The Hazardous Gospel

The Hazardous Gospel–message preached by Barbara Shafer at Advocate Condell Medical Center, January 26, 2014

Some of you may remember clerks who worked the customer service desk at our local Post Office in days gone by.  One of those clerks was Mervin.  I really liked Mervin.  I came to know a different side of him when one day, I was mailing copies of a sermon I’d given, sending them to a bunch of friends, including postage to mail it back to me.  The instructions were to let it minister to people they knew and to share the “traveling” Gospel, because I DO Love to Tell the Story.

Well, I brought my packages up to the desk and Mervin asked the usual litany of questions about packages, ““Does this parcel contain anything fragile, liquid, perishable, or potentially hazardous?”  I told him it was the Gospel.  He smiled at me and said with a chuckle, “Should we list it as potentially hazardous then?”  I laughed because I knew what he was saying as he continued, “It depends on whether someone receives it and what they do with it…as it says in the Bible.”

Gospel HazardI learned that Mervin was a clerk by day, but at night and on weekends, he pastored a church.  It was a small but spiritually vibrant African American church in a somewhat dying neighborhood.  We became friends and I went to his church to hear him preach.

The Gospel is potentially hazardous depending on whether we receive it and what we do with it when we do receive it.  It’s hazardous to our old way of life.

That’s what our passage today talks about.  When we receive the Gospel, our response will be hazardous to our old way of life but it will be a really good thing because our new way of life will be true life.

The Gospel is hazardous in that it calls us to:


All of these things–Personal Holiness, Fear of God, and Loving Others like Jesus Loved Them– can’t be adequately done apart from the Gospel.  It is hazardous to our old way of life.

Where does it say this in our passage for today?  Well, let’s take a look:

1 Peter 1:14 As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. 15 But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; 16 for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.”

When we become followers of Jesus Christ and when His Gospel—the Good News of salvation for those who believe in Him—is embraced, we become children in the family of God.  We’re adopted out of our old life of sin, of evil desires, of ignorance to God’s ways and we are called to take on our new family name.

Just as when a child is adopted into a family and takes on the family name and becomes under the new parental authority, so we do too when we take on the name Christian.  We live under the loving guidance of our Father in heaven.  In the Christian life, we have a new knowledge of who God is.  We experience God’s Holy Spirit coming to dwell within our hearts and we learn to listen to God’s instruction.  Therefore we are no longer uninformed about what holy actions are and must learn to act accordingly.

The Gospel is hazardous to our old way of life, calling us out of that and toward personal holiness.

After I became a Christian, God began working on my personal holiness.  I had a silly habit of feeling guilty when I had not allowed 5 days mailing time for bills, even if 2 days would get it there on time.  So when I wrote out my check, I back dated it.  I didn’t think that God particularly cared about my doing that since no one was really being hurt by it.  I thought that it was just covering my embarrassment, even minus the embarr and the ment.  One day, I was writing out a check and back dated it.  God’s Holy Spirit said into my conscience, “How about you void that, tear it up, and be honest this time.”  I had no idea that God even cared about that.  But now I do and whenever I’m tempted to do that, I remember that my personal holiness is important to God because I bear His name as His child.

Yes, the Gospel can be hazardous to our old way of life, even things we don’t think He cares about.  Personal holiness extends from the truly important to the seemingly insignificant.  We all have our areas where change is necessary and the Gospel will be hazardous to those wrong things we did in ignorance.

But the Gospel is also hazardous to what we might fear. 

Many of us are afraid of something as our natural default.  Some of us are afraid of strangers or of heights or of the dark.  Some of us are afraid of the dentist or shots or something.  But that’s not what our passage is talking about.  Our passage is talking about the fear of God.

Sometimes we’ll hear people talk about putting the fear of God into someone.  But in reality it’s more like fear of the belt or the paddle.  The fear of God is something totally different.  The fear of God is a reverent awareness that God is God and we are not.  It’s a reverent awareness that God is supremely knowledgeable, even about things we think are hidden.  It’s a reverent awareness that He will judge our actions, or as it says in our passage:

1 Peter 1:17 Since you call on a Father who judges each man’s work impartially, live your lives as strangers here in reverent fear.

We’re strangers because many people think that Christians are a bunch of kooks, believing in God.  We’re strangers among such people.  We’re different and don’t fit in anymore.  But we know something that they don’t know:

 1 Peter 1:18 For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.

The Gospel is hazardous to our former ways of thinking because Jesus bought us and didn’t pay for us with anything we could have used on our own—enough silver or gold.  No, those only lead to the empty old ways of trusting in ourselves.  Jesus bought us with His blood.  It sounds kind of gross, but Scripture says Hebrews 9:22 In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.

This is a NT explanation of what is found in everyone’s favorite book of the Bible, Leviticus 17:11 For the life of a creature is in the blood, and I have given it to you to make atonement for yourselves on the altar; it is the blood that makes atonement for one’s life.

To rescue my life, your life, blood had to be shed…and that blood was Jesus’.  The Gospel is hazardous because we cannot go back to believing that we can save ourselves.  We must swallow our pride in believing in our own messianic abilities and instead, learn to fear God who not only judges impartially but judges through Jesus’ purchase of us.  The Gospel is hazardous in that it calls us out of our former lives of empty days and self-reliance and into a life of holiness and fear of God by believing in His Son whom He sent to purchase our souls.

About Jesus, our passage continues with a third hazard of the Gospel: its call for us to love like Jesus loved.

1 Peter 1:20 He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake. 21 Through him you believe in God, who raised him from the dead and glorified him, and so your faith and hope are in God. 22 Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for your brothers, love one another deeply, from the heart.  23 For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God.

Because God loved us and sent His Son Jesus, our response as Christians is to love others.  Not just to love people who are lovable like maybe parents or children or siblings or a spouse.  There’s a higher standard of loving even those who are our enemies.  How hard is that!  Don’t we all have people in our lives who annoy us or find really unpleasant?  In our old ways of life, loving them would have been very hard–indeed, impossible!  But the Gospel is hazardous to our old way of life.  We know that we have been bought with the highest price paid…as Scripture says, Romans 5:8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us….10 For if, when we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!

Think about it: We were God’s enemies, but Jesus loved us so much that He ransomed us anyway in order to demolish our old ways of human selfishness and loving only the lovable.  Now, we seek God because we’ve been born again.  And we’re called to that higher standard of love.

Once you’ve been “born again”—a great and descriptive phrase that has received an unfortunate and undeserved connotation—because the idea is that once you’ve been born, there is no going back to the womb.  Once you’ve been born there is no old way anymore.  Once you’ve been born, everything is ahead of you and nothing is behind you.  The Gospel is hazardous because there is no turning back to the way we were before.

Much as many a mother who just wants to take a shower (without seeing the toddler’s hands under the door or hearing the doorknob rattling amidst cries for Mommy) wishes that for just a moment she could shove the child back inside her belly to take a shower in peace…and many a mother of a teenager wishes she could have the teenage years pass back in the womb so that we didn’t have to deal with teenage drama, the truth is there is no going back!

That’s why “born again” is such a great phrase.  It accurately depicts how the Gospel is hazardous to our old way of life.  There’s no going back and that’s a good thing!

  • It’s hazardous to our old sinful ways.  We are called to be holy, obeying the Word of Truth.
  • It’s hazardous to our old fears and what we trusted as wisdom.  We are called to fear God and Him alone.  That’s true wisdom!
  • It’s hazardous to our old view of love.  We are called to love others as Jesus did–a high standard to be sure, but possible by the power of the Gospel.

So where does today find you?  Have you been born again? 

Have you embraced the hazardous, risky Gospel and the new way of life that represents true living?  Have you accepted God’s forgiveness offered in the blood of Christ?  Have you decided to pursue a future of holiness because the God you serve is holy?  Have you let go of fears of man and worldly wisdom and acknowledged that fear of God is the beginning of wisdom?  Have you made the decision to love as Jesus did even if you fall short from time to time?

If you haven’t, then you can be born again, no going back to that old empty way of hopelessness, fear, trusting in yourself, and worrying about the future.  You can be born again to be the person God has always desired you to be: holy, godly, and loving.  You can pray something like this:

Lord God, I acknowledge you and the love you had for us in sending your Son Jesus.  I admit what you already know—that I fall short all the time of the holiness and call to love others that you would have me to show.  I admit that heaven is not inherited second-hand by the faith of others, but that it’s a gift I must receive.  I understand that heaven is not purchased by anything I can bring.  I ask that you would make me born-again by the blood of Christ, the cleansing of forgiveness and the power of your Holy Spirit.  Remind me, Lord, that there is no turning back to old evil ways.  Strengthen me to pursue the certainty of eternal life though it is hazardous to the old ways I knew.  I thank you for sending Jesus and ask that His forgiveness would cover me and help me to live a life of holiness and love.  Thank you Jesus.  Amen

Categories Chapel Worship/News | Tags: | Posted on January 26, 2014

Social Networks: RSS Facebook Twitter Google Stumble Upon Digg Reddit


  1. by LeAbn

    On January 26, 2014

    Thank you, Barbara – very good message and prayer. I am glad that I got to read it and react to it and read it again….soaking it in and taking it to heart.
    Thank you for introducing me to new music this week and for your lovely prayer over me this morning. I am blessed to call you a friend. I thank God for bringing you into my life.

  2. by seminarygal

    On January 27, 2014

    The blessing was mine to receive from you as well. I thank God for the ongoing encouragement you are to me. 🙂

Leave a Reply