What is ‘the Gospel’, anyway?
Even as someone who was raised in church, for a long time I thought it was a type of music. I’ve since learned that it actually means “Good News.” And what’s more interesting, nearly every time that word appears in the ‘Gospels’ in the Bible, it almost always is associated with a phrase: The Gospel of the Kingdom.
The version of the Gospel I grew up with was this:
Jesus Christ died on the Cross so to pay for your sins so that you won’t go to hell when you die. You need to accept Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior and give your life to Him; If you do, you’ll go to heaven when you die, if you don’t, you’ll go to hell.
Everyone who has ever lived, except Jesus, has sinned. You are a sinner, and because of that, God is very angry at you. Fortunately, when Jesus died on the cross, He paid for all of your sins, so that God won’t be angry with you anymore and have to send you to hell. You must repent (i.e., be very sorry) for all of your sins, and ask Jesus to forgive you. Then, when you die, you’ll go to heaven. Once you’ve done this, try not to sin anymore, read your Bible and pray a lot, and tell others the same message so that they too can go to heaven and not hell.
Now look, this all might be true (to some extent, anyway) – but it doesn’t really sound like Good News – at least not when you put it like that. What’s more, I think that this version of the Gospel might be a little incomplete. Here’s a few reasons why:
This version of the Gospel is entirely focused on what happens after we die. While that is important, I think that a pretty solid case can be made that what we do in this life is important and really matters to God also.
This version of the Gospel is entirely focused on conversion rather than discipleship. A conversion oriented Gospel produces converts; a discipleship oriented Gospel produces disciples. Jesus didn’t say “Go therefore into all the world and make converts…” Rather, He said to make disciples. In fact, a look at the Greek found in Matthew 28 will show that the only word Matthew uses as a true, 2nd person imperative verb is the word disciple. Anyway, here’s the difference: Converts try to be good and wind up making other converts; disciples train to become like their master and wind up making other disciples.
The Kingdom of God is both here and now and still coming. That means that we should live our lives both here and now as disciples of Jesus, and as a people who will share in His eternal life. We need a version of the Gospel that speaks of the here and now as well as of what is to come; this version of the Gospel also needs to incorporate the elements of who Jesus is: King, Lord, Savior, Teacher, Friend.
Years ago, a dear friend and mentor asked me “If you had 30 seconds on an elevator to answer the question “What is the Gospel?” what would you say? I think I’d probably say something like this:
Despite what it looks like every night when you turn on the news, there is Good News in the world.
The Good News is that God hasn’t forgotten us, and He hasn’t given up on us – far from it; in fact, God loved the world so much He considered it worth dying for – and did. But the story doesn’t end there, you see, God has a project for this world of ours that is ongoing at this very moment and that project is called the Kingdom of God.
Jesus Christ is the Kingdom’s King. He is alive, and He came to walk among us as God Himself – God’s own Son, to live as one of us, and to be one of us. Even though He lived a sinless life, He still knows our struggles, our fears, our joys, and our triumphs. Jesus is God and human, through and through. During His time on this earth, Jesus taught us how to live our lives like He did so that we might become like Him in character and in action.
When Jesus died on the Cross, He bought and paid for all of humanity with His very own life and saved us from having to live broken lives separated from God, each other and our very own selves. That means we belong to Him and to each other now and for eternity.
When Jesus rose again from the dead, He defeated death and proved right then and there that there is a hope and a future for humanity – both beyond this life, and also right here, right now, in this life, today.
Jesus invites us each day to step into a life with Him, to become His disciples, to devote our lives to training to becoming like Him so that we can do what He does, and to partner with Him to bring healing and restoration to a broken and hurting world.
Now… would you like to be in on that?
If you would, hit me up. I’d love to talk to you.
~ Jim +
Matt. 13:52; Matt. 28:18-20; Luke 6:40; 1 Tim. 4:6-8; 2 Tim. 3:16; Heb. 12:11; Ps. 19:14