Our focus in this article is the real meaning of the gospel, which sadly is distorted and misunderstood by many. The gospel is the good news, but what particularly is this news?
Some say it is the news that God has a wonderful plan for your life. I believe this is far too simplistic even to the point of being almost heretical. There are many who have a very bad plan mapped for their lives because God has no dealings with them. To assume God has a good plan for them that might not happen is too have too little confidence that He is able to make any plan happen. On the other hand, for those who hear and believe, it is rare their lives include much good—at least not an attractive good that would cause them to come to Christ. Jesus said the lives of His people would be filled with suffering. They would be hated, ridiculed, and considered the scum of the earth.
As we know, God’s wonderful plan is for the afterlife which puts us in the position of enduring the world until this plan is realized. This is not to say a Christian cannot be happy and find peace and contentment in this life. The apostles suffered beatings for their preaching, and yet they rejoiced they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name. Most do not consider this their kind of joy.
Rarely do we find an honest approach with the gospel. Most feel they must sell the gospel as the most attractive offer you can get. If the pot is not sweetened enough, nobody will buy. However, the real gospel does not need to be sold. The Holy Spirit is not concerned whether people weigh the pros and cons of believing and decide accordingly. The Spirit convicts the heart and brings the person to Christ despite all his objections. He makes us willing to receive the gospel when before we were dead set against it. No matter how bad it looks, people will come to Christ because they have been made willing through His power (Psalms 110:3).
In the days of the apostles, it was impossible to hide the negative aspects of belief in Christ. People could see what it meant to follow Him. Christians lining the roads for miles on crosses was a pretty good indication what it meant to trust Christ. If this is what you were selling, they weren’t buying. In one interesting case in Acts 5, it wasn’t enemies that killed Christians—it was God. Two believers were struck dead for lying to God. In that passage, it says fear came on the people. Many wanted nothing to do with the apostles for fear they would be killed as well. Interestingly, those that were drawn to Christ continued to come and the church continued its rapid growth.
Is it necessary to resort to deceitful tactics and hide the truth? A gospel that is not radical and changes the lives of those who believe is no gospel at all. The good news is the saving power of Christ not a short, sweet version that involves little to no commitment. The gospel may cost your life. It declares the wrath of God against sin and the penalty in hell for those who commit them. It provides the alternative for eternal death by repentance from all sin, faith in Jesus Christ alone, and surrender to His Lordship over the life.
This kind of commitment is not good news for those looking for comfort. Christianity does not end life’s problems. It may very well create many more. You cannot sell this because nobody is buying. Tell the truth. The truth is used by the Holy Spirit to save no matter how difficult it is to believe.
Pastor V. Mark Smith