The Gospel That Does Not Save...
By HillaryJane Flores (@itsHillaryJane)
I was in a McDonald’s with my friend’s friend. Let’s call her… um… Amy. I didn’t know “Amy” very well but as we were waiting for our mutual friend to get out of the restroom, she stepped up to two older homeless women with a big smile. “Hi, how is your night going, ladies?” I could immediately tell she had a heart for people. “Good, thanks,” the woman on the right replied with a smile. Amy spoke again energetically, “I just wanted to let you know that Jesus loves you. He really cares for you!” Then just like that… she was off and leading me out of the restaurant.
I didn’t think much of it except for how much I loved her ability to approach strangers. I didn’t second-guess a thing until Amy sighed, “Ahh, I love sharing the Gospel.”
Internally, I stopped dead in my tracks because my heart was immediately troubled. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I’m all for telling people that Christ cares about them. It’s true! But to say her comment is THE GOSPEL itself is not only untrue but very, very harmful. There’s almost no content in that single statement alone.
See, when all we do is say “Jesus loves you,” or “Jesus died for you,” we’re leaving out the amazing message of “why.” Why? Maybe because it’s uncomfortable to tell them why Jesus had to come and die for them. Or, Maybe it's awkward to tell them that they must do something about it--repent and believe in order to be rescued by God.
I can see the wheels turning in their head now, “Who is Jesus? Why is this person loving or dying for me? Why does someone need to die for me?” “If he loves me already, then I don’t need to do anything, right? To an unbeliever or unchurched person, a one-liner “gospel” is extremely weird and most-likely ineffective without further context.
The book of Romans is written to a church that needs a deeper, accurate theology of the Gospel.
“…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God…” (Romans 3:23)
Paul dedicates 3 chapters in Romans to help the church understand that everyone has sinned and is falling short of the glory of God. 1/4 of his writing about the Gospel in Romans is to explain that we are sinners! It must be an important element to understand.
1 Peter 2:8 calls Jesus, “A stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense.”
The truth of who Christ is and what he came to accomplish is naturally offensive. We must not avoid that. I fear we try to sweeten the medicine that saves us so much so that we dilute it by excluding its naturally hard-to-swallow truths. We have left out the key elements that bring about salvation. This cannot continue.
Many things can happen when we dilute the medicine of the gospel such as false converts, churches full of people loving the inspirational thought that Jesus loves them as they are but who are never challenged to put away their sin. We may even truly make disciples who sadly do not know how to share the true Gospel. Unfortunately, in this case, the Great Commission will be compromised and the vicious cycle will continue.
Jesus was not afraid to identify sin and bring in the salve of hope to heal the wounds that truth exposed. Jesus says that "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners." (Mark 2:17)
If you want to keep God’s Gospel undiluted, maintaining its saving power, we have to beckon unbelievers to repent and follow Christ. Yes, this requires discussing sin and the loss of personal independence (we must follow Jesus, not our sinful desires). When we lose a vital piece of God’s saving puzzle, we turn Gospel medicine into poison.
Lastly, do not forget to speak the truth in love. The naturally offensive nature of the Gospel is not an excuse to bring further harshness with your tone and lack of compassion. Remember, you were them. You were lost. You needed someone to step out of their comfort zone and speak the truth in love to you. It is only by God’s grace that you have the privilege to share the Gospel that you now believe in.
Pray about what you’ve read today.
Ask the Lord to help you understand the importance of a full Gospel and pray for boldness to deliver it. Also, ask Him for an opportunity to share it. God wants people to be saved more than anyone of us, He will bring people as you are faithful.