Saturday, February 16, 2013

What is the Gospel? Why is it good news?

When I visit my mom's church, the pastor always calls on one of the men in the church to close in prayer. These prayers are mindless, totally meaningless and usually have nothing to do with the sermon that was just preached as well as having nothing to do with God. In essence, it sounds like he's phoning it in.

The designated "pray-er" mentions NOTHING that has been talked about in the sermon. It's almost as though he's been asleep through the entire Sunday message, but he knows enough to throw in nice, caring, spiritual-pablum like "be with those who are sick and can't be with us today" without even mentioning any names or asking for God to heal them. He finishes by thanking God for his blessings, and asks God for strength to live as Christians ought to live...and on and on--you get the message.

I don't really think this guy is praying to God, I really think he's just trying to sound spiritual because NOTHING  he's prayed is even remotely close to being a biblical prayer, prayed in faith, and evidencing a knowledge of God. Am I being harsh or critical? Yes, you bet. Because judgment must begin at the house of God and prayers like these are a travesty. They are prayed by people who don't know God and they don't reach beyond the ceiling, if they even ascend that high. And the sad thing is that it's the Pastor who calls on these individuals to close in prayer--so what's that say about the spiritual shepherd of this local church??

Please don't think I'm picking on my Mom's church (because I am) and this sadly is what passes for Christianity in some of our evangelical churches today. It's a far cry from what we see or hear in the Bible. That's why I want to tell you about a book I'm reading, "God is the Gospel" by John Piper.

Why are young people leaving the Church in droves?
John Piper asks this question. Why is the gospel good news? You could take it a step further and ask, "What is the Gospel?
What is the Good News?" 
Some would say:

  • "The Good News is knowing that my sins are forgiven. 
  • Or "The Good News is knowing that I will be raptured and miss the tribulation."
  • Or they might say, "Knowing that I am going to heaven and won't spend eternity in hell."
  • Or they might say, "Knowing that I will be in heaven with all my loved ones, my wife and my parents."
  • Or they might say, "Knowing that I will be given a new resurrection body and no longer be subject to this handicapped body and my physical infirmities.
What's wrong with these answers? 
They all sound spiritual and nice, but they leave God out of the equation. They don't express any desire to be with God. The whole point of the Gospel is to KNOW God, to be WITH God, to SEE God. Everything else is icing on the cake or a by-product. 

Sadly, we have become nice church people who go to God's house religiously, who say and do all the right things, but in many cases, our hearts are far from God. We love the trappings of Christianity, but NOT the Savior Himself. Our delight is in lots of good Christian things, but NOT in Jesus Himself. We love our Christian music and radio stations, and watch only good, wholesome Christian films, but we still don't know the Savior. As John Piper suggests in his book, if our delight is NOT in Him, in KNOWING GOD and BEING WITH GOD, then there's a good possibility that we aren't saved--that we aren't born-again.

Here's what a godly prayer sounds like, from one who knows the Lord and knows that God is the Gospel:

Psalm 27:4 (ESV)
4 One thing have I asked of the LORD, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to inquire in his temple.
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  1. THE GOSPEL: WHAT IT IS AND WHAT IT IS NOT (condensed to fit)

    The most critical question in one’s spiritual life is this: What is The Gospel?

    It is extremely important that we, as ambassadors of Jesus, have a very clear understanding of what the Gospel is and what it is not.

    The Gospel is the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus from the dead. That is the Gospel and nothing else can take its place.

    The very heart of The Gospel is the resurrection! Jesus' life is merely an interesting biography without his resurrection from the dead. Jesus' death is merely the end of another person's life without his resurrection. Resurrection is the very meaning of our salvation. There is no salvation without resurrection. This point has been made very clear in the book of Acts (Acts 1:3, 21-22 / 2:22-24,29-33,36 / 3:13-15, 19-20,25-26 / 4:2,10, 33 / 5: 30-32 / 10: 39-44 / 13: 30-39 / 17: 2-3, 18, 31-32 / 23: 6 / 24: 21 / 25: 18-19 / 26: 8, 15-23). And it is obviously clear that the proclamation of the resurrection of Jesus was the central focus of the whole New Testament (Romans 1: 1-4 / 1 Cor. 6: 14 / 1 Cor.15 / 2 Cor.4:14 / Gal.1:1-8 / Eph.1:18-21 / Phil.3:7-14 / Col.2:19-23 / 1 Thess.1:9-10 / 1 Tim.4:9-10 / 2 Timothy 2:8 / Hebrews 13:20-21 / 1 Peter 1:3-5 / Rev.1:16-18 / Matthew / Mark / Luke / John /, etc.).

    In order to make sure that we truly understand what The Gospel IS, we also have to understand what The Gospel IS NOT.

    The Gospel is an historical event. What we preach is no mere philosophy by which we can get through this mortal existence. Our message is a call for people to trust in a person who has lived in history and who has physically risen from the dead.

    The Gospel is not an inward experience. You cannot "experience" an historical event. The resurrection of Jesus happened nearly 2000 years ago, in history and in reality. You cannot experience the resurrection of Jesus any more that you can experience a past event like ‘Custer's Last Stand’. But, unlike ‘Custer's Last Stand’, the resurrection of Jesus has implications and applications that directly affect us today. We cannot experience the historical resurrection of Jesus but we can trust in Jesus and his promise that he will raise us from the dead when he returns.

    The Gospel is not our personal testimony. Our personal testimony is a real and important tool to use to capture the interest of the person we are witnessing to, but our testimony is never to be used apart from the Gospel of Jesus' resurrection from the dead.

    The Gospel is not what the Holy Spirit is doing in our lives. What the Holy Spirit is doing in our lives is the RESULT, the FRUIT, of trusting in what Jesus has done for us. Putting our trust in The Gospel of Jesus is the CAUSE, the ROOT, of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in our lives

    Being "born-again" is not the Gospel. Being born-again is the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. The Gospel is the work of Jesus 2000 years ago which he did for us, outside of us. Being born-again is a RESULT of trusting in the Gospel, it is NOT the Gospel itself. We must be careful not to substitute the Gospel of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus with any false gospel of inward transformation.

    The Gospel is the Historical events of Jesus' life, death, and resurrection which he finished and accomplished for us, outside of us, 2000 years ago. The unfinished work of Holy Spirit inside of us is a real and true work, but that work is NOT the Gospel. This distinction should be made plain to every believer.

    Your brother is Christ,

    Jeffery Bynum

  2. Jeffrey, I'm in total agreement. As I read your comments, it's pretty scary to think about how seldom we really hear the gospel. So often, we hear what is supposed to be the Gospel, but it is a form of the 4-Spiritual Laws or just an invitation, and never talking about the atoning work of Christ or His resurrection. Without his resurrection, we are all dead men.

    I like how Paul says in Ephesians that we are all dead in our trespasses and sins, and God thru Jesus Christ, made us alive. We had NOTHING to do with it--It was totally God's work, because we were dead men like Lazarus.

    I was impressed with John Piper's "God is the Gospel" because it is all about God, and if we are saved, He is our portion and our delight. He is the lover of our soul. He is the One we want to please and serve. I seldom hear testimonies to this effect.

    1. Thank you for your response. And yes, I am also amazed at how Little I hear the Gospel during a 'Gospel' sermon. I wonder how the Lost can come to faith when the Church is so ignorant of what The Gospel IS, and IS NOT.

      If you are interested, my own blog (made mainly for my friends to refer to) is...

      (it is best to start from the Oldest pages and work your way to the newest.)

      Thanks again,
      - Jeff

  3. Thanks Jeff...yes I will check out your blog and leave you a comment or two, since we both seem to have the same concern and desire to see the Gospel proclaimed in all its fullness.