Friday, June 19, 2009

The Most Controversial Question

Note: This essay will appear in The Justin Texan next week.

The most controversial, yet the most illuminating question anyone can ask a professing Christian here in the Bible belt is, “What is the gospel?”. In other words, “What is the Christian message?” Why is this controversial? After all, with so many churches throughout North Texas one would think that this question would cause the least amount of contention of any question that you could ask a church goer.

Could it be that it exposes the ignorance of the average church member regarding the most basic tenet of Christianity? Just the other day I had the opportunity to speak to a woman in her fifties who has been attending churches for many years. These churches included a wide range of denominations; everything from Roman Catholic to non-denominational. I asked her the big question: “What do you think the gospel is?” She said, “You know, I’ve been attending church for years and I have no idea. I have been hoping that someone would tell me (!). Would you please tell me?” And she was very sincere. It was a privilege to be able to explain the gospel to her in a way that made sense.

Folks, there is something desperately wrong when someone who not only lives in the Bible belt, but who regularly attends a non-denominational church in her own town still does not know what the gospel is! The biggest dilemma of all is the fact that probably 90% of the people who attend church cannot answer this question and yet call themselves Christians. How can someone be a Christian and not know what the gospel is?

Imagine that I call a plumber to come fix a drain stoppage in my home. Imagine that he shows up with a plumber’s van outfitted with all of the tools of the trade, a plumber’s uniform with his name sewn neatly above the pocket, even a license proving that he is an approved plumber. But imagine that as soon as he comes into my home he starts fiddling with my light sockets or ceiling fans but never looks under my sink or near a pipe. What would I be forced to conclude? No matter what his van looks like, no matter what his uniform says and no matter what his education may be, he is not a plumber. No, he is an impostor. A plumber should know something about plumbing.

Likewise, if a “Christian” wears the right clothing on Sunday, carries a baptism or church membership certificate, has a Bible, and is respected as a fine upstanding member of the community and yet knows nothing about the gospel, how can they be considered a Christian? Friends, they are impostors. A Christian should know something about the gospel. If you do not, then what message do you trust to be saved from the wrath to come? Faith must have an object and that object must be reliable. If you don’t even know what the object of your faith is, what in the world do you believe? How do you know it is true? How can you even evaluate it if you don’t know what it is?

Another way of asking the question is, “If I had three minutes to live, what would you tell me that I need to do to get right with God?” This is a good question. If you cannot answer it, you have good reason to be concerned about the nature of your own faith. As the Apostle Paul said, “Examine yourself, to see if you are in the faith” (2 Cor. 13:5). For the answer to this most important question, please visit

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