I taught this message in 2015 at a church as a guest speaker. I forewarned them that this would be a tough message for many to hear and swallow. I believed then, and still now for those who will read this, that God wants to breakthrough and capture your hearts and minds and turn them right-side up for His glory in your life and your churches.
Below is the transcript with some minor additions and retractions I've made for posting it here.
A Clash of Realities
Many people that sit and attend many churches do not know the gospel. Many people around the globe that hear the term “gospel” or “Jesus” do not know what it truly is and what it truly means. Many either don’t know it at all or they know the media’s versions, or artists and entertainers versions, or the social media versions, or false beliefs versions, or a mixture of these, but not God’s version giving through biblical revelation. Thus, if many who sit and attend church and call themselves Christians don’t really know God’s biblical gospel, then how can they ever experience it’s transforming power in their lives? Maybe the reason some of you continue to go around the mulberry bush in your life, prostituting yourself with deliberate sin and compromise, is because you do not truly know the gospel nor have you been truly saved by it.
The power of the gospel is to transforms lives.
Rom. 1:16-17 (NIV)—“For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile. For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed—a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.””
Therefore, the evidence of the gospel being known and believed by a person is their transformed life. If there is no evidence of a transformed life, then the gospel has not truly been known or believed by the person.
What is the Gospel?
I’ll answer this in brief, not exhaustively. The gospel is a comprehensive subject and this is just one message, so am I not attempting to cover everything, simply a few points about the gospel.
Allow me to start with what the gospel is not.
- The gospel is not traditionalism—the traditions that you follow.
- The gospel is not the church you attend nor any denominational affiliation.
- The gospel is not the books of the Bible nor the stories in those books—though some of them reveal the gospel, they are not the gospel.
- The gospel is not favor from God for you to obtain things in life.
- The gospel is not the spiritual gifts you receive.
- The gospel is not “the anointing”.
- The gospel is not catchy clichés that church people say.
- The gospel is not health, wealth, and prosperity.
- The gospel is not your best life now.
- The gospel is not social justice and activism—it can be demonstrated in that way, but that doesn’t make it the gospel.
- The gospel is not being ordained as a minister.
- The gospel is not your title/role in the church.
- The gospel is not the Christian songs you sing (some of which we call praise-worship, though if it’s “me-centered” content its not authentic praise & worship; some we even call gospel music, and it’s not about the gospel).
- The gospel is not your fire insurance—believe "this" so you won’t go to hell.
- The gospel is not a scripted “repeat after me” prayer.
- The gospel is not water baptism—get baptized and your saved or be baptized to seal your salvation.
- The gospel is not universalism—i.e. God is going to save everybody, there is no hell.
- The gospel is not any other “ism” that removes Jesus as the only Way to the Father, the only absolute Truth, the only Life-giver and sustainer, or adds anything to Jesus as the Way, Truth, and Life.
- The gospel is not found in political parties, CNN (or any other news station), Oprah Winfrey, nor white or black pictures of Jesus.
- The gospel is not found in Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons, Black Hebrew Israelites, Islam, Judaism, New-age beliefs, eastern religious beliefs, or any other view or belief that is not in accordance with the clear revelation of God in the Bible.
On and on the list can go about what the gospel is not. This is but a few things that the gospel is not that many may believe it is or attach to the gospel.
The gospel is the truth of the reality of the encompassing good news of Jesus Christ. Let's break down Ephesians 2:1-10 and see what the gospel is.
Eph. 2:1-10 (ESV)—"1 And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— 3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. 4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— 6 and raised us up with Him and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages He might show the immeasurable riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them."
1. The gospel is God transferring those who believe in Jesus from death to life. (vv. 1-3, 5)
We are all zombies (the walking dead) on a bus oblivious that it’s heading directly and rightly for the wrath of God. God sends Jesus to pay our bus fair and give us a transfer pass to get off the death bus and come onto the life bus—heading directly for eternal life with God. We can only receive this transfer pass when we place our trust in Him. This is the gospel.
2. The gospel is God’s outpouring of His rich mercy and great love toward those who believe. (v. 4)
Eph. 1:7-8 (NLT)—He is so rich in kindness and grace that He purchased our freedom with the blood of His Son and forgave our sins. He has showered His kindness on us, along with all wisdom and understanding.
Rom. 5:5-9 (NLT)—And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because He has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with His love. When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners. Now, most people would not be willing to die for an upright person, though someone might perhaps be willing to die for a person who is especially good. But God showed His great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners. And since we have been made right in God’s sight by the blood of Christ, He will certainly save us from God’s condemnation.
This is the gospel.
3. The gospel is God transferring those who believe from eternal separation from Him (Hell) to eternal placement with Him (Heaven). (vv. 6-7)
Do you know what makes “Hell” hell? Being separated from God’s grace and presence for eternity. Unconstrained sin running rampant with no end, no break, no ease, nothing. That is hell. And without the gospel, this is what everyone is justly doomed for. Do you know what makes “Heaven” heaven? Spending eternity in the personal presence of God, seeing and experiencing God in all His splendor, majesty, and glory with no end, no break, and no fear. That is heaven. This is the gospel, that God made a way for those who believe, we who deserve hell, to spend eternity with Him.
4. The gospel is God’s gift given to us. (vv. 8-9)
Grace, salvation, and faith are one packaged gift from God. “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God”. We play no part whatsoever in this packaged gift from God. We don’t and can’t earn this packaged gift from God. This packaged gift from God is freely given so that those who believe can believe. This is the gospel.
5. The gospel is God recreating those who believe (new creation) in Christ for His foreordained good works. (v. 10)
Tit. 2:14 (NLT)—He gave his life to free us from every kind of sin, to cleanse us, and to make us his very own people, totally committed to doing good deeds.
Tit. 3:3-8 (NLT)—Once we, too, were foolish and disobedient. We were misled and became slaves to many lusts and pleasures. Our lives were full of evil and envy, and we hated each other. But—
When God our Savior revealed His kindness and love, He saved us, not because of the righteous things we had done, but because of His mercy. He washed away our sins, giving us a new birth and new life through the Holy Spirit. He generously poured out the Spirit upon us through Jesus Christ our Savior. Because of His grace He made us right in His sight and gave us confidence that we will inherit eternal life.
This is a trustworthy saying, and I want you to insist on these teachings so that all who trust in God will devote themselves to doing good. These teachings are good and beneficial for everyone.
This is the gospel.
God’s foreordained good works for those who believe is our life—everything in it from smallest to greatest, from internal to external—being lived and carried out in a manner that pleases Him, honors Him, and glorifies Him in accordance with His Word (cf. Tit. 2:12, 14). And here in Titus and Eph. 2 we see a clear and extreme contrast in comparison to our dead in sin life (zombie life). This is why we’re coined as new creations, because after the power of the gospel gets ahold of our life we’re completely different from the old creation, further displaying the transformation of a sinner through the gospel.
The Power of the Gospel
God through His gospel transforms our spiritual state (spiritually dead to spiritually alive), our eternal state (eternal separation to eternal placement), and our present state (people of disobedience to God’s workmanship/new creation). The gospel transforms the whole person. Nothing is off limits from the power of God in the gospel.
The gospel is an eternal, life changing reality. The gospel is God’s loving, merciful, and grace-filled action toward us. Therefore, someone who truly understands and believes this gospel will not want to continue as they did before they knew it. Think about it, from the gripping reality of this truth and all God has done to redeem us, to the fact that the power of the gospel is to transform us into new creatures walking in God’s foreordained good works for us, where is there room to consciously live again like you’re still dead in sin, men and women of disobedience, willingly and happily pursuing things that God hates? If someone can say they truly understand and believe the biblical gospel and continue to live like they have not been rescued, like they have not been transformed into a new creation, then either the gospel is powerless and the Holy Spirit lied or that person does not truly understand and believe the gospel and thus is unsaved and still dead in their sin. I stake my life on the latter.
A Final Word
To those who’s life is marked by the transforming power of the gospel, hold your head high as one who is exuberant because you were once dead but now alive and in relationship with the Almighty Creator and King. Continue to fight through the struggles of sin and walk worthy of the glorious gospel that saved you. But also keep your heart humble as one who is grateful because your salvation is not of your own doing or your own initiation but by God’s rich mercy and great love toward you.
To those who realize your life does not reflect this transformation you’ve read and heard about today, I appeal to you to respond to God right now. Some of you need to respond to God in repentance and some need to cry out to God for true salvation. You’re not here by accident. God wanted you to hear this particular message. As I said in the beginning of my message, I believe God wants to breakthrough and capture your hearts and minds and turn them right-side up for His glory in your life and your churches. If this is you, then pray and talk to God like you’re on your deathbed (as if this is your final words), tell Him what’s on your heart, repent if needed, or trust and believe if needed. Your eternity and soul are on the line.