I’ve been thinking a lot recently about the message of the gospel. I know that there are depths of it that we cannot fathom. For Peter talks about “the good news… into which angels long to look” (1 Peter 1:12). The continual uncovering and rediscovering of God’s promises in the gospel have been my joy in this last year. But more specifically I’ve been thinking about the bare bones of the gospel. If I were to present the gospel message to someone who had no prior knowledge of it, what would I tell them?’ Greg Gilbert’s new book “What is the Gospel?” was extremely helpful for me in answering this question. The basic model he gave was “God-man-Jesus-response” (this is seen most clearly in Romans 1-4 and Acts 2:14-41). There, I found the issue that hit me hard.
The gospel cannot be proclaimed without making people feel bad about themselves. I believe many of us today (not just preachers) have tried to develop ways of presenting the gospel without any negatives. I’ve found myself doing that. But only when people hear the bad news first, will they truly understand what Jesus did for them. Here’s the deal. God is holy. He is good and righteous and perfect in all aspects. He made us all to reflect His image and His character. But, we have all rebelled. Paul says in Colossians 1:21 that we are all “hostile” toward God, and in Romans 1:18 he says that we “suppress the truth” by our unrighteousness. Three times in his letters to the churches Paul tells the believers that they were “dead in their sins” (Eph. 2 & Col. 2).
This has hit me so hard. The men in the Bible who preach the gospel do not give the good news about Jesus life and death for us without first presenting the dilemma that the people listening are in. No gospel proclamation is made without drastic humbling coming first. This makes complete sense. We see in our American culture today that the vast majority of people say they are Christians (most polls put the number around 75 or 80%). But, Christianity is on the backburner for most of us. Honestly, our facebook religion and weekly trips to church are about the only evidence anyone would see. Why? I believe the reason is that people just don’t really care. No one tells them the dilemma that they are in. No one has told them that they are hostile in their thinking toward God (Col. 1:21), or that they are by nature children of wrath (Eph. 2:3), or that their “heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick” (Jer. 17:9). These things are true, and they are essential to our understanding of the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross.
So study passages like Romans 1-3 this week. Look at Ephesians 2:1-10 and Titus 3:3-8. When you read them, you will understand the wickedness that is in you. You will understand just how evil you are. In understanding these things, the grace of Jesus Christ will come alive to you. Your helplessness will make the cross really mean something. “And the things of earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of His glory and grace.” In humility, you will be able to latch on to the good news of Jesus Christ and praise His glorious grace. You can go to two awesome examples in Luke 7:36-50 and Luke 18:9-14 to see what humble worship of Jesus looks like.
Find out more about Mitchell Carter here