UPDATE: Here’s the audio. Enjoy!
Phil (may I call you Phil?) was planning on preaching a sermon on Psalm 19 that he gave a few weeks earlier at GraceLife, but decided instead to finish the general sessions by following Frank’s lead (always a risky proposition) and sharing some of his own story. I won’t recount it all here except to say that Phil was doing in the 70’s what many in the evangelical church are doing today: paying lip-service to the Gospel but seeking social salvation in political action.
Phil began with the idea that the sufficiency of Scripture is vital because the Gospel and the Gospel alone is the power of God unto salvation. The Gospel message does not need to be added to, propped up, or laid on any foundation of works or relationship or social action.
The text for Phil’s sermon is the text that was instrumental in his own conversion: I Corinthians 1:21.
Phil notes that there were lots of problems with the motley crew in Corinth, but rather than abandoning them as a lost cause, Paul points them back to the Gospel. What Paul preached was simply the Gospel of Christ crucified.
The Gospel is the only thing that will address the moral decay of any culture.
We should notice in verses 18-21 the absolute contempt that God has for the wisdom of the world. In fact, the great thinkers of the age are in trouble, because their human wisdom is ultimately foolishness (I Cor. 3:18-21).
A great quote at this point: “I’ve never seen a political ideology really change anyone’s life for good.” SELAH.
The only effective answer to the evils of this age is the undiluted Gospel.
Notice 3 things in I Corinthians 1:21 and following:
1) There is a worldly wisdom that can never save. The world did not know God through its own wisdom; it’s only through the Gospel that we can know god. The political programs of the world cannot change the hearts of people. If righteousness could be brought about by legislation, the Gospel would be superfluous.
2) There is a heavenly “foolishness” that does save. The most potent weapon against the sins of society is the message of the Gospel. Paul is teaching against the dominant philosophy of American evangelicalism here, by dismissing the idea of shaping church to meet the desires of the culture. Is that effective in transforming lives? No! And the Bible says not to do this!
In verses 22-23, Phil notes that if Paul were following our contemporary church growth experts, he would have given a sign to the Jews and wisdom to the Greeks, because that’s what they were looking for (it was their “felt need,” if you will). Instead, we must give them all the Gospel–the opposite of what they are demanding.
3) There is a divine strategy to keep the two distinct (v. 28). The reason evangelicalism is such a mess right now is that the churches are full of false converts responding to bad strategies instead of believing the undiluted Gospel. For the Church in America to be effective in transforming lives, we need to get back to the thing that the apostles were teaching–the good news of our crucified and risen Lord.
This was a great way to end the general sessions, and a great message to come away from the weekend with.
For things in the American church to change, we have to get back to the core of our message: the idea that the Word of God is the true and trustworthy revelation of God, which gives it full authority over our lives and our message. In it, we have the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the power of God unto salvation for all who believe.
I’m deeply grateful to Phil, Dan, and Frank for their time and sacrifices to make Sufficient Fire a reality, and I know that many lives have been blessed and strengthened as a result.
Thank you for reading, and I hope these posts have been a blessing to you as well.
When the conference audio is available, I will update all of these posts with the link, so stay tuned. It’s up! See the link at the top of the post!