I was drinking coffee today, not an uncommon thing. My first cup was the good 'ole Reformers Roast. It's a strong coffee with a good full flavor. Since I didn't want to be wired for the entire afternoon, my second cup was Colombian Decaf. It tasted really good too, but I began to think to myself,
"Hmm, this is hot like coffee. It smells like coffee. And by golly it even tastes like coffee. But is it really coffee?"Now you may disagree with me, but in my opinion it had lost it's right to call itself coffee. It is not as it should be. The caffeine which made up what it was, was missing. Decaf is not coffee, even though it smells and tastes like it is.
Why do I bring this up? Well, in too many churches today - and you can see it everywhere - we hear about the Gospel. Now what does the Gospel look like? The first and most important is that it always focuses around the birth, life, suffering, death, resurrection and ascension of our Lord Jesus Christ. This is the heart and soul of the Gospel.
Yet, there are other things that are present often when the Gospel is heard, the Word of God Himself in the bible. Often, there is great ceremony. In most instances there is music of some sort which is accompanied along with the proclamation of the Gospel. Many times there is actual heartfelt emotion which is produced from the hearing of the sweet Gospel itself. There are many things which often accompany the Gospel of Jesus Christ which brings salvation.
But now I ask the question, is everything that is called Gospel, really Gospel? Just as in Decaf coffee is not really coffee. So neither is the Gospel really the Gospel if the atoning work of Jesus Christ is left out. If the Gospel becomes deJesus-ed, then the Gospel is not really the Gospel anymore.
You can see men waving the bible around in their hands, but does that mean what they are reading from that bible is always the Gospel? You can have great ceremony, but just because there is great ceremony is the Gospel necessarily present? You can have great music, Bach or Thousand Foot Krutch, but does that mean the Gospel is always present along with that music? Pleasant heartfelt emotions that are present, are they always borne out the Gospel? All these things can be present, but without the message of Justification in Christ Jesus, is the Gospel message still the Gospel message?
Or do the things, which cause you to taste and feel like the Gospel is present, simple provide the illusion that the Gospel is there? Just as decaf coffee is not coffee without the caffeine, so also are the things which look like the Gospel not the Gospel without the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Lord, help us to always look to you. Keep us steadfast in Your True Word of Salvation in Jesus Christ.