What Do You Tell People Who Already Know the Gospel?
I vividly remember the first time I was asked to preach to a bunch of preachers. Not just preachers, but preachers whom I knew knew the Gospel well. They preached it well. They were the ones who taught me the Gospel of Jesus Christ, for Christ’s sake. I assumed I would need to be especially clever about concocting the sermon. I spent extra hours searching for a unique strategy. I peppered my first draft with little known facts and peculiar angles. I wanted to wow them with something they never really knew before. Because, after all, they knew the Gospel. Better than I did.
I remember challenging myself in the same way when I served at Indiana University. I was so excited to speak to smart, well educated men and women. Surely they needed something more than the ordinary sermon. My first message was decorated with obscure and poignant quotes from famous people. I proudly used illustrations from my favorite obscure authors. I alluded to historical events that would make them say, “Wow, our preacher is quite learned!”
Fortunately on both occasions, the Lord knocked me on my pompous head. No matter how much education our communities enjoy, they have the same problems as the teenage boy living in a rural town in Minnesota. It’s the same thing no matter how mature the audience is in the faith. They could be pastors who have preached God’s Word for 40 years. They could be professors of Christian Dogmatics. They don’t need anything more sophisticated than they did when they were an 8 year old crying in their mom’s arms about their cat Fluffy who was run over by a car.
They all are haunted by the same enemies; death, sin and hell. They are scared of death. They struggle with sins such as lust, jealousy and greed. Their marriage is one step from divorce. They are worrying about what the doctor will say. They feel guilty about something they did just a week ago, let alone an affair of the heart they had back when they were 28.
They don’t need Wagner’s Ring Cycle. They need the clear call to repentance and the specific gift of Christ’s forgiveness. They need to hear, for the thousandth time, that God has forgiven and forgotten all their sins because of Jesus! They need the preaching of the plain ol’ Gospel! As redundant and boring as that seemed to a young preacher like myself back then, that’s all they ever needed to hear, and still ever need to hear. Jesus is in the business of proclaiming such a beautiful redundancy. It really never gets old. It’s like we never leave that baptism font.
We are forever like newborn babes craving that spiritual milk
You should never be afraid to tell people “the same ol’ thing” for the millionth time. Jesus paid the price for every single thing you have done and left undone. It is finished! You are free! Christ has conquered death and has freely given it to you in baptism. You don’t need to be afraid of your past. You don’t need to be afraid of your present. You don’t need to be afraid of your future. Everyone from a 4 year old preschooler to an 80 year old Doctor of Philosophy needs to hear every day of their lives those words of forgiveness in Christ. So tell them! You are forgiven!