The Gospel in Crisis
Recently a current political figure was quoted as saying; “Never let a crisis go to waste.” The implication is that a crisis is an opportunity to implement one’s agenda. And there seems to be no end of crises at the disposal of those who are looking for an opportunity to exploit.
However, the greatest crises are not those of an economic type, in spite of all the hype to the contrary. The matters of gravest concern are those of a spiritual and biblical nature, and the more fundamental the issue, the more critical our response. Modern day Christianity in general, and Evangelicalism in particular, face a crises of the gospel; a crises that serious-minded followers of Christ cannot ignore or fail to address. The issue is no more basic than biblically defining the gospel of Jesus Christ. If we are to spread the gospel we must know what it is, for to spread a false gospel is to sow the seeds of confusion and destruction and turn the gospel from good news into bad medicine.
Much, if not most, of modern evangelicalism is busy addressing felt needs. Many believe and espouse that the gospel is a panacea for every possible ill or problem. If you have problems in your marriage, come to Jesus, and He will fix your marriage. If you are having financial problems, Jesus will resolve those for you. Are you struggling with emotional unrest? Jesus will give you peace. Whether Jesus is capable of doing any or all these things is not the issue. He certainly is. But these are not what the gospel is about. That is not to say such matters as those mentioned above are not real and important: they are. But they are not what the gospel is about, nor are they the basis for a biblical gospel appeal.
The word gospel literally means “good news”. And “good news” implies that there is bad news. One cannot fully appreciate the good news of the gospel unless he or she comes to grips with the bad news. It is like the old saying; “I have good news and bad news.” In this case, we need to hear the bad news first. The bad news is that we are sinners by nature (Eph. 2:3), held by the power of darkness (Col. 1:13), and enemies of God (Col. 1:21). The bad news is really bad because sinners have no means in themselves to escape this wretched condition, being blinded by the spiritual darkness that engulfs them and dead to spiritual realities (Eph. 2:1, John 3:3).
So what sinners (i.e. humans) need is not a salve for their felt needs but a Savior for their lostness. “Christ Jesus came to save sinners,” not to act as a Jeanie, an unseen psychologist, or financial advisor. And to be faithful to gospel, to Christ, and to the never-dying souls of men, women, boys and girls we must convince them biblically that they are enemies of God because of their sin and hopelessly alienated from Him. If they are to turn or repent, and they must (Luke 13:3), then they must know from what they are turning as well as to whom they are turning. They must flee from the wrath to come and flee to Christ. The gospel is not “ask Jesus into your heart”, a phrase which never occurs in scripture. The “good news” is that all sinners who turn from their sins and look in faith to Christ for salvation from their sins and their just penalty will be saved (John 3:18).
There is one last aspect to consider if we are to proclaim a biblical gospel. For the ultimate end in view is not the salvation of humans, as critical and delightful as that is. God’s ultimate concern is His own glory. He is glorified in the salvation of sinners. He is glorified in people bowing the knee to Him. He is pleased to glorify Himself in the salvation and transformation of human souls. His first thought and His last thought are not mankind. They are His glory. And He is pleased to let those who believe be part of that great ultimate purpose. “Wherefore God also has highly exalted Him, and given Him a name which is above every name: that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Phil. 2:9-11)
The time has come to turn from the easy-believism that has filled church roles with unconverted people who have no hunger and thirst for righteousness. The time has come for all true followers of Christ to love the souls of the lost by confronting them with a clear biblical gospel that is “the power of God of salvation to everyone who believes…” (Rom. 1:16).
President of Vision4Living Ministries