that the Gospel is about loving our neighbor, or loving God with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength. And while important, these are not the Gospel, but are the essence of the Law. And yes, we need to walk the narrow path and live out what God commands. But His truth also tells us that as hard as we strive, we can’t love God as perfectly as He commands. And by the way, how did you do at loving your neighbor last week? I fell extremely short.
That’s why we need the Gospel, even as we grow into mature Christians. We hear the Gospel so that we can be reminded of how good He is, and how wretched we are apart from Him. And when we do break the Law – any of them –we can repent of our sins and be forgiven.
No, I don't think I'm being demanding by asking to hear the Gospel each and every time. How can we expect anything less for our families, our friends and for a world that does not know Him? Churches, pastors, Christians: It's time to step up. Let's not just squeeze these in around our three main principles or five action points. No, let's make the Gospel the center of every message, and the rest can flow from Christ's amazing, perfect love.