Excerpt 6, A Confusing Gospel –
The gospel is often presented as though it is a cure-all for every problem a person has. “Come to Jesus, and He will solve all your problems.” So what do you do when Jesus informs us that there will be tribulations (John 16:33)? Or when James writes and says to count it all joy when various trials come your way (James 1:2)? Or when Peter encourages us not to think it strange when fiery trials happen to you (1 Pet. 4:12)? Jesus doesn’t remove us from the problems, but He gives us the strength to endure if we trust Him.
“Coming to Jesus” is not an explanation of the gospel either.
Jesus dealt with our sin by dying a substitutionary death. He took our place. Sin is our greatest problem and an insurmountable barrier from God. He broke down the barrier and provided the only way to be delivered from eternal condemnation, to receive forgiveness, and to be restored to fellowship with God. That’s our greatest need.
It is simply not true that coming to Jesus will make all your problems go away.
The apostle Paul experienced many trials and tribulations after he believed. Five times he was flogged by the Jews. Three times he was beaten with rods. He was stoned once. He was shipwrecked three times. He was in the water for a whole day and night (2 Cor. 11:24-25). God didn’t remove all his problems. If that is what you believe about the gospel, you may be looking to Jesus for the wrong reason. You may miss the truth of the gospel by seeing Jesus as a problem solver and not as your Savior from sin.
Some use the phrase, “ask Jesus in your heart”, to convey the gospel.
Others say “give Jesus your heart”. I like to be a little facetious sometimes by asking, “Which is it? Do I ask Him in my heart or do I give Him my heart”? It’s a confusing concept. What does it mean “to ask Jesus into your heart”? Once I asked a person what that meant. Upon questioning, this individual walked me through the gospel clearly. People learn that phrase when they are young. They get taught that. This person knew what it meant, but is it clear to the hearer? Communication involves both the speaker and the hearer. Does the hearer know what you mean? Most people today in America have little Biblical understanding. The average unbeliever does not know what “saved” means or even “sin.” Often the simplest things have to be explained, so people understand the message of the gospel.
A few years ago, I spoke with three older teenagers at the local county fair. They lived nearby in a neighboring community. They were willing to listen to the gospel presentation. All three stayed focused on what I was saying. They were zeroed-in. When I finished, trying to gain some insight as to what they understood, I ask them if they ever heard that before. They all replied negatively. One had never been to a church. The other two had only been to church a few times in their life.
When someone hears a convoluted message…
…and fails to understand the gospel, they may have the assurance of heaven when they shouldn’t. We can’t force people into heaven. However, our responsibility is to point them to Christ as the only way and to do so biblically and precisely. Then the responsibility is on the unbeliever to receive Him by faith or to continue in unbelief. Is Jesus merely your problem solver? Have you asked Jesus in your heart? Or have you believed the gospel, by faith alone in the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ?
My Comment (This comment not in the book) – The gospel is not confusing. Jesus, fully God and fully Man died for our sins according to the Scriptures; was buried; and rose again on the third day according to the Scriptures (I Cor. 15:3, 4). Whoever believes in Him has everlasting life (John 6:47). A message that isn’t clear cannot be understood. A convoluted gospel is not the gospel and it has no power in the message to saved one from the penalty of sin (Rom. 1:16). Today many lack Biblical understanding and so it takes effort to share the gospel. It may be easy to persuade someone to say a prayer, but have they understood the gospel and believed it?