Joel James: The message of the Gospel

Our “hired gun” (that might be just proverbial) was Dr Joel James, a nice guy from Grace Fellowship in Pretoria.

This weekend was our church camp. 100 adults and what felt like 3500 kids spent Saturday through Monday in the Magaliesburg (um, actually it was more like Hekpoort but there where mountains in the background) at the Scripture Union campground. The speaker was a guy named Joel. He and his family come from Grace Fellowship in Pretoria. The focus of the weekend was the message, the methods and the motivation of evangelism.

Even before Richard Dawkins was putting together Summer camps we were doing weekender’s. Click any image to enlarge.

On Saturday Joel spent time scanning the book of Acts looking at what Peter and Paul believed the Gospel of Jesus Christ to be. It basically boiled down to: “Jesus died, Jesus rose, repent for the forgiveness of sins.”

All stories have a beginning and this one starts in Luke 24:46 – 47 where the risen Jesus Christ commissions His disciples to spread the Gospel. Jesus’ words were:

46 and He said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ would suffer and rise again from the dead the third day, 47 and that repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem.

Want to hear the verse in context? Luke 24
What is this about?

Luke wrote two books, the first was his Gospel account and after completing it he wrote a sequel, the book of Acts. In Acts 2:22 – 24, 38 Peter is standing up in front of the assembled Jews in Jerusalem. The big question is: What will this fishman say? Will he chicken out, he’d done it before, remember the three denials of Christ? Rather, emboldened by the power of the Holy Spirit, Peter stands and delivers the Gospel once delivered to all the saints:

22 “Men of Israel, listen to these words: Jesus the Nazarene, a man attested to you by God with miracles and wonders and signs which God performed through Him in your midst, just as you yourselves know—23 this {Man,} delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put {Him} to death. 24 “But God raised Him up again, putting an end to the agony of death, since it was impossible for Him to be held in its power.

And then a little later, to finish the whole message off, he says:

38 Peter {said} to them, “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Want to hear the verse in context? Acts 2
What is this about?

Anyway, stories progress as stories do and Acts rolls down the railway track of time. Now what’s in the thinking mans head is: Would the Gospel change with time? With popularity? With pressure? Would Peter and the rest of the gang exchange Jesus’ Good News for a mansion in Bethany? For a leather trimmed carriage or a gold dinner service? Would it become more people friendly? A bit more bling? Would Peter or Paul reduce it to a name it and claim it prosperity counterfeit? In Acts 3:13 – 15, 19 , 26 Peter again is preaching to the masses:

13 “The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified His servant Jesus, {the one} whom you delivered and disowned in the presence of Pilate, when he had decided to release Him. 14 “But you disowned the Holy and Righteous One and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, 15 but put to death the Prince of life, {the one} whom God raised from the dead, {a fact} to which we are witnesses.

mmm, that sounds familiar. Later he caps it off with:

19 “Therefore repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord;

Want to hear the verse in context? Acts 3
What is this about?

As the proverbial Gospel train moves on down the evangelistic railroad track the clackity clang of consistently is, “Jesus died, Jesus rose, repent for the forgiveness of sins… Jesus died, Jesus rose, repent for the forgiveness of sins… Jesus died, Jesus rose, repent for the forgiveness of sins…”

Well Acts is an epic not a short story. There’s a whole lot of different scenes set at different times. A few chapters later Peter is facing major opposition. He’s in jail, locked up for preaching that same old message, “Jesus died, Jesus rose, repent…” you get the picture.

Anyway, Peter is in jail. His back is up against the wall. Is he going to change his tune? Remember, he did before. Well Acts 5:19 – 20, 29 – 31 is the message he preaches on his miraculous release:

19 But during the night an angel of the Lord opened the gates of the prison, and taking them out he said, 20 “Go, stand and speak to the people in the temple the whole message of this Life.”

After that kind of reminder what would you do? Preach the whole message? What message?

29 But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men. 30 “The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom you had put to death by hanging Him on a cross. 31 “He is the one whom God exalted to His right hand as a Prince and a Savior, to grant repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins.

Want to hear the verse in context? Acts 5
What is this about?

Mmm, clackity clang, clackity clang, the Gospel train remains on the track (get the rhyming couplet?). “Jesus died, Jesus rose, repent for the forgiveness of sin.”

Acts is a longish book as books go (like 28 chapters) and it covers a fairly long period of time in the early church. You see Peter started out only chatting to the Jews about Christ but pretty soon everyone wanted to get in on the deal. While chatting to a Roman named Cornelius Peter entered into a whole new game. The Roman mind was different to the Jewish mind. So big question: Would Peter change his tune? Acts 10:39 – 40, 43 records the interaction:

39 “We are witnesses of all the things He did both in the land of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They also put Him to death by hanging Him on a cross. 40God raised Him up on the third day and granted that He become visible,

And a little later:

43 “Of Him all the prophets bear witness that through His name everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins.”

Want to hear the verse in context? Acts 10
What is this about?

Well all fair and good but if you know anything about the disciples you probably know that Peter was a fisherman. Fishermen were not exactly known for their intellectual powerness and wirely wit. Maybe he had just got on the Gospel train and now didn’t know how to get off? Well step in Paul. This guy was sophisticated, Theologically training, well read, connected and considered the brain of his day. One day he was persecuting Christians and the next he was one. But the big question is: Would he have the brains to change the message to fit the day? Well we can peer into his first recorded sermon in Acts 13:28 – 30, 38:

28 “And though they found no ground for {putting Him to} death, they asked Pilate that He be executed. 29 “When they had carried out all that was written concerning Him, they took Him down from the cross and laid Him in a tomb. 30But God raised Him from the dead;

Um, Paul, that’s half the story. He adds:

38 “Therefore let it be known to you, brethren, that through Him forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you,

Want to hear the verse in context? Acts 13
What is this about?

Toot toot, toot toot. You hear that? It’s the Gospel train, repetitively sounding out the same old one track sound, “Jesus died, Jesus rose, repent for the forgiveness of sins… Jesus died, Jesus rose, repent for the forgiveness of sins… Jesus died, Jesus rose, repent for the forgiveness of sins…”

Well, Paul got into hot water as well (Are Christians doomed to forever be in conflict?). Towards the end of the book of Acts he’s standing before a puppet ruler and a Roman governor giving a defence for the nonsense that he’s been running around Judea and the whole Roman Empire proclaiming. Anyway, what do you think he does with his defense? What would you do? Of course, he turns it into a Gospel presentation. It’s recorded in Acts 26:18 – 20, 22 – 23:

18 to open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the dominion of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who have been sanctified by faith in Me.’ 19 “So, King Agrippa, I did not prove disobedient to the heavenly vision, 20 but {kept} declaring both to those of Damascus first, and {also} at Jerusalem and {then} throughout all the region of Judea, and {even} to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, performing deeds appropriate to repentance.

Um Paul, aren’t you forgetting something? Next verses:

22 “So, having obtained help from God, I stand to this day testifying both to small and great, stating nothing but what the Prophets and Moses said was going to take place; 23 that the Christ was to suffer, {and} that by reason of {His} resurrection from the dead He would be the first to proclaim light both to the {Jewish} people and to the Gentiles.”

Want to hear the verse in context? Acts 26
What is this about?

mmm, sorry for the poor review but I started writing about the content and couldn’t stop. Joel was great. The content was simple to understand and clearly conveyed. Thing is if you made it this far I’d like to ask you a question? What do you think the Gospel is? What are you being taught it is? Is it watered down to a lucky packet answer to life’s problems? Is it a liberation messages from the struggles of this life? Is it not really talked about? Could you articulate it? Do you think you’re a Christian but other than what Christians do (go to church, do good stuff, save bunnies from forest fires) you have little idea of what Christians believe?

If the church that you’re attending isn’t preaching that Jesus Christ of Nazareth, the God-man, came to earth, died on a cross as a substitute for sinners, if the church that you’re attending isn’t preaching that on the third day God rose Him from the grave, a conquerer, if the church you’re attending isn’t preaching that you’re a worthless sinner in need of the perfect savior… Then walk out the door and find a group of Christians who do!


8 thoughts on “Joel James: The message of the Gospel

  1. Of course if they wanted to be really memorable, they should have reduced the Gospel to Haiku. :-)

    Good message here, and methinks all that remains is to say…


    • Franky

      MT 7:21 Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.
      MT 7:22 Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?
      MT 7:23 And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.

      MT 25:31 When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory:
      MT 25:32 And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats:
      MT 25:33 And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left.
      MT 25:34 Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:
      MT 25:35 For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in:
      MT 25:36 Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.
      MT 25:37 Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink?
      MT 25:38 When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee?
      MT 25:39 Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?
      MT 25:40 And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.
      MT 25:41 Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels:

      LK 13:23 Then said one unto him, Lord, are there few that be saved? And he said unto them,
      LK 13:24 Strive to enter in at the strait gate: for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able.
      LK 13:25 When once the master of the house is risen up, and hath shut to the door, and ye begin to stand without, and to knock at the door, saying, Lord, Lord, open unto us; and he shall answer and say unto you, I know you not whence ye are:
      LK 13:26 Then shall ye begin to say, We have eaten and drunk in thy presence, and thou hast taught in our streets.
      LK 13:27 But he shall say, I tell you, I know you not whence ye are; depart from me, all ye workers of iniquity.

      JN 3:16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

      In line with these scriptures what does BELIEVE [Jn 3:16] mean to you? This is something I mull over many times.


  2. Thanks Mark!

    I’m really glad that you’ve posted this, as now we can refer back to it to be reminded of the challenging, powerful, God glorifying sermons that Joel taught this past weekend.

    We have a mission, by God’s grace, through His strength and for His glory!

    God bless!

  3. What a great bit of writting. Mark, this was superbly put and thought through and constructed. May I use this on our website here at St John’s because it is a message that would hold peoples attention and solicit just the right kind of response to Jesus that we desire our congregations to grasp and follow and live by. You have put together another gem!

    • Hi Dad,

      Thanks. You the most faithful member of my fan club.

      Of course you can use it. I’m planning on posting more this week relating to some of the content and thoughts that came up over the weekend.

      Have a great day,


  4. Hi Mark,

    Thanks again for the challenge. I find your writing inspirational and I want to share it with everyone as it is so clear what the gospel is. May you continue His work in bringing others into a relationship with Him. x x

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s