Thursday, February 23, 2012

The Veiled Element of the Gospel

What is a veiled gospel? We immediately think of non-Christians—atheists. Poor atheists, the gospel is veiled to them, and that is true, but it runs much deeper than that. A survey was just conducted in Britain, where Anglicanism originated, and where the whole nation claims to be Anglican, so this is very relevant to our church. In the survey, most people who identify themselves as Christian turn out, when questioned on what they actually think, to be ‘overwhelmingly secular.' The conclusion seems to be that self-identified Christians are ‘not really Christian at all’.”

Well, that seems to be harsh, doesn't it? Well, we need to investigate this, because one thing that we can be sure about is that self-identification is not an accurate measure. Otherwise, there would be no hypocrites. What about a nominal Christian? And didn’t Jesus tell us that we should judge a tree by its fruit?

According to the survey, people are much more likely to consider themselves to be Christian because they were christened or baptized into the religion (72%) or because their parents were members of the religion (38%) than because of personal belief. Did you hear that? Over 70% of them do not believe in the teachings of Christianity, and yet call themselves Christian.

Here are some more stats: 60% have not read any part of the Bible for at least a year. 37% have never or almost never prayed outside a church service. 21% say they either do not really believe in the power of prayer or do not believe in it at all. Finally, 32% believe Jesus was physically resurrected. 18% do not believe in the resurrection even in a spiritual sense. Half do not think of Jesus as the Son of God.

The veiling of the gospel definitely extends into the Christian community, too. We are part of the world, too. We have to be IN the world, but it is so tempting to be part OF the world, too. Why not: there is a god of this world, isn't there? Who is that? Satan, the devil, and Paul says he is the one who has blinded the minds of the unbelievers—and unbelievers can consist of people who identify themselves as Christian—to keep them from seeing the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.

In that sentence Paul also reveals to us what is being veiled. There are many elements to the gospel and some of them can be believed easily by anyone, but the essential element to the gospel, the one that holds the whole house up, the cornerstone, is that Jesus is God. Without that piece of the puzzle, everything falls apart. That is why we can have people who claim to be Christians and do not believe in the resurrection. As I said above, half do not believe in Jesus as the son of God.

If you want to start a religion that looks like and sounds like Christianity but is not Christianity, just take that one thing out—that Jesus and God are one and the same. Every Christian cult on the earth has a similar omission.

Jesus was talking to the Samaritan woman at the well in John 4, and in verse 10 he says to her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is saying to you, 'give me a drink,' you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.” If we knew. If the world knew who Jesus was, we would be lined up asking him for the living water. The devil knows this, so this is the one element of the gospel that he veils from us, and we live in an age where nearly 50% of Christians have bought it.

Before we get too sad, here is another thing that we can learn from John 4:10. Jesus may be telling the woman at the well that her mind has been veiled, but he sure isn't going to keep it that way. Yes, the good news is that Jesus himself removes that veil. If there is one message that we need to get out to the world, it is this: Jesus is Lord. Jesus shows us how to do this: tell everyone! Jesus is Lord! It is the missing element from the gospel. Get that element back in place!

That is why the next verses in Paul's second letter to the Corinthians fit tightly with the verses before it. We have verses about how the devil is veiling the gospel from everyone, and then we have verses about not preaching ourselves but Jesus as Lord. 2 Corinthians 4:5 is probably the most important verse for a preacher, because when we preach ourselves we aid the devil in veiling the minds of the world. When we preach Jesus Christ as Lord, we are being Christ at the well, tearing down the veil from over the Samaritan woman's mind. We are revealing Christ as Lord, and we help the light shine in people's hearts. This is not just MY job, it is all of our jobs. We are like damage control, coming in after after a tragedy and cleaning up the mess. We're like the reverse of the Men in Black. Instead of holding up a little silver pen and flashing light into people's eyes and making them forget everything, we are reminding everyone that Jesus is Lord—a crucial nugget of information—just like a flash of brilliant thought. A flash of light that shines in people's hearts.

The cross is the best reminder that Jesus is Lord. It is the coming together of all the gospel—the atonement, the resurrection, everything that spells out that Jesus was Lord. Upon his death on the cross, the earth shook, and the centurion who as keeping watch over him said, “surely this was the Son of God.” The cross is our best reminder, and when crosses were everywhere on the landscape in our daily journeys, we could look at them and be reminded that Jesus was Lord. Today, the world is taking down all the crosses, so that we will forget the one thing that is so important—Jesus is Lord. The enemy is veiling the gospel from as many people as possible. The cross is the tool that we can use to rip down the veil, to become Jesus at the well, and reveal the big secret of Christ. Look at the cross, show people the cross, and proclaim that Jesus is Lord.