Keep the Gospel in Your Daily Grip
About the Guest
You've heard the saying, "Keep the main thing the main thing," but what exactly is the main thing? According to author and pastor C.J. Mahaney, the main thing and only thing that really counts in the long run is Jesus Christ and His Gospel.
C.J. MahaneyC.J. serves as the Senior Pastor for Sovereign Grace Church of Louisville. He has authored several books. C.J. and his wife, Carolyn, have three married daughters, one son, and twelve grandchildren. C.J. cheers for the Washington Redskins, Washington Nationals, and University of Maryland basketball, and he cheers against the Dallas Cowboys, New York Yankees, and Duke basketball.
C.J. Mahaney talks about the main thing and only thing that really counts in the long run is Jesus Christ and His Gospel.
Keep the Gospel in Your Daily Grip
Bob: Let me ask you a question – how often during the day do you find yourself thinking about God; about His purposes for your life; about His plan for all of us; about the Gospel. If the answer to that question is probably not often enough, then here is a second question for you from pastor and speaker, C.J. Mahaney.
C.J.: How can we keep the main thing the main thing? Well, we must keep the Gospel personal. This is a daily necessity – keeping the Gospel, holding fast to the Gospel, not relaxing our grip on the Gospel; not fumbling the Gospel; treasuring the Gospel is a daily challenge and a daily necessity.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Thursday, April 13th. Our host is the president of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. C.J. Mahaney is going to help us reflect on the importance of the Gospel today and living a cross-centered life.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today, thanks for joining us on the Thursday edition. It feels different, you know? I mean, walking up to Easter feels different than walking up to Christmas.
Dennis: It does.
Bob: The whole world kind of shuts down for Christmas. Everybody is bustling around, getting ready for the big day, the big celebration when it's Christmas. And Easter, unless you are a Christian, it kind of just scoots by without people paying a whole lot of attention, you know?
Dennis: It does and, Bob, there are certain holidays for followers of Christ that are the ultimate holidays, and I think Christmas is certainly important because how can we be redeemed unless the Savior is born, but certainly Easter is equally important because how can we be redeemed unless the Savior die and be raised again from the dead.
You know, it's because of the Easter season and the hope that it represents because of Christ's death, His burial, and His Resurrection that we want to spend the rest of this week talking with you about what is the Gospel? You need to know what the Gospel is personally so that your faith is in the right place but, secondly, you need to know what the Gospel is and what Christ came to do so you can share it with your family, with your friends, with your co-workers, with your neighbors. This is a part of our mission. We need to know what the Gospel is so we can pass it on.
Bob: And to do that this week, we've got some help from a friend of ours, C.J. Mahaney, who is an author, a speaker, he provides the leadership to Sovereign Grace Ministries, a network of churches all around the country. He has written books on the Gospel, and the message we're going to hear a portion of on today's program is – well, I told you, it's one of the five best messages I've heard probably in my lifetime. I mean, it had a …
Dennis: That's really saying something, Bob.
Bob: It had a profound impact …
Dennis: Because you've heard me give a lot more messages than that.
Bob: C.J.'s message is a message that, as I heard it, was originally presented to a group of young people in their 20s who were attending a conference in Louisville, Kentucky, and he talked about keeping the main thing the main thing.
Dennis: And as you listen to this, I really want you to listen carefully, because you need to know what the Gospel is so you can know how to share the Gospel with those in need.
C.J.: [taped earlier] Any knowledge that I have of contemporary Christian music is attributable to the influence of my three wonderful daughters. My daughters are really a wonderful reflection of their mother's godliness and femininity. They have honored their father and loved their father throughout their lives. Another common characteristic of all three is that the play their CDs of preference very loud, which, at this point, I think I must state they learned from their father who not only plays all of his music very loud but lives his life very loud as well.
One day I found myself initially attracted to a CD that I heard emanating from their room down the hall. I had a number of initial thoughts – one was I wondered momentarily how everybody else in the neighborhood felt about what was playing, given the decibel level. I found myself initially attracted to the musical style, but then eventually distracted by this oft-repeated refrain – "The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing." And it was oft repeated – "The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing."
Now, my initial reaction to what I was hearing in this oft-repeated phrase in particular was a critical one, because too often I have been deeply disturbed by the biblical illiteracy that characterizes so much of contemporary Christian music, and I assumed at that moment that this was yet another example. Actually, I can remember being in my room and overhearing that phrase, "The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing," and my reaction was this – "Duh" – "The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing, duh." I said, "Thank you, Captain Obvious – the main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing."
Now, later, as they say in the NFL, upon further review, in reflecting on that song and on that oft-repeated phrase, I realized that my initial assessment of that song was both arrogant and inaccurate. And later, in reflection, I realized that it actually would be difficult to improve upon the wisdom and relevance of that oft-repeated chorus – "The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing." Actually, that chorus is a succinct summation of Paul's exhortation to Timothy. In 2 Timothy, chapter 1, and actually throughout 2 Timothy, Paul reminds Timothy that the main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing and, actually, this song would really form wonderful background music to this passage that we will be considering this morning.
So let's read this passage – 2 Timothy, chapter 1, beginning in verse 3. Let's read this passage as if we were Timothy. Let's read this passage as if the letter were addressed to each of us, which it is. Let's read this passage as if God was addressing each of us, for He is, and let's discover together this morning that the main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing. 2 Timothy, chapter 1, beginning in verse 3 – "I thank God whom I serve, as my forefathers did, with a clear conscience, as night and day I constantly remember you in my prayers. Recalling your tears, I long to see you so that I may be filled with joy. I have been reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother, Eunice, and I am persuaded now lives in you also. For this reason, I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands, for God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love, and of self-discipline. So do not be ashamed to testify about our Lord or ashamed of me, His prisoner, but join with me in suffering for the Gospel by the power of God who has saved us and called us to a holy life not because of anything we have done but because of His own purpose and grace."
This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time. Is this grace amazing or what? But it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the main thing – the Gospel. And of this main thing, I was appointed a herald and an apostle and a teacher, and that is why I am suffering as I am, yet I am not ashamed because I know whom I have believed and convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him for that day."
If Paul were present today, I'm convinced that he would be addressing us similarly. This would be his last letter prior to his execution. Listen with that in mind and feel his passion; feel his intensity. "Timothy, what you have heard from me, keep." Timothy, what you have heard from me, keep. You see, Paul was going to die soon and, therefore, he wouldn't be able himself to keep Timothy. He would no longer be present, but he knew what could keep Timothy, what would keep Timothy. Keep, as the pattern of sound teaching with faith and love in Christ Jesus. Verse 14 – "Guard the good deposit" – these are all references to the Gospel – Paul kept the main thing the main thing, and so here he restates the obvious again.
So how can we emulate his example? How can we keep the main thing the main thing? Well, we must keep the Gospel personally. Chapter 1, verse 13, "Keep, hold fast, treasure." Verse 14, "Guard we must." How can we emulate his example? How can we keep the main thing the main thing? We must, we must keep the Gospel personally. This is a daily necessity – keeping the Gospel, holding fast to the Gospel, not relaxing our grip on the Gospel, not fumbling the Gospel, keeping the Gospel, holding fast the Gospel, treasuring the Gospel is a daily challenge and a daily necessity.
And what I am instructed by here, as I hear Paul's example and this letter, in particular, is that Paul doesn't assume that Timothy's understanding and appreciation of the Gospel is sufficient. He doesn't assume that. Even though Timothy has known the Holy Scriptures from infancy, even though Timothy has been effectively taught by his grandmother and his mother, even though Timothy has been personally trained by Paul in verses 9 and 10 and throughout this letter, Paul restates the obvious, Paul restates the main thing. And if Timothy needed to hear the main thing restated, if Timothy needed to hear the obvious restated, well, we do this morning as well because of the following temptations and tendencies.
Number one, forgetfulness – we have a daily tendency to forget the Gospel. I came across an article last year that actually was written at the beginning of 1998, and I was drawn immediately to the article, I was fascinated, because in the opening paragraph, the author points out that a Minnesota newspaper reporter – or – a story told and reported the following in 1997. A fellow jumped from a plane, his 'chute didn't open properly. According to the story, it took more than a minute to fall 3,000 feet, and yet he lived, he lived.
And then it transitioned to another story – another man he said is going to remind 1997 because in July he woke up in a morgue refrigerator after 12 hours in a coma. In total darkness, he felt around and, surprise – he discovered he was resting among the dead. He cried out for help, and the paramedic who opened the door collapsed in shock and died.
Now, actually, what was intriguing as I read this was the main point of the article isn't about these two individuals, it isn't about these two incidents. He makes the point that these individuals are not going to soon forget 1997 because of these experiences. But the main point of his article is how quickly we all do forget. The title of the article is, "How Soon We Forget." We just have this daily temptation and tendency to forget.
Look at this verse – chapter 2, verse 8, 2 Timothy – "Remember Jesus Christ." Do you find that odd? He says, "Timothy, apostolic delegate, remember Jesus Christ." John Stoddard writes, "The command to remember Jesus Christ at first sight seems extraordinary." Yes, it does. How could Timothy ever forget Him? Yet, the human memory is notoriously fickle. The epitaph over Israel's grave was "They soon forgot." And it was to overcome our forgetfulness of Christ crucified that the Savior deliberately introduced the Lord's Supper. So why is it critical for us to hold fast the Gospel on a daily basis – because, daily, our tendency and temptation is to forget the main thing.
Number two, legalism, legalism – legalism is a daily temptation, a daily tendency. My definition of legalism is "seeking to achieve forgiveness from God, justification before God, and acceptance by God through our obedience to God." Legalism is about seeking to achieve. Grace is about receiving. Legalism is about achieving or attempting to achieve. Grace is about receiving. Seeking to achieve forgiveness from God, justification before God, and acceptance by God through our obedience to God. Legalism is self-atonement, legalism is substituting our works for His finished work, legalism is attempting to add our works to His finished work as if His finished work needed to be added to. Legalism is about self-sufficient individuals seeking self-atonement, ultimately for the purpose of self-glorification and self-worship. Legalism, folks, legalism is the high of arrogance. It reveals our ignorance of God's holiness; it reveals our ignorance of our sinfulness; it reveals the presence of pride in our lives, and it is a daily tendency. We need to hold fast the Gospel; we need to treasure the Gospel; we need to keep the Gospel; we need to have restated to us on a daily basis the main thing. Why – because, daily, there is this tendency and temptation to legalism.
Bob: Well, we've been listening to part one of a message from Pastor C.J. Mahaney on the Gospel, and he's right, isn't he?
Dennis: He really is.
Bob: We have a tendency to want to go before God and say, "Look at what I'm doing or have done. Aren't you pleased with me?" And the only reason He would be pleased with us is not because of what we are doing or have done but because of Christ.
Dennis: He didn't say it exactly this way, but when we share our faith in Christ, and we attempt to lead another person into a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ where we explain Christ's life, His death on our behalf, His Resurrection, and then the offer of eternal life to those who will cry out in faith to Christ to save them from their sins and become the Lord of their lives – when we do that, when I share that with a person on an airplane or a taxicab driver or someone that I meet coming and going to a hotel, I am reminded that I was saved that same way. But it was my faith in Christ's finished work on the cross that brought me into a right relationship with God, and I now stand forgiven. I have eternal life, and it reminds me none of that was my work. It was all Christ's work.
And I couldn't help but think as he was preaching, of a couple of verses at the end of 2 Corinthians, chapter 5 – "All this is from God who, through Christ, reconciled us to Himself and gave us" – now, hear this – "He gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ, God was reconciling the world to Himself not counting their trespasses against them and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ; God making His appeal through us. We implore you, on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake, He made Christ to be sin who knew no sin so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God."
He did that for us, but then He gave us a mission. He gave us the ministry of reconciliation. You know, here at the Easter season it's so easy to get caught up in the trappings of dress and what we're going to look like on Sunday morning, when we celebrate a sunrise service or go to church, but we need to be thinking about the next-door neighbor; we need to be thinking about our children's eternal destiny; we need to be thinking about our extended family. We can take this message of Christ's redemption to those who need to place their faith in Him.
I have to say at this point, if you are listening to our broadcast right now, and you don't have a relationship with Christ, now is the day. Today is the day to meet Him face-to-face, and to cry out to Him, "Lord, be merciful to me, a sinner, I receive you as my Savior and Lord, and Your forgiveness of my sins." That's the greatest news we could ever offer another person on the planet.
Bob: Your point is well taken. If we want to share our faith with others, we need to make sure we understand our faith ourselves, and I think that's where the message we've heard today is helpful. And the book that C.J. has written called, "Living the Cross-Centered Life," is a book that will keep our heart focused in the direction of the cross, where it ought to be day in and day out.
We've got copies of C.J.'s book in our FamilyLife Resource Center. In fact, we also have copies of a devotional book by a man who C.J. considers his theological hero – that is Charles Spurgeon, the great English preacher. There is a book called "Morning by Morning," that features excerpts from Spurgeon's sermons, and this book will help you each day begin the day with a Christ-center, cross-centered worldview.
We have both the book, "Living the Cross-Centered Life," and the devotional book, "Morning by Morning," available in our FamilyLife Resource Center. If you're interested in getting copies of both of these books, we can send at no additional cost the CD audio that features C.J.'s entire message on keeping the main thing the main thing. Go to our website at FamilyLife.com. In the middle of the page, you'll see a button that says "Go," and if you click on that button, it will take you right to the site where you can get more information on these resources. You can order online as well. Again, the website is FamilyLife.com, click the "Go" button in the center of the screen, or call us at 1-800-FLTODAY and someone on our team can let you know how you can get these books sent to you, along with a CD of C.J.'s message.
By the way, I know that most of you who listen regularly to FamilyLife Today are aware of the fact that our program, like many of the programs you hear on Christian radio, we are listener-supported. We depend on folks who listen and who appreciate the program to call in and say, "I'd like to make a donation to the program and help keep it on the air in our city and in cities all across the country," and we appreciate those of you who have done that. In times past, you have helped make today's program possible.
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We'd like to send you the DVD as our way of saying thank you this week when you make a donation of any amount, and you can do that by calling 1-800-FLTODAY to make a donation or by going online at FamilyLife.com. If you fill out the donation form online, when you get to the box that says "keycode" just type in the word "Jesus," and we'll know to send you the DVD or if you're calling 1-800-FLTODAY, mention that you'd like the DVD, and we'll send that to you as well. And let me say thanks to those of you again who in the past have helped support the ministry and those of you who called today to make a donation, let me say thanks to you as well. We appreciate your partnership with us in this ministry.
Tomorrow we will be back for part two of C.J. Mahaney's message on keeping the main thing the main thing. I hope you can be with us for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We'll see you next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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