Don't assume the gospel

“The gospel is not everything, yet in the final analysis it cannot be tamed into a single simple formula with a number of points that must be recited to everyone, in every time and place. There is an irreducible complexity to the gospel…The gospel is clear and present word, but it is not a simplistic word.” -Tim Keller in Center Church: Doing balanced, gospel-centered ministry. 


“…the gospel is often assumed, meaning that people often think that they have heard the message before and as a result they quickly tune out.”

I love to proclaim the gospel of Christ. But what I am discovering is that often when I communicate the gospel, for many they miss the impact of the message, because the gospel is often assumed, meaning that people often think that they have heard the message before and as a result they quickly tune out. And although they may have heard the message before, they miss the impact of the gospel. The gospel has very real implication for our lives. Because many misunderstand the gospel or are mistaken about the definition of the gospel, they end up emphasizing the wrong actions thinking they are living out the gospel. For some this becomes lived out with an undue emphasis on actions instead of attitudes. The argument goes something like this: “I am going to dress a certain way or refrain from certain actions, or embrace a particular dress style or worship style” and by doing so, “I am drawing closer to God as a result.” These actions communicate either intentionally or unintentionally that (a) “there is something that I can do to move myself closer to God” and (b) “when others do not do as I do they are less of a Christian than I am.”

“It seems that many, after being liberated from the bondage of sin, return to the bondage of condemnation, feeling as if God is demanding of them perfection…”

It seems that many, after being liberated from the bondage of sin, return to the bondage of condemnation, feeling as if God is demanding of them perfection, or at the very least actions that convey a sense of separation from the general population. When in fact, a genuine gospel encounter does not call us to escape the world but to transform the world by embracing the cross of Christ.

Consider the thoughts of author Vinoth Ramachandra “So our salvation lies not in an escape from this world but in a transformation of this world…You will not find hope for the world in any other religious systems or philosophies of humankind. The biblical vision is unique…no faith hold out a promise of eternal salvation for the world the way the cross and the resurrection of Jesus do.”

When we are impacted with the gospel it transforms our hearts so then we can transform the world. This is will not be accomplished by retreating from the world but by serving the world with the gospel. The gospel is the good news that God has accomplished our salvation for us through Christ in order to bring us into a right relationship with Him and eventually to destroy all the results of sin in the world.

“When we are impacted with the gospel it transforms our hearts so then we can transform the world.”

As Keller observes, “Believing in Christ does not mean that we are forgiven for our past, get a new start on life, and must simply try harder to live better than we did in the past. If this is your mindset, you are still putting your faith in yourself. You are your own Savior. You are looking to your moral efforts and abilities to make yourself right with God. But this will never work. No one lives a perfect life. Even your best deeds are tainted by selfish and impure motives. The gospel is that when we believe in Christ, there is now “no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1). Putting our faith in Christ is not about trying harder; it means transferring our trust away from ourselves and resting in Him.”

Well said! May we all find that place to rest in the “irreducible complexity” that is the gospel of grace in Christ Jesus.