Three things to note about the Gospel:
- The gospel is central to faith in God. There is no other name, no other way to know God.
- The gospel is central to the church. It is the centre and circumference of the church’s existence. We exist because of the gospel, we exist for the cause of the gospel. If we forget the gospel we are in trouble! The great need of our world is not more politics or education it is salvation – a saviour.
- The gospel is essential to the Christian life – without it we are in trouble. The gospel is as essential to the Christian life as it is to salvation.
Five problems we face today concerning the gospel:
- The me gospel, or the gospel as a therapy: in the modern western world of the 21st century it’s all about me, my story, what’s in it for me, and for many the gospel has simply become a means of self-improvement – it’s about me, what it does for me, and a home in heaven when I die. In our therapeutic society the gospel then becomes simply another competing therapy, something to help soothe away the trials and pains of life. When we do this we make the gospel subjective, inward. It’s about what I do or don’t feel. In one sense that’s about as far from the gospel as you can get.
- An overemphasis on our role in the gospel that leads to confusion: modern evangelical revivalism has placed a lot of emphasis on inviting Jesus into our hearts; on our repentance, our faith, our decision in making Jesus our/my personal Lord and Saviour. So it becomes more about what I do than what he has done, and the outcome of that type of thinking is that it then causes me/us to look inwardly for assurance instead of outwardly. We ask the questions, have I believed enough? Did I do it in the right way? Is he there?
- A blurring of the gospel: over recent years some in evangelical circles have reworked the gospel, and now speak of final justification. In other words we receive grace to change our lives and the change results in our ultimate justification which is nothing short of the Roman Catholic teaching on infused righteousness!
- A lack of the knowledge of God: How many are aware today of the awesome holiness of God? Much today is made of the love of God, and what we have is no more than ‘sloppy agape’ as someone has put it. We must not speak of the love of God at the expense of his absolute (and terrifying) holiness. That is to trivialise God, to make himj in our image. In fact it is only in the light of God’s awesome holiness that is resplendent and amazing love shines through!
- A lack of the knowledge of sin: Today it is common to say that humaity is sick, but the Bible says it’s worse than that, humanities problem is utter sinfulness and rebellion. We have fallen totally.
When sin is no longer an issue, and God’s holiness and wrath no longer a problem, Christ’s cross is no longer needed as the solution. You will NEVER understand the gospel without the knowledge of God and the knowledge of sin.
What is the Gospel?
- The gospel is first and foremost an objective announcement about what God has done in Christ. The gospel calls us to look away from ourselves, our world. It is UNREPEATABLE FACTS. It is God’s story. God has ACTED. It’s not about us, how he fits into our story but how we fit into his! Mark 1:1: “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.”“This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses. Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing. ….. Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.”” (Act 2:32, 33, 36). We do not make Christ Lord, or Saviour. God has made him such already.
- The gospel announces a different relationship with God based on Christ. Everyone is in some kind of relationship to God whether they like it, realise it, or not. The question is what kind of relationship? The gospel brings about a changed relationship to God. It is not how God might help us in our world but how we might be right with him in His. The gospel is not about how we become Christians, it is the message about Christ that brings about conversion. God justifies the ungodly! We confess Christ as Lord and Saviour; We surrender to his claims, it is not something we make him to be for us. The gospel then is an objective announcement based on the facts of Christ’s life, death and resurrection, not a subjective experience based on how we feel.
- The gospel is a life transforming message. The Gospel doesn’t depend on anything in us. It is an external word, outside and beyond us, but near to us in Christ, and made real to us by the Spirit. It is both a justifying and transforming word. We are made new n Christ.
Sanctification is a ‘lifelong process of letting that Good News sink in and responding appropriately.’ If we do not understand the gospel and its justifying message it will not be long before our sanctification becomes our justification – We can only fulfil the imperatives of Scripture when we’ve understood the gospel.
Some practical aspects
- Our worship: it’s about the Big Story, not our little one. it’s about remembering, rehearsing & proclaiming. It’s all about HIM. Taking our eyes off our tiny little lives and reconnecting with HiStory. As we do this the church will be what it should be, a well of living water in the wilderness.
- Our faith: We personally need to drink and drink again of the well of salvation. It is not only the power of God unto salvation for the unsaved but also for those who are saved. It takes the emphasis off ourselves and puts it on Christ. If we don’t, as I said before, our sanctification will become our justification rather than our justification fuelling our sanctification.
- Our witness: we are not witnesses to our selves, but Christ and his Word. We should “not be ashamed of the gospel,” for there is no other name, no other faith, no other person, no other way – Jesus only is our nessage.
We need to focus on faithfulness to the gospel, not fads (they come and go), not programs (I’m not saying they all bad, but they can become the thing!), or goals. What we win people with, we have to keep them with. If you win them with music you keep them with music. If you win them with the latest thing you have to keep them with the latest thing. Fads come and go and we must be careful not to get drawn into them. The Gospel though is timeless and must be the reason. We are here to preach Jesus.
- We need then to be preaching the gospel in all that we do. Everything needs to be gospel oriented.
- We need to be calling people to repent and believe in Christ, who alone can save.
The church needs to be and must be Gospel centred, the gospel must guide and direct its whole focus. Jesus said, “GO into all the world and preach the gospel” The gospel IS the good news. Jesus Christ has lived and died and risen again. He is the Saviour. There is salvation in no other. The gospel must be at the centre of all that we do.