Monday, March 16, 2009

Getting The Gospel Right


"If you get the Gospel wrong and don't distinguish between what the Gospel is and what morality is, then what you've done at best is restrained the hearts of people but, you will not see their hearts transformed. If you don't get the Gospel right then what ends up happening is men & women become conformed to a pattern of religion but they are not transformed by the Holy Spirit of God. Without the Gospel you inoculate people to Jesus Christ. You give them just enough of Him to never know Him." ~ Matt Chandler ("Desiring God Conference").

So the question is, what is the Gospel?

Is it compassion, feeding the starving, helping the poor, saving the planet or working towards world peace? No. What about spreading the love of Jesus Christ? Not exactly. These are effects OF the Gospel; not the Gospel itself. These are things that Christians should be doing but should not be confused with being the Gospel. Topical teaching on "how to have this or that" is pointless without the Gospel. Giving tips on how to overcome sin is pointless to the unregenerate person unless they first hear the Gospel and are transformed by the Holy Spirit.

We have much to say about this, but it is hard to explain because you are slow to learn. In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God's word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil. ~ Hebrews 5: 11-14

The Gospel is the Cross. Why Jesus Christ came, why He suffered a physical death and especially why He suffered the full wrath of God. Substitutionary atonement. He took our place. He paid the price for our sins. The Cross is what it's all about. By repenting of our sins and trusting in Christ, we are imputed with the righteousness of Christ. Through our belief, repentance and trust, through faith, we experience this life-changing grace of God. This is the Gospel.

Is this not the most important thing we should be sharing with every single person?



Gnotek said...

Good day John,

Okay, you throw some good bait out. I'll bite.

First I'd like to point out one big mistake in your thesis. The question is good. But your primary argument is misguided—and wrong. Your argue compassion and love—the love of Jesus—is but an "effect" of the Gospels. My friend, that is the key! That IS the Gospel.

You point to the cross, and rightly so, but unless you understand what the cross is about—LOVE—"You give them just enough of Him to never know Him."

It's ALL about love. It's not about the fear of condemnation. It's not about guilt. It's that you've been loved—by God—through God's sacrifice. Everything else is peripheral. You cannot even approach God, but through love, lest you be destroyed.

Christ set the example of what it is to be righteous, to be godly, and to be human. Jesus own words in response to being questioned of what is the greatest commandment, answered the question twofold-in-one (paraphrased): Love God with all your being, and love your neighbor as yourself. Is this two answers? No it's the greatest command—directly from God. Point to anything Jesus did in the gospels that wasn't underlined in love.

Love is not a side-effect. It is God. It's also the filter to sieve one's thoughts and intentions.

>>>>Is this not the most important thing we should be sharing with every single person?<<<
How is it YOU spread the Gospel "with every single person" you meet? Seriously, how do you do this? Say you're at a party or event, do you walk up to strangers and point blank say, "Jesus died on the cross for your sins." "Hey faggot, you're going to go to hell for..." I'm seriously curious.

My other question is why do you attend The River? I mean I'd agree with you that The River's messages are often kindergarten stuff, that the lead pastor is not a very deep thinker, and I have criticisms I'll keep to myself—but I do believe the pastor's testimony that he was called to birth such a church in this locale. And The River is never non-biblical. I mean you answer this with the quote from Hebrews: "You need milk, not solid food." That is The River. A good number of the people that filter through The River ARE babies in Christ—who would choke on solid food. Many are people who would otherwise be at home on a Sunday morning, chilling beer, preparing for the afternoon football game. They get introduced to Christ at The River in a non-judgemental, friendly and loving manner. As it should be.

As you rightly say, "the most important thing we should be sharing," that is to share the message of Christ. Who can argue with that? But, there is not a single, prescribed, step-by-step method. People are different. People all have their own worlds and world-views. Some people may get all the deep, theology behind the cross simply by hearing it. Most people, especially in this political environment, live in a myopic, defensive state. Red or blue. Us or them. With us or against us. Black or white. But sharing the Gospel with judgmental aptitude simply creates division. Love does not do that. Love embraces all. When Christ hung dying on the cross, he held no judgment against those that did this to him. Believe it or not (simply read the Gospels), Jesus had compassion on them—because he clearly seen what the effects of sin had done to a people of his creation. He didn't hate those folks at all. His heart was broke to them. That's love my friend.

And that IS the way we all should share this story—underlined with love. Christ did not die to judge humanity (the Law does that), but to save [ALL] mankind. That includes [repentant] immoral sexuality, pride, greed, hate, indifference, judgementalism, stealing, covetness, torture and even cold blooded murder. And approaching different individuals takes different approaches. Telling a homosexual or a mixed up, confused teenage girl who just had an abortion they are hellbound is not underlined with love. That's a dividing line statement to a baby who might be on life-support—not YET even drinking milk. I don't imagine you would walk into a hospital and start cutting life-support lines would you?

I guess what I'm trying to say (and should have just said) is there are different paths to The Path (and of course what I mean by The Path is Jesus and the Gospel). That is, it's not just Catholic, not just Protestant, not just Judaism, not just evangelical, not just post-modern, not just emergent, not just anything but by the leading of the spirit of God. If you are for God—you are not against God. BTW, God even uses people who don't even know Truth.

I mean think about it, you approach someone at a party and throw black and white dogma in their face may (AND OFTEN DOES) do more to alienate some folks from God. Especially when such statements come with no conviction.

What I mean is, simply spewing Truth does not necessarily deliver Truth. Even some seminary-educated individuals who can quote scripture, explain dogma, speak Greek and be head-smart about the concept of substitutionary... may have never even "experienced" God—and their preaching, true as it may be, is hollow rhetoric. "The key" to evangelizing is sharing experiences of God! That is what the apostles all did. They shared their experiences—with conviction. And Paul was the one who DID approach converts on their ground, in their cultures—not bending Truth—but bending approach. And Paul then has saved you today from having to circumcise converts to "save them."

Lastly, save yourself from Screwtape, confusion-led, crusades. The River and the "emergent church" is NOT the enemy. And more importantly, love is NOT an incidental matter, nor a side effect. Love IS the way. You will NEVER go wrong waving a banner of love!

John said...


Since your response was heavily focused on love, that will be the basis for reiterating the purpose of this particular post.

The intent was to distinguish between the biblical model of the Gospel and another 'version' of the Gospel that is growing in popularity in so many churches today.. moralism, or the social gospel. These are NOT the Gospel that Jesus or His disciples taught. The greatest love we can express is to share the truth of the Gospel.

In your attempt to critique how I described the Gospel (which BTW is according to scripture), you make false assumptions that I exclude love from the Gospel. The core OF the Gospel is love but we need to be very clear that simply stating "God is love" is NOT the Gospel itself. God is much more than love but that particular attribute of God is demonstrated in the Gospel and through the work of Christ on the Cross.

To avoid repeating myself, I'll try to respond to your comments according to the key points you made.

1) Compassion and the love of Jesus is a key element OF the Gospel but presented only as such is not a full explanation of the Gospel. John 3:16 is the 'set-up' for the Gospel. Because of God's great love for us, the Creator lowered Himself into humanity and paid the price for the sins of all mankind.

2) To simply state "the cross is about love" is again leaving out the key parts to fully understand the Gospel. The cross was the fulfillment of God's wrath towards sin. Christ was the payment for our sins. In order to grasp the love of God, one must understand the purpose of the cross.

Think of it this way. If you're standing on the end of a pier and a man comes running down it yelling "I love you!" then proceeds to jump off to his death in the water, that would leave you somewhat puzzled, yes? Now, if you were drowning in that water and the same man came running down the pier, jumping in to save you and dying in the process while proclaiming, "I love you", then it means something.

God doesn't love us because we're something special or because he needs something from us. On the contrary; we are wretched, sinful and lost, on our way to hell. In spite of this, God loved us and demonstrated this through the cross. We don’t offer someone the cure without first telling them of the disease they have.

3) >>It's ALL about love<<
True but it's more than that and this is why it's so vitally important to communicate the full Gospel and not just "God loves you". God is perfect. Holy. Without sin. We are the complete opposite. Unless we see the true sinful nature of what we are, we cannot understand the loving justice of God. Sin must be punished by death. If God were not just, He would not be loving. Romans 1: 18-32 is not pretty but true of every single human being.

4) >>It's not about the fear of condemnation<<. Really? That's not what Rev.15:4 says. Scripture reminds us from Gen. to Rev. to fear God. We are to be reverently fearful of God. Not as in being afraid; but in respect of His Holiness & authority. 2 Cor. 5:11, Eph. 6:5, Heb.11:7. The early Christians honored God with this type of fear (Acts 9:31). God's mercy is on those who fear Him (Luke 1:50). To fear God is to acknowledge and respect His power (Luke 12: 4-5). God Himself told us that we are to fear Him... (Malachi 1:14). As for condemnation, we are born condemned because of our sinful nature. Those who reject the Gospel are condemned already (John 3:18). To withhold that bit of truth from a lost person could very likely cause them to spend eternity in hell.

5) >>It's not about guilt<<
That's true. We're all guilty apart from the cross. We MUST know this before we enter into the "God is love" part. However, to simply think we can accept Jesus purely out of our guilt is not sincere repentance & faith.

6) >>Everything else is peripheral…You cannot even approach God, but through love, lest you be destroyed<<. What verse is this? Everything else? What about God's wrath, justice, hatred of sin, repentance.. are those insignificant? The reason we could not even approach God has nothing to do with love but everything to do with our sinfulness. SIN is what separates us from God. The cross is what restores that relationship (if we repent & trust).

7) The commandment to love one another is (by itself) NOT the Gospel. The Great Commission (Matt.28:19-20) was not "Go and love everyone". To love others is a given when we share the Gospel with them. What greater demonstration of love is there than to share the good news?

8) >>How is it YOU spread the Gospel "with every single person" you meet?<< With truth and in love, that’s how. Every situation is different but no where does scripture tell us to modify the truth to avoid offending someone. Share the truth and do it in love. Period. I disagree with the popular notion that we must first develop a relationship with someone before we share the Gospel. Where is that in scripture? That's certainly not what Jesus or the disciples did. Each and every Believer has a responsibility to share the Gospel. Every encounter will be different but the underlying message should be the same. Consider what Paul went through in Acts 22-34 when he boldly shared the Gospel to people who rejected it. He certainly didn’t tone it down because he feared they would think he was judging them.

9) >>Say you're at a party or event, do you walk up to strangers and point blank say, "Jesus died on the cross for your sins<<. Of course not! Be real here John. Do we see examples of that in scripture? Ok, actually, we sorta do.. John the Baptist would probably be very offensive to someone like you today. With an attitude of love, there are countless ways to approach someone with the Gospel. Read the Bible; do what it says. It's that simple. God gives us His Word and He gives us the boldness we need to share it.

10) >>Hey faggot, you're going to go to hell for... I'm seriously curious<< John, you are seriously confused if you think this comment is even worth responding to. Why the sarcasm? Please show me where I EVER said anything like that. Would you say this to someone? Then why on earth would you think I would?

11) >>But sharing the Gospel with judgmental aptitude simply creates division. Love does not do that. Love embraces all.<< Who is judging? THAT is one of the most popular and pointless tactics used by so many of the liberal, emergent types today to try and deflect the truth of God's word. If I share with someone that anyone who does not repent & trust in Christ is going to hell, does that make me judgmental? As for "division", you're right. Doctrine DOES indeed divide. And rightly so. Here's a great quote on this:

"When you don’t even lay down clear doctrine at the level of the Gospel, where are you going to go from there? And the cry is, as one man said to me when my book on The Gospel According to Jesus came out, he said, “Your book is divisive!”

"You want to know something? He’s right. He’s right. Want to know something else? Doctrine divides. People say, “Oh doctrine divides…doctrine divides.” I say, “Amen, preach it, doctrine divides.” You know what it does? It confronts error. It separates true from false. It makes judgments. Today’s climate, however, of unity in the priority of relationships, that’s not tolerable." ~John MacArthur

When we stop dividing and start blending in with the world, then we've lost sight of our purpose here. We are not called to become one with the world and tailor the truth to fit the world. We are called to stand for the truth and proclaim it. Again, in love. The problem is, some will always scream "you're judging me" or "you're not being loving" simply because they reject the truth. This is why it's so important to understand and teach theology instead of focusing on moralism and social issues.

12) >>When Christ hung dying on the cross, he held no judgment against those that did this to him. Believe it or not (simply read the Gospels), Jesus had compassion on them…. That's love my friend.<< Who is saying that wasn't love? Christ didn't come to judge (that will happen at the 2nd coming). The sinner is already judged; already condemned w/o Christ. They need to know that before they are presented with the amazing love of Christ. To share the above without WHY Christ did that and WHY we are wretched is like casting pearls before swine (Matt.7:6).

13) >>there are different paths to The Path<<. There is one way to God and that is through Christ. Period. If you mean different methods, of course. But we must be careful to not compromise the truth of the Gospel. Regardless of religion, background, lifestyle, etc., the Gospel remains the same. How can they be saved if they don't hear the Gospel?(Rom. 10:14-15).

14) >>I mean think about it, you approach someone at a party and throw black and white dogma in their face may do more to alienate some folks from God. Especially when such statements come with no conviction.<< Again, why do you bring this up? Do you do this? Why would you assume I would then? As for the "black & white", is the Gospel not that clear? Do we need to dress it up, water it down, tweak it or make it funny in order to not be offensive? I think not.

15) >>simply spewing Truth does not necessarily deliver Truth<<
Please define "spewing truth". Once again, I go back to the Word... Read it and do what it says. Seems pretty simple to me. I'm all for sharing, preaching, teaching and communicating the Truth in any way and every way so long as it's theologically sound, and done so in love. This includes street-preaching, open air preaching, passing out tracts and talking to strangers. Common sense does apply here (no brainer).

16) >>"The key" to evangelizing is sharing experiences of God! That is what the apostles all did.<< Actually, the "key" is to share the good news. The Word is what convicts people of their sins; not our life stories. Preach the Gospel. That's scriptural. What verses tell us that evangelizing means to share our "experiences"? Certainly, we are to share what God did in our lives but that (alone) should not be considered sharing the Gospel. Life experience should never replace the transforming power of God's Word. What the apostle's wrote about was exactly what God inspired them to write about. Their words ARE the words of God.

17) >>The River and the "emergent church" is NOT the enemy.<< Never have I labeled any church or movement "the enemy". I think we both know who the enemy is and that very enemy is working in churches and people to deceive a great many people through the watering down & twisting of scripture. One need not be a theologian to see what is taking place today. There is a divide and it's based on truth; not simply methods.

”For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires; and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.” ~"2 Timothy 4:3,4

18) >>Love IS the way. You will NEVER go wrong waving a banner of love!<< You will if you compromise, water-down or avoid the truth in an effort to be cool, relevant and attractive to the world.

"Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction." ~2 Tim.4:2

If nothing else, these back-n-forth conversations should drive us deeper into the Word and inspire an even stronger passion to share the Gospel with a lost & dying world... in love of course.


GodisFreedom said...

Excellent job John, couldn't have said it better, nor would I be capable. I do notice, and this really stands out to an innocent bystander like me, that you used scripture, and Gnotek did not ? This seems to be the standard with these types that find all the verses on "love" so very interesting, and become very, well, unloving when you point out the rest of the verse, or other passages in the SAME Bible that describe other attributes of God or Jesus Christ. (one in the same of course) One wonders if they read the parts about Hell and who will go there. Or the parts about Christ coming here to die so that his blood would pay for their (Gnotek included) sins, not just to see everyone and sort of say "hi, I came here to say I love you". They seem to like the parts of the SAME Bible you and I use that suit their view, which I really am confused about. Do they believe they have no need to be saved from anything ? Do they really believe they don't need a price paid for their sins, or that they sin at all ? They are sort of Jahovah's Witnesses. Sort of, there is no Hell, so I don't need to be saved from it. They don't say this outright, but it seems this is their attitude in rejection of the Gospel as we know it. They seem to think that spreading the Gospel entails telling everyone that God loves them. Which according to the Bible is only half of the story. John 3:16 says.. God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believeth in Him Should not perish but have everlasting life. The word "perish" or "die" obviously does not mean we won't die physically, if it did, no one has ever benefited from this verse. We all die physically, wait and see. God meant we would die spiritually, the "second death" is always what he calls it when a person rejects his son and ends up in a literal Hell. They don't seem to see it this way, though the SAME Bible we read dedicates the entire New Testament to this fact. God loves us so much that he gave us his perfect sinless Son to keep us out of Hell, to give an easier way than trying to keep the Old Testament Law list. Which I for one would not be very good at. I think this is really what we should take from a verse like John 3:16 if we are really interested in interpreting the Bible as God intended it. Until these types read and understand the whole Word Of God, I really don't think they will have an interest in anything other than their own closed minded view of only half of what the Bible is actually saying.

GodisFreedom said...

A question I have for you :
As I read Gnotek once more, I notice that like the last person I read with his same " half truth", or "half Gospel" view, if you will, also talked about being circumcised. What is the fascination with this "work" while in an age of Grace ?

Gnotek said...

Okay GIF, scripture quotes turn you on?

1 Corithians 13 (especially 1-3)
Matthew 5:43-45
Matthew 19:16-26
Matthew 22:34-40 + Mark 12:28-31
Mark 12:33
Luke 6:27-31
John 13:34-35
John 15:12
John 15:17
Romans 5:8
Romans 12:9-20
Romans 12:10
Romans 13:8-10
1 Corinthians 16:14
Galatians 5:13-14
Galatians 5:19-23
Ephesians 1:3-8
Ephesians 3:16-19
Ephesians 4:1-3
Ephesians 4:15-16
Ephesians 5:1-3
Colossians 3:13-15
1 Thessalonians 4:9-10
1 Thessalonians 5:8-9
1 Timothy 1:5-7
1 Timothy 6:11
2 Timothy 2:22
Hebrews 10:24
James 2:5
James 2:8
1 Peter 1:22
1 Peter 3:8-12
1 Peter 4:8
1 Peter 5:14
2 Peter 1:5-11
1 John 2:10
1 John 3:1
1 John 3:10-11
1 John 3:14
1 John 3:16-18
1 John 3:23
1 John 4:7-12
1 John 4:16-21
2 John 1:6

Leviticus 19:18
Psalm 145:8
Proverbs 3:3
Proverbs 10:12
Proverbs 16:6
Proverbs 20:28
Daniel 9:4
Hosea 2:18-20
Joel 2:13

And I suppose I'm big on love because I fit in with the parable of Luke 7:41-43

Now just because I'm pushing love doesn't mean I'm spouting half-truth theology. I totally understand the work of the cross, and the sacrifice for our sins. But that's LOVE baby. Christ didn't do that to hold lightning bolts over our heads. Or to guilt us. It's because God loved us, and as God loved us so should we love. Even those we shouldn't. Even you GIF.

But you are right GIF, I am blinded to some of the other "attributes" of God—because the love attribute shines so brightly in my eyes. And you are also very right, I don't want to know the bible as you "know it." I totally understand salvation—and accept it. And I totally understand the wages of sin. And am grateful to my savior beyond words.

But because I have stood on the very edge of the abyss, I see love all the more clearly and grasp it all the tighter. It wasn't fear so much as love that led me away from hell. Believe me, I grew up Catholic and know all about the fire and brimstone teachings. Even John says, "We love because he first loved us."

But if you miss the point of love driving the New Testament, all talk of salvation is "only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal." If you "have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love," you are nothing. You can slice out and quote scripture all day long, learn all the dogma, rites and rituals, "but without love you gain nothing." And that may include your OWN salvation. Fear that.

"There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love." 1 John 4:18

"Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love."
1 John 4:8

Peace and my God's love bless you.

John said