The Essence of the Gospel

Scripture: Mark 16:15
Date: 02/09/2008 
This message teaches people the essence of the gospel and how to do a gospel presentation. He answers questions such as where did we come from, what is the purpose of life, who is God, what about sin, who is guilty of sin, and how can we be saved? Jesus came and took our place.
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Note: This is a verbatim transcript of the live broadcast. It is presented as spoken.

Happy Sabbath. Good morning. Thank you for coming. I pray the Lord will speak to you from His word. I want to talk about something that I believe is probably one of the most important things we can speak about as Christians in the church. As a springboard for what I’m going to be sharing with you, please turn in your Bibles to the gospel of Mark, the last chapter, that’s 16. Mark 16:15, these of course are the closing words of Jesus that you find in the gospel of Mark. He says, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.” Now I’m going to stop right there. Who is this command given to? Just the twelve apostles or to every believer? Every believer, we are all given the mandate, the commission of the Lord to go everywhere sharing the gospel, but I’ve come to the conclusion that in years of ministry and doing evangelism very few Christians know how to make a gospel presentation. Matter of fact, there are a lot of people who have been in the church for years or all their lives, they may even be baptized, and they don’t know what the gospel is. Some join the church because they grow up in the church and there is a time when those in their class get baptized and they figure it’s time and if you were to say, “Please explain the gospel to me,” they’d begin to stammer and stutter and try and find the words. I thought it would probably be a good idea if I took one message and I just went through simply with you what is the essence of the gospel. That’s the title of today’s message.

I’ve also done something that I don’t normally do in that I’ve given you some notes. These are not my sermon notes, but these are high points with the pertinent scriptures that deal with the presentation of the gospel. I wanted you to have that in your hands. I’m thankful we’re recording this today on CD and DVD and I hope people will take it and not only believe it but I hope they’ll then share it with others. I hope you’ll use it maybe as a template. Everyone will tailor it for themselves according to their experience so that you can share the gospel with others. But we need to know what that gospel is. We need to understand the basic points of the gospel. The word gospel means good news. It comes from the Greek word euangelion. It means a good message. It’s the most important message in the world. The gospel is good news. I remember hearing a story one time back in the sixteenth century, as near as they can figure, an Indian in the Peruvian jungle was lost and burning up with malarial fever. Staggering along through the jungle, exhausted, thirsty, he finally found a puddle of water there in the jungle. He fell down, began to drink some of the water. Immediately he realized that the water was bitter. He saw it was by a tree called the quini-quini tree. They believed that the bark of that tree was poisonous and some bark had fallen in the water, but he was so thirsty and that first gulp, though bitter, felt so good he sat there and he drank his fill from this puddle in the jungle.

As he lay there by the pool he noticed a few hours later the fever subsided; his strength began to return. He went back to his village and began to share how this bark from the quini-quini tree had healed him from his malaria which had been of course an epidemic anywhere there are mosquitoes in the world. Gradually that news spread to missionaries. The missionaries shared it with the Spanish who brought it back to Europe and it was spread down to Africa and you’ve heard of quinine water, sometimes called tonic water. They still make it today. For years it was the only “cure” even though it was not a total cure for malaria. Well, when that native got back to his village and he had found a cure for malaria that was good news. He shared it with everyone. That news began to spread all over the world. Some doctors estimate that one out of two people that has died through history has died from malaria, many of them children. So having a cure for that would be called very good news. Well, the gospel is good news and in the gospel you have the serum for the sin and disease of the world. That’s good news. Why would you want to keep that to yourself? If you love people you’d want to share that with others.

Now we’re going to start at the beginning here in this presentation. Very simply you’re here and you’re alive. You may want to take a mirror and put it up to your mouth and see if it forms any mist meaning you’re breathing. You might want to take two fingers and put them on your pulse which would mean that your heart is beating, but assuming that you’re alive and that’s a good place to start. Then you need to next ask the question is there a purpose for life? Now of course unless you’re thinking maybe I’m a figment of my imagination and I’m just imagining I’m alive and everyone else around you is just an imagination you’re alive, we’re alive, what is the purpose of life? These are the most important questions someone can ask. Then you next would say we’re here. Where did we come from? Genesis chapter one. We’re going to the Bible for our answers. “So God created man in His own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.” There is a purpose for life. We have been created by God in His own image. We did not evolve from rocks over millions of years. Ephesians 3:9, “God, who created all things…” a few more details here “through Jesus.” Hebrews 11:3 “By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible.”

You know it’s the word of God that has this creative power. I understand back in 2003 cosmologists, I don’t know how they did the study or how they found out, but they were studying what was it that caused creation. They call it the big bang, and they believe now it was sound waves. How many of you have heard that? Sound waves. I think that’s interesting because the Bible says through the word of God and I would think the word of God would have some pretty powerful sound waves. This is what the Bible teaches that the word has inherent creative power. All things were made. You know there are only a couple of options, either you’re here by design, there’s a plan, there’s an all powerful God that has made you and there’s a purpose for your life, there is somebody in control or everything is just a spontaneous accident and there is no purpose to life and it’s all evolved. There are a lot of people that believe that. In my opinion that’s very tragic to have that kind of a fatalistic purposeless understanding of why we’re here. I believe we have been made in the image of God and there was a great purpose for man, but something went wrong. We have a problem. The problem is that for one thing we know we’re dying, we’re terminal. Somebody else estimated that all creatures have about the same number of heartbeats. An elephant’s heart beats about thirty times a minute.

They typically live longer than people. Your heart beats about sixty times a minute. A rabbit, two hundred times a minute, and based on how quick its heart beats. You’ve got so many heartbeats from the time you’re born, we know, we don’t like to think about it, but it’s true, you are all on a conveyer belt towards the grave. Happy thought, but you need to think about that. You’re here for a little while. What do you do with your life? We’ve got a problem. We’re dying. We need to know what the purpose is. How sad to wait until your life is nearly over to figure out what am I doing here anyway? So we’ve got to ask that question what is the purpose of life? We know that our time is limited and we also know we have no control over tomorrow. I do not know that I’ll be here tomorrow. You don’t know if you’re going to be here. I don’t know if you’re going to be here and you don’t know if I’m going to be here. We don’t know exactly what’s going to happen tomorrow. We can plan some things. Some things will happen with a certain amount of regularity, but we can’t control the future. We’re powerless. We’re dying. That’s a problem. We’ve got this disease of sin. Can’t even control what we want to think or do. Now before we get more specifically into the answer we need to introduce some of the main players. We’ve talked about where we came from. God created all things. He spoke and it came into being.

Who is God? Well, according to the Bible, God is three beings that make up one entity. God the Father, the Son, and the Spirit are pure, all-powerful, loving, perfect and eternal. They have existed through eternal ceaseless ages. I can’t explain who made God. If you could explain that you’d be God. But one thing we do know is that there are things in the world here today that would require intelligence. The organization, the interworking systems, the design, the miracles, the beauty that you see in the world around you did not happen spontaneously by things just burping out of primeval ooze by accident. There’s an intelligent God. There is a purpose to life, and He loves you. God is good. Psalm 93:2 “Thy throne is established of old: thou art from everlasting.” From everlasting to everlasting, thou art God.

But the very fact I’ve got to explain the basics of God here is because we can’t see God. We are separated from God. What causes this separation? It’s in your bibles. Isaiah 59:2, “But your iniquities have separated you from your God; And your sins have hidden His face from you, So that He will not hear.” Habakkuk 1:13 puts it this way, and I’m just giving you a few high points of the scriptures. “You are of purer eyes than to behold evil, and cannot look on wickedness.” God is perfectly holy. God is light, in Him is no darkness and His light is so bright that darkness is automatically dispelled by His brightness. It’s something like germs cannot exist in bleach. As soon as you drop them into the bleach they expire. The reason we’re separated from God is because He loves us and if we with our sin were brought into His holy, brilliant, pure presence with our sin it would annihilate us. So out of love for us He has quarantined this planet while He works out the cure. That’s the good news I’ll get to in just a minute. Well, we’ve got this problem called sin. Our sins have separated us from God.

We need to be more specific. What is sin? I John 3:4, and these are not all of the definitions, “Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law.” More specifically, sin is the transgression of the Ten Commandments. When we break the law of God it’s called a sin. You could also read I John 5:17 that says “All unrighteousness is sin…” Anything that you do wrong, that’s unrighteousness, that’s sin. And again, anything that is not of faith is sin, Paul says. James 4:17 “Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin.” When we go against our conscience of what we know to be right that’s sin. Everything we deliberately say, do, or think knowingly is sin. Our sins have separated us from God. We are all sinful. Because our first parents acquired this disease of sin it has been transferred to every son and daughter of Adam and Eve from creation to the present day. It is in our genes. It is in our DNA and every human born is born with these sinful selfish tendencies. Man originally was made in God’s image. God is love. Man was motivated by love. Everything was made good, but because of the sin of Adam and Eve, because they listened to the temptations of the devil and disobeyed God, we then, our genes were damaged. We went from love to selfishness and we are all naturally selfish. It is only trough a work of grace that we can learn to love.

This separates us from God, and in case you missed it who has sinned? Everybody has sinned. Romans 3:23 “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” All have sinned. Ecclesiastes 7:20 “…there is not a just man upon the earth, that doeth good, and sinneth not.” We’re all guilty of sin. We have all broken the law, probably not just the letter of the law, but we’ve all certainly broken the spirit of the law. The letter of the law says do not kill. The spirit of the law says do not be angry with your brother or sister without cause. You don’t want to assassinate them in your minds, and we’ve all done that. Do not commit adultery, that’s the letter of the law. The spirit of the law says if you look on the opposite sex and lust in your heart then you’re guilty of adultery. So these selfish conniving impure thoughts also constitute sin and we’ve all sinned.

Now it gets serious. We know our bodies are terminal, but we’re also under a verdict of execution. What is the penalty for sin? Ezekiel 18:20 “The soul who sins shall die.” It’s a death penalty. Romans 6:23 just going to read the first part of that verse right now, “the wages” the just and deserving wages for sin are “death”. Sin is a deadly, contagious disease. I remember when I first read this in the Bible and it didn’t make sense to me and I thought, “Why would God pronounce such a severe penalty on the human race for sin?” I mean, after all, everybody sins. It just didn’t seem fair. Let me see if I could explain that with a faulty parable. Suppose for a moment that you and your beautiful spouse live on and Eden like island out in the Pacific Ocean, a paradise, and you’ve got a dozen children. You’re like that Swiss Family Robinson except a lot more kids. You’re all very happy. Just a perfect climate. Perfect, you spend your day just doing wonderful activities and the climate is great and you get along great with all of the creatures and you know that every now and then this swarm of devil flies goes from island to island and you’ve got to watch out for those swarms of flies because if they bite you it’s terminal. One bite from one of these little devil flies (and they’re ugly flies too), very contagious, long, painful death, in great agony.

If you’re exposed to somebody who is bitten by one of these little devil flies just twenty-four hours of exposure and you catch it. You don’t have to be bitten. Now you’re on the island; your family are very happy. A swarm of devil flies comes through and you bring all of the children and you get them all into the cabin in time waiting for the wind to carry the flies away and one of the children has left the family baby in its bassinette out under a coconut tree. By the time you get out there it’s too late. You see the devil fly biting the baby. You’re horrified. You bring the baby in. The whole family looks and they realize, “What do we do? We all live on an island.” The baby will not survive without care. If you keep the baby in the family with other members of the family others will be exposed. The baby is getting ready to experience a long, terrible, painful death. You’re on an island. You keep the baby, it’s so small, within twenty-four hours if you don’t do something about that baby you’re all going to die. Wouldn’t that be a terrible decision to make? This is what God is faced with. You might think it’s a little severe to say, “I need to put that baby on a raft and push it out to sea in order to save the other eleven children or all of them will die.” I realize this is an imperfect illustration, but I’m just trying to show you what God is faced with. He’s got this planet of creatures that are His children that He loves. They’ve got this deadly disease of sin. We’re quarantined from the unfallen worlds and angels because of our disease except God has developed a plan where we can not only be healed, but saved from this disease of death and be reintroduced to the family. That’s good news when you consider what we’re faced with.

One more point I need to establish: you and I cannot save ourselves any more than that baby could save itself. We are helpless to save ourselves. We need outside help. Your works cannot save you. The good works, the good deeds that you might do trying to right the wrongs that you have committed through your life; that cannot save you. And yet a lot of people try. I remember one time I had a new computer, and I was devastated because I’d ordered it, bought it right out of the box, a Dell computer, exactly what I wanted. I was so excited, couldn’t wait to plug it in and turn it on, and I plugged it in and I turned it on and nothing happened. I turned it off, I turned it on, I looked in the instructions, made sure I had the right power switch and I tried and tried and it just wouldn’t come on. I was so disappointed. Well, I finally thought it is plugged in? Sure enough it was plugged into the power strip. You all know what a power strip is?

It’s one of those bars that’s got about six or eight outlets on it. It’s got a cable you plug into the wall. Well, you know what this dingaling had done? I’d plugged the power strip into itself along with the computer. You’re not going to get anything to happen like that. I’m glad to know I’m not the first one that’s done that. Some of you are laughing because you’re going… Some of us do that trying to save ourselves. You cannot plug the power strip into itself and expect any power. You cannot save yourself. Your good works cannot save you. You can only be saved by a power outside of yourself. So this is part of the gospel you’ve got to know you are helpless to save yourself. Now we’ve talked about… Oh, I want to give you those verses. Isaiah 64:6 “But we are all like an unclean thing, And our righteousnesses are like filthy rags…” No matter how many good works you do, your righteousness will not be adequate. Then again Jesus said in John 15:5 “…without Me you can do nothing.” We’re helpless without Him.

We’ve talked about the problem. We’re terminal. We’ve got this disease and we can’t save ourselves. That just describes everybody in the world and everybody here. Here’s the good news. Here is the answer. God loves you. The God who made you, the God who is all-powerful, who created you, He loves you and He loves you desperately. John 16:27 Jesus said “for the Father Himself loves you, because you have loved Me, and have believed that I came forth from God.” God loves you. He loves you infinitely more than any earthly parent loves their children. Most normal parents love their children. Even in the animal world you can see a mother bear will lay down its life to save its cubs and even a chicken... You know what you call a person that has no courage, you call them a chicken, but have you ever seen a hen lay down its life to save its chicks? They’ll do it so it’s not really fair to call a chicken a chicken like that. You know what I mean.

So even in the animal world parents will die for their children. I remember years ago living in the panhandle of Texas hearing on the news about a gas station that something went wrong in one of the pumps. The gas was exposed to a flame. The father had stopped there with his son. His son went inside to the little convenience part of it and the whole place burst into flames and the boy was trapped inside and the father could hear him screaming and the father tried to run in to the burning flames to save his son and others had to stop him and he fought with all he had to go in and he certainly would have died, but he didn’t care. He thought it would be easier to die with my son trying to save him than remember the rest of my life that I did nothing.

That’s one of a thousand stories I could cite of parents who have laid down their lives to save their children. Earthly parents, sinful parents, selfish parents that would die to save their children, and God loves us infinitely more. He is willing to not only die but to experience the death of a child to save these children. So just take the love of a parent, multiply it and square it a few times and you still don’t come up to the love of God for humanity. The very fact you’re alive, since the penalty for sin is death, is proof that God loves you. Why aren’t you dead yet? Because he has bought probationary time for you to accept the good news. Even the wicked, even the secular in the world that do not believe in God are alive by virtue of God’s grace. God loves you. I John 4:8 “He who does not love does not know God, for God is love…” The single easiest word you can use to define the essence of who God is, God is love. It’s at the foundation of everything He does.

Now we’ve talked a little about God the Father, the supreme authority in the universe who made everything through God the Son. Who is Jesus? Now Jesus as we know Him is a little different than He was before He came to earth. Christ tells us that before Abraham was, I am. Jesus existed before He came to the world. He was the Son of God, maybe not known by the name Jesus back then, but the eternal Son of God existed. That’s why you read in Genesis, God says, “Let us make man in our image…” Mark 15:39 When Christ died on the cross even a Roman centurion standing there declared, “Truly this Man was the Son of God!” He wasn’t even a Jew and he recognized that God came to earth and took on the form of a man in order to save us. I Peter 2:22 it says “Who committed no sin…”

Jesus came to earth in the form of a man. God came to earth, God the Son. He was incarnate. Carne means flesh. Incarnate means He took on human flesh. He became a man to save men. “Who committed no sin, Nor was deceit found in His mouth…” Everything He said was true. The eternal Son of God is the Hero in the gospel story. And then 1 John 3:5 “And you know that He was manifested to take away our sins…” He came into the world to take away our sins. “…in Him there is no sin.” He lived a sinless life. So Jesus came to this world to save us from our sins and to connect us with God.

Now some maybe have seen the gospel illustrated in a very simple diagram. They call it the bridge diagram and it works for that purpose. So I want to thank Sherle for helping me put this on the screen. Just very simply. Look on the screen and you’ll see a very simple illustration. Here you’ve got man. Man is dying. We’re under a death sentence. Man can do nothing to save himself. All of our good works will not cross the span. We are separated from God who is life by this chasm called sin. There is a great gulf fixed, in the words of Jesus, between us and God. We cannot get across that span. We’re separated. We’re separated from God; we’re separated from the hope of everlasting life by this fixed chasm. But God so loved the world He said I will come to earth.

I will become a man. He is the anointed one. That’s what the word Christ means. Jesus comes, let’s go to the next slide, and He is the answer. The cross of Christ creates a bridge through which we can cross from where we are to God. The sin that separates us was taken by Christ within Himself. Jesus provides the bridge by His sacrifice. There’s only one way for us to get across the bridge. What’s that word at the top? It’s that simple, friends. The gospel is that God has provided a way to close the gap, to cross the gulf of separation between us. It’s crossing from death to life. That bridge is the cross. We cross it by believing. There is something you need to do to be saved. You need to believe. “Whosoever believes will not perish but have everlasting life.”

Jesus came into the world as a man. Why did Christ become a man? Well there are three principal reasons that we’re going to talk about. God the Father, God the Son, and God the Spirit agreed in the plan of salvation that God the Father would send the Son and you might be thinking that’s a little brutal for God the Father to say, “Alright, I’ll send You. I don’t really want to die on the cross so I’m going to send you.” What was harder? For God the Father to suffer Himself on the cross or to watch His Son suffer. I believe it was harder for God to watch His Son suffer. And Jesus knew how much it would hurt His Father. That’s why you have the Father and the Son, this great communication going on where Jesus says, “My Father, why have You forsaken Me?” They had never been separated through eternity. God the Father withdrew His protection. He separated Himself from Jesus because Christ took our separation for us. That’s what broke His heart even more than the physical suffering.

He also took the physical punishment that we all deserve. Penalty for sin is not only death, it’s punishment for your specific sins and then death. Every man is going to be rewarded according to his works among the lost and there are even varying rewards among the saved. So Jesus took the suffering and the death and the separation from the Father for you and me. He paid in full. Because He’s the creator and all things were made through Christ He was able to pay it not just for you as though you were the only one who ever lived but He paid it for the entire world. He died for the sins of the whole world. You and I can’t even comprehend how much that would be.

So why did Jesus become a man? There are three principal reasons that Jesus came to earth. Number one, he came to show us what God is like. This world is totally in the clouds. We’re all fogged up about who God is and what God is like. Jesus said “…he that hath seen Me hath seen the Father.” He is all the fullness of the godhead perfectly revealed. He came to show us what God is like. I get these questions every now and then, people say, “You know it seems like the God in the Old Testament is a little harsh and severe, but Jesus is so loving and kind.” One reason that Jesus came is to show us that He is the same God that you see in the Old Testament. He is loving and kind and yet He is just. Not only do you have plagues in the Old Testament, you’ve got plagues in the New Testament. Not only do you have mercy in the New Testament, you’ve got mercy in the Old Testament. People who 0ave the idea they’re two different Gods, they just don’t know their bibles. It’s the same God. Jesus came to be a reflection of God. If you’ve seen Me, you’ve seen… He is just. He is full of compassion. He’s full of mercy. He’s longsuffering to usward. I’m quoting from the Old Testament now. So He came to demonstrate what God is like.

The second reason Jesus came, to give us an example of how to live. He became a man and lived among men. The first thirty years of His life He lived the kind of life, a perfect life, to demonstrate that through His power when your hearts are made new you can live according to God’s will. That’s right. He came as an example. The Bible tells us, 1 Peter 2:21 “…because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example that you should follow in His steps. And especially once the ministry of Christ began, it begins with baptism, which is something that we should follow. He lived a life of service. He spent His life healing others, teaching others, feeding others, forgiving others, demonstrating how we should interact with one another. Jesus came, the cross is up and down, to show us what the Father is like. The cross is also horizontal to show us how we should live among one another. Then He came also to connect God with man. Two great commandments, love the Lord with all your heart, love your neighbor as yourself. The cross is really telling us about love, it’s that bridge.

Third reason He came is as our substitute, to take our place. Isaiah chapter 53, this was part of our scripture reading this morning. “All we like sheep have gone astray…” How many? “All we like sheep have gone astray; We have turned, every one, to his own way…” selfishness. All done our own thing; instead of God’s will we’ve been living for our own will and that will never satisfy you. “And the Lord has laid upon Him the iniquity of us all.” The sin, the iniquity, the punishment of all of us who are here, all of us who are watching was laid upon Jesus. Whether you accept it or not, whether you believe it or not, that’s what happened. He came as our substitute. Basically He made a great exchange. It’s something like the parable of the Good Samaritan I trust that you have read. This man falls among thieves. He’s robbed, he’s naked, he’s wounded, he’s dying. He is passed by a couple of his own religious people.

Finally a Samaritan comes by, has compassion on him, takes some of his own clothes and tears it up and binds his wounds, takes his own wine and washes his wounds, takes his oil and anoints his wounds, puts him on his own beast. He says, “Look, I’m going to take you to the inn. I will pay your hotel bill.” He makes this big exchange. He basically says, “I will give you what is mine. I will let you ride. I’ll walk.” This is the gospel. It’s the great exchange. Jesus took our weakness that He might give us His strength. He took our sin that He might give us His purity. He took our guilt that He might give us His peace. He takes everything that is bad in us, our badness, and He gives us His righteousness. He makes this big exchange with us and how do we get across that bridge? How do we accept that? Believe. Trust Him. All things are possible if you believe.

What it means is Christ has paid the penalty for your sins fully. It’s not that He says, “Look…” You know sometimes I go to dinner with friends and they say, “Look, let me get the bill.” “No, I’ll get the bill,” I feel guilty. I want to contribute. I say, “I’ll do the tip.” Well, when Jesus says, “Look, I’ve got the bill.” You don’t get to say, “I’ll cover the tip.” He says, “No, I’ve got the whole thing.” He pays the entire penalty for our sin. You don’t pay any part of it. We are saved by grace through faith. It’s a gift of God, not of works lest any man should boast. Mark 10:45 “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” He gave His life as a ransom for your sin.

He poured out His life to take your place with His life. What a shame, how tragic it would be to have the Son of God lay down His life to provide a way for you to cross the gulf to have peace in this life and live forever and you not do it! To pay that price and then say, “No, I refuse. I’m still going to pay it myself even though you’ve already signed the credit card receipt.” For me to insist on paying even after it’s already been paid, what a waste! He did pay and you must believe it to receive and to be transformed by that power. God loves you and He wants an intimate relationship with you. He not only wants to save you, He wants a personal relationship with you. That’s why the Lord says in the Bible, come now, let us reason together. It doesn’t matter whether you’re five years old or ninety-five years old the Lord enjoys communicating with you. He wants to be your friend. He wants to be part of your life. He wants to walk with you every day because He loves you.

How do I respond now? I’ve talked about the bad news. I’ve talked about the good news. What do we do? Answer: accept it. You must do something about it. It will not benefit you unless you accept it. Some are listening that maybe have been in church for years and they’ve never really thought through what the gospel is or accepted it. Accept His gift of life. Belief. Romans 6:23 “For the wages of sin is death, but…” that’s a very important three letter word. On one side you’ve got death, “but the gift of God…” A gift is something that is to be accepted. “… is eternal life in Jesus Christ our Lord.” In order for a pardon to be affective it must be accepted. I understand there was a president back in the 1800’s that issued a pardon to a political prisoner who had been accused of treason. The sentence was death. There were some extenuating circumstances so the president said, “You know, we’re going to issue a pardon.”

Well this fellow, I guess, was pretty cantankerous and he told the president when they brought his pardon to him, he said, “I don’t want it.” They had never had anyone refuse a pardon before so they took it back to the courts. They said, “What do we do about this? The president has issued a pardon. He’s on death row for treason. Death by hanging. What happens now?” They talked about it and they said, “A pardon that is not accepted and received is invalid,” and he was executed, I presume. In order for this pardon that Jesus has provided to be appreciated you must accept it. You see the penalty of sin is death. This is why Christ poured out His blood. Without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sin. That’s why it talks about us being washed in the blood. Of course that’s a symbol of all of our sins being washed away because of the sacrifice that Christ made in our behalf.

I heard an amazing story. You’ve heard of yellow fever. I remember when I went to Africa. Before I left I got a shot for yellow fever. I had a card that wrote down that I got this shot and Bonnie said, “Stick it in your passport. You’re going to need it.” I forgot all about that because weeks went by. I finally took the trip. I got off the plane. They were speaking in French. I didn’t know what they were saying. Pretty soon they grabbed me and they pulled me into this little area cordoned off right in the airport terminal, little white curtain, and someone there was dressed in kind of a blue smock, pulled out a needle, big needle. I start to yell for a translator! I said, “What’s going on here?” They said, “You’ve got to get your yellow fever shot.” I said, “I’ve already got it!” They said, “You need proof,” and so I showed them my proof. Man, I was so thankful I’d had it at a clinic in the US. You get a used needle in Africa, you get a little worried about it. The amazing fact is back in 1927 when there was a terrible outbreak of yellow fever there was a humble native by the name of Abbasi. He contracted yellow fever, but because of his natural resistance he survived it. They took a sample of Abbasi’s blood. They processed it. They put it into mice and chicken embryos and eventually they developed a strain from his blood that they used to make a vaccine. It was taken to the Rockefeller Foundation where they processed it and through exponential multiplication they made vaccine after vaccine and people all over the world have been receiving the vaccine from the strain of this one man’s blood. To this very day it can all be traced back to the blood of that one native. Isn’t that amazing? Well, anybody and everybody who is going to be in heaven, Old Testament, New Testament Christian or otherwise, (You might be surprised; there could be some people there that didn’t know about Jesus.), are all there because of His sacrifice. It’s only the blood of Christ that makes it possible.

Well, is there something I’m supposed to do? Yes, you believe. First you must accept by faith that it’s true. God then gives you a gift of His Spirit. Part of that will enable you to repent and to confess. Now you need to get this right. You can’t even repent without God. The Bible says in Acts chapter 2 it is God that gives repentance unto Israel. It is the gift of the Spirit. The Holy Spirit brings conviction into your heart. You’re not going to even know what to confess without the Holy Spirit because who here can remember every sin they’ve ever committed? God is not asking you to confess every sin you’ve ever committed because you can’t remember them all, but you can start with the general categories. Most of us can confess to being liars or confess to pride. Maybe you’ve murdered in your heart. I won’t go through them all; you know what they are. The deceit, the stealing, the impurity. You know the categories and you can come before the Lord.

You repent and you confess. You say, “Why confess? Doesn’t God already know?” It’s not for Him, it’s for you, He already knows. I might hurt somebody’s feelings and I know I’ve hurt them, but they expect me to say I’m sorry. They know it and I know it, but you still tell them you’re sorry. We’ve offended a holy God. We’ve broken His law. We should confess. One of the first things a good attorney will tell you if you’ve broken a law and you know you’ve broken it when you go in before the judge admit it. Say I did something wrong and I’m sorry. If he’s going to have mercy on you, you first must admit it. Repent and confess and there’s more to that than you might think. Luke 13:5, Jesus is speaking, “…unless you repent you will all likewise perish.” So how important is this part of the gospel? The kingdom of God began; John the Baptist, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Jesus began, “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” It is crucial that we repent to God for our sins. Acts 3:19 “Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out…” He gives us through His Spirit, when we accept Jesus; He gives us the Spirit to help us repent. John 1:9, “If we confess our sins,” this is the verbal side of repentance “He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and” I like this part “to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

Now when you confess your sins to the Lord, and you repent of your sins, He promises that He is faithful. You can depend on Him and He is just meaning He has a right to… He’s the judge; He made the law, if He says He’s got a right, He’s got a right to forgive for all of your sins. So if all of your sins are forgiven what is your condition? To cleanse you from all sin. If you’ve been cleansed from all sin because you’ve repented and you’ve confessed, how much sin do you have? In God’s eyes you are pure. In God’s eyes you’re forgiven. In God’s eyes you’re a saint. That’s good news. You can go from death to life right there through faith. Do you believe the promise? That’s good news! I think it’s so important for us to understand this. Let me read one more thing to you here. Speaking of repentance I want to start with Proverbs 28:13, “He who covers his sin will not prosper,” be honest with God, “but whoever confesses and forsakes them will have mercy.” Repentance is not just being sorry. It’s being sorry enough to be different. Amen? Saying, Lord, I want to live a new life. Don’t worry how you’re going to do it tomorrow. Accept the gospel today and then you have the power to do the impossible. Now this is so important. Some people at this point is where they choke, they stumble, they fall, they turn back, they quit, they get confused.

If you come before the Lord and you repent of your sins and you confess our sins that news is so good that you believe I have done what God asked me to do, He’s cleansed me from all unrighteousness. I now have accepted the cross, I believe, I have eternal life. Once you really believe you have eternal life you become righteous by faith. That righteousness by faith then empowers you to want to live a different life. Because if you know right now you’ve got eternal life how much lure and temptation is sin when you now have left the whole life of sin, you are on your way to the kingdom and the devil tries to wave His temptation in front of you? You are empowered now by the Spirit of God and the desire for the kingdom. You’ve been adopted into a new family. God gives you a new heart. Those things don’t have the same attraction they had. Some people never really believe they’re forgiven so they don’t act like they’re forgiven. When you really believe you’re forgiven the actions are different. There’s a joy in your heart.

You might be thinking will Jesus accept me? We’ve all had earthly parents at one time or another that we felt rejected. You know we just couldn’t please them. Some of us maybe had parents who just were always perfectionists. Nothing was ever good enough and we transfer that idea about our earthly parent to our heavenly Parent. We think, “I’ve been such a sinner. How could God ever forgive me?” Well, you look in the Bible, you’ll find that He forgave David of murder, He forgave Moses of murder and David of adultery too. You are not a bigger sinner than God is a Savior. Don’t be so proud and arrogant to think that you do a better job of sinning than God does of forgiving. Don’t think that you have your black belt in sinning and God has only got His brown belt in forgiving.

I mean, that’s how some of us really come at it. When God says, “Look, if I can die for the sin of the whole world, I can die for your sin. If My sacrifice was potent to cover the sins of the whole world then don’t think you’re so special.” He can reach unto the uttermost. The Bible promises that He can reach everybody. John 6:37 “All,” what’s that word? “All that the Father giveth Me shall come to Me; and him that cometh to Me I will in no wise cast out.” It doesn’t matter how dirty or sordid your past might have been, if you come to Jesus, He will not cast you out. He accepts you. John 3:16 “For God so loved the world, He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever” now who would that include? Whosoever believes, what is the key? Whosoever believes will “not perish, but have…” Do they possess it? “…everlasting life.” That’s good news. Then you can go to Revelation 22:17 “And the Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come!’” Last chapter in the Bible. “And let him who hears say, ‘Come!’ And let him who thirsts come. Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely.” What is it that qualifies me to receive this? Your own desperate need.

Matter of fact, Jesus seems to demonstrate that those who look the most hopeless are the ones He delights in saving. Even the ones who humanity gave up on like Mary Magdalene Jesus delights in saving. So who will He accept? Whoever comes to Him. That means that if you do not come to Him, don’t blame Him. You’ve got the freedom to accept and to believe that He’ll forgive even you. What will God do for you when you accept Him? Ezekiel 36:26 “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take away that heart of stone” that selfish heart “out of your flesh” that dead heart “and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes….” That’s the good news.

You say, “Oh, Lord, I can’t do it!” He says, I give you a new heart and I cause you, I give you the power to walk in My statutes, and to “keep My judgments and do them.” 1 Corinthians 2:9 “But as it is written: ‘Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, Nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him.” Well, what if I don’t love You very much, Lord? Start where you’re at. You know that He loves you, and the most that you see how much He loves you, it will inspire within you love for Him. The Bible tells us we love Him because He first loved us. It’s the goodness of God that leads us to repentance. When we see what He’s done for us, then it touches our hearts. It tugs something within. The Spirit stirs us and we want to be forgiven.

So what’s required? You need to make a decision. The gospel requires a decision. Now I’m going to invite you to make a decision. I’ve tried my best to very simply explain the gospel. Matter of fact, I’ve taken a little more time than you really even need to take. I elaborated and I’m hoping that you will make a decision to accept the gospel and if nothing else take this program, study the basics and you understand how you can share the gospel with someone. But a person must be brought to a decision. When you present the gospel, don’t walk away. At that point ask them, now do you want to do something about it, a tangible decision. Matthew 27:22 Pilate said, “What then shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?” It’s not enough just to talk about it. You must choose.

You’ve got three choices, really. Choice number one, you can say yes, I accept the gospel. I’m going to receive Christ. Choice number two is you say no, I don’t believe; I don’t accept it. Then some have an imaginary third choice. That third choice is not right now, I’m going to wait. Well, you don’t know if you’re going to be alive tomorrow. You don’t know if the Holy Spirit is going to move on your heart tomorrow. So choosing to say no to Jesus now is really going back to the second option which is just plain no. Postponing is a no choice. Granted God is merciful and sometimes the Holy Spirit stirs a person later in their life but you’re really gambling with eternity. That’s a dangerous form of Russian roulette. So if today you hear His voice, do not harden your heart. 2 Corinthians 6:2 “…Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.”

Jesus died on a hill between two crosses. There were two thieves, both under a death sentence. They represent everybody here, everybody who is watching or listening. The one on the right hand could do nothing to save himself, but he looked to Jesus and he believed. He said, “Lord, remember me. I believe You’re king. I want to be in Your kingdom.” Jesus promised that he would be. He died in peace. The one on the left, he said he wanted to be saved, but he never accepted Christ. One died saved, one died lost. You might even say of those three crosses on the hill, one died to sin, one died in sin, and Jesus in the middle died for sin. Everybody is making a decision one way or the other. What will you decide? I’d like to ask you to make a decision right now. Matter of fact, I’d like to have you pray with me right now. If you would like to accept the gospel and accept Jesus I’m going to lead you in a very simple prayer. I’d like for you to pray it out loud. You may have been in church all your life, I’m going to pray it again, I’d invite you to pray it. You’ll see the words, matter of fact, on the screen and I hope you’ll be praying from your heart. Would you like to say this prayer with me?

Dear Heavenly Father, I come to you now humbly asking for Your forgiveness. Lord, I confess that I am a sinner and I’ve broken Your holy law. I realize that the penalty for sin is death. I believe that Jesus suffered and died on the cross to take the punishment for my sins. I believe Jesus rose from the dead and I accept Him as my personal Savior! From this moment forward I give You my heart, trust You to be the Lord of my life. Please forgive all of my sins and send Your Spirit to help me do Your will. Thank You, Lord, for Your great love and I accept your gift of eternal life. I pray these things in Jesus name. Amen.

Now you have just gone through the first and most important step in crossing that bridge through belief and accepting Christ’s sacrifice. He promises to do His part. He promises to give you a new heart. If you prayed that prayer in faith then you become His child. He says He cleanses you from all unrighteousness. That’s good news. You’ve gone from death to life. You’ve gone from sick to well. You’ve gone from fear to peace. You’ve gone from meaninglessness to purpose. That’s the gospel, friends. I just wanted you to hear the simple gospel one more time. It’s that wonderful old story that we’ve heard before, but it hasn’t lost its power, has it? I hope that you will share this with others and lead them to Christ as God gives you opportunity. I thought it’d be appropriate to sing “Just As I Am” as we close this service today. Why don’t you stand and sing that with me? Song number 313, “Just As I Am”.

Just as I am, without one plea, But that Thy blood was shed for me, And that Thou bidst me come to Thee, O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

Now as I made this presentation this morning I know many of you, perhaps even most of you, have been in church for years, but there may be some of you who never really yet have prayed that prayer and decided to accept Christ and accept the gospel. You’ve begun a journey and I think it’s important after you make this decision to get some other Christian encouragement and council and guidance. If you’d like some special prayer, if you’d like to visit with one of our elders or pastors as we sing the next verse, verse two, come to the front. We’ll have special prayer with you.

Just as I am, and waiting not To rid my soul of one dark blot, To Thee whose blood can cleanse each spot, O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

In a moment we’re going to sing verse five together. I also want to remind you that being a Christian is just the beginning of a new journey. In order to stay vital as a Christian you need to immediately seek out other Christian fellowship. It’s important for you to read God’s word. In fact, we’ll probably put a web address up on the screen. You can just go to Amazing Facts and begin a series of Bible studies for free. Just study them online or order them and begin to study God’s word. This is where we learned the gospel today; it’s from the word of God. Read the Bible every day. You need to pray. Just as we prayed that little prayer, you need to pray on a regular basis. Walk with Christ in a relationship with Him. And you need to be part of a church family that’s preaching and teaching the word of God. Amen? We’ll show you how to do that. Some maybe have not been baptized yet. That’s really the marriage ceremony for a commitment to Christ. If you’d like to know how do I prepare for that important step, we’d like to talk to you. We’ll tell you what to do. Come as we sing verse five together. We’ll have prayer together.

Just as I am, Thou wilt receive, Wilt welcome, pardon, cleanse, relieve; Because Thy promise I believe, O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

I’m so happy for those who have come forward. I’m a little partial though. Why don’t you come up here, Nathan? Come on. Nathan has been telling me he wants to get baptized. I’m so glad for this decision. Praise the Lord! I said, “When you’re in the habit of reading your Bible every day…” And he’s been reading his Bible every day. He’s just waiting for Stephen to come home. He wants to get baptized when Stephen is here. I praise the Lord for this decision. Some of you, Holy Spirit is still working on some of you other young people. You haven’t been baptized yet. You may not do it right away, but you can make your decision and your parents will help you get ready. As we sing the last verse, you come. We’ll all pray together. Okay? Verse six.

Just as I am, Thy love I own Has broken every barrier down; Now, to be Thine, and Thine alone, O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

Father in heaven, Lord, we are very grateful for how good the good news really is that You give us hope and purpose, new hearts, You cleanse all of our sins, Lord. I also pray that each person here will have made a decision, those who might be listening right now, to accept the simple gospel, to embrace the essence of the gospel and to ask Jesus to come into their lives. Lord, we know there are struggles, challenges are not over, but everything changes when we give Christ permission to move into our hearts. It’s my prayer that all will make that decision. Those of us who have accepted Christ, help us know how to share the gospel with others. You’ve commanded us to do this in all world. Help us to fulfill Your command. We ask in Jesus’ name. Amen.

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