If you liked Andy Stanley's sermon “Big Church part 4”, then you've got to watch this video by Pastor John Turner! In the video, Turner stresses that the "Bottom Line" of the gospel is 4 simple facts. Here's what he says (beginning at the 35:05 time-stamp in the video):
“That's why you know about Jesus today. Because of this guy [named Paul]. This is how the message of Jesus got out of Jerusalem. And out of the first century. And even though persecution heated up intensely around Jerusalem, Christianity began to multiply. And it began to spread. And in addition to being a missionary, Paul was also, as I've mentioned, an author. And he was an excellent thinker. He was very educated. He was a Roman citizen so he had access to a different kind of education than a lot of Jewish people would have had. And he spent those years, that decade, thinking and figuring out, how do I get the essence of Jesus' message out of an exclusively Jewish context so that I can communicate it to people who've never read the Old Testament? How can I communicate Jesus to people who haven't ever heard of Abraham or Moses or any of the Old Testament prophets? [Paul] worked on it and he reduced it down, down, down, down, down, until he got it to it's bottom-line. So that even if you'd never heard of these great Old Testament characters you can understand the gospel.
And in the book of First Corinthians, Paul really gets it down to the basics, down to just the irreducible minimums. And this comes from First Corinthians chapter 15. In First Corinthians chapter 15, we'll start in verse 1. Paul is writing to this church that he planted. And he says, “Now, brothers and sisters, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you....” This is how we got started, when I planted this church, I preached this gospel to you then, and it seems like maybe you've forgotten it so “I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand.” [1 Cor. 15:1]
“...which I received” he says [in 1 Cor. 15:3]. He says, “I received this” so this isn't my creation. I received this from God. I received this from the apostles, from those earliest followers of Jesus in Jerusalem, from James, from Peter - all the stuff I was able to receive I've boiled it down to the essence and this is where it comes down. And now he's going to define the gospel for us. Look at verse 3. “For what I received, I passed on to you as of first importance....” In other words, if you don't get anything else, get this! This is the top button. If you don't get this buttoned right your shirt won't ever line up again. Okay? This is where it starts. This is the foundation, and if you don't have a solid foundation it doesn't matter how pretty the building is, it's gonna collapse. This is the most important thing. This is “first importance”. He says, “that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that He was buried, that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He appeared to Cephas” - anybody remember who Cephas is? Cephas is Peter, right? So, “He appeared to Peter and then to the twelve.” [1 Cor. 15:3-5] And not just one or two or here and there but, “After that” verse 6, “He appeared to more than 500 of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep.” Some have died in the ensuing years. But think about this: 500 people at a time and they're still alive! I know this is hard to believe, but you could, if you wanted to, you could get on a boat and go from Corinth to Jerusalem and you could find a bunch of these people and they would tell you: “I was there. I was alive, and I saw it.” You could talk to them if you're skeptical about it because I understand, this is hard to believe. And verse 7, “Then He appeared to James, then to all of the apostles, and last of all, He appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.” Paul is just so refreshingly honest about himself. Look at verse 9: “For I am the least of the apostles, and do not even deserve to be called an apostle” - why? “because I persecuted the church of God.” Boy that's powerful! [Paul] says, “Look, I don't, I don't know why God chose me to bring this message to you. Of all the people God could have chosen to plant these little ekklesias [churches] all over the place, I'm the least likely candidate! But He chose me by His grace and that is now the central message of my life!”
And you know, you could take this entire paragraph from Paul, and you could bottom-line it to 4 sentences. And if you've ever wondered, “How do I respond when somebody asks me what the gospel is? You could say it in 4 phrases. These are the 4 phrases right here: Christ died for our sins. He was buried. He was raised. He appeared. That's it! Christ died for our sins – because that was our real problem, was that our sin had separated us from God and so Jesus paid the penalty for that by dying for our sins, and He was buried because that's what you do with people who are dead. And back then they knew when somebody was dead. Trust me, the Romans were experts at killing people and at keeping people alive longer so they could suffer more. And so when the Romans said, “He dead.” Trust me, He was dead! They knew it. That's why they buried Him. The Romans would never have allowed Him to be buried if they didn't believe He was dead. He was buried! But, He was raised! And that validates His true identity. And, we know He was raised because “He appeared” [1 Cor. 15:5]. Not just to one or two of us at a time, but to more than five-hundred of us at once.
You could take Paul's paragraph and just boil it down to those 4 sentences. So we're just gonna practice repeating what the gospel is, in here. We're just gonna repeat these 4 sentences a couple of times just to make sure we all get what the gospel is. Is that, would that be okay? Alright. So we're all going to say this together on a count of three. One, two, three. Christ died for our sins. He was buried. He was raised. He appeared. Let's say it again. Christ died for our sins. He was buried. He was raised. He appeared.
[Someone asks:] "Now, what about back in Genesis 1? Are those 7 literal 24 hour days?" No, no, no. Christ died for our sins. He was buried. He was raised. He appeared.
"[Pastor] John, I was reading in Revelation. And there's this seven-headed dragon in there. And is that representing Oprah? Or is that representing president Obama? What is that?" No, no, no. Christ died for our sins. He was buried. He was raised. He appeared.
"Look, there's some contradictions in the Gospels and one of them says He came on this day and the other....” No, no, no. Christ died for our sins. He was buried. He was raised. He appeared.
"Yeah but what about womens' roles and charismatic gifts and should we always take communion every time we meet together and what about these small groups and is that forsaking the assembly?" Christ died for our sins. He was buried. He was raised. He appeared. That's the bottom-line. That's the foundation. That's the top button. That is “of first importance” [1 Cor. 15:3]. And we can figure out everything else, and it won't make any difference if we don't figure this out first! This is the gospel! Not infant baptism, not drums, not any of that kind of stuff. I know you got questions, but this is the core! This is the bottom-line! This is the part you cannot miss! And this, this is what we have in common with Christians everywhere. This is what unites us with the church in China. Not what day of the week we meet on. Not what kind of building we meet in. Not what we're wearing when we get together. This is what unites us with Christians in the first century, and the second century, and the fifteenth century, and if the Lord tarries this is what will unite us with our grandchildren's grandchildren. This is the bottom-line. This is the central message. And everything else is just a distraction until you nail this down.
And so the question this morning is really simple. Have you ever embraced that? Right there? [Pastor John points.] Like have you ever just really embraced it? Where you got this settled, deep inside your spirit, that yes, Christ died for our sins. Which means, He died for my sins. And He really was dead because He was buried. But God raised Him from death. And He appeared to people. And that has implications in my life. Have you ever just surrendered to that? Because if you haven't then nothing else matters. “Yeah, I come to church.” “Yeah, I give some money.” “Yeah, I volunteer to serve.” All that kind of stuff. But if you don't get this nothing else matters!
And so I'm just gonna give us an opportunity today. Because maybe for you, you're sitting here and today is the day the light bulb kind of came on and the dots got connected and you've never accepted this. And so that's what we're gonna do. I'm going to give you the opportunity to just embrace this personally. And I'm gonna pray. And then, I'm gonna talk to those of you who maybe have embraced this at some point in time, but you get a little bit distracted. And then I'm gonna pray for you, and then we'll be dismissed. Now for those of you who've never embraced this, what I'm about to pray, there's no magic formula here. You can use these words. You can change them to your own words. You can pray this out loud. You can pray this quietly in your own heart. You can think about this and pray this later when you get home. There's nothing magic about this prayer. But this is just an opportunity for you to affirm these 4 statements. Let's pray. You can pray something that's sounds a little bit like this. You can say: Father God, thank you for sending your Son. For loving me so much that you would send your only Son to die for the sins of the whole world, including my sins. Thank you for not leaving Him in the tomb, but for raising Him from the dead. Thank you for forgiving my sins. Thank you for receiving me into your family. [Now that I'm saved] I surrender to your leadership in my life. And I pray that in Jesus' name, amen.
Alright, now some of you may have prayed that prayer. Some of you probably prayed a prayer like that a long, long time ago – but here's what happens. (And we're going to see this next week a little bit more.) It's so easy for us to drift away from the simplicity of this message. Isn't it? It's so easy for us to get bogged down in this issue and that issue and like Sam was talking about, you know, all the differences in the denominations and what version of the Bible are you reading out of? And what translation is the best? And what, you know, all of that kind of stuff. It's so easy for us, who began with this simple, simple message, to drift away. And, and the natural gravitational pull is away from simplicity towards complexity. And what we end up doing is we end up converting people to doctrine instead of converting people to Jesus. And for that we must repent. And so for any of us who were saved by this terribly simple message, but have allowed ourselves to drift more towards the complexities of the doctrine, and allowed that to overshadow the simplicity of what Jesus has done for us – it's time for us to repent. And so would you stand and let me pray for all of us and then we'll be dismissed.
God, thank you for making it simple. Thank you for saving the apostle Paul, and for, for his fantastically inspired thoughts that have been preserved so diligently for us, where we can go directly to his words which come through the Holy Spirit, to us today. And we can see just how simple it really is. God, forgive us for making it harder than it has to be. Forgive us for making it complicated, and for giving people the idea that getting into your kingdom is like a combination lock – we got to get the right number to the right, the right number to the left, and all this kind of stuff, as if you are trying to keep us out, trying to make it difficult. We know that's not the case. You have gone to great lengths to make this easy and simple for us. And so forgive us for making your simple message more complicated than it has to be. Teach us the freedom of living in simplicity. Teach us, just, just burn into our hearts the simple facts that Christ died for our sins, that He was buried, that He was raised, and that He appeared. And allow us to take that message with us with boldness into the world this week. I pray that in Jesus' name, amen.