Jesus had so much to pass on to the disciples about living the Christian life—the importance of prayer, the role of the Holy Spirit, servant leadership, loving one another, the power of God’s word. So why did he organise all that other teaching and ministry around a central core of teaching them to be fishers of men?
The Apostle Paul gave in-depth teaching on all aspects of the Christian life. Yet in his mind, one thing was at the center. He said, “I do it all for the sake of the gospel” 1 Corinthians 9:23.
Why? Why does the gospel matter and what makes the gospel so important?
Let me give you three reasons why the gospel is so important and it should be at the forefront of our lives and ministries:
1. Without the gospel, we have nothing else to say.
Sure, we have a lot to say about life in general—the weather, what’s happening with our kids, politics, society, the economy, our health—but nothing that is particularly Christian. The gateway to everything that is essentially Christian is the gospel.
Without the gospel, we can pass on Christian morals and expectations of how people should live. But the reality is that those things flow from the life of Christ in a person. As the Apostle Paul points out in the book of Romans, the law is not able to change anybody’s life; only Christ can do that. “For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit” Romans 8:3.
We should do all we can to change our society for the better and to promote good morals in our laws and education. From an evangelism point of view, we must recognise that truly significant change in the hearts of people will never come without the gospel! Never separate your efforts to help people from the simple, clear, transforming gospel message.
2. Through the gospel, God transforms lives.
Talk to anyone who came to Christ when they were old enough to clearly remember their life without Christ. Ask them to share their journey. There will be a dividing line in their life, and that line is the gospel, which started their relationship with Jesus. Paul tells us, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” 2 Corinthians 5:17. That’s why he says, “I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” Romans 1:16.
When you have a significant spiritual conversation with someone, don’t leave it there. Contact them soon after and say, “Would you like to do a Bible study with me?” You will be surprised how many people are eager to say yes. Then take them through LifeWorks, or Christianity Explained, or Alpha, or Experiencing God, or any other simple journey into the truths of the gospel. You will very quickly see God starting to change the lives of the people you know through the gospel. Don’t push the gospel aside in your life and ministry. Keep it in the center!
3. If we get the gospel wrong or leave it out, we are offending God and misleading people—the consequences are dire.
The Apostle Paul passionately protected the gospel message! He said, “But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again:If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed” Galatians 1:8-9. God gets angry when we adjust the gospel.
In evangelism, it can seem loving to tame down the gospel message, but if you change the gospel then the message you are sharing cannot save the person! The person you are talking to may express the view that surely good people of any religion will be accepted by God. At that moment you may feel that the polite thing to do is to leave that statement out there, implying that you accept it without actually saying that.
In reality, you must make sure that the gospel is clear. You don’t have to get in the person’s face about it. Simply ask the question, “What if God has paid an enormous personal price to make a way to be right with him and a person says, ‘I don’t care about that. I’m going to make my own way to heaven.’ How do you think God would respond to that?” A question like this engages them in a meaningful conversation with you. In that conversation, you can share what Jesus says—“I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” John 14:6.
In the Old Testament, Jeremiah speaks in a time when God is about to bring terrible judgment, yet the spiritual leaders are trying to ensure that the people engage with them and so they are trying to make God’s message more palatable. Jeremiah talks to God about it:
“Then I said: ‘Ah, Lord God, behold, the prophets say to them, “You shall not see the sword, nor shall you have famine, but I will give you assured peace in this place.”’ And the Lord said to me: ‘The prophets are prophesying lies in my name. I did not send them, nor did I command them or speak to them. They are prophesying to you a lying vision, worthless divination, and the deceit of their own minds. Therefore thus says the Lord concerning the prophets who prophesy in my name although I did not send them, and who say, “Sword and famine shall not come upon this land”: By sword and famine those prophets shall be consumed.’” Jeremiah 14:13-15.
Why is God so concerned that we keep the gospel at the forefront and don’t ignore it or change it?
- Because the gospel is the gateway to all that God wants to do in and through people’s lives
- Because through the gospel God transforms people
- Because if the gospel is distorted or missing, we are misrepresenting God and his heart for people, and this makes him angry and takes away the gospel’s power to save
God loves people and wants them to feel his love through you, then hear the gospel that will lead them to Christ. Re-evaluate your life and ministry. Make sure that you and your ministry are known for your focus on the gospel.