One of my favorite hobbies is doing puzzles. While finishing my last one, I had a scare. The final piece was missing! My heart sank. It had been a difficult puzzle. It took several hours to complete, and I was looking forward to hanging it when it was done. Luckily, it only took a quick search to find the piece.
Churches today are like puzzles that are missing pieces. They are busier than ever. Yet few attain higher degrees of spiritual maturity or usefulness to the Lord. Why? Because they are missing a piece – the true gospel of Jesus Christ.
The Missing Piece
Paul reminds us that the gospel is central to our salvation: “Now, brothers and sisters, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:1-2).
Later, he reminds us it is central to our ministry efforts as well: “Whether, then, it was I or the other apostles, this is what we preached, and this is what you believed” (15:11). In other words, if we’re missing the gospel, we’re missing everything!
Most churches don’t realize they are missing a piece. They genuinely believe they are preaching the gospel. But they aren’t. In their attempt to please the world and make our message more palatable, they replace the true gospel with a false one.
A Piece from Another Puzzle
When a puzzle is missing a piece, you can’t use a piece from another puzzle. It won’t fit! Even if it did, it wouldn’t be part of the same picture. Unfortunately, this is what many churches do. They preach a gospel other than the true one.
The true gospel centers on Jesus – specifically, on His resurrection. This is how Paul preaches it: “For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins…that he was buried, that he was raised…and that he appeared” (15:3-5).
This is not how we preach. The gospel Paul preached centers on Jesus. The gospel we preach centers on ourselves. Consider how we speak about salvation. We say things like, “I gave my life to Jesus,” “I accepted Jesus into my heart,” or “I made a decision for Jesus.” We say, “I…I…I.” Paul says, “He…He…He.”
Checking the Box
After opening something new, we usually throw away the box. But that is a huge mistake when doing a puzzle! It’s best to keep the box nearby so you can check the overall picture to see where individual pieces fit.
The American church sorely needs to “check the box.” We must evaluate our ministry efforts in light of the gospel as presented in Scripture. Do we preach the gospel the way the Bible does? Or do we rely more on ourselves than the life-changing power of Jesus’ resurrection?
During my decade in ministry, I spent a lot of time in church. Do you know what I noticed? It isn’t about Jesus anymore. Worship sets don’t mention Him in their songs. Preachers don’t mention Him in their sermons. Most churches don’t even serve the Lord’s Supper!
It’s time to acknowledge our faith is off-center. We ought not to rely on ourselves any longer. Instead, we must center our lives and ministries on the life-changing power of Jesus’ resurrection.
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