The Gospel of Prevention

July 31, 2016 No Comments »
The Gospel of Prevention

By Bob Russell

Screen Shot 2015-07-30 at 3.27.43 PMSince “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” we vaccinate our children against disease. The primary emphasis of medicine today is on maintaining wellness, not just curing illness.

We all know the wisdom of fire prevention, crime prevention, and flood prevention. But when it comes to our spiritual lives, we haven’t been as wise. The message of Jesus Christ is regarded primarily as a curative gospel—medicine to help us when we are spiritually sick or an emergency treatment when we are in deep trouble.

Today we ask people to give testimonies if they have a dramatic story about being rescued from the depths of sin. “I had an abortion.” “I was an alcoholic.” “I was addicted to pornography.” “I had multiple affairs.” These are the people we hold up as success stories—and they provide thrilling proof that the gospel still saves to the uttermost. It’s good that we emphasize the power of Jesus Christ to save us from being wretched sinners. We all were once sinking deep in sin. But the gospel is effective not only as a curative. Jude 24 speaks of prevention as well, “Unto him who is able to keep you from falling.”

We need a new emphasis on spiritual wellness.

Developing Spiritual Immunity

We could use some testimonies in church about how Jesus Christ can prevent the family from falling apart. He can prevent us from falling into foolish get-rich-quick scams. He can prevent us from ruining our lungs with tobacco, our liver with alcohol, our heart with worry, and our spirit with bitterness.

Admittedly those testimonies might not be as captivating. But they are more desirable. When we take Christianity seriously and establish Christian habits and attitudes, that doesn’t mean we ever reach the point where we’re above temptation. But we can reach the point where fewer and fewer temptations have a strong appeal. Like Joseph in Egypt, we can become immune to the temptation to commit adultery or to steal or commit murder. We can all benefit from a kind of spiritual immunity.

A man once went to Dwight Moody with a sordid tale of moral disaster. After having narrated the complex, harrowing facts, he asked, “Now, Mr. Moody, what would you do if you got yourself into my situation?”

Moody replied, “I never would have gotten into it!”

That’s not an entirely unsympathetic answer. Dwight Moody was acknowledging that Christianity is not simply an ambulance at the foot of the precipice to pick up those who have fallen over. It is a fence at the top to prevent people from falling in the first place.

Living an Honorable Life

Greg Allen was for many years the very effective worship leader at Southeast Christian Church. Decades ago I performed the marriage ceremony for him and his wife, Lauri. Ten minutes before the wedding ceremony Greg was nervously, excitedly pacing the floor of the fellowship hall. He said, “Can I tell you what makes this day so special to me? I started dating Lauri when we were freshmen in high school. We made a vow then that since we were both Christians we would remain morally pure until marriage. I dated her all through high school and then four more years when I was at Milligan College. It was difficult at times, but we remained true to that vow. And today I’m so glad we did!”

That’s rare. But that marriage ceremony was one of the most meaningful I’ve ever participated in. It was also one of the shortest wedding receptions I’ve ever attended! But when I see Greg Allen 35 years later, with his wife and three beautiful daughters, I can understand why God has anointed him as a husband, father, and worship leader. God blesses those who keep themselves “from being polluted by the world” (James 1:27).

There’s nothing very exciting about throwing away oily rags, having the furnace checked once a year, and not smoking in bed. Those precautions won’t make headlines. But if a fire is raging and a brave soul risks his life in a thrilling rescue, the papers carry the story on the front page. Yet fire prevention is so much better.

If a young man grows up in a Christian home and is sustained by faith in Christ and lives an honorable life, few take notice. He isn’t asked to give his testimony in church. But while his story is not as thrilling as a dramatic conversion, it is much preferred. Harry Emerson Fosdick once suggested that there’s something better than the prodigal returning from the far country. It’s when he stays home and is humbly obedient to the Father.

Bob Russell is the retired senior minister of Southeast Christian Church, Louisville, Kentucky. Copyright 2015 by Bob Russell. Permission to copy this column may be obtained by writing Debbie Carper, Southeast Christian Church, 920 Blankenbaker Pkwy, Louisville, KY 40243. Find Bob’s books and sermons online (www.livingword.org).

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