One of the reasons I follow such debates/discussions is that they challenge me to more clearly define my own views. So here is my answer to this vital and foundational question: “What is the gospel?”
The gospel, reduced to its most simple form, is the message that Jesus Christ died on the cross for my sins. And (here’s a piece that often is missed) by His death and resurrection, Jesus invites us to become citizens of the Kingdom of God.
Why does this matter? Because my sins separate me from God, and prevent me from living my life to the fullest, as intended by my Creator.
There is nothing I can do to be saved from my sins; there is no behavior that will allow me to earn my way into God’s favor. His forgiveness is offered to me as a gift. This is truly good news!
After His death on the cross, Jesus was buried…but then He rose from the grave and returned to heaven. His resurrection demonstrated that He truly is the Lord over life and death for all who choose to believe in Him. He is the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords!
How do I…how does anyone…respond to this good news? Quite simply: I admit to God that I am a sinner, and I acknowledge that faith in Jesus is the only way to be saved from the consequences of my sins. I accept His death on the cross as a sacrificial act of love which He performed on my behalf. I repent of my sins and I choose to be baptized. My baptism allows me to demonstrate that I am making a new beginning; turning away from my old way of life and now living in relationship with God.
But the good news does not end there!
Notice these opening lines from the Gospel of Mark:
…Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. “The time has come,” he said, “and the Kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe in the gospel!” (Mark 1:15)
Jesus makes it clear that the gospel is not just about me and my salvation…the gospel is, ultimately, a proclamation about the Kingdom of God. Therefore, when I decided to follow Jesus at age 17, I did not only receive forgiveness for my sins…I also became a citizen of God’s Kingdom.
God’s Kingdom operates with an entirely different set of principles than the kingdoms of this world. Jesus spells out these life-changing principles through His teachings in the Sermon on the Mount…the Beatitudes…the Great Commandment…the Parables. All of His teaching is intended to show me, and my fellow citizens, how we should live as part of His Kingdom today.
Not just later on in heaven, but right here.
In this life.
In His final words, the Great Commission, Jesus reminds us not to keep silent about this good news, because the gospel is not supposed to be a secret! The Lord of heaven and earth chooses to trust me (just as He trusts each of His followers) to faithfully share the good news with other people. Isn’t this amazing? I have the incredible privilege of inviting others to join me as a citizen of the Kingdom of God.
This is the gospel. This is good news. God has a great gift which He eagerly desires to give to anyone who simply will receive it: life with Jesus in His Kingdom, both now and forever.
Oh, Lord, help me to graciously, boldly, lovingly, confidently, and joyfully share this good news with the people that You bring into my life.