We need to hear the gospel in Sunday services, in order to inform our minds (see July 2014 ET’s article). Proverbs 15:28 says, ‘The heart of the righteous studies how to answer’. If we want to tell others about Christ, we need to listen to instruction, to be able to pass on the message to others.
One way is through hearing men preaching and explaining the way of salvation to others. This will mean, among other things, learning how false teaching is refuted. To use the example of building a new house: just as you have to remove the rubbish from the site before building, so instruction is needed to clear away the rubbish of false teaching — often of a very destructive nature.
Errors and issues
For example, there are the ‘new atheists’ who are increasingly vocal and aggressive in tone as they challenge the existence of God. Gospel preaching must answer that God does exist, but men suppress the truth.
There are also many false gospels around. They are often works- or religion-based. They come under different names, but at heart they are all the same. The true preacher must explain why they do not and cannot work.
This will involve stripping away the debris of atheism and evolutionism, and many other ‘isms’ as well, so a biblical foundation can be laid. There are many questions that need to be answered, including about the existence of God and meaning of life, the reliability of the Bible, suffering, other religions, and the many denominations in Christendom.
Then there are questions specifically related to the Lord Jesus Christ himself. ‘Did he really live?’ It may seem an incredibly foolish question, but more and more people are denying history. If they can’t see it, it didn’t happen!
Then other questions arise, such as, ‘Wasn’t Jesus just an ordinary man?’ ‘What was so special about his teaching?’ ‘How can anyone live a perfect life?’ and ‘Why did he die on the cross?’ What an enormous question that one is to answer! But it doesn’t end there, as many then go on to ask, ‘Did Jesus really rise from the dead?’ and ‘Will he really come back to earth?’
As well as false gospels to refute, there are, what we might call, ‘modern takes’ on the gospel that need to be exposed. For example, many think that people are deprived but not depraved. Apparently, we need ‘stuff’ to make us happy — money, possessions, power and fame! However, the ‘stuff’ we really need, more than anything else, is forgiveness for our sin. It is sin that separates us from our Maker and ultimately makes us miserable.
When the gospel is being preached, there should be explanation as well as refutation. The preacher should explain what the gospel is, why it is needed, how it works, what it does, and what the results are both in this life and the next. As we listen to these being dealt with in gospel preaching, we will be equipped too.
Hearing the gospel will also warm our hearts. It will affect more than just our minds; it will kindle our ‘religious affections’. Our hearts can so easily grow cold. What is the best remedy to heat them up again? Surely, it is hearing the gospel.
Haven’t you known times when you were listening to the gospel message and it really blessed you? Sometimes you may have even said afterwards, ‘If I wasn’t a believer already, I could be converted all over again!’ That may not be theologically correct, but it shows that once more you’ve felt the effects of the gospel.
In a real sense, we should be blessed every time we hear it. After all, it never stops being good news. I’ve been married for nearly 24 years, but never get tired of my wife Ruth telling me that she loves me. I’ve never reached the stage where I’m fed up with it. I never tire of hearing those words, ‘I love you’.
In a way, that’s what’s happening when the gospel is being preached. God is telling us how much he loves us and exactly what he’s done to show it. Can we ever tire of being reminded of that? Shouldn’t we actually feel rather ashamed if it doesn’t warm our hearts again?
The gospel is the greatest message in the world. It should mean the world to us. Didn’t the hymn writer say: ‘I love to hear the story which angel voices tell; how once the King of glory came down on earth to dwell. I am both weak and sinful, but this I surely know: the Lord came down to save me, because he loved me so’?
Some may want to protest, ‘But I would get tired of hearing the ABC of the gospel; of hearing John 3:16 preached every week’. I suppose we all would, but that isn’t how it has to be.
The gospel is like a large and beautiful diamond. It has many sides to it and, when lifted up in the sunlight, each side sparkles with an amazing lustre. Would the owner of a huge diamond tire of enjoying looking at it and basking in its glory and worth? I don’t think so. And neither should we.
The preacher’s job is to show the many sides of that gospel diamond. In addition to the aspects already mentioned, there is so much else to preach on: the Old Testament story of redemption; men and women of faith in the Old Testament; the types and prophecies of Christ; the life of our Lord in the Gospels; his parables, teaching and miracles, and the passion narratives.
One can also preach on the great gospel sermons or wonderful conversion stories in Acts, or the great gospel doctrines in the epistles. The range and variety of biblical truth available is immense.
Hearing the gospel will thrill our souls, for we should be aware that we’re not the only ones sitting in the congregation and hearing this wonderful message. This means that we should be doing two things as well as listening.
We should be rejoicing. We should be thanking God that there are unbelievers in the room hearing a message that can transform their lives.
We should rejoice that non-Christians are listening to the gospel of the grace of God. We should be thrilled that those who otherwise might never hear the precious truths about the Lord Jesus are hearing them. Starving people are being offered the bread of life. What could make us happier?
And that leads us naturally to say that we should be praying for others hearing the gospel. That is surely part of our responsibility. God is pleased in some mysterious way to use our prayers, as well as gospel preaching, to draw men and women, boys and girls to himself. Knowing that he does so is thrilling.
We know, of course, that we can’t save the unbelievers with us, but equally we know the Lord can! Shouldn’t we be burdened for them? Pray the Lord will open their eyes to the truth of the gospel and enable them to respond in faith to what they’re hearing.
Yes, it is profitable for Christians to hear the gospel being preached. It sharpens our focus, humbles our pride, informs our minds, warms our hearts and thrills our souls.
There are many other things it does too: it quells our doubts, strengthens our faith, lifts our spirits and renews our zeal. There is really no end to the benefit of hearing the ‘old, old story of Jesus and his love’!
The author is general secretary of the Open-Air Mission