October 21, 2016

That’s the Gospel

by Mike Riccardi

Recently I had the privilege of presiding over my first “installation service” for a friend of mine, Alan, who served alongside me at Grace Church while he was in seminary. An installation service is basically where a new pastor is ceremoniously installed as the pastor of the church he’s been called to. It usually involves a personal and passionate call to the task of the ministry by another pastor whom the new pastor considers a mentor and/or friend. I was humbled and privileged to do that for the first time for a dear brother of mine. It was a wonderful time to be with him and his new church family, and I’m encouraged what the Lord is doing and will do through Bethany Community Fellowship in Sylvania, Ohio.

While I was there, Alan also asked me to do a series of seminars on evangelism as a weekend conference ahead of the installation service. I was delighted to do oblige, as it was a treat for me to discuss the motivation, message, and method of evangelism with the saints at Bethany. Toward the end the seminar in which I was teaching through the various points to cover in a Gospel presentation, I tried to encapsulate all I had said in the previous hour in a three-and-a-half minute summary, while also modeling for them what it looks like to succinctly proclaim the Gospel to someone. It turns out that the gang at Bethany turned it into a short video, which I share with you all today. My hope is that it serves as an example of how we can evangelize both with brevity and accuracy, and as an encouragement for you to speak the Gospel to those to whom the Lord brings you in your daily lives. Transcript below.

Friend, God is holy. There is a God in heaven who has created you and me, and He is the authority over both of us. He is perfectly holy. “In Him is Light, and there is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5). And the problem with that is that if we want to have fellowship with God, we have to be light and no darkness at all. And yet here’s the problem: we are darkness. We are sinful. We’ve all broken His law. We’ve all lied, stolen, we’ve all looked with lust, we’ve all been angry with our brothers in our hearts. We’ve all fallen short of the glorious standard of perfection that God requires (Rom 3:23). And there’s nothing we can do about it. No amount of works, no amount of contrition, no amount of bad feelings, no amount of church attendance, no amount of Bible reading, no amount of evangelism can earn forgiveness of our sins and the righteousness which God requires (Titus 3:5; cf. Isa 64:6).

And yet God is gracious, and He loves us, and as His creatures He wants to display His glory in us by rescuing us from that. And so He sent His Son—God in the flesh, the Lord Jesus Christ—to be born as a helpless little baby (John 1:14; 3:16; Col 2:9). God of the universe, Sustainer of the universe, Himself being sustained in the womb of a teenage Hebrew girl, and upholding the world by the word of His power (Heb 1:3) while He is upheld by the nutrients from her own body! Unspeakable! And in great humility, He grows up with the growing pains of life in a fallen world, though He Himself never being with any sin—without sin entirely (2 Cor 5:21; Heb 4:15; 7:26). And He lives a perfectly righteous life. The way that you and I have failed to live before God—the way that we have failed in thought, word, and deed, and fallen short of God’s glory—Christ never did. Not even a thought. He loved God, His Father, perfectly. He always walked in perfect righteousness. He lived the life that you were commanded to live, that I was commanded to live, that we failed to live. He lived that perfect life that God is worthy of.

And not only did He live for us, He died for us. He went to the cross. Our sin demanded death. Our sin demanded eternal punishment. Our sin demanded wrath—just wrath exercised on us for eternity (Rom 6:23). But because of the infinite worth of Christ’s person, He was on that cross. And on that cross, God exercised upon Him the full fury of His own anger (Rom 3:24–26; 2 Cor 5:21; Gal 3:10–14), that was rightly due to me and rightly due to you, and that you will experience if you don’t turn from your sin and trust in this Messiah. Christ was born, lived, died, and was raised (1 Cor 15:3–4). And He rose from the grave after being dead, demonstrating His victory over sin and death.

And now God promises that if you turn from your sin, if you repudiate all that you are and all that you were and all that you love, and you turn away from a life of pursuing sin—and if you repudiate not only your bad works but your good works, if you turn from trying to earn your salvation by all the good deeds that you might want to do as a moral person—if you turn away from all of that (Acts 17:30–31), and you trust in Christ alone for righteousness (Phil 3:7–8; cf. Rom 3:28; 10:4), God promises that He will forgive you. He will have treated Christ on the cross as if Christ lived your life. And He will then treat you, justly and legally and righteously, as if you lived Christ’s perfect life of righteousness (2 Cor 5:21). And you can be saved to know the God you were created to love and enjoy. You can have the fullness of joy, the eternal pleasures that are at the Father’s right hand in heaven (Ps 16:11), and begin even now, because eternal life is to know God (John 17:3).

Friend, would you repent? Would you turn from your sin and trust in this perfect Savior to avail for you before God, to pay for your sin and to provide your righteousness?

Mike Riccardi

Posts Facebook

Mike is the Pastor of Local Outreach Ministries at Grace Community Church in Los Angeles. He also teaches Evangelism at The Master's Seminary.
  • Maranatha

    Dear Mike, this is HALF the Gospel… Why?

    Well, “Our sin demanded death. Our sin demanded eternal punishment. Our sin demanded wrath—just wrath exercised on us for eternity” – these are the only 3 short sentences about the consequences of our sinful nature. That we all must die (physically), everybody knows that, nothing new here. I search and search, but I do not find the word “HELL” at all. Not once! – Why then should sb feel the urgent need of salvation if the Gospel is framed like this? — “Friend, would you repent? Would you turn from your sin and trust in this perfect Savior to avail for you before God, to pay for your sin and to provide your righteousness?” NO!! Tell me, why should I feel the need for, according to lacking life-threatening consequences, if I do not even have an interest in knowing God? And sin, what about this, I am no sinner, what am I to turn from then?! (I speak foolishly, that means I take the position of your unconverted audience, who is perhaps atheist or not even religious at all, but just “reputable” in society, having popped in your video by accident on youtube) Why should I need sth like “righteousness”, what is that?? — Well, I personally wouldn’t repent if I weren’t already saved (by other means, which were far harder than these words anyhow!). I would not understand the point at all. Sorry.

    How do you convince me (as unconverted audience of your preaching in October 2016) to feel the urgent need of “fellowship with God” if I do not care at all about this, fellowship to a being I do not believe in at all, thinking of myself being a good person donating to the poor regularly, caring of the family and my old parents, working hard, amusing little and not having murdered anyone in lifetime? How do you convince me from being a sinner from NATURE, being created by a CREATOR to whom I am morally responsable as creation, not raised by evolution and by accident, but being manipulated and slaved under SATAN and ending in eternal HELL in a lake of burning sulfur (= at app. 750 degree F without burning the body but feeling the heat without interruption forever, without amnesty in eternity) if I do not shout out eagerly to Jesus Christ to save me out from this lethal fate I cannot change myself at all (Romans 7)? – Rework. 😉

    • Thanks, Maranatha, for your concern that we preach a full and accurate Gospel. I share that same concern, and that’s one of the reasons that I posted this summary video. As it happens, though, I don’t find your evaluation accurate or helpful, and I’ll try to explain why.

      Dear Mike, this is HALF the Gospel…

      My first question is, Do you really mean that? Is what is presented in this video not the Gospel of Jesus Christ? Is there truth missing from this presentation such that upon hearing this message, the Holy Spirit could not perform His regenerating work to save one of the Father’s elect? Is this not “the word of truth” by which the Father brings us forth (James 1:18)? Is it not the imperishable seed by which we are born again, the living and enduring Word of God that the apostles preached (1 Pet 1:23–25)? Is this not the message concerning Christ by which faith comes (Rom 10:17)? If it is the message by which God saves His people, then I think your accusation above is too strong. If you sincerely believe it’s not the Gospel for the reasons you give, I’ll have to disagree with you, as the below comments will try to flesh out.

      Well, “Our sin demanded death. Our sin demanded eternal punishment. Our sin demanded wrath—just wrath exercised on us for eternity” – these are the only 3 short sentences about the consequences of our sinful nature. That we all must die (physically), everybody knows that, nothing new here. I search and search, but I do not find the word “HELL” at all. Not once!

      This is puzzling to me. I’m not sure how I’ve failed to communicate the truth of eternal punishment for sin in hell when I spoke of “death,” “eternal punishment,” “just wrath exercised on us for eternity,” and “you will experience [the full fury of God’s own anger] if you don’t turn from your sin and trust in this Messiah.” Is that not hell? Is it your conviction that if we don’t say the word “hell” that by definition we can’t communicate the penalty for sin? If so, I would ask if you could find me a biblical example of an apostolic Gospel presentation that uses the word hell.

      Why then should sb feel the urgent need of salvation if the Gospel is framed like this?

      Because they don’t want to experience eternal punishment, just wrath exercised upon them for eternity, and the full fury of God’s own anger?

      NO!! Tell me, why should I feel the need for, according to lacking life-threatening consequences, if I do not even have an interest in knowing God?

      Again, I have explained the life-threatening consequences: eternal punishment, just wrath for eternity, the full fury of God’s own anger. I also explained, at the beginning, that God is our Creator and therefore the One to whom we are accountable. He is holy and we are not. And sin requires punishment, which, again, I’ve explained above.

      And sin, what about this, I am no sinner, what am I to turn from then?!

      But I have spoken to the notion that the unbeliever may not think
      he’s a sinner. I did this when I said:

      [God] is perfectly holy. “In Him is Light, and there is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5). And the problem with that is that if we want to have fellowship with God, we have to be light and no darkness at all. And yet here’s the problem: we are darkness. We are sinful. We’ve all broken His law. We’ve all lied, stolen, we’ve all looked with lust, we’ve all been angry with our brothers in our hearts. We’ve all fallen short of the glorious standard of perfection that God requires (Rom 3:23).

      If the person admits to ever lying, stealing, looked at a man or woman with lust in his/her heart, or being angry with someone—if they admit to ever having done any of those—they’re a sinner. And it is those sins from which they are to turn.

      In addition to that, I’m not suggesting that the only thing that people ever say to unbelievers is what is in the video. I think that if they communicate the truths presented in those three and a half minutes, they have faithfully
      communicated the Gospel. But if the unbeliever wants to talk more—if they have questions or objections—it’s perfectly right for the preacher of the Gospel to answer those questions and objections, to elaborate on what he’s already proclaimed, and to reason with the unbeliever from the Scriptures.

      So, if after hearing that three-minute declaration of Gospel truth, someone said to me, “I’m no sinner!” I’d say, “Well, do you remember when I explained that we’ve all lied, stolen, looked with lust, and have been angry? You’ve done those things, haven’t you? Of course you have. We all have. But those things are precisely the commandments God has required us to keep. And we’ve failed to keep them and thus fall short of the righteousness to have fellowship with Him and enter heaven.” And I’d go from there, aiming to convict the sinner of his sin. That I haven’t anticipated every word of an ensuing conversation in these three minutes doesn’t mean I think having that conversation is a bad thing.

      (I speak foolishly, that means I take the position of your unconverted audience, who is perhaps atheist or not even religious at all, but just “reputable” in society, having popped in your video by accident on youtube) Why should I need sth like “righteousness”, what is that?? — Well, I personally wouldn’t repent if I weren’t already saved (by other means, which were far harder than these words anyhow!). I would not understand the point at all. Sorry. How do you convince me (as unconverted audience of your preaching in October 2016) to feel the urgent need of “fellowship with God” if I do not care at all about this . . . . How do you convince me . . . .

      Here I think you reveal a presupposition that is unbiblical. No, you wouldn’t repent if the Lord was not working in your heart. The problem with unregenerate humanity is not that they haven’t been “convinced” of things by a preacher. It’s that they reject the evidence that God has already made evident to them (Rom 1:18–20), because their minds are blinded (2 Cor 4:4). The unbeliever’s problem is not intellectual; it’s moral. It’s not that they haven’t been ably persuaded; it’s that they’re unwilling to be persuaded lest they have to submit their minds, hearts, and lives to a God who hates their sin, and so they suppress the truth they do know in unrighteousness.

      Therefore, the evangelist’s concern is, above all, simple proclamation. Authoritative declaration of divinely revealed truth. Our job is simply to proclaim the message that God has commissioned us with—to preach Christ Jesus as Lord (2 Cor 4:5)—because it’s only by the simple proclamation of that message by which God shines the light of regeneration into the darkened heart (2 Cor 4:6). For this reason, Paul could write:

      And when I came to you, brethren, I did not come with superiority of speech or of wisdom, proclaiming to you the testimony of
      God. For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling, and my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith would not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God.

      The very things you urge me to “convince” the unbeliever of, I have simply declared to them on the authority of God’s Word. If they have questions and objections, I will surely reason with them from the Scriptures, and attempt to help them see horrible situation they’re in and how absurd are their attempts at explaining it away. But I won’t treat them as if they are judge and jury, as if they need to be convinced of what the Bible tells me they already know: that they are sinful creatures accountable to a Holy Creator. I will simply preach the Gospel.

      Rework. 😉

      Perhaps you meant this playfully or as a brotherly/sisterly jab, but I think it best to tell you that it comes across as quite condescending and even a bit arrogant. I’d expect that kind of terse comment in red pen at the top of a paper I’d submitted to a professor. Yet I don’t think that’s the wisest role to assume to yourself in this situation. I’ve seen you respond in similar ways in a number of your comments over the last several weeks, presuming upon the role of teacher, and think it best to alert you to the fact that you might be coming off in a way you’re not intending. Please take some time to consider this, along with the rest of my comments.

      • Ed

        Honestly, Mike, sometimes I think I learn as much from your gentle and controlled interactions with those who comment here as I do from the post itself. I hope to emulate that some day.

      • Vickey Singleton

        Hello Mike! I heartily agree with Ed that your responses are always “gentle and controlled.” This is not the usual tone on blogs and I often slide in to feeling arrogant and superior and become defensive, which always leads me to sinful reactions. Thanks for your great example of patient and loving responses.

    • Ira Pistos

      Maranatha,

      I listened carefully to what Michael had to say. He was accurate and rather concise.
      Your command of the language is commendable but do you think it possible that because it is not native that you miss on occasion, nuance and emphasis? That possibly the wording does not carry all the weight to you that it does to me for example?
      To my ears the ramifications of rejection came through with strength.

  • Machel

    It was great having you out here. It was an awesome weekend, with some great teaching that’s already being put into practice. We’ve been thoroughly blessed by your time here and your investment in Alan.

    For those interested in Mike’s sermon from the installation, strap on a helmet and have a listen here: http://www.bethanycf.org/file/180018899/180410132/Installation-Service

  • Jane Hildebrand

    I loved this Mike. Your heart, your passion and your devotion to Christ is so encouraging! Thanks for blessing us by sharing this.

  • Chuck Tuthill

    Thank you Mike. Keep on brother.

  • Andrew

    Hi Mike,
    We met very briefly when you were in NZ. I just had to sign up to comment on this post. I loved that Mike. Amazing summary of the gospel. I remember hearing a very similar short gospel video having a huge impact on me several years ago https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SZuVt7qWO80

    Really, really great sermon also on 2 Corinthians 5:16-17. Didn’t my heart burn within me when you explained the new view of Christ we have after regeneration. “I’ll tell you what happened… regeneration happened!”. I just loved that sermon. Looking forward to hearing you on 2 Corinthians 5:21 when you get there.

    May the Lord be with you

    -Pastor Matt’s friend ‘Barnabus’