Gospel is one of the most overused words in our culture today, but perhaps one of the least understood. Everything can be Gospel. If it’s remotely related to Church, somewhere someone has attached the word Gospel to it. Anybody ever been to a gospel business meeting before? I hope not. But the Word Gospel literally means “good news,” it’s a word that was used for a town-crier running through the streets with an announcement. Sometimes, in ancient Greece, it would also be used of a herald going into a town ahead of the King, announcing, “the King is coming.” I wonder if that’s what Early Christian’s had in mind when the coopted this word and made it their own.
I am all for taking the truths of God’s Word and making them understandable to as many people as possible, but I think in our effort to make things palatable to the world, some of the great truths of this announcement of “Good News” are becoming endangered. Over the next several months we will explore some of these together.
We’ll start with the truth that is the least endangered, we’ll just call this one threatened. You’d be hard-pressed to find an Evangelical Church that doesn’t confess salvation by Grace alone, but I would submit that it would be almost as difficult to find Evangelicals who have taken this idea of Grace and made it their default way of thinking. It’s difficult, we live in a world that runs on merit. Slogan’s like “You get what you give” and “there’s no such thing as a free lunch” dominate our cultural landscape and have even found their way into the “Gospel Preaching” of many Churches. But Scripture is clear; there is such a thing as a free lunch because, when it comes to our souls, we get what He has already given.
We talk about grace, most of us believe in grace on some level, but I think many of us have a less-than-biblical view of Grace. It’s not necessarily anti-biblical, it’s just a piece of the picture. Grace is not the same thing as absolution. Unfortunately, many of our Churches are preaching absolution, where all our sin is forgiven and that’s it. This isn’t unbiblical, it’s just incomplete. All our sin is forgiven at the cross, AND God imparts His righteousness to us. The Father knows us, not according to what we have done wrong, but according to what Jesus has done right, AND then Jesus gives us the ability to live out that new righteousness in real time. Christian’s are not people who are just like everybody else except for the fact that we’ve been forgiven. Christians are people who were just like everybody else, but now have been forgiven and are being made to be just like Jesus. There’s a big difference.
On the other side, Grace is not only available to those whose lives measure up. That wouldn’t be grace. The Gospel is not a message of do this, don’t do this, wear this, don’t listen to that kind of music, don’t drink that or hang around people who do. That’s not good news; it’s exhausting. The Gospel is an announcement that all who believe are accepted. Accepted into what? Well, that’s next month, but for now, the Gospel is the announcement that the King has come, and everyone who believes is accepted, and transformed, and made into His image. This kind of message is difficult, sometimes, for us to wrap our minds around, and that’s why we have to keep reminding ourselves over and over and over, again and again, until it begins to stick.