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A rebel pursued

"A rebel pursued" Continued...

Issue: "Focus on Mitt Romney," July 16, 2011

What were the differences? A different philosophy of preaching. A different philosophy of local church ministry. I think a radically different theological understanding of the gospel-that the gospel doesn't just save you, the gospel grows you once you're saved. I started preaching the gospel through the book of Jonah, which has parallels to the parable of the prodigal son.

What's the key teaching in that parable? The younger brother is trying to save himself by breaking the rules. The older brother is trying to save himself by keeping the rules. The same is true in the story of Jonah. The pagan sailors and the pagan Ninevites are a law unto themselves. They're doing what they want, when they want.

And Jonah? He's a good guy, trying to save himself by keeping the rules. . . . I'm preaching this when I first get to Coral Ridge, basically saying, "If you've been in church for 20 or 30 years, you need the gospel in a different way, but you need the gospel just as much as all the abortionists and homosexuals who are outside the church. They need God's justifying grace via the gospel, you need God's sanctifying grace via the gospel."

You understood the younger brother very well, having lived that way, but you found yourself in a church that you saw as more like the elder brother? Very much so. They had been, for so long, hearing that what was really wrong with the world was out there. Liberal Democrats. Abortionists. Homosexuals. Idolatry outside the church: Clearly identified. Idolatry inside the church: Overlooked.

We have to confront our own idolatry? If we don't, we have a declining, unhealthy church. Calvin said-this is a paraphrase-The human heart is an idol-making factory, making the good things of God into the ultimate, defining things that we worship. I knew that message had to go forth. We could not be for our city what we needed to be if we did not first grasp the gospel deep in our own bones.

How do we do that? You can't get it down deep into your bones if you're not in a local church with a pastor who gets that. He's got to get that. There's a lot of moralistic, do-more, try-harder preaching in churches today. The preaching of the gospel is not, "You must do." The preaching of the gospel is, "Jesus has already done." There's a big difference between them.

Marvin Olasky
Marvin Olasky

Marvin is editor in chief of WORLD News Group and the author of more than 20 books, including The Tragedy of American Compassion. Follow Marvin on Twitter @MarvinOlasky.

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