The Gospel Seed (Mark Sermon 17)
May 22, 2022 | Andrew Davis
The Gospel, Evangelism
Pastor Andy Davis preaches through a basic outline of the gospel message to equip and exhort Christians to share the good news of Jesus Christ.
- SERMON TRANSCRIPT -
So, what is the greatest, most urgent, most pressing need facing the human race? I suppose if you ask that question all over the world, you would get different answers depending on where you were. If you were in Ukraine, it would probably be the Russian invasion that would dominate people's responses. Their city's laid waste, live shattered, many people that they love have died. If you lived in Shanghai, it would probably be the COVID lockdown causing the already tyrannical Chinese government to become even more oppressive, quarantining millions for weeks in their homes, forcibly relocating hundreds of thousands of others to health centers that they're not free to leave. Perhaps the most under-reported humanitarian crisis of our day is the famine in South Yemen. Most of you probably have heard absolutely nothing about it. COVID and Ukraine has pushed it away from consciousness, but for the last six years, a brutal civil war has been going on there, pushing five million people, literally to the brink of starvation, another 16 million coming closer and closer to it every day. At a much lesser level, a friend of mine this week lives in Abilene, Texas, and there's a very dangerous wildfire going on there. He was looking at an app on his phone while we were at our meeting together, seeing where it was, what the boundaries were, because it was getting perilously close to his own home and to that of his sister. So if you live in Texas, maybe that concern would dominate your mind. Perhaps many Americans would look at the economy, skyrocketing cost of gasoline, of groceries, the inflation that's the worst we've seen, I think in 40 years, others would cite the baby formula supply chain crisis. I could go on and on.
We live in a hurting world, very much so, but as tragic and pressing as all of these are not one of them can be the answer to my question. The most pressing, the most urgent, most consequential issue facing the human race today is spiritual lostness. Living life under the wrath of an omnipotent holy God, the danger of spending eternity in hell that far outweighs all of these things I've listed, and a thousand other crises, because all of those are temporal, but the loss of a human soul is eternal. This includes the people that we live around right here in the Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill, the Triangle area, most tragically because lost people all over the world have no faith. They don't see the imminent danger that they're in at every moment from the wrath of God. They don't know what will happen to them on Judgment Day. They don't know the remedy, the good news, the only remedy that God has given to the human race for this greatest problem, and that is, the gospel of Jesus Christ. That's what we're going to swim in today, that's what we're going to talk about today.
Friends, we Christians have the privilege of being the sowers of the eternal seed of the gospel, and how joyful we are when we see that seed take root in good hearts that are prepared by the Holy Spirit resulting in the eternal life for that person, how joyful we are to be part of that process. This past week, I was at my trustee meeting with the International Mission Board. My favorite part of those meetings every time is when the mission leaders from various affinity groups around the world give stories of the effects of the gospel in people's lives. One of the mission leaders told about a Muslim woman in Indonesia, a highly educated professor at a university there. This woman had the same dream for seven consecutive nights. In that dream, she was on one side of a locked door and Jesus Christ was on the other side, but she couldn't get through the door. Seven straight nights, the same dream. It led her, it forced her, to find a Christian woman that she knew there in her city, to go explain the dream and to find out more. That Christian woman led this Muslim professor to faith in Christ, by sharing the gospel, “God, Man, Christ, Response” that we're going to walk through this morning. She shared the gospel and she came to a genuine faith in Christ. That night she had a similar dream, but significantly different. She came to the door, Jesus Christ on the other side, unlocked the door, open it and she walked through it into what she described as the most beautiful place she'd ever seen. That's a better dream. Imagine being that Christian woman who had the privilege of leading this lady to faith in Christ, but that's not all. This woman was immediately savagely persecuted by her Muslim family. This happens all over the Muslim world when people come to faith in Christ. Her mother slapped her in the face physically, and said, “if you continue as a Christian, you can no longer be our daughter.” The woman courageously responded, “I would rather lose my parents than my savior.” Now we Christians are going to spend eternity with that woman and other people like her. I'm looking forward to hearing all the stories, aren't you, in heaven? How exciting that's going to be.
Isn't it incredible that we, as evangelists, as missionaries, get to plant the eternal seed of the gospel in people's hearts? Don't you want to be part of that work, have stories to tell? We're making our way sequentially through the Gospel of Mark. The central theme in the Gospel of Mark is stated right from the first verse, Mark 1:1, “The beginning of the gospel about Jesus Christ, the son of God.” It's a theme statement for the entire gospel. Jesus, as the son of God, is the essence of the good news to the human race, especially when we understand that he came to earth to save sinners from their sin. Essential to that good news, that gospel is the understanding of sin as rebellion against God, the king. So Jesus begins his public ministry and gives this timeless call in Mark 1:15, “The time has come. The kingdom of God is near, repent and believe the gospel.” Soon after that, he begins recruiting people to join him in his evangelistic missionary work. He recruits some fishermen and says, “Come follow me, and I will make you to become fishers of men.” By the end of the Gospel of Mark, he has died for sins, has been raised from the dead, and commissions his church to go out and preach the gospel[Mark 15, 16]. He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the good news, the gospel, to all creation. Whoever believes the gospel and is baptized will be saved, saved from hell, from condemnation. Whoever does not believe the gospel will be condemned.”
“Jesus, as the son of God, is the essence of the good news to the human race, especially when we understand that he came to earth to save sinners from their sin.”
In our study of the Gospel of Mark, we are moving through it and we've come to the great chapter 4, and it begins with the parable, the seed and the soils. We've said that the focus in the parable is on the soils. They represent four different heart responses to the gospel. The hardened path represents the individual who hears the gospel and doesn't understand it at all, and Satan instantly snatches away the gospel. The stony ground here represents those who hear the word and initially respond with joy, but since they have no root, whenever trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. The seed sown among the thorns represent those who hear the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the seed, making it unfruitful. Then the good soil, the last soil, represents a noble and good heart that hears the word, understands it, accepts it, and by perseverance produces a harvest 30, 60, even a hundred times, what was sown.
When I first preached on that parable several weeks ago, I said just because someone hears the word and rejects it, doesn't mean that we've done something wrong, that we're preaching the wrong message, that there's something in our methodology that needs to change. I said that there's a temptation to re-engineer the seed of the gospel to make it more popular. Years ago during a presidential campaign, I was watching a debate that was going on. The network had gotten a focus group, they called it, of people of various different political persuasion across the spectrum. They were going to watch the debate, and they had a device in their hands which they could use to respond in real-time to what was being said by the candidates. If they twisted the knob to the right, it was favorable. If they twisted it to the left, it was unfavorable. The further you twisted in each direction, the more strongly you felt about that, more strongly favorable, or strongly unfavorable. Each of these participants in the focus group had a colored line going across the screen, superimposed on the debate as it was going on, “favorable, more favorable, really favorable or I don't like that” at every moment, all the way through. I would imagine both campaigns would be very interested in that recording of their views. They'd be able to go back and look at the message and talk to their candidate about tailoring the message to make it more palatable to the electorate. Some politicians do their work that way. Friends, this is the very thing we must never do when it comes to the gospel, we cannot reengineer the seed. We cannot take the gospel message back into the laboratory of our intellect and our imaginations and creativity and tweak it. It’s something we must never do.
Paul said, in Galatians 1:11-12, “I want you to know brothers, that the gospel I preached is not something that man made up. I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it, rather I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ.” Earlier in that same chapter, Galatians 1:6-9, Paul said, “I'm astonished that you're so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel, which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preach to you, let him be eternally condemned. As we have already said now, so now I say again, if anybody is preaching to you a gospel, other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned. In that context, Paul is addressing some Galatian false teachers who are re-engineering the gospel seed. They're trying to change its basic message. Paul said, when we do that, we're preaching something that is no gospel at all. In every generation of church history, all twenty centuries, false teachers have sought to do that very thing, to re-engineer the gospel seed, turning it into a man-made gospel that is no gospel at all. They take the seed of the gospel found in the New Testament, they bring it into the laboratory of their own intellects and imaginations and creativity, and they come up with something different to make it more palatable to the human audience. If we're going to be faithful to the Lord, we must preach the true gospel. We have to sow the good seed of the eternal gospel.
So this morning I want to walk through a basic outline of the gospel message. We publish it in your bulletin week, after week, after week, and I want to walk through it. It has a four part outline, “God, Man, Christ, Response.” I know that there are many good and healthy ways to summarize the gospel message. I don't think this is the only way to do it. However, I do think that if you are going to preach the true gospel, in whatever approach you take, you're going to say healthy, biblical things about God, you're going to say true things about the human condition. You're going to talk about Jesus Christ and you're going to call for a response. So however you do that, you're going to be doing those things, if you're preaching the true gospel.
Central to Evangelism: Getting the Gospel Message Right
Central to the evangelistic effort, as we've been saying, is getting the gospel message right. Biblical evangelism is not about technique. It's so easy to think of evangelistic training as tactics and techniques like learning to sell insurance from last year's leading regional sales experts. You bring this guy in and he'll teach you the sales techniques. That is not what's going on here at all. Rather evangelism is a rescue mission for people who are spiritually dead, they're dead in their transgressions while they live, they're living, dead. It's more like a CPR effort, mouth to mouth resuscitation, something like that. Someone pulled out of the pool and is turning blue by the side, and you have seconds to work with, but it's even worse than that. They're already dead in their transgressions and sins, and they have no idea how much longer they're going to be physically alive. There's only one power on earth that can resurrect them from the dead spiritually, and that is the gospel. Romans 1:16, “I am not ashamed of the gospel because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes.” This timeless gospel message can do it. It does do it. It raises people from the dead spiritually. Now we don't do that, we deliver the words of the gospel, but the Spirit has power while that delivering is going on to raise people from the dead spiritually. By the way, all of you who are Christians, that've happened to you already. Praise God for your resurrection, spiritual resurrection. Now we get to be part of seeing it happen in other people's lives.
“Central to the evangelistic effort, as we've been saying, is getting the gospel message right.”
Behind my approach today is the belief that we need constant reminders in the gospel. My strategy with the pulpit here is to go sequentially through books of the Bible, through passage, after passage, but I'm also committed to preach the gospel every single week. I just don't do it as the only thing I do that week. This week, this is the only thing I'm doing. Next week we'll be back to the usual process. I'll give you about five minutes of gospel, the rest will be the text, whatever it is we're walking through, but I never, ever want anybody coming here to this church, wondering what must I do to be saved, and they don't know what to do when they leave. This week, we're going to go carefully through the gospel. We're going to remind ourselves; Paul thought reminders are vital. I Corinthians 15:1-2, “Now brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preach to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel, you're saved if you'll firmly to the word I preached to you.” So I want to remind you, as Paul said, about the gospel. I think we should do the same. Why? First, because it's vital that each and every one of you hearing my voice has believed this gospel for your own salvation. You're going to spend eternity in either heaven or hell, based on your response to this gospel message. So, that's top priority. Secondly, because the more the evangelists and missionaries themselves have drunken the sweetness of the gospel, the more effective evangelist and missionaries are going to be. Thirdly, we need reminders because we're never done with the gospel message. We don't graduate from the gospel, saying “that's elementary school. We're in graduate school now, we're beyond gospel.” No, you'll never be beyond the gospel. Tim Keller said that the gospel is not the ABCs of Christianity, but the A to Z of Christianity.
Fourth, we need reminders because we forget, we forget the gospel message. Fifth, we need reminders because there's a difference between recognizing the gospel when you hear it and being able to put it into words yourself. We want all of you to get to that second stage where you can actually articulate the gospel yourself. Not just say, yeah, that's it, that's the gospel, when someone else says it. Six, we need reminders, because we're under constant pressure from the world to flesh and the devil to drift away from the gospel, individually and as a church, it's happened time and time and time and time and time again to local churches. We can't merely assume that the gospel will be around decades from now. We have to fight for it daily. As Hebrews 2:1 says, “We must pay more careful attention to what we have heard, [that's the gospel], lest we drift away.” These are the reasons why we need to be reminded of the gospel. Also, the elders have set before the church, a lasting church- wide goal concerning this issue, evangelism. Our prayer has been, and continues to be, that God would pour out the Holy Spirit on this church resulting in a durable culture of evangelism, as demonstrated by creative and bold evangelistic efforts on the part of the church members, resulting in people genuinely converted, growing in faith in Christ. That's what we want to see, a durable culture of evangelism. This sermon fits into that overall goal.
Now the outline, you've already heard it. The four part outline is simple, “God, Man, Christ, Response.” You're going to say things about God, about the human race, about Jesus Christ, and you're going to call for a response if you preach the gospel. Let's unfold it a little more. The approach that we've recommended for years is to look at the offices of God, of what he does. We want a God- centered gospel. One of the ways we understand that is by understanding the offices, or the roles he takes toward the human race. The four offices in this first section are creator, king, law giver and judge— creator, king, law giver and judge. Furthermore, there's a logic; because God is the creator, he has the right to rule as king. In order to rule as king, he must give laws by which he governs his kingdom. Then he evaluates us based on our obedience to his law. So there's a logic to it, from creator to king, to law giver, to judge.
The second section, man or humanity, the human race. We link back to the four offices we just talked about. Man is created by God, the creator. We are rebellious against God, the king, we are transgressors of God's laws, and we're under judgment by God, the judge. So, that's the problem, that's the issue that we face.
The third point is that Jesus Christ is the solution to that problem. Jesus Christ gives us the fifth office that we'll focus on, and that is God, the savior, God, the savior. God alone can save us from God and from his wrath, and he does through Jesus Christ. When we're preaching the gospel, and we get to the Christ section, we're effectively giving a miniature biography of Jesus. We're tracing out his life from his birth, through his sinlessness and his miracles, to his substitutionary atoning death and his resurrection. You're tracing those things out. You have to talk about those things or you're not preaching the gospel. So we walk through those things: Jesus' supernatural life, his incarnation, he is the God-man, he is sinless and he did miracles. That's his life. But the centerpiece of why he came to earth is to die in our place, under the wrath of God, substitutionary atonement is the title that we give it. Jesus dying in our place, taking the wrath of God, and also giving to us his perfect righteousness by which we survive Judgment Day, a substitutionary death. Then we must talk about his saving resurrection. The fact that he rose from the dead physically, because they need to believe this. They need to be able to confess with their mouth, “Jesus is the Lord”, and believe in their heart that God raised him from the dead. If you look at the book of Acts, the apostles always, always, always refer to the resurrection, so we want to preach the resurrection and we want to talk about Jesus' salvation gifts. What does he offer us? He offers full forgiveness of sins, past, present and future. He offers us eternal life, a quality, a richness of life now on earth, but then both a quality and an eternality of life forever in heaven, he offers us eternal life. That's what he has come to give us.
Then finally, a response. You must call, as an evangelist, you must call for a response. This isn't just an interesting story. No, no, no. This is the gospel. This is the only hope you have of surviving Judgment Day, you must respond. You, as the evangelist, as a missionary, need to bring the people to a response. “What do you think about what I've said? Are you ready to trust in Jesus as your savior?” You call for a response, this is something that the person must do, and then some things that they must not do. So what they must do, as you've already heard in Mark 1:15, is repent and believe the gospel. They need to repent, they need to turn away from their sins and turn to God, willing to serve him as their king, that's repentance. They need to believe that Jesus will save them, that Jesus is a powerful savior, and that if they trust in him, their sins will be forgiven and he will welcome them into heaven, that they are trusting in Jesus. So repent and believe, that's what they must do. What they must not do is to try to work for it, to try to earn their salvation. They need to understand that salvation is by grace, not by works. We want to make that very clear. The religions all over the world are religions of self-effort. If people are alarmed about their concern, they might try to go do some good things. They must not do this. They must not trust in their own works, they must not wait for it. “If today you hear his voice, don't harden your hearts.” You don't know that you'll be alive tomorrow. Today is the day of salvation.” You want to press them that they must respond as soon as they can, as they're hearing the gospel now. So, that's outline “light.”
Now you're thinking, we're going to get into outline “heavy.” Yes. How much of this do I have to memorize? As much as you want, but the basic outline is what you need to do. What I want to do is I want to marry it to scripture verses, because scripture has power. The Bible has converting power. The more of the scripture you can weave together in your gospel presentation, the better. Some of the verses you already know that you don't know that you know them, you do. When I cite them, it's like, “yeah, yeah, I know that one.” Others, you may have to work to memorize and get ready. Let's walk through it.
First God, the creator. Do you have any idea of a good Bible verse on God creating everything? There's one of these verses, at least I know you know: Genesis 1:1, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” As we begin sharing the gospel, especially in an ever increasingly pagan America, you can't start from a basic Judeo-Christian knowledge, they don't have it. But what they do have is experience living in a physical world. You can do this with international scholars that come from atheistic countries, you start with creation. You talk about sunrises and sunsets and beautiful skies and starry nights and powerful oceans and mighty rivers and scenic vistas and animals and birds, eagles, cattle, and human beings. The fact that God made everything. That in him, we live and move and have our being. Saturate that time with God, the creator, the evidence of God is around them all the time. God created all things.
Now it stands to reason if God created all things, he should be and is king over all things as well. He rules and reigns over all things. His throne is set at the center of the universe and all things revolve around that throne. God, the creator of all things is the king of all things. Now let's stop and let me talk about this. This is the fundamental problem that they have. They don't want to yield to God's kingly reign. This, I say they must do, or they're not going to be saved. They have to take Jesus's yolk upon them, his kingly yolk. They have to submit to his kingly rule. This is not optional. They need to understand the throne of God set at the center of the universe. God, the king, rules over all things. Psalm 47:7 is not a familiar verse to you, but it's a very easy one, “God is king of all the earth.” There you go. That's as simple as it gets. The hardest part about that verse is remembering the reference, but just that's a verse. How many other verses could you find that talk about the kingship of almighty God? Because God is king and reigns over his kingdom, he is a lawgiver. Here I would commend to you that you memorize a simple outline of the 10 commandments, and that you also memorize the two great commandments, the Ten Commandments and the two great commandments are essential to a healthy gospel presentation. If they don't understand the law of God, they will not be convicted of their sins, they will not know why they need a savior. They'll think they don't need a savior, but the law of God has convicting power. I think you could turn to any of a variety of laws, but the Ten Commandments seem to be set apart in scripture as unique and special and powerful. So you could memorize a simple outline, “ I am the Lord, your God, you shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make any idols or worship any idols. You shall not take the name of the Lord, your God in vain. Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Honor your father and mother. You shall not murder. You shall not commit adultery. You shall not steal. You shall not bear false witness. You shall not covet anything that belongs to your neighbor.” It’s a very simple outline. Exodus 20 is more involved, but that's just a simple outline, just knowing the 10 commandments. Not only that, you want to circle back as Jesus did with the Sermon on the Mount, and look at two commandments in particular he talks about: “ You have heard that it was said you shall not murder, but I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother is in danger of the fire of hell. And you have heard that it was said, you shall not commit adultery, but I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”
Jesus is talking about heart sins. Most people make it through the world not murdering anyone, but no one makes it through without hateful anger in their hearts toward others. Many people make it through the world never literally physically committing adultery, but no one makes it through without lust. What's interesting is the 10th Commandment is just being applied back to the other nine. The 10th Commandment is about coveting. What organ do you use to covet? Your heart. It's something inside. No human government could ever make a law against coveting because there's no way to enforce it, or even know it's happening, but God can. What that means is God is looking at your heart. Jesus just takes that in his logical with all the 10 commandments, all of them are hard issues, all of them.
Then the two great commandments, whereas the 10 commandments, nine of the 10 are negative, “You shall not. You shall not. You shall not. You shall not.” The positive one, Honor your father and mother.” Meet someone that tells you that they did that. There was that rich young ruler who claimed to have honored his father and mother. Jesus could have whistled in the father and mother and say, “Tell me about this kid when he was a teenager.” Well, how did that go? Positive commands are harder than negative ones. Jesus said the two great commandments are, “Love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength.” That means every moment of your life, with every fiber of your being that you will be filled with love for God and show it by obeying him and serving him and worshiping him, and doing what pleases him every moment of your entire life. The second commandment is like it, horizontally, “You'll love your neighbor as you do yourself.” The way you feed and clothe and care for yourself and panther yourself and prefer yourself and... Do that for others the same way you do it for yourself. Who does that? Do you not see how the 10 Commandments understood properly, as Jesus does from the Sermon in the Mount, plus the two commandments, as Jesus said, all the law and the prophets hang on these two commandments, will snag every sinner and show them their sin. You as the evangelist, you need to do that law work. You need to slow down and go into that, and talk about the laws by which the king of the universe governs. Not only is God lawgiver, he is also a judge. Many verses teach this, Psalm 96:13 says, “The Lord comes to judge the earth.” He will judge the earth with equity and righteousness. God is judge. God is also holy, Habakkuk 1:13, “ Your[God] eyes are too pure to look on evil. You cannot tolerate wrong.” He's not going to tolerate anything on judgment day. So, that's the God section.
Now the man section, the humanity section, the human race. Man is created by God, the creator. You know this verse as well, Genesis 1:27, “God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him, male and female, he created them.” We're created in the image of God by God. We are created to be like God, to know God, to love God and to serve God. That's what we were created for. However, we are rebellious against God, the king. Universally rebellious, Romans 3:10-12 says, “There is no one righteous, not even one, no one who understands, no one who seeks God, all have turned away. They've together become worthless. There is no one who does good, not even one.” If all that's too much to memorize, go with Romans 3:23, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” I like Romans 3:10-12, because it's more detailed, “There is no one righteous, not even one.” We are rebellious against the 10 Commandments and the two Great Commandments. Because of that, we're under judgment by God, the judge. And judgment day is coming. It's our job as evangelist to make the invisible as if it were visible so that they can see it. They're going to be arraigned before the throne and give an account for everything done in their bodies, everyone is. As Jesus said in Matthew 12:36, “I tell you that men will have to give an account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken.” It’s a very powerful verse for evangelism, memorize it. The penalty, the wage, for our sin is death. “The wages of sin is death”, [Roman 6:23] ,that is eternity in hell. Jesus clearly warned about eternity in hell. So the key question is how can a sinful person enter heaven, where God allows no sin? As you're sharing the gospel in doing this, they should, at some point, they're going to start saying things like, “well, nobody's perfect. Everybody does these things.” They're going to be saying out of their own mouth, the thing the Bible says, everybody's sinful, but they're saying it from a perspective of God wouldn't expect us to be better than we can be, et cetera. You need to say, “God is holy, and he does hold the law over us, and we're in danger of hell because of it. That's why we need Christ.” If we don't do the law work, they won't think they need a savior.
“We are created to be like God, to know God, to love God and to serve God.”
Now we get to Christ, God's fifth title, savior. Savior, salvation, save from what? We don't use that language for anything except some extreme danger. The angel said to Joseph, concerning Mary's miraculous pregnancy, Matthew 1:21, “You'll give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” That's what Jesus came to do, save us from our sins. From everything that sin has done to us and to the world, comprehensive salvation, but primarily for our purposes, save from condemnation and wrath for our sins. So we get into the biography of Jesus. We talk about his supernatural conception, the virgin birth; Jesus' fully God, fully man. It's vital to understanding the gospel. No passage speaks about the theology of the incarnation with more power than John 1:1, and John 1:14. It says, “In the beginning was the word.” Then as you share the gospel, you say, “the word is Jesus Christ.” It’s very clear from first 18 verses of John's gospel, we're talking about Jesus. “In the beginning was the word, Jesus Christ, and the word was with God, and the word was God.” So Jesus is God. Then verse 14, “The word became flesh [that is, human,] and made his dwelling among us.” So the God-man, Jesus, is fully God and human. Secondly, we talk about his sinlessness. Jesus was sinless. “He committed no sin,” [I Peter 2:22]. He's sinless. That's vital, if he's not sinless, he can't be our substitutionary atonement.
He did miracles. I think it's good to memorize a miracle story. My favorite is the four friends bringing the paralyzed guy. I love that story [Mark 2]. It's a great story. You don't have to get all the words right, but it wouldn't hurt you. You know the story about the four friends bringing him. Jesus is doing all these healings, healings, healings, and he can heal anything, and they hear about it. They bring their paralyzed friend. They can't get near him because there's a huge crowd. So they go up on the roof, they dig through the roof. They lower him down on ropes and put this paralyzed man right in front of Jesus. It says, “When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralyzed man, ‘Take heart son, your sins are forgiven.’” That's powerful. That's the best miracle story to memorize, because it brings you from the miracle to why Jesus came, to talk about the forgiveness of sins. He says, to the paralyzed man, “That you may know that the son of man has power on earth to forgive sins, I tell you, ‘Get up, pick up your mat and walk.” And he did. Or the stilling of the storm, the feeding of the 5,000, raising Lazarus from the dead. Any of these mighty miracles, memorize a story, make it real, make it powerful. People will be interested in it. It shows the power of Jesus as the God-man.
Then we get to the core of the gospel, Jesus' substitutionary death on the cross, we preach Christ crucified. This sinless man, this servant, this healer, this teacher, died in our place under the wrath of God that we might have full forgiveness of sins[ I Peter 2:24]. “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree that we might die to sin and live for righteousness for by his wounds, you have been healed.” [I Peter 2:24]. Essential to this is the transfer of guilt, our sins transferred to Jesus and he dies under the wrath of God. His righteousness transferred to us, and we live forever in it. II Corinthians 5:21 is the best verse for this, “ God made him, Jesus, who knew no sin, to be sin for us, so that in him, we might become the righteousness of God.” They must understand this exchange, our guilt to Jesus and he dies, his righteousness to us, and in that, we live. That exchange happens by faith, we receive that gift by faith, and not by works. As a result of this, then we turn to Jesus' saving resurrection. There are many verses we could use for this. I Corinthians 15, “Christ died for our sins, according to the scriptures, he was buried. And on the third day he was raised, according to the scriptures. And after that, he was seen by Peter and the twelve and other eyewitnesses.” Jesus physically rose from the dead, the tomb was empty. Now what does he come to give us? First, full forgiveness of sins. If you want to do that miracle story, you've already said it, “Take heart son, your sins are forgiven.” All your sins, past, present, and future, forgiven by God. He will not hold it against us, or as Ephesians 1:7 says, “In Christ, we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins.” And not only that, but eternal life, Roman 6:23, “The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ, Jesus, our Lord.”
Now, the response. This may be the hardest part. You have to press them for a response. You have to make them realize they have to make a decision about this. This isn't just information. Probably the most convicting verse on this is Acts 2:40. After Peter gives his great Pentecost sermon, it says, “With many other words, he warned them and pleaded with them, save yourselves from this corrupt generation.” Warning and pleading. That gets a little awkward in airplane evangelism, friends. They might call the flight attendant. It was fine until that, but now we're at warning and pleading. I don't think I've ever reached the level of warning and pleading, but I have had such a connection with people that I've sharing the gospel that I earnestly yearn for them to spend eternity with me in heaven, and I told them that. I've also said, “I pray that God will not let you sleep tonight until you repent and give your life to Christ.” This is if they defer, but you must bring them to a decision. You must bring them to know they have to decide what they're going to do with the gospel. They should be asking, once you do the law work, what the Philippian jailer asks, “What must I do to be saved?” If they're not asking that question, they're not ready to be saved, and they may not be ready. It doesn't mean you've wasted your time. You could be doing that hard work and others will reap them later. You're not wasting your time, but this is what they need to come to that point.
So what must they do? We've already said they must repent and believe. Memorize Mark 1:15, “The time has come. The kingdom of God is near, repent and believe the gospel.” Repent is turning away from sin and turning toward God. They need to believe the gospel, believe that Jesus can and will save them. At this point, you want to urge them to call on the name of the Lord, Romans 10:9, “Everyone who calls in the name of the Lord will be saved.” What does that mean? Well, generally it's prayer. Some evangelists are very against the Sinner's Prayer. Well, they're sinners and I'd like them to pray. So I guess I'm not against sinner's prayers. There's nothing magic about it, I don't feed them the words. If I've done the work as an evangelist, they should know what to pray. I ask them, “Wwhat do you want from God?” “Well, I don't want to go to hell.” “Tell him. Anything else?” “I’d like to be forgiven.” “Tell him. Anything else? Tell him what you want, and he will hear you. Call in the name of the Lord, Jesus.” And I just listen to them pray. If this is a supernatural work of the spirit, you're going to get to hear the first prayer of a newly born again person. How exciting is that? Prayer isn't magic. What happens is there's already faith, and then they call on the name of the Lord. That's what they must do. What they must not do, don't work for it. Don't try to earn it. Ephesians 2:8-9 is great for this, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this not of yourselves, it's a gift of God, not by work so that no one can boast.” Secondly, don't wait for it either. “If today you hear his voice, don't harden your heart.” [Hebrews 3] or II Corinthians 6:2 says, “I tell you, now is the time of God's favor, today is the day of salvation.” You don't know you'll have tomorrow. You don't know. If they do that, they'll get eternal life now, “If anyone's in Christ as a new creation, the old is gone, everything is new.” They get a new life now, a life of obedience. Then they get to live forever beyond death. They don't need to fear death. How awesome is that? “I am the resurrection in the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies. And whoever lives and believes in me will never die.” Call for a response. Mack Stiles in his book on evangelism, Marks of the Messenger, said this is a thing you can say. “I think this is an urgent matter in your life. I think you understand the gospel now. And really what is left for you is to place your complete faith and trust in Christ. What is stopping you from doing that?” Then listen. “What would stop you from placing your life in Christ's hands? What would stop you from repenting and believing in Christ?” Listen, see what they say.
Central application has been the same all the way through the sermon, repent and believe in Christ, if you haven't yet done that. Trust in Christ, don't leave here unconverted. You don't know that you'll ever hear the gospel this clearly again, but if you're a Christian just drink in this gospel message for your own health and vitality. Get healthy by feeding on these truths. How sweet are they? Ask yourself these three diagnostic questions. Do I know the gospel? Do I live the gospel? Do I speak the gospel?
Pray for God to give you boldness like the apostle Paul prayed. He said, “ Pray that I may declare it fearlessly as I should.” Get people to pray that for you. Or Colossians 4:4, “Pray that I may proclaim it clearly.” Fearlessly and clearly. Get a couple of people to pray for your evangelistic life, and pray for God to give you opportunities to share a gospel outline like this, even this week. Take action. Mack Stiles says, “Do a body check. Check your head, is the gospel on your mind throughout the day? Check your gut. Are you willing to be bold in the face of your fears? Check your feet. Are you willing to move out into the hostile world to speak the truth? Are you willing to go where unbelievers are, to meet them and to know them and eventually share with them?” Pray for yourself. Pray for lost people you know by name. Plan, look ahead at your vacations, your work life, your business trips, your patterns of life. Ask the Lord to go ahead of you and prepare good works for you to do, good works of evangelism. Think through issues that unbelievers are likely to bring up, and start getting answers to some of the questions they bring up. Prepare, memorize and outline like this. You already have one part of it memorized. What is it? “God, Man, Christ, Response.” There, that's easy. Now, fill it in, prepare, and then get started. Start living life centered around your calling as an evangelist, the hobbies, your lifestyle, things you do with your kids, the coffee shops you frequent. Use your home as a base of evangelism through hospitality. Gather with Christians together to pray for lost people you know, gather with non-Christians to go through a simple four-week outline of the Gospel of Mark. Serve, find ways to get involved in the issues of our community so that you can meet lost people and share the gospel with them.
Close with me in prayer. Lord, we thank you for the time we've had to walk through the gospel today. Thank you for this opportunity. Lord. You're good to us, you're kind and gracious that you not only save us, but you also recruit us and command us to be messengers of the gospel message. Help us to be faithful to that calling. And we pray in Jesus name. Amen.