At the 2003 Ligonier Conference, John MacArthur spoke on “The Myth of Influence”. His assigned topic was to speak on the myth that the Gospel advances on the back of public favor. In other words, that we can somehow influence people into the Kingdom of God if we hide the more unpalatable aspects of the Gospel, if we as a church try to look like the world, if we can stylize our churches in order to minimize resistance, if we make the church going experience comfortable for the non-believer, if we try to be cool they will see that Jesus is cool and then repent. There is only one way to enter the kingdom and it is through the gate of the Gospel.
The Gospel doesn’t advance on the back of public favor, it advances on the back of the Holy Spirit despite public hostility.
Of course this is a myth.
At the beginning his two-par message, Dr MacArthur said that he had endured many battles in his decades as a pastor and teacher. He’s defended the inerrancy of the Bible, battled over the authority of the word of God, battled over the deity of Jesus Christ, battles over the doctrine of the Holy Spirit, battled over paradigms over sanctification. Those were to be expected in the life of a pastor-teacher.
What I didn’t expect was to spend most of my ministry life battling to rescue the Gospel from evangelicals. That has really been a shock to me. It’s seemingly getting worse all the time as the Gospel sinks below the radar.
Serious worship disappears along with the public ordinances. Biblical, theological exposition of scripture vanishes. Transcendence and profundity are exchanged for mimicking shallow, worldly worship styles. Church discipline disappears, holiness is non-existent, and sin is normalized. The myth is that somehow this is going to get people into the kingdom.
For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. (1 Corinthians 1:18)
Think about that deeply for a moment. The word of the cross IS the power of God. For those of us being saved, the word of the cross is THE POWER OF GOD. Alternately, for those who are perishing, it is folly. Of course the Gospel will be rejected, condemned, dismissed. It is folly to those who are perishing. But for those whom God has ordained salvation, it is power.
Gill’s Exposition makes a distinction between the doctrine of the Christian’s cross, which we are to pick up and follow, and the cross here intended. It is —
of the cross of Christ, the doctrine of salvation by a crucified Christ; or the doctrine of peace and reconciliation by the blood of his cross, and of righteousness, pardon, atonement, and satisfaction by the offering up of himself upon it as a sacrifice for sin,
It is interesting to read Acts 28:22, where we see that even in Christianity’s heyday, the Christian message was reviled. Paul had appealed to Rome to hear his case, and the local leaders were gathered to hear Paul’s argument. They opened the proceedings by saying:
But we desire to hear from you what your views are, for with regard to this sect we know that everywhere it is spoken against.
There is always refreshment to get bask to the original doctrines, to ponder the power and grace of the atonement, to meditate upon the unique Person of Jesus Christ. I pray you and I be not ashamed of this word of the cross today.
If you would care to listen to the entire message, here it is. There’s a part two as well.