I'm guessing (assuming?) we are all familiar with the old saying about what happens when we assume. If not send me a private e-mail and I will explain - or just stare at the picture on the left and think really hard.
I think that one of the many mistakes I have made as a minister (and there are too many to list) over the past 20 years has been the sin of "assuming the gospel". What I mean by this is that in choosing topics and preparing sermons I have often omitted the gospel message altogether or relegated it to some secondary addendum that is addressed only to the unchurched. I have "assumed" that the regular attendees already know the gospel and so I haven't wanted to bore them with repeated information. There are three immediate problems that come to mind as a result of this assumption.
First - We wind up with a very man-centred version of Christianity (Me-ianity?).
Lots of talk about family life, financial planning, goal setting, leadership, sexual issues, careers, education and on and on; - not so much as a mention of Christ crucified. There's nothing wrong with teaching on important aspects of human life - but these should not be allowed to supplant Christ as the central topic of Christian preaching. Christianity is not primarily about you and me and what we do; Christianity is about Jesus and what He has done, is doing and will do.
Second - In assuming the gospel we forget that fallen men and women have a default setting of legalistic piety.
Because the law of God is written on our hearts we naturally drift into works based rule keeping as the route to pleasing God. We all do it.
"God must not be pleased with me because of this thing I did - or that thing I didn't do."
All believers, myself included, need to be constantly reminded of the cross, reminded that we do not stand approved before God based on anything we have done; we stand justified because of what Jesus has done for us - that is the gospel or good news that sets Christianity apart from every other religion of man.
Third and finally - In assuming the gospel we run the risk of suffering eternal loss.
Consider for a moment that on any given Sunday I may be preaching to some individual the last sermon they will ever hear in this world. What do I want as the content of that sermon? What do I want as the content of the final sermon I will ever preach for that matter?
- Life Tips?
- Financial Aides?
- 10 Keys to Marital Bliss? - No, no, a thousand times no!
On my last day in the pulpit I want to have fulfilled the great commission, I want to have warned the wayward soul, I want to have encouraged the weary saint, and I want to go out with the glorious message of God's saving grace on my lips.
No more assuming the gospel!
Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel—not with words of human wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.
For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. - 1 Cor. 1:17-18