What is “the gospel”?
Ask 50 people in a church that question and you’ll get 50 different answers. For many the gospel boils down to something like “Jesus died for me so if I say a prayer and ask him to forgive me I am saved from hell.”
That’s true … kind of … sort of … partly … maybe. Yet the gospel is about so much more. It is true that Jesus came and died for our sins. It’s true that we appropriate that freedom through understanding how deplorable our sin is to God, repenting of it and turning to Christ by faith alone.
Yet, that is not the whole of the gospel. Certainly that brings justification and reconciliation with God. It brings about a change in our eternal destiny from eternal damnation to eternity with Christ. We are “saved” at that juncture.
The gospel is about much more than “salvation” from our sins. It reaches much further than just a momentary decision. The gospel declares our need to become more like Christ. The gospel declares our need for discipleship. The gospel declares the transformational power of being one with Christ.
Stopping at the moment of being “saved” is like going to Disneyland, paying the price of admission and then stopping as soon as you get in the gates. I know salvation is far greater than a visit to a theme park but permit me the use of a metaphor, albeit an imperfect one. If you have paid the admission price and stopped immediately inside the gates, you might have been there but you have not experienced it in all that it was designed to be. You have missed the exhibits, the interaction with the crowds and the mascots, the food, the rides and so much more.
Stopping at salvation cheats you just as much. How do you know the power of transformational love, forgiveness, discipleship and the like if you stop before experiencing them? You don’t.
Preaching a gospel that stops at the moment of justification robs the recipient of the richness of life that Christ has promised. It offers people a snack when God invites them to partake of the banquet.
So what is “the gospel” to you’?