There have been lot’s of answers given to that question. Some have said that education provides the solution, so an education is provided for many. Others have said that what is really needed is tolerance, so we just need to get along. Others believe that the real issue is a disparity in socio-economic status, so money and goods are doled out by the government. Still others say we need more laws, more prisons, more death penalties, more churches, more of this or more of that. We have a President who ran a campaign on Change, and repeatedly told America, “Yes, we can.” In the words of the famous Texas theologian Dr. Phil, “How’s that workin’ out for ya?” And, while there is a lot of good in many of these things, they all lack the power to create and more importantly sustain real change. So, what is the answer: The Gospel of Jesus Christ!
This is an excerpt written by Steve Camp at his blog, and can be read in it’s entirety as a pdf here.
“If any one wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Me.” – Matthew 16:24
The Sufficiency of the Gospel
The church has the most powerful, explosive, life-changing, transforming truth in all of history – the gospel of Jesus Christ! It [the gospel] saves one for eternity (John 6:39, Ephesians 1:3-14); it completely changes someone into a new creation (2 Corinthian 5:17); it forgives sin and cleanses us thoroughly from our sin (2 Corinthian 5:21, Ephesians 1:7); translates us from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of light (Colossians 1:10-14; 1 Peter 2:9); grants us eternal life (John 3:16); secures heaven as our home forever (John 14:1-6); it overcomes death (1 Corinthians 15:50-58); it defeats sin and brings us into intimacy with God (Romans 5:1); and it is rich in grace and mercy (Ephesians 2:1-10) without which we would all be forever lost with no hope (Galatians 5:2-6). It is completely efficacious for the believer in Christ, past, present and future (Romans 8:20-30). We have been elected, enabled and extolled by the gospel of Jesus Christ. In other words, we are saved (Ephesians 2:8-9), kept (John 17:12, Jude 1) and presented (Jude 24) – justified, sanctified and glorified. (Romans 8:29-30). Is it any wonder the Apostle Paul boldly proclaims, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes.” (Romans 1:16). And again in 1 Corinthians 9:16, “…for woe is me if I do not preach the gospel.”
Let’s look at three essential commands of Lord for salvation: that you deny yourself; take up your cross; and follow Him (Matthew 16:24).
“The Gospel According to Jesus”
1. DENY YOURSELF:
To deny yourself means to come to the end of yourself; to be done with yourself; to see yourself as bankrupt from any ability to save yourself; to not place any trust whatsoever within yourself to be saved. The Lord did not come to “complete us” or to help us “get in touch with ourselves.” Far from it. The Lord is calling for us to be finished with ourselves: our desires; our goals; our ways; our own truths; our agendas; our self-made religious whims, ceremonies or inventions. We must “deny” ourselves to be His disciple. John Calvin says it this way: “the sum of the Christian life is the denial of self”- and I thoroughly agree with him. We must come to Christ not putting our confidence in our own “goodness”, because we have none (Romans 3:10), but solely in what Jesus has done for us. The prophet Isaiah brings us to the end of our own righteousness by affirming, “All our righteous deeds are like filthy garments” (Isaiah 64:6). I recognize this is a hard way, for our entire culture shouts at you to trust in yourself, you control your own destiny, it is personal power and self esteem that will set you free. The most flamboyant, bold, misguided, foolish example of this is the recent fascination with psychic power. Out of all the religions in this world, and there are thousands of them, there are really only two kinds; the religion of human achievement; and the religion of divine accomplishment. The religion of human achievement says that man is good, man can save himself, man can earn his way to heaven through good works, etc…
Christianity on the other hand says man is totally depraved, completely sinful, by nature children of wrath, sons of disobedience, none are good, and, in fact, no one does what is good (Roms. 3:10-18). Christianity says human achievement cannot save and that to have salvation someone must have divinely accomplished what man could never do. Jesus Christ fulfilled on the cross what no man or manmade religion could ever do – satisfy God’s wrath against all sin and abolish the penalty of sin. He “died once for all, for all time” (Hebrews 10:12). His sacrifice is complete not requiring any additional word. When Jesus cried out on the cross “It is finished!” He was proclaiming that He had achieved the atonement as the Captain of our Salvation (Hebrews 2:10). When any man embraces, surrenders and submits to Jesus Christ, by grace, as Lord and Savior of his life (2 Corinthians 4:5), he then has as Paul says, “peace with God” (Romans 5:1). In other words, the war is over. “If God is for us who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31). The answer is clear… no one. And the converse is also true, if God is against you who can be for you? The New Age movement? Buddha, Mohammed, or Krishna? No. Sun Young Moon, J.Z. Knight or Shirley MacClaine? No. Can praying on your rosary or trusting in the Pope in Rome? No. You must deny yourself; jettison all confidence in your own ability to save yourself and cling to Christ alone.
That is why Jesus says in the Sermon on the Mount, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3). “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but by Me” (John 14:6). Jesus is absolutely exclusive in His claim. He is the only living and true way! There is no other way to heaven no matter how noble, good, or satisfying it may seem. You must be bankrupt of human achievement, and place your belief only in Christ for your redemption (John 3:16).
2. TAKE UP YOUR CROSS:
All people in the world have one thing in common – a sin nature. We are all born into this life with sin in our heart that needs divine healing. It’s difficult for us to imagine this when we see little new-born babies who are so pure, gentle, sweet and innocent. Scripture tells us though that we are “by nature children of wrath” (Ephesians 2:3); “behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me” (Psalms 51:5); and again the Psalmist affirms this reality when he says, “the wicked are estranged from the womb; those who speak lies go astray from birth” (Psalms 58:3). That is why our “old man”; our “old self”; our sin nature needs to be dealt with. We need a new nature that is not rooted in sin but rooted in righteousness! (read Ephesians 2:1-10). Two natures cannot co-exist with each other (read Romans 6) and that is why in order to receive a new nature the old one must be brought to Calvary and crucified!
The Apostle Paul was proclaiming this truth when he explodes with this amazing statement in Galatians 2:20. “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ Jesus lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and delivered Himself up for me.” And again in Romans 6:6 he says, “knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, that our body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin.” When we come and place our faith and trust in Jesus Christ and what He has accomplished at Calvary, at that moment we are crucified with Him. Our old self or nature is executed, put to death, and we are made alive unto God…new creations in Christ Jesus our Lord! That is painful for the old man doesn’t want to die, but live. Oh friend, but we must come the way of the cross if we desire to have eternal life in Jesus Christ.
3. FOLLOW HIM:
Last but not least, we must follow Him. I can’t think of a better definition of a Christian than one who follows Him–who obeys the Lord and His Word. The masses would come from miles around to hear our Lord preach, see Him perform miracles and acts of healing. However, Jesus said to the onlookers that they would have “to eat His flesh and drink His blood” if they wanted to be His disciples (John 6:37ff). What did He mean by this? Every time Jesus said follow Me, He was headed to the cross. He was meaning to partake of the crucified life. As my friend, John MacArthur, so susinctly says, “to give all that you are for all that Jesus is.” This means that we must love Him more than all other loves – father, mother, brother, sister, son and daughter. Jesus isn’t saying “hate your families.” But what He is saying is, that He must be first love of your life. (read Luke 14:26-27; Rev. 2:4). The gospel is Jesus Christ and Him crucified, buried and risen bodily on the third day. It is good news that there is eternal life in Christ, victory over sin, hope beyond the grave for those who place their faith and trust in Him. Oh my dear friend, consider the cost.