Saturday, February 02, 2008

"The Gospel & Personal Evangelism" - Chapter 2

This chapter in Mark Dever's book is called "What is the Gospel?"

The gospel, according to Dever, is "good news." That's the basic meaning of the word euangelian in Greek. We, as Christians, have good news to proclaim to the world.

After the opening section of the chapter, Dever focuses his attention on what the gospel is not.

1. The good news is not simply that we are okay.
"Some people seem to think that Christianity is fundamentally a religious therapy session, where we sit around trying to help each other feel good about ourselves," writes Dever. He comments that Christianity actually deals realistically with human nature (which is fallen, sinful, and totally depraved). No, we are not OK! We are sinful and are in need of a Savior.

2. The good news is not simply that God is love.
Yes, "God is love," as the Bible says in 1 John 4:8. However, we cannot emphasize God's love at the expense of all of His other attributes. Dever makes the point that we immediately have a problem when we say this or think about it - we don't understand love very well at all.

3. The good news is not simply that Jesus wants to be our friend.
It may also be stated that "Jesus wants to be our example," writes Dever. According to Dever, "The Christian gospel is not a matter of mere self-help or even of a great example or a relationship to be cultivated." Jesus came to live a life of perfect obedience in our place, to die for our sins as our substitute, and to rise again from the dead on the third day. The Lord Jesus is the "friend who is closer than a brother," but He's much more than that and that isn't the gospel, anyway.

4. The good news is not that we should live rightly.
Of course, we should live rightly - there are way too many verses and passages in the Bible for it to even be questioned. But exhortations to obey God are not good news to non-believers or believers. We live rightly, and in a manner pleasing to the Lord, because we have already believed the good news, not as a substitute.

According to Dever, the right response to the gospel - the authentic gospel - is repentance and belief. In Acts 20:21, Paul says, "I have declared to both Jews and Greeks that they must turn to God in repentance and have faith in our Lord Jesus."

Dever ends the chapter by proclaiming the gospel in a minute or less: "The good news is that the one and only God, who is holy, made us in his image to know him. But we sinned and cut ourselves off from him. In his great love, God became man in Jesus, lived a perfect life, and died on the cross, thus fulfilling the law himself and taking on himself the punishment for the sins of all those who would ever turn and trust in him. He rose again from the dead, showing that God accepted Christ's sacrifice and that God's wrath against us had been exhausted. He now calls us to repent of our sins and to trust in Christ alone for our forgiveness. If we repent of our sins and trust in Christ, we are born again into a new life, an eternal life with God."

Overall, this was a good chapter, but I would have added several more ideas that are not the gospel.
~ The good news is not believing in Christ. Putting our faith and trust in Jesus Christ is our response to the gospel, but it isn't the gospel.
~ The good news is not a call to follow Jesus. Following Jesus and being His disciple is our response to the gospel, not the gospel itself.
~ The good news is not "come to Jesus and He'll fix your problems." Yours and my problems might get fixed, but that can't be confused with the gospel. This man-centered "gospel" presents Jesus as "the cure for whatever ails you." Are you lonely? Believe in Christ and He'll be your friend. Do you lack purpose and meaning in your life? Come to Jesus and He'll give you purpose and meaning. Do you want success in life? Put your faith in Christ and He'll bless you with success. The fact is that the Lord Jesus doesn't always "fix" our problems. Sometimes He gives us more of them (in order to sanctify us), sometimes He fixes them (but in His own way), and He always gives us Himself.

The core of the good news - the gospel - is the perfect life, sacrificial death, and victorious resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is an announcement of what actually happened in time, space, and history. It's not anything else.

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