4 Reasons for Gospel Urgency
In 1980, the United States national hockey team was preparing to compete against the Soviet national team. It became one of the most famous sporting events in modern history because the U.S. team won. Before the game, coach Herb Brooks gave this speech to the team of Americans:
“Great moments are born from great opportunity. And that’s what you have here, tonight, boys. That’s what you’ve earned here tonight. One game. If we played ’em ten times, they might win nine. But not this game. Not tonight. Tonight, we skate with them. Tonight, we stay with them. And we shut them down because we can! Tonight, we are the greatest hockey team in the world. You were born to be hockey players. Every one of you. And you were meant to be here tonight. This is your time. Their time is done. It’s over. I’m sick and tired of hearing about what a great hockey team the Soviets have… This is your time. Now go out there and take it.”
As the church, we should share that kind of urgency when it comes to the gospel. It is what Paul reminded Timothy about in the first eleven verses of 1 Timothy. But that seems a bit odd. Why? Because Timothy had traveled with Paul for over a decade. He helped Paul establish churches in Philippi, Thessalonica, Berea, and Ephesus. He collaborated with Paul on the New Testament letters of 2 Corinthians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 & 2 Thessalonians, and Philemon. He’d likely heard Paul preach and teach thousands of times. Timothy had delivered gospel-centered messages throughout his ministry as well.
Yet, when Paul writes to Timothy and urges him to stay as the pastor/elder of the Ephesian church, he begins this letter with urgency about the gospel message. I would encourage all leaders and members of the church to follow the same pattern: Hold on to a partnership of urgency for the gospel. 1 Timothy 1:1-11 gives us 4 great reasons to do so.
1. Spiritual deception is everywhere.
In The Prince, Machiavelli wrote, “Never attempt to win by force what can be won by deception.” Paul urged Timothy in verses 2-3 to counter the false doctrines, myths, and endless genealogies that were being taught among the Ephesian believers. These lead to non-stop conversations that lead everywhere across the spiritual spectrum and no where in particular. The conversations distract from a person’s real need and, instead, props up their egos. It is the same with today’s prosperity gospel with its unfulfilled promises, legalism with its unattainable standards, and universalism with its unholy view of God.
But this is why the Deceiver loves these deceptions. As Leonardo da Vinci said, “The greatest deception that men suffer is from their own opinions.” Deceptions remove the call for faith and replace it with the call for merit-based religion. As David Platt wrote, “Spiritual deception is dangerous and damning.” We need to drop our extra-biblical thinking and “my opinion” versions of Christianity.
2. The gospel offers complete transformation.
The fifth verse gives us the reminder that we have an offer of love to those staggering in the darkness. The love of God transformed Paul and Timothy; and can do the same for us. But it is what Christ does for us that is the key. P.T. Forsyth said, “Christianity is not the sacrifice we make, but the sacrifice we trust; not the victory we win but the victory we inherit.” The gospel is the message of God’s love delivered through the loving sacrifice of Jesus. It gives us a pure heart (regeneration), a good conscience (proper moral intuition), and a sincere faith (ability to live out our beliefs).
Paul is reminding Timothy to drive out the false teaching not just with soaring rhetoric and high-minded ideas. But, by recounting his own character it shows us the need to have our lives match our message. We do this because we can see the urgency that lies in the lives of others.
3. Our sin nature leads us into dark places.
Our tendency is toward living by the power of human virtue or the pleasure of fleshly vice. But the gospel must be the core of all we are. In verses 6-10, Paul tells Timothy that these false teachers are misusing the law. They think that by keeping it and demanding others to do the same that they can fall into the good graces of God. But bludgeoning people with the law (either Old Testament or just common governmental law) leads people to despair and deeper into their sin.
But we know the world does need the law. From the liar to the murderer (by Paul’s listing here), everyone needs to know that they are outside of righteousness. They live for the flesh because they have not yet heard of their great need. The great evangelist Charles Finney stated, “Sin is the most expensive thing in the universe. Nothing else can cost so much. Pardoned or unpardoned, its cost is infinitely great. Pardoned, the cost falls chiefly on the great atoning Substitute; unpardoned, it must fall on the head of the guilty sinner.” We must lead people to repent of both their arrogant legalism and their gross licentiousness.
4. The gospel is the only truly beautiful message.
God’s message must be the core of our message. Why? Because it is about God’s own glory. God’s glory is what is most important to Him and, therefore should be most important to us. Plus, we have come to understand from the Scriptures that God wants to share His glory with us. The gospel is not about you getting what you want, taking it easy in life, or letting someone else just do the dirty work for you. The gospel concerns God’s glory.
It is the only thing we have that is truly beautiful on its own. It is better than any religious education or evangelical entertainment. It surpasses our bids are creativity or academia. It was entrusted to Paul who entrusted it to Timothy who entrusted it to the Ephesian church and through the ages it has been entrusted to us. We must cling to the gospel in a partnership of urgency for one another and the world.