In 1985 the Coca Cola Company introduced a reformulation of their flagship soft drink. It became unofficially known as “New Coke.” The reaction from the buying public was overwhelmingly negative, and the original formula was brought back three months later as “ Coca Cola Classic.” New Coke was renamed Coke 2 in 1990, and finally discontinued in 2002. Apparently what people really wanted was Classic Coke.

I recently returned from the Basic Conference held for pastors held every year at Parkside Church near Cleveland, Ohio. About 1500 pastors gather there from all over the United States and several foreign countries for the immense privilege of hearing Pastor Alistair Begg and one or two invited guests, usually from the British Isles. The content is Biblical and encouraging, and it is delivered in either a Scottish, English, or Irish brogue, which gives the speakers such an unfair advantage. They could read random passages from a cookbook, and we would all listen, enthralled.

The idea behind the Basic Conference is simply to focus on those most important, fundamental things- the basics- upon which a truly Biblical ministry rest. It is both reassuring and refreshing to be reminded of these things, and to be encouraged to keep on doing these things. Things like: “preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.” (2 Timothy 4:2) And: “As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.” (2 Timonthy 4:5) When we are bombarded on every side with new ways to “do church”, to modernize ministry, and even to redefine Christianity, it is encouraging to be reminded of the simple tasks to which we are really called. Paul gave these clear instructions to his young protégé Timothy: “Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching.” (1 Timonthy 4:13) And he told Timothy, “If you put these things before the brothers, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, being trained in the words of the faith and of the good doctrine that you have followed.” (Timothy 4:6) So, how do I know if I’m being a faithful minister of Christ Jesus? No matter what anybody else says- or what I say about myself- the Bible says that if I keep putting these basic things before my brothers and sisters in Christ, then I will be a “good servant of Christ Jesus.” And in the end, it’s only God’s opinion that matters.

When Alistair Begg had first come to America, he went golfing with some other preachers. As they played, one of them asked him, “So, Alistair: what’s your thing?” He responded that he didn’t know what was meant by the question. The other man continued, “You know, your thing. Everybody’s got a thing.” Alistair Begg said, “I don’t think I have a thing.” And the more the other man talked, the more he was sure that he didn’t want one! But this man was convinced, as many others are, that we all need a special emphasis or gimmick in our approach to church and ministry. The underlying implication is that the basic things outlined in Bible are not enough for this modern age.

Something similar happened to me in my first ministry position. I was the new youth pastor of a church in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The senior pastor hosted an event for all the church’s teenagers at his house, so I could meet them all. After a nice cookout with some wonderful food, the pastor got up and said,” Now here’s Brother David, who’s going to come and tell you all about his program.” And I thought, “program? I didn’t know I was supposed to have a program! I thought I was just supposed to teach them the Bible and try to help them reach their friends for Jesus. Nobody said anything about a program!” I managed to get up and say something that sounded vaguely program-like for a few minutes. But all I really wanted to say was. “I very much look forward to getting to know you all, to opening up the Scriptures together, and to try to find ways to make your friends feel welcome among us so that they might come to know Jesus, too”

Knute Rockne was a famous football coach at the University of Notre Dame. In his thirteen years as head coach his teams won 105 games, lost 12, and tied 5. He didn’t believe in secret plays, and he never has a secret practice. He’d hang out a sign that said, “Secret practice, come and bring your notebooks.” On one occasion when a scout for an opposing team missed a practice he was supposed to cover, Rockne sent him all the plays he intended to use against the other team. He explained it by saying, “it isn’t the play that wins, it’s the execution.” In other words, doing the basics well.

Martin Luther was once asked how he has accomplished all of the things that ignited the movement known as the Protestant Reformation. He said, “I did nothing. The Word did it all!”

Lurking around in all this is the point I’m trying to make. I have spent far too many years trying to find the thing, the technique, the approach, or the gimmick that will make everything work, that will result in “success” (my definition of success, not God’s), and that will accomplish the results I want. And these things have left me feeling disappointed. Frustrated, and unfulfilled. But when I have focused on those simple, fundamental, vitally important things outlined in the Scripture, no matter what the results may be, I feel deeply satisfied and fulfilled in having done my best to do those simple things.

And the older I get, the more I want to concentrate on those wonderful truths we find in the Bible that tell us how to have our sins forgiven, how to know that we are right with God, how to be able to face death peacefully, and until that day comes, how to live for God faithfully. In other words, I just want to be reassured and strengthened by the precious truths of the Gospel.

I want to sing those truths, repeat those truths together, explain those truths to you from the Bible, and encourage you to commit your lives to these truths- rather, to the One who is “the way, the truth and the life” (John 14:6)

Michelangelo was once asked how he was able to sculpt an angel from a block of marble. He said,” I just chisel away everything that’s not an angel.”

The older I get, the more I want to chisel away everything in church that isn’t the worship of God. In my own life, the less I want to have anything to do with the latest passing trend, and the more I want to cling to and rest upon the simple, wonderful, Biblical truths of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. With the apostle Paul, I want to declare: “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.” (Roman 1:16 NKJV)

I just was classic Christianity. I just want the real thing. I just was Jesus. Don’t you?

Soli Deo Gloria

Pastor David