#1 Key to Kingdom Growth

Several years ago I had the privilege to do the daily devotions for a Reformation Tour with Star Travel, (shout out to Gerald & Kathleen Martin for the best Reformation tour in the world: http://www.starmountaintravel.com/). Toward the end of the tour, while in Rome, we visited the Lateran Baptistery which stands adjacent to St John Lateran’s Basilica. It is said to be the first Baptistery to be constructed after freedom of worship was granted to Christians by Emperor Constantine. Immediately my attention was caught by the large deer statue that stood in the middle of the baptistry. I asked one of the attendants what it meant? He said: “As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God.” (Psalm 42:1)

Whether you are a pastor, lay leader, volunteer, Christian—what people are panting for, more than anything else, is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The world is thirsty for hope, forgiveness, justice, mercy, grace, and healing. The only thing that can give everyone all of that is Jesus.

The #1 Key to Kingdom Growth in my ministry and life has been to make much of Jesus. If all we did this year was give more Jesus, in our sermons, conversations, bible studies, and social media posts. We would see greater fruitfulness in our ministry.

In John 12:32 Jesus said, “When I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” Basically when Jesus is lifted up—that’s when people start showing up!”

The great preacher Charles Spurgeon said: “The sermons which are fullest of Christ are the most likely to be blessed to the conversion of the hearers. Let your sermons be full of Christ, from beginning to end crammed full of the gospel. As for myself, brethren, I cannot preach anything else but Christ and His cross, for I know nothing else. Long ago, like the apostle Paul, I determined not to know anything save Jesus Christ and Him crucified. People have often asked me, ‘What is the secret of your success?’ I always answer that I have no other secret but this, that I have preached the gospel,—not about the gospel, but the gospel—the full, free, glorious gospel of the living Christ who is the incarnation of the good news. Preach Jesus Christ, brethren, always and everywhere; and every time you preach be sure to have much of Jesus Christ in the sermon.”

One of my favorite stories by Spurgeon is of an old, seasoned, minister who heard a sermon of a young man, and when he was asked by the preacher what he thought of it he was rather slow to answer but at last, he said, “If I must tell you, I did not like it at all; there was no Christ in your sermon.”

“No,” answered the young man, “because I did not see that Christ was in the text.”

“Oh!” said the old minister, “but do you not know that from every little town and village and tiny hamlet in England there is a road leading to London? Whenever I get hold of a text, I say to myself, ‘There is a road from here to Jesus Christ, and I mean to keep on His track till I get to Him.’”

“Well,” said the young man, “but suppose you are preaching from a text that says nothing about Christ?”

“Then I will go over hedge and ditch but what I will get at Him.”

Spurgeon then concludes, “so must we do, brethren; we must have Christ in all our discourses, whatever else is in or not in them. There ought to be enough of the real gospel in every sermon to save a soul.”

Notice Spurgeon said REAL Gospel! Too often I hear people talk, expound, preach on Jesus without the gospel. The real gospel is not a list of religious rules but a loving relationship. It is not about what we must do in order to be saved but what Jesus had to do in order to save us. The real gospel empowers the helpless but humbles the haughty. It steps on the toes of the irreligious and the religious. Because it tells us that no one is better than anyone else. Everyone is equal at the foot of the cross! As the puritan preacher, Jonathan Edwards once said: “we contribute nothing to our salvation except the sin that made it necessary!!”

I’ve heard too many Christ-less sermons, too many discouraging discourses. I’ve heard too many prophecy seminars without the Spirit of Prophecy, Jesus Christ. I do not know how someone can preach on the book of Revelation, which is the unveiling of Jesus Christ, and still miss the gospel but it happens all the time. Our goal as pastors, lay leaders, Christians is not to dole out information, but to be conduits of transformation. That’s what people are looking for.

The writer Ellen White once said in the publication the Review and Herald: “You will meet with those who will say, “You are too much excited over this matter. You are too much in earnest. You should not be reaching for the righteousness of Christ, and making so much of that. You should preach the law.” As a people, we have preached the law until we are as dry as the hills of Gilboa that had neither dew nor rain. We must preach Christ in the law, and there will be nourishment in the preaching that will be as food to the famishing flock of God.” Every single biblical doctrine should be shared through the lens of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Jesus is what the Bible is all about. He’s the point of every prophet. He is the discourse of every disciple. He is the very exegesis of God according to John 1:18 “No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known,” (that last phrase is the Greek “exēgeomai”).

In Luke 24, Jesus is talking to two disciples on their way to Emmaus. It is the Sunday of the Resurrection. They feel defeated and discouraged because the one they thought was the messiah was crucified on Friday, buried in a tomb, and now the body is missing. Jesus responds, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory? And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.”(Luke 24:25–27). Jesus has just declared that the Bible is about Him! Which means if our sermons, studies, and conversations about the Bible aren’t full of Jesus than they’re not biblical.

In a sermon, pastor Timothy Keller asks the question: “Do you read the Bible as though it is basically about you and what you must do in order to be saved? Or is it about Jesus and what He did in order to save you?” The latter, not the former, is the gospel. This is what differentiates Christianity from every other religion. The gospel is not primarily about what we must do in order to be saved but about what God did in order to save us. The Gospel is not one of many ways we can work our way to heaven, rather it is about how the only Way to heaven worked His way to us. The Bible is not about you, it’s about Jesus!

Keller then expounds on many of the popular bible stores and figures and shares how they were really pointing to Jesus. “Jesus is the true and better Abel who, though innocently slain, has blood now that cries out, not for our condemnation, but for vindication. Jesus is the true and better Abraham who answered the call of God to leave all the comfortable and familiar and go out into the unknown in order to create a new people of God. Jesus is the true and better Adam who passed the test in the garden and whose obedience is imputed to us. Jesus is the true and better Isaac who was not only willing to be sacrificed on a mountaintop but was sacrificed on a mountaintop. So that like when God said to Abraham, ‘Now I know you love me because you did not withhold your son, your only son whom you love from me,’ we can say ‘now we know that you love us because you did not withhold your son, your only son, from us.’ Jesus is the true and better Jacob who wrestled and took the blow of justice we deserved, so we, like Jacob, only receive the wounds of grace to wake us up and discipline us. Jesus is the true and better Joseph who, at the right hand of the king, forgives those who betrayed and sold him and uses his new power to save them. Jesus is the true and better Moses who stands in the gap between the people and the Lord and who mediates a new covenant. Jesus is the true and better Rock of Moses who was struck with the rod of God’s justice, so He can give us water we do not deserve in the desert. Jesus is the true and better Job, the only truly innocent sufferer, who then intercedes for and saves his stupid friends. Jesus is the true and better David whose victory becomes his people’s victory, though they never lifted a stone to accomplish it themselves. Jesus is the true and better Esther who didn’t just risk leaving an earthly palace but lost the ultimate heavenly one, who didn’t just risk his life, but gave his life to save his people. Jesus didn’t say: ‘if I perish, I perish for them’ but ‘when I perish, I perish for them!’ Jesus is the true and better Jonah who was thrown into the storm so that we could experience peace. Jesus is the real cleft of the rock. He is the real Passover Lamb, innocent, perfect, helpless, slain so the angel of death will pass over us. He’s the true temple, the true prophet, the true priest, the true king, the true sacrifice, the true lamb, the true light, the true bread. The Bible is not about you, it’s about Jesus.”

Start giving people more of the gospel. Spend so much time soaking in the Word of God so the world will taste the Word in your life and see the Lord is good.

People are panting for Jesus—NOT your opinions!
People are panting for Jesus—NOT your preferences!
People are panting for Jesus—NOT your politics!
People are panting for Jesus—NOT conspiracy theories!

“Because there’s a famine in the land. Not a famine of bread or water but of hearing the Word of the LORD.” (Amos 8:11).

This year give people more of what they’re really craving, the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I guarantee the more you lift Him up, the more people will show up!

Check out the original post on my YouTube channel: https://youtu.be/hnfula0kbIo

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