For many Christians, we have been taught the gospel is like the “ABCs” of the Christian life and after you know the gospel, you are supposed to move on to deeper and more important things. Others believe the gospel is all about making that first faith decision, getting saved and ensuring your ticket to heaven. Both views are inadequate and even dangerous to life with Jesus. The gospel isn’t just a gate you walk through to become a Christian, it is what we swim in all of the time as followers of Jesus.
The gospel is good news announcing we have been saved. Everyday we see how broken, evil, and messed up the world is and it’s only in the gospel we learn how God has not given up on humanity. To declare the gospel is to share how we’ve been saved from our sins. The gospel is what saves you and continues to save you. It isn’t just what helps you get into the faith, it’s what helps you sustain in the faith. Christianity teaches that we have been saved from God’s wrath and for a life of loving God and loving our neighbor. And it’s in the gospel we see a God who is both loving and just. That is why the gospel is good and also news.
The gospel is the good news about Jesus Christ. The Apostle Paul highlights four historical events in defining the gospel (1 Corinthians 15:1-3): Christ died, was buried, raised and appeared. Let’s look briefly at each of those.
Jesus Christ died for our sins. We are born with a propensity for evil that we inherited a long time ago from our spiritual parents Adam and Eve (I know this is not a popular idea today!). Every day, we believe false ideas about human flourishing that leads to choices we make to either honor God or dishonor him. One path leads to abundant life and the other to spiritual death. Sin is a deliberate act against God and the penalty for sin is spiritual death, but Jesus died for our sins and was buried. Jesus being buried is important because some believe Jesus didn’t actually die. Instead they believe Jesus passed out and was later resuscitated. Paul says he really died.
Jesus Christ was raised. What separates Christianity from all religions is this one single act. The Apostle Paul points to the resurrection to explain that without it, there would be no Christianity. Through the bodily resurrection, Jesus proved the power of sin was broken, death no longer had the final word over us and Satan’s plans were utterly destroyed. Now, the resurrection gives us the power to live for God and points to our future resurrection when Jesus returns to make all things new.
Jesus appeared. After the resurrection, Jesus appeared. Hundreds of eyewitnesses saw Jesus with their very own eyes after his crucifixion including Paul, Peter, James and many other disciples.
So, here’s my definition of the gospel; The gospel is the life-changing message about the life, death, resurrection and appearance of King Jesus. But, if Jesus is just a great teacher, rabbi, prophet or a great man, that means nothing for how you live your life. But, if Jesus is truly the Son of God, the Savior, the Lord, and the coming King, then he impacts everything about us. Let me explain.
The gospel changes people and impacts culture. True gospel change comes through discipleship. As we come to faith in Jesus and as we learn to live the Christian life, the gospel begins to shape our thinking and our behavior. We become people who love God and love our neighbor. We put his kingdom above the building of our own kingdom. Humility, boldness, and dependency slowly begin to replace self-sufficiency, pride, and selfishness. We begin to question and analyze the world’s systems, beliefs, behaviors and values. As people are changed, the community and culture starts to change too. The gospel compels us to reach into our communities and cities with the radical and transforming love and truth of Jesus Christ. We look for areas of common ground with others and work towards the renewal of people and cities. The gospel helps us to live for the betterment and good of society and not just for ourselves. This is why the gospel is good news!
The gospel also brings people together in real community. The gospel allows us to be real with others as we begin to grow, change, and reflect on Jesus. In Jesus, our identity is not built around our religious performance, but on God’s love for us in Christ. We no longer care as much about what people think and this is where real freedom comes from. The gospel reminds us that we don’t exist for ourselves any longer and we begin serving others without wanting anything back. Because God has been so gracious to us, we show grace by welcoming people into our lives, our homes and our churches. We welcome families, single people, the poor, single-parents, people of different races, adults and kids with special needs, the elderly, disillusioned people, people who identify as LGBTQ, immigrants and strangers. We welcome everyone because we want them to experience Jesus and His gospel too.
But here’s the deal, it’s simply not enough to know what God did in Jesus or even accept him as your Savior. We must move towards obeying and living for Him in every area of our lives. If the gospel truly is the life-changing message about the life, death, resurrection and appearances of King Jesus, then this means the gospel changes everything and it’s changing you.
So, is the gospel still changing you?