The gospel is the heart of Christianity. Without the gospel, Christianity is Judaism.
In all the talk about the gospel, it can be really helpful to slow down enough to ask ourselves, “What IS the gospel?” It’s both simpler and broader than you may realize.
The Simple Gospel
The gospel is the proclamation of forgiveness and redemption through faith in Jesus Christ – his sinless life, atoning death, and victorious resurrection.
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.”
John 3:16-17, ESV
“If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”
Romans 10:9, ESV
Gospel means “good news.” It’s an announcement. Like an ambassador who brings a message on behalf of the people he represents, the Christian announces the gospel, “Salvation is possible because of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Confess your sin. Admit that you can’t earn it. Believe that forgiveness and redemption only comes through the work of Jesus, not through your own work. It is a gift of faith if you trust in his work instead of your own. This is great news!”
How Do I Become a Christian?
- ADMIT that you’re a sinner. You cannot become a Christian without confessing your sin and admitting your need for salvation. If you believe that you can attain salvation through your good works or because you’re “a good person,” then you cannot be a Christian. If you know you’re a sinner and you have felt the guilt and weight of sin, then there is good news…
- BELIEVE in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. You do need righteousness to become a Christian, but since you’ve already admitted your own righteousness is powerless, you trust in the righteousness of Jesus Christ to save you. Through his death on the cross he paid the penalty of your sin, and by his resurrection from the dead he conquered sin and death. When you believe in Jesus, you are adopted as a child of God and are clothed in the righteousness of Christ.
- COMMIT your life to God. The gospel isn’t merely “eternal fire insurance” that you cash in when you die. Instead, we walk daily in light of the gospel. Repentance means “a change of mind” or “to turn around.” When we repent of our sin, we are turning away from our sin and committing ourselves to God.
Count the Cost
The gospel produces a “new birth.” Jesus says those who believe in him will be born again (John 3:1-21). The apostle Paul writes, “If anyone is in Christ he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (2 Corinthians 5:17). In Romans 6:1-14 Paul asks the question, “How can we who died to sin still live in it?”
Becoming a Christian must change your life. You will not become a completely different person than you were the day before, and you will not suddenly stop being tempted by sin. But now that your life is committed to God you will change because you’ve become a child of God (not in order to keep your salvation). There will be things you need to stop doing, and other things you’ll need to start doing. And you will live with the reminder that the Holy Spirit is actively applying the grace of God into your life.
As Christian pastor/theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote,
“Costly grace is the gospel which must be sought again and again and again, the gift which must be asked for, the door at which a man must knock.
Such grace is costly because it calls us to follow, and it is grace because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ. It is costly because it costs a man his life, and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life. It is costly because it condemns sin, and grace because it justifies the sinner. Above all, it is costly because it cost God the life of his Son: ‘ye were bought at a price,’ and what has cost God much cannot be cheap for us. Above all, it is grace because God did not reckon his Son too dear a price to pay for our life, but delivered him up for us. Costly grace is the Incarnation of God.”
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship, p.45
If you want to be forgiven but you do not want your life to change, then you are asking for an impossible thing… and you merely want permission to continue in your sin. You may have admitted you are a sinner, but you have not confessed it; because confession involves grief over what is confessed.
The Gospel is Good News (because there is bad news)
Most of us know the bad news: we are sinful. I have only met a few people who deny this. Many people minimize their sin, but they admit they would stand guilty before a holy God.
The gospel is good news because there is bad news. Many hope their good works outweigh their guilt. Others trust in their spiritual faithfulness to erase their sin.
The Good News announces, “Your sin has been paid for through Jesus Christ. You cannot pay the debt without bearing the crushing weight for all eternity. Your only hope is through trusting in the death and resurrection of Jesus and receiving the righteousness of Christ by faith.”
Would you rest from your works, stop trying to earn what you simply cannot. Grace is called grace because it’s undeserved. That’s why it’s a gift.
- Admit your sin, and confess your guilt and neediness before God.
- Believe in Jesus, that his sacrificial death and victorious resurrection is your only hope.
- Commit yourself to God, to live as his beloved child.
If you have believed in the gospel, please do at least two things: