Many people today are repackaging the gospel into an acceptable product for the culture around us. This often happens through slick ministries led by slick ministers who are dedicated to their methods of helping the gospel overcome the perceived sin of old age. The very word “gospel” has become a marketing phrase rather than a descriptive word meaning good news to fallen sinners.
Staff meetings among pastors, in some ways, have become like corporate board meetings where multi-campus ministries seek to streamline their approach to church much like a corporation rolls out franchises in different cities. Church services have become more like productions instead of worship assemblies for brothers and sisters in Christ to meet corporately with the living God. The authenticity of worship has been lost in our attempt to be cool, hip, and acceptable. Pastors dress more like rock stars rather than ministers of the gospel. Ministry branding and hip dress attire are mandatory as a new church culture seeks to repackage the gospel for a modern society. Everything from mainstream rock concerts on Sunday to small group Bible study over beer on Monday has crept into the church. After all, the gospel needs a makeover – right?
The Gospel is Foolishness to the World
At some point, we must face the sobering truth that the gospel will never be cool (1 Cor. 1:18). We can dress up the gospel in modern clothes and repackage it to an urbane culture, but at the end of the day – it’s still the gospel. It doesn’t matter if ministers grow long beards, dress in hipster attire, drink beer in study groups, and have a cigar lounge on their church campus – the gospel will never be cool and hip to a lost world.
Paul labored to make this point known to the church at Corinth. The church at Corinth was a church that seemed to have all of the potential in the world, for whatever that’s worth. In their sophisticated city filled with potential they discovered the deep holes of depravity, division, and perverted worship. One of the great problems that fueled the heart of Corinth’s problems was a single road that led approximately 65 miles into the city of Athens. In Athens, the wisdom of the world was transcendent. Philosophies ruled the day. It has been said that there were as many philosophies as philosophers.
Historical records reveal that there were at least 50 dominant philosophies that were operating in the ancient Roman empire – all devoted to a multiplicity of different false gods. Athens was the home of the Areopagus which served as the zenith of Greek wisdom and ideas, the pinnacle of Greek philosophical debate, and the think tank of the Greek culture. These philosophic views made their way down the trade route straight into the city of Corinth.
It was within that particular context that Paul wrote 1 Corinthians to the church in this wicked and dark city. He encouraged them to cling to the message of the cross – no matter how foolish it may have seemed. Paul didn’t encourage the church to become trendy, hip, or cool in order to make the gospel acceptable. Paul said the following:
For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom,  but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles,  but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.  For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. (1 Cor. 1:22-25).
Notice that Paul didn’t encourage the church at Corinth to appeal to the Greeks by making the gospel seem wise. Likewise, Paul didn’t encourage the church at Corinth to reach the Jews by removing the offense of the gospel. Instead he solidified the mission of the church at Corinth as a gospel ministry with gospel ministers who preach the good news that seemed like utter foolishness. If Paul never sought to make the gospel cool, why are so many people today fixated on this ministry venture?
Gospel People are Fools
Jesus promised us that we would be hated and despised as fools for following Him (Matt. 10:22). What person in their right mind would follow after a man who was hated and crucified on a Roman cross for claiming to be one with God? Only a fool would do something like that – right? That’s why after Peter and John were beaten and threatened by the religious establishment, they replied, “for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard (Acts 4:20).”
As we explore the early church in the book of Acts, we don’t see them majoring on set designs, hipster clothing, and church branding to get the gospel to the ends of the world. The early Christians were very much under submission to Christ’s rule and their lives exemplified holiness – not rebellion. We don’t see the need for the early church to use antinomianism to carry the torchlight of the gospel onward. Instead, we see people who were faithful to the gospel – even to the point of death – in order to get the gospel to the ends of the world.
It’s offensive to God when we sit and try to think up ways to make the gospel cool. God’s gospel will never be cool. The moment that we finally think the gospel is cool will be the moment we’ve replaced the gospel of God with another gospel. The bloody gospel will never be acceptable to a sophisticated culture of sin loving people. We can dress up in certain clothes, learn to talk with a certain swagger, install tattoo parlors and cigar lounges on our church campuses – but God haters will never be impressed with our gospel. They may compliment our tattoos and smoke our cigars, but they will never like our gospel. If you’re known for what you smoke and what you drink rather than the gospel you embrace, that’s a problem.
People who love the esteem of man will never embrace the ridicule of Jesus’ cross. If our ministries teach people to love the praise and respect of man, our churches will become a Sunday production rather than an assembly of blood washed sinners who are willing to live out Luke 9:23. The gospel will always be a scandal to a lost world, and those of us who follow Christ will be scandalous people. Success in ministry is not achieved by the cool factor of appearance or production. Success in ministry is based on a firm commitment to the gospel of Christ and a willingness to become a fool for Jesus. Please stop trying to give Jesus a makeover.
Many people have images of this angry monk named Luther making his way to the castle door in Wittenberg on October 31st 1517 to nail the 95 Theses as an open rebuke and challenge to the Roman Catholic Church. That’s not exactly how it all happened. The wheels were starting to turn in the mind of Luther regarding the problems of the Roman Catholic Church, but if you read his 95 Theses, you will not see the five solas of the Reformation mentioned. In Luther’s mind, the Roman Catholic Church needed to be fixed, but he wasn’t opposed to everything.
It would take two years before this dedicated monk would finally have, what some refer to as the “tower experience.” It was while studying the Bible in the monastery that Luther finally understood Romans 1:17. Before, Luther’s view of God was that of an angry and judgmental God. He viewed his salvation as coming through self depreciating and accusatory statements of self. If self-love was the sin, the only way to be saved was through self-hatred. Therefore, in Luther’s view, the way to God was by accepting His judgments. Michael Reeves summarizes Luther’s view by writing, “This gloomy idea that the only solution for self-love is self-hatred and self accusation was built upon a frightening view of God. Luther could only see that God was all Judge and no love, his righteousness being all about punishing sinners, his ‘gospel’ just the promise of judgment. Here was a God he could only ever cower before.” 
It was while sitting in his cell and reading the Bible that Romans 1:17 and God’s righteousness came to a soul shaking reality. It was possible to receive forgiveness through the promise of God alone, by faith alone, in Christ alone rather than through the judgments of God. No longer was God a gloomy Judge. The dark clouds of false theology were moved back and for the first time Luther could see the pure rays of gospel light shining upon his face. Luther recalls this moment:
Though I lived as a monk without reproach, I felt that I was a sinner before God with an extremely disturbed conscience. I could not believe that he was placated by my satisfaction. I did not love, yes, I hated the righteousness God who punishes sinners, and secretly, if not blasphemously, certainly murmuring greatly, I was angry with God, and said, ‘As if, indeed, it is not enough, that miserable sinners, eternally lost through original sin, are crushed by every kind of calamity by the law of the decalogue, without having God add pain to pain by the gospel and also by the gospel threatening us with his righteousness and wrath!’ Thus I raged with a fierce and troubled conscience. Nevertheless, I beat importunately upon Paul at that place, most ardently desiring to know what St. Paul wanted.
At last, by the mercy of God, meditating day and night, I gave heed to the context of the words, namely, ‘In it the righteousness of God is revealed, as it is written, “He who through faith is righteous shall live.”‘ There I began to understand that the righteousness of God is that by which the righteous lives by a gift of God, namely by faith. And this is the meaning: the righteousness of God is revealed by the gospel, namely, the passive righteousness with which merciful God justifies us by faith, as it is written, ‘He who through faith is righteous shall live.’ Here I felt that I was altogether born again and had entered paradise itself through open gates.
This whole scene happened two years after Luther had nailed the 95 Theses to the castle door. What was a spark in 1517 was now a blaze in 1519. Luther would spend his next year writing with a ferocious tenacity. The Reformation was now starting to explode. The verse of the Reformation was Romans 1:17. As you consider the historical significance of October 31st, we can be assured of this fact, Rome has long regretted sending this budding monk to Wittenberg to study the Bible. If the Roman Catholic Church had a desire to control the Bible and keep the truths bottled up in Latin – the language of academia, they would contradict themselves by putting an open Bible in the hands of Martin Luther. They had a desire to see him teach theology and to cure his spiritual anxiety, so they sent him to Wittenberg. God took Romans 1:17 and pierced the bowels of the Roman Catholic Church.
If Luther was “God’s Volcano” as Michael Reeves suggests, it was Romans 1:17 that caused him to erupt. The lava of the Reformation consumed the false salvation practices of the pope and the Roman Catholic Church. Luther made it abundantly clear, God is not for sale. R. C. Sproul concludes, “The Reformation was not merely a Great Awakening; it was the Greatest Awakening to the true Gospel since the Apostolic Age.” 
Romans 1:17 – For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”
Michael Reeves, The Unquenchable Flame, 2009, 46.
R. C. Sproul and Archie Parrish, The Spirit of Revival, 2000, 17.
Someone once said, “Wolves look good dressed up in wool.” That is a very true statement indeed. Jesus Himself said in Matthew 7:15, “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves.” As we consider the threat of false teachers, what should be the response of a shepherd of one of God’s flocks? Should false teachers be named openly? Is that the proper response or is that sinful?
Some people argue that it’s a slanderous thing to name people openly when calling out heresy. Others suggest that we must tread lightly and be very cautious in these areas. What path is most acceptable in the sight of our Lord? That’s the real question we must consider when we stand in the pulpit with the open Bible. As we consider the challenges of preaching in a world saturated with heresy, we labor for the glory of Christ and the joy of God’s sheep.
Calling Names – The Positive Side
John MacArthur once said, “The teaching of a false prophet cannot withstand scrutiny under the divine light of Scripture.”1 When a pastor stands in the pulpit and shines the light of the gospel upon false teaching and names the names of false teachers, this can be very beneficial to the congregation on several different levels. New Christians can see the dangers that are lurking, even in the most unsuspected places such as the shelves in the “Christian” bookstore. When the names of false teachers are not veiled, the sheep of God’s pasture are able to see the wolves clearly. It provides the children of God an advantage as they watch for their souls and the souls of their own household.
In short, the positives of actually naming names will protect the church from serious doctrinal error. False teachers are depraved morally and entrapped by their commitment to viciously attack and oppose the pure gospel of Christ. More than one church in the pages of history has been assaulted by false teaching. To name the names of false teachers is a responsible thing to do. It may violate the tolerance code of our modern culture, but it protects the church, exalts Christ, guards the gospel, and reveals error.
Calling Names – The Negatives
I recall preaching a message several years ago where I was distinguishing the true gospel from the health, wealth, and prosperity teachings. I decided that I would name names as I illustrated the dangers of that doctrine. When I went down a list of false teachers, I recall a woman abruptly got up from her seat and left the room. She wanted to meet with me the next day in my office and when we talked she explained that she was offended by the fact that I had called a specific person a false teacher. When I provided clear evidence from the Scriptures, she was unwilling to submit. This woman was not a member of our congregation. She had been visiting for several weeks and as a result of this, she never joined our church. When you call names from the pulpit, you do run the risk of growing at a slower pace than some of the more ecumenical congregations.
When a Christian is sitting in the pew and he hears the name T.D. Jakes or Joel Osteen called from the pulpit as a false teacher, it could lead him to research their name, ministry, teaching, and perhaps a book they have written. Now, that may not be the case for the majority of the congregation, but what about that inquisitive young Christian that’s merely checking them out? Could calling names be harmful to the Christian who has no exposure to their ministry until their name was called from the pulpit during a sermon designed to expose the health, wealth, and prosperity doctrine?
Calling Names – A Biblical Argument
In 1 Timothy 1:3, Paul instructed Timothy “remain at Ephesus so that you may charge certain persons not to teach any different doctrine.” Interestingly, different doctrine is the combination of two Greek words, didaskalia“to teach” and heteros, which means “of a different kind.” The point Paul was making is clear. Don’t allow teachers in Ephesus to deviate from the path of the true gospel.
In Titus 1:11, when referencing false teachers, Paul said to Titus, “They must be silenced, since they are upsetting whole families by teaching for shameful gain what they ought not to teach.” In other words, one of the biblical qualifications of an elder is one who is able to stop the mouths of heretics. Therefore, one of the basic duties of a pastor is to protect the church from heretics – those who pervert the gospel. In 2 Timothy 3:13, Paul warned Timothy by describing the false teachers as, “evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.”
Several times in Paul’s writings we find that he actually named the names of false teachers.
In 2 Timothy 1:15, Paul named Phygelus and Hermogenes. These men are thought to have served as elders and had denied the faith.
In 2 Timothy 4:10, Paul named Demas as a man who had deserted Paul because he loved the world.
In 2 Timothy 4:14, Paul named Alexander the coppersmith. He was apparently a threat to the church at Ephesus and was an enemy of Paul and the gospel that Paul had labored to preach.
Did Paul’s name calling harm Phygelus and Hermogenes? Sure, it probably led Timothy to go back and report this to the elders in Ephesus and it’s likely that these men would have experienced a damaged reputation as a result. Was this the right call by Paul? What about Demas who had literally deserted Paul as he was in the Mamertine prison awaiting execution? Did the fact that Paul called his name to Timothy harm his character? While this was a personal letter to Timothy, it would have been made known to the wider church community at some point. Could this have damaged Demas? When Paul called out Alexander, the metal worker who had opposed Paul in Ephesus, did that harm his industry?
As we think through the reasoning of Paul’s name calling, we must realize that Paul was not willing to stand aside while the depraved wolves devoured God’s sheep. He was a man of strong conviction and he possessed a pastor’s heart. He wanted to protect the church and he desired to guard the gospel. Two different times in two different letters, Paul commanded Timothy to guard the gospel (1 Timothy 6:20; 2 Timothy 1:14). The preservation of the gospel was at the heart of Paul’s decision to call out specific false teachers and enemies of the cross.
In conclusion, pastors and bloggers should make the aim of their ministry Soli Deo Gloria and the guarding of the true gospel. If a person is proven to be a false teacher by their doctrine, it would be irresponsible to veil them to the Christian community. As ministers of the truth, we have an obligation to guard the good deposit that has been entrusted to our care in order that their message does not spread like a deadly disease (2 Timothy 2:16-17). We must make sure that we use the words “heretic” and “false teacher” in the most careful way as possible. When labeling people we must utilize wisdom and discernment. These labels can damage people and their character. If we error in our judgement, it can leave lasting damage upon the individual. If a person is indeed a false teacher, the label serves them well. May our writing and preaching exalt Christ and shut the mouths of false teachers. However, as we write and as we preach, if we labor to teach the true gospel, it will expose false teaching as a red barn in a green field. We don’t need to be experts on all world religions, but we must seek diligently to know God as we see Him revealed in the gospel of Jesus Christ.
According to J.I. Packer:
The mark of the false prophet or teacher is self-serving unfaithfulness to God and His truth…There are teachers in the church today who never speak of repentance, self-denial, the call to be relatively poor for the Lord’s sake, or any other demanding aspect of discipleship. Naturally they are popular and approved, but for all that, they are false prophets. We will know such people by their fruits.2
Soli Deo Gloria,
Pastor Josh Buice
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
1. John MacArthur, Matthew 1-7, Moody, 1985, 471.
2. J.I. Packer, Your Father Loves You, Harold Shaw Publishers, 1986, 9/19.
Duck Dynasty is more than a reality show – it’s a full scale brand of bearded men, duck calls, clothing lines, band aids (yes – I said band aids) and more. Who would have thought that a group of bearded men would sweep our nation in such a powerful way? The popular show on the A&E network has been the subject of controversy due to the graphic nature of Phil Robertson’s comments on sexuality in a recent interview with Drew Magary from GQ magazine. In the interview, Phil Robertson said the following when asked to define sin:
Start with homosexual behavior and just morph out from there. Bestiality, sleeping around with this woman and that woman and that woman and those men…Don’t be deceived. Neither the adulterers, the idolaters, the male prostitutes, the homosexual offenders, the greedy, the drunkards, the slanderers, the swindlers—they won’t inherit the kingdom of God. Don’t deceive yourself. It’s not right.
Dr. Albert Mohler, in commenting on the interview, said that Phil Robertson’s use of language was “rather crude and graphically anatomical” in making his point. Drew Magary explained, “Out here in these woods, without any cameras around, Phil is free to say what he wants. Maybe a little too free. He’s got lots of thoughts on modern immorality, and there’s no stopping them from rushing out.” Magary is right about that – Phil Robertson is very outspoken and if it comes out that way in his show, you can only imagine how outspoken he is on a daily basis related to the cultural sins that are so prevalent in our day.
As a direct result of Phil Robertson’s words in his interview, A&E released the following statement:
We are extremely disappointed to have read Phil Robertson’s comments in GQ, which are based on his own personal beliefs and are not reflected in the series Duck Dynasty. His personal views in no way reflect those of A&E Networks, who have always been strong supporters and champions of the LGBT community.
As of now, Phil Robertson is on “indefinite suspension” from the program. Apparently, his views do not align with A&E and the modern sins of our culture, so Phil Robertson must be suspended. The interesting details surrounding this controversy are complex. First, you have Duck Dynasty as a brand. Their slick marketing team is using every means possible to fly as high as possible as quickly as possible and stay up there as long as possible. Everyone in marketing knows that the eventual downward turn is inevitable. On the other side of the equation, you have the television network A&E riding Duck Dynasty as far as they can, as quickly as they can, in hopes of staying there as long as they can. From the beginning A&E completely disagrees with their politics, personal positions on sexuality, and their religious beliefs. But – it’s all about the almighty dollar to A&E – so they are happy to use the bearded men so long as their stock is high.
Many are amazed that it has taken the liberal left so long to actually call the Duck Dynasty family on the carpet for their views on marriage and sexuality. Why has it taken so long to pick up on their language? That being said, I’m asking another question this morning. Why has it taken so long for the Christian community to pick up on their language of “baptismal regeneration” in their YouTube sermons and religious speaking engagements? What exactly is the Duck Dynasty gospel? Why isn’t anyone talking about the evangelistic ministry of the Robertson’s church (White’s Ferry Road Church of Christ) called – “We Care” led by Larry West? He clearly articulates baptismal regeneration in his video “Step Into The Water, Is Baptism Essential?” which can be accessed directly from the website. In fact, the mere question of baptismal regeneration and Duck Dynasty in a conversation with Christians today may cause people to turn on you for “picking on” the Robertson family or it may just result in a room full of yawns.
I agree with much of what Phil Robertson and his family believe regarding politics, the state of our nation, gun rights, hunting rights, and more. I laugh at their “southern style” jokes. I watch the show. I applaud Phil Robertson’s comments on the issues of sexual sin – after all – they originated in the Bible. However, I must draw the line when it comes to the gospel of Christ. When I listen to the Robertson family share the gospel I’m constantly frustrated with their language of “believe in Jesus and get in the water.” The greater controversy to me is not that it has taken so long for America and the LGBT community to pick up on the biblical language of the Robertson family related to sexual sin. The hidden controversy has yet to be discussed openly. Why has it taken so long for the church to discern the language of baptismal regeneration that is continually overflowing from the gospel presentations of the Duck Dynasty family? Could it be that the church is using the Duck Dynasty phenomenon in much the same way that A&E has been using them? We need to be clear on where we stand on human sexuality. Even more importantly is where we stand on the issue of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
For more on the issue of baptismal regeneration and the Robertson family – read the following:
What is the O’Reilly gospel? This evening on the Bill O’Reilly show, a clip of Bill O’Reilly on the Don Imus radio show was presented. In the clip, O’Reilly and Don Imus discussed Jesus and the upcoming book by O’Reilly titled, Killing Jesus (due out in September). The clip that was indeed “clipped” did not show the full conversation between the two men. It was however clipped by O’Reilly’s staff and apparently portrayed an accurate view of O’Reilly’s position on the gospel of Jesus Christ. While many people view O’Reilly as a social conservative, his position on the gospel could not be more liberal.
Bill O’Reilly told Don Imus that he expects many people to be angry over his book on Jesus. If the pages of the book include his definition of the gospel as he articulated on the Don Imus show, he should have many genuine Christians angry for sure. Much like Joel Osteen’s pattern of overlooking the sin problem, O’Reilly seemed to commit the very same grievous error in his description of the gospel.
The clip begins with Don Imus stating that he believes that there is more than “one path to where ever it is that everybody thinks they’re going.” Imus is clearly opposing the exclusivity of Jesus Christ in his statement. O’Reilly responded by talking about a Roman Catholic doctrine known as “Baptism by Desire.” According to O’Reilly, a person who is not formally baptized with water on the head can still get to heaven by leading a good life. O’Reilly continues by stating, “The theology of Christianity is based on one thing – treating other people the way you want to be treated. If you do that and if you live in New Guinea, I think you’re gonna make it.” As the clip ends, O’Reilly appears on his show and explains that his reference to New Guinea was taken from part of his conversation with Don Imus where he argued that a just God would never assign people to hell who have never heard of Jesus.
This entire conversation is extremely troubling on several levels.
1. Bill O’Reilly, a Roman Catholic, is writing a book on Jesus without sufficient knowledge of the person and message of Jesus.
2. Bill O’Reilly flatly misrepresents the teachings of Jesus by telling Don Imus that people who live a good life will make it to heaven – without Jesus.
Jesus taught that He was the only way a person could be reconciled to God the Father and spend eternity in heaven. This is clear from John 14:6 where Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” The Scriptures echo that same teaching all throughout the New Testament (John 5:24; Acts 4:12; 1 John 5:10-12; 1 John 2:23). In fact, the entire foundation of Christianity is based on the exclusivity of Jesus Christ.
3. Bill O’Reilly misunderstands the gospel of Jesus Christ by stating that people who have never heard of Jesus will automatically to go heaven.
If Jesus spoke John 14:6, and He certainly did, no other way to heaven exists. The doctrine of the exclusivity of Christ insists that there is no other means whereby a person can be reconciled to God outside of Jesus Christ. This includes the position of ignorance. Therefore, if Jesus is the only way to God and the only way to receive the forgiveness of sins, that would mean that those people in New Guinea (or any other place on planet earth) who have never heard the gospel will not receive a free pass to heaven (see my article on this subject here). Why would the apostles leave families and die a ruthless death if other paths existed? Why would Jim Elliot die on the river bank in Ecuador trying to convert the Auca Indians if ignorance was capable of saving them? If Bill O’Reilly truly believes that people who have never heard of Jesus will go to heaven, the most damnable thing he could do is write a book about Jesus and publicize it on national television.
Last of all, Bill O’Reilly paints a faulty portrait of the attribute of God’s justice to Don Imus (and the world). He stated that a “just God” would never assign people to hell who have never heard of Jesus. The very attribute of God’s justice requires Him to punish all sin. Would a just God crush His Son on a Roman cross? Isaiah 53:10 points out the truth that God literally crushed His Son for sinners. Either my sin will be punished in hell or it was punished on the cross. There is no other means of satisfying the total justice of God. That would mean that the person Bill O’Reilly described on his show in New Guinea who has never heard of Jesus must have some other means of erasing their sin prior to entering heaven. This must happen or they will not be welcomed by God because His justice will not allow them into His presence. The reality that O’Reilly misses is that those people in New Guinea are all sinners. Just like those people in India. It’s the same for all of us in America as well. Romans 3:23 clearly teaches that we have all sinned and we deserve the wrath of God (Romans 6:23).
Bill O’Reilly is a very poor theologian who has now written a book about the Son of God. Although I have never read any of O’Reilly’s other books, with the glaring misrepresentations of Jesus and His gospel, it should cause us to ask ourselves if he got the information on Lincoln right. One of the most discouraging facts about O’Reilly’s position is that many evangelical Christians who watch his show every night didn’t hear anything wrong with his description of the gospel of Jesus. In his description of the gospel, O’Reilly kills the gospel and turns it into a self-righteous system of good deeds and morality. Paul gave a very serious warning to those who pervert the gospel of Christ. Bill O’Reilly should carefully read Galatians 1:8-9 – “But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. 9 As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.” Charles Spurgeon said it well years ago when he stated, “The greatest enemy to human souls is the self-righteous spirit which makes men look to themselves for salvation.”
It’s one thing to have strong political views. If you’re wrong, the stakes are not nearly as high. However, when you speak for God and define the gospel of Christ – the stakes could not be higher. Although O’Reilly said that he doesn’t use his position to tell people what they should believe, isn’t that exactly what he did on the Imus show and his own television show on July 23rd? Although Bill O’Reilly prides himself on stopping the spin, he spun the gospel into something that literally killed the gospel of grace and redefined it into a self-righteous system of works. If Killing Jesus is full of this view of salvation provided by Jesus, it will prove to be problematic to a clear understanding of the gospel of Christ.
As a boy, every Saturday morning was devoted to cartoons. I recall watching the cartoons and movies that presented a superhero capable of mighty feats. Every show seemed to have a plot centered around people in distress and the superhero would sweep in and save the day. I remember watching the original Superman movie as a boy and being overwhelmed with his strength and ability to fly. I can still hear the line, “This looks like a job for Superman.” I also remember growing up watching He-Man and The Incredible Hulk. Unlike He-Man, the Hulk busted out of his clothing and turned green. It was exciting as a boy to use my imagination and explore these superhero characters and their “super” powers.
On the weekends, I would often spend the night with my grandfather (Pawpaw). I remember sitting on his couch at night and being board out of my mind as he watched a different type of superhero named John Wayne. I found myself board because this cowboy rode a horse, and I couldn’t identify with him. He was not as strong as Superman and he had no ability to fly. John Wayne needed a gun, but Superman was always faster than a speeding bullet and could catch a bullet out of mid-air. To me – John Wayne was a weakling in comparison to Superman.
In our modern culture today, we have hundreds of superheros in cartoons and movies. It seems that they come in every shape, color, and size. Some come with capes and cars, but others come with lasers and lightening. Spiderman comes with a unique ability to spin webs and travel across entire cities by swinging on his web. Batman comes with a cape and his signature car – the Batmobile. Superman can fly, has x-ray vision, and is capable of massive brute strength. The Incredibles is about an entire family of superheros with unique superpowers – including brute strength and super speed. Our society is saturated with a love for superheros for a reason. We sense the need to have a “good-guy” who can overcome the bad in our world. We like it when the “good guy” comes and defeats the villain. Although our world is largely pagan and refuses to acknowledge sin, even the writers in Hollywood sense the struggle between good and evil that plagues our world.
How does Jesus size up to the modern day superheros? Are we as adults more captivated by the characters of Jack Bauer, Jason Borune, Ethan Hunt, Spiderman, Batman, James Bond, or John Wayne than we are Jesus – the Christ of God? Do we find ourselves board to tears as we read Scripture? Are we lacking interest in the gospel of Jesus Christ but seriously devoted to the screen characters of a movie or television show? If so, we must consider the power and sovereignty of Jesus Christ.
Jesus came without a cape and He didn’t fly. Jesus walked dusty roads and rode the back of donkeys rather than racing into town in a supercar. Jesus did not spin webs or have x-ray vision. As a King, Jesus was poor and had no house to call His own. Jesus didn’t use fancy swords to fight His enemies. Jesus didn’t have a superhero suit that he wore under His robe. Jesus appeared normal and humble, yet He was sovereign God in human flesh.
Consider the following texts of Scripture:
Jesus created the world – Colossians 1
Jesus is Ruler over all things and all people – Ephesians 1:19-23
Jesus rules over nature – Matthew 21:19-20; Matthew 8:26-27; John 2
Jesus can walk on water – Matthew 14:28-29
Jesus has power over disease – Luke 7:1-10
Jesus has the power to raise the dead – John 11:1-44
Jesus has the power to heal blindness – John 9
Jesus defeated death by His resurrection – Revelation 1:18; 1 Corinthians 15; John 2:19-22
Jesus has the power to forgive sins – John 14:6; Acts 4:12; Romans 10:13; Matthew 11:28; Mark 2:10
As we read the Bible, we see a powerful story of love, sacrifice, and salvation. What greater story of salvation and the defeat of an evil super power exists than the gospel of Jesus Christ? Paul explained to us that the Greeks viewed the gospel as utter foolishness (1 Corinthians 1:17-25). What King would surrender to win? What King would die to liberate His people? What King of any royal class would humble himself to the Roman cross – without a fight? As I was thinking through the humility of the gospel, I realized that in all of the humility we must not lose sight of God’s sovereign power. Jesus spoke of laying down His life by saying, “No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father” (John 10:18).
As we read holy Scripture, we should see the power and sovereignty of God on display in Jesus. We should be captivated by the gospel of Jesus Christ in ways that far outweigh the superheros of modern society. John Piper once said, “Being infinite, God is inexhaustibly interesting. It is therefore impossible that God be boring.” What could be more exciting than a man claiming to be God? The answer: A man claiming to be God and it being validated as factual! Jesus said, “Before Abraham was, I AM.” The resurrection proved His statement to be true and trustworthy. As parents we should labor to teach our children to be mesmerized by the power of Jesus in ways that make modern superheros appear as weaklings. The gospel doesn’t need to be exaggerated or intensified. The gospel has enough power and potency on its own. Jesus is worthy of our attention and focus – and who is there in Hollywood that should captivate our minds more than the One who created all things?
May God cause us to be overwhelmed with the gospel – the story of redemption – the story of love – the story of salvation – the story of grace!