Pastor David B. Curtis


The Influential Christian - Part 3

1 Corinthians 15:1-4


Mis-communication can be a serious thing. If you don't know what somebody is saying, if you don't understand them, you cannot respond in a correct manner.

Cathy, Lindsey and I went down to the beach for a walk and we took our 90lb all black German Shepherd with us. I got him out of the truck and gave him the command to heal just as two guys and a girl were approaching us. One of the guys got a panicked look on his face and jumped toward the building. I could tell he was afraid of the dog and I assured him the dog wouldn't hurt him. Then he said to me in a Carolinian accent, "I thought you told the dog to kill." I said, "Heal," but he heard, "Kill." Misunderstanding what I said scared him quite a bit.

I think we all realize how important it is that we communicate clearly. How much more so when we are communicating the gospel?

This is the third message in a series on "The influential Christian." As Christians, our mission in life should be to have a gospel influence on our society. We, as believers, are called to influence our society, our culture, our world with the gospel of Christ.

I have given you a formula to aid in our understanding of how we can influence our world: CL + CP + CM = MI. The MI stands for Maximum Influence. If we follow this equation, we will have a maximum influence in the lives of others.

If we are going to be a maximum influence, there are three elements that are a must: CL stands for a Christlike Life, CP stands for Close Proximity, and CM stands for Clear Message. If you are living a Christlike Life in Close Proximity to unbelievers, and if you have a Clear Message, you are going to be a Maximum Influence. You will truly fulfill your mission and honor God.

So far we have talked about having a Christ-like life, living in holiness and love; and we talked about Close Proximity, we need to be around people if we are going to influence them. As important as these two are, they are not enough. We must share with them the gospel of Jesus Christ. This is our third element in the equation -- Clear Message. WE must be able to share with them the clear message of the gospel.

In order for this to happen, we must take the initiative and steer discussions toward spiritual topics. We must be looking for and creating opportunities to share the gospel.

When I was in Navy A-school, I was praying for opportunities to share the gospel. One day the instructor gave a surprise test and everybody in the class flunked. We were all told to be back at that class at the end of the day for an additional hour. We all showed up, all of us that is, except for the instructor. While we were waiting for the instructor, I took out my pocket Bible and began to read it. The guy sitting next to me began asking me questions about the Bible and the whole class was listening in. So, I got up, went to the front of the class, and for the next 45 minutes I taught them from the Bible what God says about salvation. That was one exciting experience! If you are ready and willing, God will give you many opportunities to share your faith.

When I was aboard ship, a man called me from the birthing compartment and said, "I'm with Mike and he wants to know how to become a Christian, will you tell him." I said, "Sure! Bring him up." Those times are rare. So, we need to be looking for ways to bring up the subject of the spiritual things as we are around friends . We can ask questions to see if there is any spiritual interest. Questions like, "Do you attend Church anywhere?" or "Have you ever read the Bible?" Or maybe you can share with them something that you read in the Bible and see what their response is. If we are serious about being an influential Christian, we are going to be constantly looking for ways to share our faith.

Then once we get a spiritual conversation started, we can share the clear message of the gospel. Look at the importance that Paul placed on sharing a clear message.

Colossians 4:3-4 (NKJV) meanwhile praying also for us, that God would open to us a door for the word, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am also in chains, 4 that I may make it manifest, as I ought to speak.

In verse 4, Paul asked for prayer to make his Gospel telling "manifest, as I ought to speak." The NASB and NIV translations prefer the word clear or clearly. F. F. Bruce translates it this way: "that I may publish it openly in the words which I ought to speak." Paul understood that it was easy to garble the Gospel. He wanted to word it clearly. The word he used, phanero, has the idea of "to make visible" and is from phainw which means "to manifest" or "to light up." The job of the Gospel-teller is to shed light on the message, to make it clear, not to obscure it.

How important is it to tell the Gospel clearly? Well, we only need to think about what is at stake. Only in the Gospel is there the "power of God to salvation" (Rom 1:16). No wonder Paul had an "anathema" for those who misstate the message!

Paul gives us the essence of the gospel in:

1 Corinthians 15:1-4 (NKJV) Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, 2 by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you; unless you believed in vain. 3 For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures,

The gospel is very simply put, "Christ died for our sins."

"Christ" -- The Second member of the Trinity, God the Son. The concept of "Christ" may not have been entirely understood by the Corinthian readers, but the meaning of "anointed," and His work of dying for sins, certainly points to a special divine messenger.

"Died" -- He suffered the wrath of God, paying the penalty for sin.

"For our sins" -- That He died for our sins implies that we are sinners in need of forgiveness. The word "for" (hyper) conveys the idea of "on account of," i.e., to deal with our sins.

Why did Christ have to die for our sins?

The doctrine of the cross is the teaching that proclaims an event of historical and theological significance. It points to Christ who died the death of a criminal but whose death concerns the eternal destiny of man. This is what theologians call the doctrine of Atonement. The doctrine of atonement explains what exactly happened at calvary.

It explains the meaning of the death of our Lord Jesus Christ upon the cross. Let's briefly go over the doctrine of the atonement. This should be something that every believer understands and can explain. The doctrine of the atonement is the heart of the gospel. To understand the atonement, you must understand that man is a sinner. Let's start at the beginning; God created man and there was a perfect harmonious relationship that was established. God enjoyed perfect communion and fellowship with Adam. Adam walked with God and enjoyed perfect harmony with him.

Genesis 1:27 (NKJV) "So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them."
Genesis 2:16-17 (NKJV) "And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, "Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; 17 "but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die."

But then something came between God and man, Adam turned his back of God's will and sinned. Sin broke the relationship that existed between man and God, their fellowship was severed, man became alienated from God and under His wrath.

Romans 6:23 (NKJV) For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

The wages of our sin and enmity toward God is death. All sin must be punished, either in the sinner or in the sinner's Substitute:

Hebrews 2:2-3 (NKJV) For if the word spoken through angels proved steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just reward, 3 how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation, which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed to us by those who heard Him,

Holiness is God's nature. God is holiness. And holiness is God. Holiness is not one of God's many attributes, like omniscience, omnipotence, and omnipresence. Holiness is the essence of all God's attributes. Holiness is the transcendence of God. It is the supreme, absolute greatness of God, that which sets him apart from and infinitely above all his creatures. Because God is holy, he turned his back upon man, man died spiritually. This condition was introduced into the human race and death passed upon all men.

Romans 5:12 (NKJV) "Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned;"

Every person born into this world is born a sinner, who is spiritually dead, separated from God. Man in this condition of spiritual death can do nothing to appease God's wrath or earn God's favor, he is spiritually bankrupt.

The god who is acknowledged by the vast majority of religious people is little more than an indulgent old man who has no personal sin, but is tolerant of sin in others and so full of mercy that he is willing to compromise truth and righteousness to rescue men and women from the consequences of their sins, even if he cannot rescue them from sin itself. The God of the Bible is not an indulgent old man. He is omnipotent; and he is holy. He will by no means clear the guilty.

This gloriously holy God punishes sin. He must punish sin because he is holy. God does forgive sin! "He delighteth in mercy!" But, God will not forgive sin at the expense of his holiness. He will not forgive sin without blood atonement :

Hebrews 9:22 (NKJV) And according to the law almost all things are purified with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no remission.

Because God is holy, acceptance with him on the ground of our own works is impossible:

Romans 3:19-20 (NKJV) Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. 20 Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin.

A. W. Pink wrote, "A fallen creature could sooner create a world than produce that which would meet the approval of infinite purity."

God, who is "glorious in holiness," demands holiness in us. He cannot and will not accept anything less than perfect, pure, flawless holiness. God will not accept sincerity, works of benevolence, repentance, sacrifices, moral reformation, or even faith as a substitute for holiness. God demands holiness:

1 Peter 1:15-16 (NKJV) but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, 16 because it is written, "Be holy, for I am holy."

God says, "Walk before me, and be thou perfect" (Gen. 17:1). The slightest deviation from perfect holiness ignites the fire of God's wrath against his creatures. It was deviation from perfect holiness that: drove Lucifer from heaven, the angels into darkness, Adam from the Garden, and drives sinners into hell. It will take something more than a walk down a church aisle, a few tears, a prayer, and a decision of your free-will to get you into heaven. If you would enter heaven's glory and live forever with God, you must be as good as God. You must be perfectly holy! That means that salvation by the will of man, the works of man, or even the worship of man is an utter impossibility, because you cannot make yourself holy!

Holiness is not something you produce. It is something God gives.

2 Corinthians 5:21 (NKJV) For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

Not even faith in Christ produces holiness. Faith receives holiness. Faith embraces holiness. Faith loves holiness. And faith seeks holiness. But faith cannot produce holiness. Holiness is the work of God alone.

The whole purpose of God in the scheme of redemption and grace is to make his people holy, perfectly holy, for the glory of his own great name. Salvation is neither more nor less than God taking that which is common and unclean and making it holy (Eph. 1:3-6; 5:25-27). There cannot be degrees of holiness. We are either holy or unholy. It is impossible to be partially holy.

Every sinner who believes on the lord Jesus Christ is perfectly holy in the sight of God:

Colossians 2:9-10 (NKJV) For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily; 10 and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power.

Believing on the Lord Jesus Christ, by faith in him, we fulfill all the law of God (Rom. 3:28). By faith in Christ we give what God demands from us, complete satisfaction for all our sins and perfect holiness. In Christ every believer stands before God's holy law in perfect holiness by divine imputation (Rom. 5:19; 2 Cor. 5:21), with a holy nature imparted to him in regeneration (2 Pet. 1:4).

God invaded human history in the form of the man Christ Jesus. This Jesus lived a sinless life and then died a substitutionary death at calvary. On that cross Jesus took upon himself our sin and received the judgement of God that we deserved as sinners. Because he was an innocent infinite sufferer, he satisfied fully and completely the righteous demands of a holy God, and God was propitiated. Believing sinners are declared righteous through redemption on the basis of propitiation. Propitiation is the removal of wrath by the offering of a sacrifice. It is the turning of God's wrath away from the sinner by a sacrifice made to satisfy God.

Our redemption by the blood of Christ, above all else, shows forth the holiness and justice of God's character:

Romans 3:23-27 (NKJV) "for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed, 26 to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. 27 Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? Of works? No, but by the law of faith."

God is so perfectly holy that he would not and could not forgive the sins of his elect apart from the satisfaction of his justice by the blood of his own dear Son. God's justice was satisfied by the death of Jesus Christ, sin had been paid for. Man can now once again have fellowship with God through faith in the sacrificial work of Christ.

The cross is the supreme revelation of God's holiness. Here, and here alone, "Mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other" (Psalm 85:10). When I see Jesus Christ, the Son of God, with my sin upon him, suffering the horrible wrath of God, without mercy, I see that God is indeed holy, so holy that he will not allow even his own Son to go unpunished when sin is imputed to him, so holy that he will sacrifice his only begotten, well-beloved Son to save sinners before he will sacrifice his character!

We were all born sinners and have all lived as sinners separated from a holy God by our sin, this is the condition of every person. Although sin has alienated men from God, the very God whom we have offended has provided the way whereby the offense has been dealt with. His anger, his wrath against the sinner has been satisfied. And now the message is to men and women to be reconciled to God by faith in the person and work of Jesus Christ. Heaven can be a present possession through faith in what Christ has done. That is the message of the cross, the doctrine of atonement. That message, and that message alone, brings peace with God, forgiveness of sins, and eternal life.

So we want to share with our friends that Christ died in our place, as our substitute. He suffered the death penalty debt for us. In so doing, He expressed the love of God, upheld the holiness of God, and satisfied the justice of God.

Now, before we close this morning, I want to share with you some unclear approaches to sharing the gospel. These are some examples of unclear and confusing methods:

Ask Jesus into your heart. I'm not exactly sure what that means. But the issue of trust in Jesus as the One who died in our place is hardly communicated. I haven't found this in the Bible, nowhere are we told to "ask Jesus into our heart." And wouldn't this be confusing to a child who thinks concretely instead of abstractly?

As a mother drove with her young daughter in the car, she was explaining what it meant to have Jesus in her heart. The little girl leaned over and put her ear to her mother's chest. "I'm listening to Jesus in your heart," said the daughter. "What did you hear?" asked Mom. The little girl replied, "Sounds like He's making coffee to me!"

Give your heart (or life) to God. A Halloween Gospel tract designed for children to leave at homes as they are Trick or Treating states, "Well, thanks again for the treat, but the best treat for me would be for you to give your heart to Jesus." How appropriate is this for Halloween? A child might imagine this as a gruesome display for the local haunted house. Again, picture the scene conveyed to a naive child. When asked to give his heart to God, one child broke into sobs saying, "If I give my heart to God, how am I going to live?" The issue in salvation is not what we give to Him anyway, but what He gives to us. Eternal life is Christ's life in us (1 John 5:11).

Invite Christ into your life. This is certainly a courteous approach, but we must remember that it is the Lord who calls us, we don't do the inviting. Another form of this is the admonition to "open the door of your heart," based on Rev 3:20. Which was written to the Laodicean church as a whole and was more of an invitation for fellowship than salvation. Again, after you get a child to stop wondering where the knob on the door of his heart is, you have really told him nothing about what it means to believe in Christ. Adults are not helped either.

Pray this prayer. There is a pamphlet entitled "God's Anointed Soul-Winning Plan" in which the author is explaining how to present the Gospel. The wording he suggests ends like this:

"What I'm going to do toward closing our talk is to say a prayer. And as I say this prayer you can repeat it softly and He'll come into your heart--but you have to REALLY MEAN it or the prayer won't work.

Before we pray the prayer I want to say this, this prayer we are about to pray is a special prayer." I am not making this up. We should not give someone the impression that they can be saved by a ritual such as prayer. It is better to tell them that they must believe in Christ, and they can tell Him through prayer that they want the gift of eternal life or that they are thankful for what He has done.

Clear communication is an art. When it comes to telling the Gospel it is an art worth refining. We must work to tell the Gospel, as clearly as possible. People won't always respond, but it is always exciting to share the gospel with someone. Given all that is at stake, we want to share the Good News as clearly as possible in a way that is pleasing to God, not just convenient to men.

Every false gospel makes Salvation to be, in some measure, dependent upon or determined by the worth of man, the work of man, or the will of man. If your gospel makes Salvation to be in anyway dependent upon or determined by you, you are in danger of eternal Hell.

God's commandment to sinners is, "That we should believe on the name of his Son, Jesus Christ." If you would be saved, you must give up your hold on everything but Christ. Drop all trust in your works, all hopes in your prayers, all confidence in your feelings, and all peace founded upon your experience. Drop them all at once! Cast yourself upon Christ alone. His everlasting love, his precious, sin-atoning blood, his perfect righteousness, and his saving fullness will immediately flood your soul with peace. "Cease from self-confidence," wrote C. H. Spurgeon. "Fall into the arms of Jesus. This is the major part of faith - giving up every other hold, and simply falling upon Christ."

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