In 1976 I was a young boy at the tender age of six and I remember on October 29th my world was literally rocked! I was watching the Paul Lynde Halloween Special on ABC and I saw a performance from a rock band named Kiss. The song was a ballad called “Beth”. I immediately fell in love with the song and the band. The next day I pleaded with my mom to take me to the local department store (It was Big N, later called Ames) to buy the record. I recall walking to the back of the store where the record section was located, and I finding the record from Kiss called Destroyer. Surprisingly my mother bought me the record and I took it home and listened to it over and over again. This introduction to Kiss began my lifelong obsession with not only the band Kiss, but with rock music in general… more on that in a bit.
So, if you would indulge me for a moment, let’s get in our Delorian and go back in time to the mid 1970’s where hair was feathered, the pants were belled, corvettes were cool, Jesus was just alright with me, and Kiss was one of the hottest bands in the world… Yes, Kiss were an anomaly to the music scene of their day because they were four grown men who painted their faces in makeup (one as a cat, one as a spaceman, one as a demon, and one as a starchily), wore platform shoes, outrageous costumes, blew fire out of their mouths, spit blood, and guitars that would smoke. And if this wasn’t outrageous enough, they had a stage show that literally blew every band off the stage… they had fire, platforms, a spectacular lightshow, and a band logo that was larger life.
In the 70s Kiss was the hottest band in the world. Just about every person knew them. They were on the cover of ever teen magazine, the radio waves, and television. I watched a documentary about the band a while back and at the peak of their fame it was estimated that each member made $12,000 per concert they played, and they sold out auditoriums around the world.
They had a marketing team that flooded stores with Kiss lunch boxes, action figures, puzzles, games, radios, Halloween costumes, posters, t-shirts, pinball machines, and belt buckles. It seemed a at the time that literally everything had Kiss on it. The problem with Kiss though was that they were weren’t a spectacular musicians. Their fame was, unfortunately based on gimmicks, not raw talent. People loved them because of all the things I have mentioned before. When you sit down and really listen to the music, I admit there was nothing spectacular about the songs. They were ok songs. Sure, some songs were catchy, but they were not stellar musicians at all. Stellar performers yes… musicians eh.
This eventually came back and bit them because they gained fans and a following based on gimmicks and to keep their fans they needed to always come up with new gimmicks. Unfortunately, with gimmicks they get old-, and over-time people lose interest after a while. This was the case for Kiss. By 1981 they were pretty much forgotten by the masses. Inevitable they canceled tours due to lack of ticket sales and created albums that flopped in the charts. After some time, they decided to take off their makeup and this gimmick put them back in the spotlight for a time and eventually they fell off the radar again. So, they put the makeup back on in the late 90s with much fanfare and success and now in 2021 they are currently on their third farewell tour playing mid-sized venues.
So, why have I spent so much time talking to you about a rock band named Kiss (a name some people thought meant Knights In Satan’s Service)? Because I believe the church and Christianity has in many ways become like them. Let me explain. With Kiss when you take the makeup off, take away the extravagant stage show, the outrageous costumes and gimmicks you have a band of four musicians who make ok music. When all of this is stripped away only the hard-core fans stick with the band no matter what. They have bought in to the band Kiss and not the gimmick.
Is this what has happened with the Church and Christianity? Think about your own worship experience. Some of your church services are like rock concerts, complete with smoke, lights, great music, cheering, and a message that makes you feel good about yourself, and may help you see Jesus in a different light, kind of like a buddy Jesus. Christians come to these large and sometimes small churches by the droves to get their Sunday Jesus fix. In other cases, people depend on liturgy, tradition, and their church building. In both cases people NEED their Sunday Jesus fix in order to make it through the week.
Now, am I being hard on these churches? Yes, but my intention is not to harp on them and call them evil, heretical, or shallow. That is not my intent. My purpose for today is to help us strip down our inflated ideas on what church and Christianity is and reflect on the words of the Apostle Paul… “And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God. (1 Cor. 2:1 – 5)
I know I spent a lot of time telling you about a gimmick and I guess that could be a gimmick. My hope in using the example I did would show you that gimmicks don’t work long term. I really don’t care if you like Kiss or not. My guess is most of you do not. My goal for today is to share the importance of Jesus.
Let me ask you this question… “When you strip away all the lights, smoke, auditoriums, praise bands, traditions, liturgy and eloquent speakers; is Jesus enough?” Is Jesus enough for you? Can you worship him without all the bells and whistles? Can you serve Him and be obedient to Him without the “feel good” sermons?
In the passage I just read the Apostle Paul is telling his readers Kiss is the only way. (Keep it Simple Stupid) His message is a simple message it is Jesus Christ and Him crucified. That is, it. There is nothing more. It is not Jesus AND… The effectiveness in preaching the Gospel is not based on Paul’s eloquent words, his intellect, nor his personality. He has a simple message that Jesus Christ died on the cross for you and your sins. His death is an atonement for your sins. His resurrection is for your justification. His ascension is in the establishment of His Kingdom.
Is Jesus enough for you or do you think you need more? I know many of you have gone to church and to a Christian school for most of your lives. You are inundated with Jesus. In school you have bible classes, chapel, and are expected to conduct yourselves in a Christian manner. Your parents may bring you to church where you are told about Jesus weekly (if it’s a good church). You may go to youth group where you have praise and worship, bible teaching, food, games, and friends. Maybe you do more or maybe you do less. But I want to make it extremely clear right now. This school does not give you salvation. Your church won’t save you. Your youth group won’t save you. Your parent’s faith won’t save you. Only Jesus Christ and Him crucified can save you.
When I think of what Jesus did on the cross of Calvary, and I try to wrap my brain around what he did it humbles me. Why does it humble me? Why would the message of the cross humble anyone? What is the purpose of the cross of Christ? Why did Jesus have to face such an agonizing and humiliating death? Simply because the cross points me to my sin, my life here on earth, and my eternal destiny.
The Bible records that all are sinners and that no one is righteous before our holy God. Sin has separated us from God. If this is true, then we are worthy of one thing… death… eternal separation from God. The truth is we are ALL sinners and the sin nature we inherit makes worthy of death. No good deeds are enough to declare us righteous before our holy God.
There is good news though; the Bible says, “God loved us so much that He gave His only begotten Son (Jesus as a sacrifice and atonement for our sins) that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life.” This is the core of the Good News of the Gospel! We don’t deserve forgiveness, eternal life, or even to be declared righteous, yet He gives them all to those who respond to the Holy Spirit drawing us to the Father and repent of the sins and are called by God to become his children.
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I currently live on the Gulf Coast of Florida with my beautiful family. The Lord has blessed me with over 25 years of full time ministry. He is and has been faithful.