II Cor.4: 3 But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost:
4 In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.
5 For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus' sake.
It is so very simple yet so very profound. It can be understood by a child and yet misunderstood by a philosopher. It is the difference between eternal life and eternal death. It alone by faith is the door to eternal life. And yet men still preach so many different forms of what is called the gospel.
Some insist you use the word repentance. Some insist you confront a sinner about his own sin before or in conjunction with the gospel. Some preach a works gospel which suggests that helping mankind is the gospel, while others preach a gospel which does not require any substantiating works. Some include baptism and others include church membership. And there are all kinds of different presentations.
Let us be honest and admit that no one can completely and perfectly present the entirety of the gospel because the Spirit must take our finite words and illuminate darkened hearts with God’s truth. But having said that, there is a profound misunderstanding concerning the gospel in the evangelical community. And that is a painfully sad situation.
The gospel is not some abstract truth or formula. It is life and it pulsates with the very Being called Jesus. It is not enough to ascend to it with the intellect. It is not enough to nod in agreement. The gospel is a call to believe and follow. It can only be truly communicated to the human heart by the Spirit of God. Men can present it with our finite words but its essence can only be translated by God the Spirit. It is the greatest mystery of all when a sinner believes in his heart that Jesus, the Son of God, was crucified for his sins and resurrected from the dead and at that very moment a sinner is transformed and ripped from the kingdom of darkness and translated into the kingdom of God’s Dear Son. And that miracle, although unseen at that moment, will begin to unfold as time passes. And that sinner’s life will be changed and continue to change.
And then one day that body will return to dust and the soul will be ushered into the everlasting presence of the Risen Christ. And every sinner that is ushered into His presence will only be granted an entrance into God’s eternal throne room because at one moment in time they believed the gospel. So how powerful do you believe the gospel is if it is the only path to everlasting life?
Rom.1: 16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.
I know men desire to reach nirvana by the strength of their intellect and their alluring philosophies. The gospel is way too simple and even archaic in these days of sophisticated technologies and information highways. They cannot subject themselves to such childlike spiritual fantasies and so they create great and swelling spiritual ideas, wrap them up in some philosophy, and add a few Bible verses. And so you have men like Rob Bell and Doug Paggit and Peter Rollins who present some musings of the mind and draw a coffee house crowd who desire to hear some thought provoking ideas. And even though the entire cache of their truth is quite nebulous they achieve what was obviously their desire from the beginning.
They change the gospel. Now let us be clear: Feeding the hungry and clothing the naked and visiting the prisoners and helping the sick should be a main course in the life of believers and the church at large. But those things are not the gospel. They are the fruit of as person who has believed the gospel. But an important part of a believers life is to share the gospel with others. And the social activities that I mentioned play a part in sharing the gospel but they are not the gospel.
The gospel of Jesus Christ consists of two main events. They are the crucifixion and the resurrection. God the Son gave His life for our sins and He resurrected from the dead which authenticated Who He was and what He did. That is the good news called the gospel.
But now you have the social gospel and the prosperity gospel and the self esteem gospel and the American gospel. These are not variations of the true gospel. They are poisonous falsehoods which use some of the same verbiage but which preach a completely different and in most cases a bloodless gospel of works and personal gain. And many times the change is so subtle and to the non-discerning ear the change is almost imperceptible. But the gospel is not some formula for a positive earthly change in one’s life. In fact many a person has lost their lives because they embraced God’s gospel of life. Yes, in many ways the gospel is life and death even here on earth.
The true gospel is good news. It is wonderful and amazing news. It is so wonderful and so amazing that most people cannot even believe it. They will not admit to their feeling of emptiness and that they know all about their sin. It has always been a matter of pride and deception. And the greatest deception that keeps sinners from the true gospel is the visible and organized church. Sinners have become very religious, and these ecclesiastical communities have provided people with a feeling of belonging as well as fulfilling their religious obligation. And they are lulled to sleep by soothing and relevant messages and peer interaction as well as wonderful music in which you can be a participant.
But the gospel is no religious toy to be handled and looked at and used to make us all feel good. It is the very life of our faith. It does make those who belong to Christ feel good, but the gospel brings us all into a state of wonder and awe just because of its eternal power. Just the very suggestion that the Creator of all that is came to earth in the likeness of sinful flesh should be mind boggling. And then to understand that this incarnate being went to his death on a Roman cross further unsettles the human mind. And when we think about what He must have suffered as He became the scapegoat, the Passover Lamb, and the substitute for us who never deserved it, well then, we are undone. You see, the gospel is a story but oh so much more than just another story.
Who can plumb the depths of this eternal story? Who can fully know its power and majesty? Among the smell of blood and sweat and the ripping of human flesh lives a sacred potency which will be made effective and that which alters an eternal destiny simply by a true faith. This bloody cross of shame blends in so nicely with hundreds of thousands of others and yet when the Eternal Spirit of the Living God pulls back that temporal curtain He reveals an unspeakable glory we call the gospel. Who can really give it the wonder and glory it truly deserves. And even though it is the profound exhibition of God’s love a child can embrace it as God the Spirit condescend in order to illuminate a nine year old heart.
Oh dear brothers and sisters can you not feel the weight of that glory? Where are the bootstraps by which we have pulled ourselves out of the dunghill? They are bold faced lies and in fact have never even existed. We had been laid waste by both our inherited sin as well as our own personal additions. Lost and without any promises and hopeless, we were not searching for our Creator at all. It was He who searched for us. But God did come empty handed when He found us. He has with Him the everlasting gospel which could give hope, and which had eternal promises, and which could make an enemy of God into one of His children. Now I ask, what kind of love and power is that?
When the church poses and ignores or softens the gospel it has lost Christ Himself. And for those of us who have known our Savior for many years, let us not grow complacent about that gospel. For when we leave the gospel in search of deeper and more awesome truths we have embarked upon a fruitless search. The gospel of Jesus Christ is the greatest truth that can ever be known by a human heart. For those who do not know Christ it is the eternal and exclusive olive branch which can cleanse the soul and forgive the sin. But for those of us who by His grace have known its truth and have experienced its power, well, it is life and life everlasting.