Updated: Sep 30, 2020
I have a secret suspicion. It's really just a hunch, but it's based on years of observing Christians in their natural habitat. I suspect one of the main reasons more believers don't consistently share the gospel with lost people is that they don't really understand what the gospel is good for.
While every Christian knows that believing the gospel, the good news about Jesus, gets us to heaven when we die, our friends and neighbors have a great many more pressing needs that make the afterlife something of an afterthought for them. We don't tend to sit around together after dinner pondering the question, "What might happen when we die?" We are much more practical and pragmatic than that. And, after all, who really knows? In this light, the gospel seems barely relevant to those of us who believe, much less to a skeptic.
On this matter our spiritual leaders have really let us down. Ironically, in trying to make their teaching practical and relevant, they have hidden the everyday relevance of the gospel itself. When preaching is boiled down to a few facts about the Bible followed by a to-do list or a few steps toward having a better life, the the powerful truth about how the gospel can transform our deepest needs is lost. We've put our lamp under a jar and hidden it in the cellar (Luke 11:33).
So what is the gospel good for?
Through the gospel we are justified (declared right with God), which means we can live with nothing to prove. Through the gospel we are adopted by God, which means we are comforted in our mourning, sadness, and sorrows. Through the gospel we are sanctified, increasingly changed to become more and more in our experience the person we were originally created to be. You know that feeling of never quite measuring up? Sanctification addresses that.
Through the gospel we are united with Christ, which means the God-Man really does stick closer than a brother. Through the gospel we are brought under God's own protection, which means he takes it seriously when others seek to do us harm. Through the gospel we have 24/7 access to the Great Physician, no insurance card needed. Through the gospel we have the mind of Christ, which means we can have divine wisdom for each situation we face. Through the gospel we have a new identity in Christ, which means we are not who other people say we are. (Nor are we who others have said we are in the past.)
The theology of the gospel, properly understood, heals our broken psychology. It's a salve for our souls, a balm for our brokenness, and effective medicine for our messed-up lives.
Through the gospel we can trust God's justice. No wrong done against us will stand; every evil perpetrated in this world will be paid for. Through the gospel the lonely heart is sealed with the Holy Spirit, God's own presence to cheer and to guide. Through the gospel we can rejoice at all times (even in the midst of deep sadness), fearing no evil, living confidently, protected by God's greatness and reveling in his tenderness and mercy.
The real question is not what good is the gospel, but why don't we experience the gospel in such a way that transforms us into raving fanatics who can't help but tell others about Jesus? But that's the subject for the next article.
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