Don’t close the window yet. I’m not a heretic. Hear me out. The Gospel is not for everybody. Pastor Derek, how can you say that? Well, this is born out of a real dilemma in my own life of late. It’s the battle between preaching the true gospel and acquiescing to the culture. We live in a society that is running headlong away from God. This should come as no surprise because Scripture tells us that we all are dead in our trespasses and sins (Eph. 2:1). The natural tendency for any civilization is moral decline, and this will only change when Jesus comes again.
Historically, when the moral and ethical fiber of the gospel is under attack as it is today false prophets rise up by the dozens. The inclination is to water down the gospel, to skate preaching on our sinful condition and desperate need for Christ’s forgiveness. The message of the cross is exchanged for the message of consumerism, comfort, and self-reliance. Does this sound familiar?
Today’s prevailing evangelical gospel message is God loves everybody, God is for everybody, the gospel is about peace and compassion, and the Lord will accept you just the way you are. While this is true in essence, it’s an incomplete gospel. It’s missing the most pivotal part of the entire gospel message….repentance. Repentance is replaced with follow these simple principles, pray this simple prayer, buy this little book, and believe God for a new, better, and more successful life.
WHAT IS THE GOSPEL?
The materialistic and narcissistic message many preach today is not the message of Jesus Christ. Christ said, “Repent for the Kingdom of God is at hand” (Matt. 4:17). He said He did not come to bring peace but a sword (Matt. 10:34), and that He came to divide mothers and daughters and fathers and sons (Luke 12:53). Jesus said the road is narrow and hard that leads to eternal life and only few find it (Matt. 7:14) and not everyone who called Him Lord would enter the Kingdom of Heaven (Matt. 7:21). Christ said whoever wishes to save his life will lose it but the one who loses his life for the Lord’s sake will find it (Mark 8:35). He said if we love Him we will keep His commandments, and that obedience is the measure of real faith (John 14:15). Need I go on?
When you listen to Christian radio and watch some popular Christian communicators on television and the internet this is not the message you hear. We have exchanged the true message of the gospel, that we are horrible sinners and need God’s forgiveness and it took the blood of Jesus poured out in a most cruel and unusual way to make provision for our salvation, with a universalistic message that subliminally says it’s really just going to work out in the end. We’ve replaced godliness with goodness and repentance with personal reform; just love people and don’t disrespect your neighbor and all is well. No resurrection is needed, just a little self-improvement. Nothing could be further from the truth!
What happened to crying out to God for forgiveness?! What happened to begging God for revival?! What happened to pouring out our heart before an unfathomably holy God in desperation?! As the old cliché goes, “you can’t get saved until you get lost.” We are hopelessly lost and our only real hope of escaping the fiery wrath of God is the grace of Almighty God through the cross of Jesus Christ.
WHO IS THE GOSPEL FOR?
Okay Pastor Derek, if the gospel is not for everybody then who is it for? The gospel is not for EVERYBODY, it’s for ANYBODY. You might think I’m just playing with semantics here, but the implications for our preaching and witness are extremely far reaching. The gospel is not for everybody. It is for anybody who will truly repent of sin and confess Jesus as their personal Lord and Savior. The blood of Jesus is not applied to the spiritual account of someone who merely tries to live a better life or live more successfully. Forgiveness is not granted to those who attend some kind of worship gathering and have good vibes about the whole Jesus thing. Salvation is only applied to those who radically and wholeheartedly identify with the counter-cultural Lordship of Jesus Christ.
Paul said the message of the cross is foolishness to the world, but God uses the foolish things of the world to shame the wise (1 Cor 1:18-27). Jesus said we are not greater than the Master, if they persecuted Him they will do the same to His servants (John 13:16-17). Jesus said if we’re not for Him we are against Him (Matt. 12:30).
Now, gospel means good news. So what is the good news? The good news is that anybody, from any background, with any sin, can receive eternal life by repenting of sin and trusting in Christ for salvation. Repentance means agreeing with what God says about our lives in His Word and turning our back on that life. Trust means complete abandonment to Jesus as Lord.
So, the gospel is not for everybody, it’s for anybody. Have you repented of sin and surrendered control of your life to Christ? Do you consider His counter-cultural teachings to be words of eternal life or mere suggestions to implement as long as the culture accepts them? May the church get back to the true message of the gospel, and not prostitute our message for the acceptance of society.