Sunday, July 13, 2008

The Gospel in a Nutshell

With all the distortions in evangelicalism concerning the presentation of the Gospel, it is a wonder that anyone can even grasp exactly what the Gospel message is. As I survey the Christian landscape, it is increasingly difficult to find very many instances where the Gospel is clearly defined. And the ramifications of the lack of clarity can be devastating. I fear that there are far too many who supposedly embrace the Gospel, but in reality have no idea what it means to be saved. This is critical, because your eternal destiny rests on this. There are yet others who actually are saved, but they really do not know enough of the facts concerning the Gospel to clearly present it to someone else. And there are yet multitudes that know the basics, but possess a shallow understanding of the implications of the Gospel in their life. This is certain to hinder their growth and spiritual stability in their lives.

The Gospel is not about finding your purpose in life, becoming a better person or having your best life now. It is most certain that you will have purpose in your life, and there are certainly going to be positive changes as a result of embracing the Gospel. Those, of course, are good things, but they are not by definition the Gospel.

The very core of the Gospel is summarized in 1 Corinthians 15.

“1Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, 2by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain. 3For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, 5and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.” (1 Corinthians 15:1-5, NASB)

Jesus came to earth as God in the flesh, lived a sinless life and was delivered into the hands of sinful men. He was mocked, beaten and crucified to bear the sins of man, died and was buried. He arose again on the third day to win victory over sin and death, reconciling us to God the Father, reigning triumphant over His enemies. While this is a brief summary of the Gospel, unpacking the meaning of Christ’s work on the cross is a treasure trove of truth that nourishes our soul and strengthens us.

At the very core of the Gospel, is the fact that Jesus came to die for our sins to pay the penalty that we deserved. We were completely separated from God, spiritually dead, indulging the desires of our flesh and were objects of His wrath (Ephesians 2:3). The work of Christ was to reconcile us to God (2 Corinthians 5:18). It was not to give us our best life now, or to merely provide us with purpose. Yet the Gospel that is often presented today is generally weak in emphasizing these crucial points. Repentance is downplayed or ignored altogether. It is sad that despite the crucial importance of these points, they are touched on very lightly or just ignored.

I believe this is so critical to the Christian life, and the lack of focus in much of evangelicalism concerning the clarity of the Gospel has for all essential purposes, reached a state of crisis. I am going to be writing several posts on the subject of the Gospel, both to be able to clearly present the Gospel and to convey a deeper understanding of its implications to our lives. Not sure how long I will spend on this, but it certainly will take quite a few posts.

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