The Message of the Gospel [1]

Too many discussions of evangelism begin by assuming people know what the message of the gospel is and focus on how to do it. In too many circles the Gospel is merely “The kingdom of God.” What kind of message is that!?!? Someone might say, we are to take part in this kingdom. The evangel is how one becomes a part of that kingdom. This is what I will share in these next two posts. These four points come directly from JI Packer’s Evangelism & The Sovereignty of God. I don’t want to take credit where it is due somewhere else. Get the book and enjoy – the italicized portion contained in each point is a quote from Packer’s book. Hopefully this will whet your appetite for thinking through what the Gospel is…then what evangelism is.

1. It is a message about God.
The gospel starts by teaching us that we, as creatures, are absolutely dependent on God, and that He, as Creator, has an absolute claim on us (58).

2. It is a message about sin.
What we have to grasp, then, is that the bad conscience of the natural man is not all the same thing as conviction of sin. It does not, therefore, follow that a man is convicted of sin when he is distressed about his weaknesses and the wrong things he has done. It is not conviction of sin just to feel miserable about yourself and your failures and your inadequacy to meet life’s demands. Nor would it be saving faith is a man in that condition called on the Lord Jesus Christ just to soothe him, and cheer him up, and make him feel confident again. Nor should we be preaching the gospel (thought we might imagine we were) is all that we did was to present Christ in terms of a man’s felt wants. (‘Are you happy? Are you satisfied? Do you want peace of mind? Do you feel that you have failed? Are you fed up with yourself? Do you want a friend? Then come to Christ; He will meet your every need…’ – as if the Lord Jesus Christ were to be thought of as a fairy godmother, or a super-psychiatrist.) No; we have to go deeper than this. To preach sin means, not to make capital out of people’s felt frailties (the brainwasher’s trick), but to measure their lives by the holy law of God. To be convicted of sin means, not just to feel that one is an all-around flop, but to realize that one has offended God, and flouted His authority, and defied Him, and gone against Him, and put oneself in the wrong with Him. To preach Christ means to set Him forth as the One who through His cross sets men right with God again. To put faith in Christ means relying on Him, and Him alone, to restore us to God’s fellowship and favour (60-61).

The Christ who is depicted and desired merely to make the lot of life’s casualties easier by supplying them with aids and comforts is not the real Christ, but a misrepresented and misconceived Christ – in effect, an imaginary Christ. And if we taught people to look to an imaginary Christ, we should have no grounds for expecting that they would find a real salvation (61-62).

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