The Lost, The Grace of God, The Cross of Jesus, The Resurrection of Jesus, Hell, Heaven, The Second Coming of Jesus, The Great Commission
Contrary to the belief of many, people definitely are interested
in the gospel message, Alvin Reid emphasized at last week’s Louisiana Baptist
“They’re just not interested in the caricature of
the gospel we present,” said Reid, associate professor of evangelism at
Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in North Carolina.
In turn, too many Christians seemingly are not interested in
reaching the lost with the gospel, Reid continued. “We have lost the sense
of lostness. … The problem today is not that we’re a friend of sinners.
The problem is we’re a friend of sin.”
Christians must recover a sense of lostness, he explained in
a message based on Ephesians 2. “Lost people are in danger. … They are
dead in sin, dead men walking.”
However, the Bible reveals the depth of God’s love for the lost –
something modern Christians must reflect, Reid added.
Reid said individuals can tell three things about a person
in the first five minutes of meeting them – whether the person cares for
them, whether the hand of God is on the person and whether the person really
believes what they are professing.
Reid reminded Louisiana Baptists that everyone deserves hell – but God’s
mercy has provided salvation. That is the only way of salvation – and the
message that must be shared.
“Jesus didn’t die to make bad people good,” Reid noted. “He
died to make dead people live.”
Finally, Reid stressed that Christians owe the lost.
“We have a responsibility, …” he said. “We have a duty to
the lost. … They’re looking to us.”
Reid specifically called on pastors to lead by example, to
pray for the lost and to teach young people the truth – that people are
lost without saving faith in Christ.
“Have you lost the reality of lostness? Have you gotten
over the reality of Jesus? … If we don’t share the gospel of Jesus with
others, probably nobody will, …” Reid stressed.
“God give us a burden for lost people.”
The grace of God
The story is told of the man who began to worry about how many
worms he needed to take on a fishing trip, deciding the key lay in determining
how many were in a single bucket.
He asked the bait shop owner if he knew how many worms were
in a single little bucket. The owner stared awhile at the man, then replied,
“Life is just too short for counting worms.”
Life also is too short to live on one’s own power –
without the grace and love of God, Waylon Bailey stressed last week.
Life is too short not to realize that God wants to love his
children, said Bailey, pastor at First Baptist Church of Covington. “He
desires to wrap his arms around us.”
In a sermon based on Psalm 103, Bailey explained the Bible
teaches that God is merciful and compassionate. He loves persons simply by being
himself and doing what comes naturally. And he loves them more than they love
He treats them with dignity – not according to their sin.
It is not that God ignores the rebellion of humans – but he does not deal
with them based on that, Bailey noted.
“What God wants to do is to forgive us. He wants to love
us. He wants to hug us. But we look at people, and we decide who can come to
church and who can’t come to church. …
“We decide what the acceptable sins are and what the unacceptable
sins are. … Do you know we have a whole list of acceptable sins, like racism
and materialism and greed and criticism and a judgmental spirit and ugly, angry
attitudes and the idea that somehow I’m more spiritual than you and closer
to God. … Sometimes, we just miss the point.”
However, God treats persons with dignity, even when they do
not deserve it, Bailey noted. “That’s his love. That’s his grace.
… God wants to love us and wants to care about us.”
And the love of God is immeasurable, Bailey stressed.
“God loves us with such depth,” he stressed. “(And)
How deep, how wide, how long is the love of God.”
The cross of Jesus
Rick Ousley told of driving through a desert area, only to
see a number of sheep gathered around a large electric tower.
The tower was casting the shadow of a cross on the ground –
and the sheep were lined up in its shade to escape the heat, said Ousley, senior
pastor at The Church at Brooks Hills in Birmingham, Ala.
Likewise, Christians must remember the place of the cross in
their faith and lives, Ousley stressed last week. It is the only avenue by which
persons can experience new spiritual birth, he noted.
In a message based on John 3, Ousley reminded persons they do not pass through
sin and death to life because they are members of a church or denomination or
because they have been baptized.
Persons also do not gain spiritual life by living good lives or doing good
deeds, he said. “It’s not good people that go to heaven. It’s
And saved people are saved because of the cross, Ousley said.
They are saved because God dared to do something different – have his son
born into the world of the flesh.
“It’s all about the cross – for there my Jesus shed his blood.
… I don’t know if it was type A, B or O. But this much I know –
it was positive.”
By the cross, Jesus removed the barrier between God and man
– and offered persons a chance to look on love, Ousley noted. “The
good news to anybody is the barrier has been broken. … Our God transforms
us from sinners to sinners saved by grace, grace poured out at the cross. …
“Tell somebody the barrier’s been broken.”
The resurrection of Jesus
Because Jesus got up from the grave, his followers can get
up in the midst of their lives as well, George McCalep Jr. stressed last week.
“Because he has given us the victory, we should be living
victorious lives, …” said McCalep, pastor at Greenforest Community Baptist
Church in Decatur, Ga. “Let God arise. … The victory has been given to
However, many are not living victorious lives because they
have not been crucified with Jesus so that they can be raised with him, McCalep
said in a sermon based on Psalm 68:1.
“We tend not to want to do the suffering. … (But) If
you’re going to live with him, you have to die with him. … We won. We’re
living on this side of the cross. … We ought to be living like we won.”
That means not worrying about things God already has taken
care of – and not staying on the canvas after one has been knocked down,
McCalep said. “The easiest way not to get knocked down again is to stay
down. … But you don’t have to live a life on the canvas. Because Jesus
got up, you ought to be able to get up also. … Whatever your circumstances,
don’t stay down. … Let God rise.”
Living a victorious life also means telling others about the
goodness of Jesus and all he has done for them, McCalep said. “Jesus shouldn’t
be the best-kept secret in the world.”
Finally, it means understanding that it was love that led Jesus
to the cross – and that God’s love can lift one up when nothing else
can, McCalep said.
“We won, we won, we won, we won,” he concluded, as the conference
crowd responded with shouts and applause. “WE WON!”
There is a place called hell – a reality that some find disturbing, Wayne Dubose noted. Indeed, only 34 percent of Americans believe in a literal hell, said Dubose, paster at Parkview Baptist Church in Baton Rouge.
But that does not change the truth, he added.
Dubose said he believes in hell for several reasons.
The Bible clearly says it exists, he noted. “Jesus believed
there was a hell. … For us to say there is no hell is to smear the character
of Christ. … The Bible teaches us the place exists.”
Sin also demands there is a hell, Dubose added in a sermon
based on Luke 16:19-31. He rejected the idea that a loving God will not send
persons to hell. “God’s doing everything to keep people out of hell.
… Sin sends people to hell, not God.”
Dubose said he also believes in hell because justice demands
it – God must deal with persons who spurn his offer of salvation. In addition,
human experience reminds persons there is something beyond this life.
The hell that exists is a dreadful place, Dubose noted.
For one thing, it is a place of memory, where persons will
recall every sin, every rejected chance at salvation, he said. It also is a
place of hopelessness, Dubose said. “When you’re in hell, you’re
there forever. … There is no hope.”
Hell is a place of suffering and punishment – and a place
of absence as well, Dubose said. “What’s the most unique thing about
the place of hell? God is not there. God is light. In hell, there is no light.
God is love. In hell, there is no love.”
But there is good news – that no one has to end up there,
Dubose said. Jesus paid the price to offer a choice – and the reality of
both hell and the cross must be proclaimed, he said.
“Christianity is more than fire insurance, …” Dubose
noted. “Jesus is plus right now. He makes a difference. … Even so, there’s
a hell to be shunned and a heaven to be gained.”
Persons do not know when and how they are to die – and
that can make them fearful, Landrum Leavell acknowledged.
But one thing Christians can know – death represents the
moment God has been preparing them for, and there is a heaven awaiting those
who believe, added Leavell, president emeritus of New Orleans Baptist Theological
The Bible reports that the awaiting heaven will be a place
of rejoicing, Leavell said in a sermon based on John 14:1-6. “(God) will
wipe away all tears, whatever sorrows, whatever heartaches, whatever burdens
you had to bear in this life.”
The Bible also reminds people that heaven is a place of grandeur
surpassing all imagination, Leavell added.
And it will be a place of recognition, Leavell continued. “We’re
going to know Jesus, and without any shadow of a doubt, we’re going to
know each other,” he said.
It will be a place of rewards and reunion as well, Leavell
continued. Jesus will evaluate the fruits of all his followers – and all
the saints of God will be joined together, he said.
However, Leavell warned persons they cannot reach heaven based
on their parents’ faith or good works in this life. There is only one means
to heaven – Jesus Christ. “Jesus didn’t say, ‘I am a way.’
He said, ‘I am the way.’ … But how many preachers don’t preach
Jesus only? … It’s Jesus or nothing.”
In reality, he reminded persons that the requirements for reaching
heaven are as simple as ABC – accepting that one is a sinner in need of
salvation, believing in Jesus as the only son of God and confessing one’s
sin to God to receive forgiveness.
“We do people a great disservice if we don’t articulate
that clearly,” Leavell reminded Louisiana Baptists.
“There is no other way. … He is the way. …
“(And) He’s prepared a place for us,” Leavell
concluded. “Let’s live every day in the light of that glory.”
The second coming of Jesus
If Jesus said he is coming back, he is coming back, John Sullivan
assured Louisiana Baptists last week.
“He has never broken a promise that he has made.”
Jesus will come back as the Lamb of God, which is the “integrating
symbol of all the Bible,” said Sullivan, executive director of the Florida
Revelation 5 has the hesitation, the identification and the
celebration involved in Jesus’ predicted return, Sullivan said.
The hesitation occurs when John comes to the Book of Destiny
and discovers no one in heaven or on earth is worthy to open the book. This
was the case even though Moses, Elijah, the Apostle John, Paul and Peter all
were in heaven, he noted. And on earth were believers who were withstanding
persecution and meeting in the catacombs of Rome.
“(Still) John wept because there was no one who could
open the book,” Sullivan said. “Who is going to read our names out
of the Lamb’s Book of Life?”
After the pause, Scripture reveals, “It is going to be
Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God,” Sullivan pointed out.
He said Jesus is identified as the Lamb of God because the
term ties all Scripture together around the sacrificial death of Christ. References
throughout the Bible lead to the under-
standing that Jesus as the Lamb, he noted. “John the Baptizer declared
when he saw Jesus coming toward him, ‘Behold, the Lamb of God that takes
away the sin of the world.’ ”
That identification released Christian celebration, Sullivan said. “(Scripture
says) Thousands upon thousands of angels praise God, saying, ‘Worthy is
the lamb. Blessing, glory and honor and power unto him.’”
When Jesus returns, “we shall see the glory of the Lord, …” Sullivan
continued. “I want him to find me doing all of those things he has
gifted me to do. I am not
my own. I am bought with a price, and the price is the blessed Lamb of God.”
The Great Commission
“Don’t do to me what everybody else had done to me,”
the Gerasene demonic told Jesus, Ralph West noted. ” ‘Don’t
tell me how to bandage up these problems.”
” ‘They have brought to me the chains of culture.
They have given to me the ropes of religion. They have given me the fetters
around my wrists and hands, but … I’ve got to have something that will
turn me around.’”
Everything people had tried to do to the man and for him had
only added to his problems, explained West, pastor at Brookhollow Baptist Church
in Houston. “What the man needed was not some new 12-step problem, although
I am for 12 step programs. … But they are not the ultimate solution. There
has to be something to change the heart of man.”
That is exactly what Jesus provided the man, changing him externally,
internally and eternally, he explained.
Things have not changed, West noted. “(Today) They always
come with chains and ropes and handcuffs. And they are always building new prisons,
and with new sociological theories. They always want to psychologize, and all
of these things fail and come short of real redemption.”
The commission of Christ to the church is not to adopt the
means or methods of the world to change the human heart – but to address
the evil of man directly, West said. “In some pulpits and classrooms, all
we have is feel-good teachings. Church growth experts tell us people don’t
want to hear words like sin, redemption, sanctification, and justification,
that when we use these terms, we use a language that is so far beyond them.
“(But) It seems to me it is not our job anyway to convert
them,” West added. “It is our role to preach the gospel to them and
let the Holy Spirit convict them, and he will be the one that brings transformation.”
Jesus commanded all of the filth and disdain and vulgarity
and profanity out of the man, West noted. “Can’t nobody do that but
Jesus, y’all,” he stressed.
After that, Jesus left the man to fulfill the Great Commission
and tell others what had happened to him, West said.
Read Part One of this Feature article