Spirit of Grace Ministries
Spirit of Grace Ministries
-- Feeding Jesus' sheep
-- Equipping His servants
-- Proclaiming His Gospel

Getting the Gospel Right


by Dennis Pollock

The apostle Paul took the gospel very, very seriously. He lovingly referred to it as “the glorious gospel of the blessed God which was committed to my trust.” He took great offense when he felt it was being improperly represented, declaring, “But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed.” He was willing to face stonings, beatings, and imprisonment, and to “endure all things lest we hinder the gospel of Christ.”

The Bible is a God-breathed book of truth. It is filled with truths and principles about life, about God, about man, and good and evil. To read and comprehend the essential truths of the Scriptures is the finest education any man or woman could ever receive. However the Bible is a very large book (actually a collection of books). If God were to require us to master it before we could receive entry into His kingdom and family we would all be in big trouble. Many brilliant men have spent their lifetime devouring its truths, and felt at the end that they had barely begun to plumb its depths.

When the Biblical writers speak of the gospel, they are referring to a subset of the totality of Biblical truth, the minimum information necessary for one to be turned from darkness to light, and to receive the gift of eternal life. While all truth is valuable, some truths are more important than others, especially as they pertain to those who have not yet tasted the grace of Jesus Christ. A sinner may be in total ignorance of the rapture of the church or the meaning of the book of Job, and still be saved, but if he has no concept of what Jesus did on the cross he is without hope. This is why Paul was so defensive about the gospel and why the devil has always done whatever he could to keep mankind from it, or else to twist and pervert it until it becomes “another gospel.” For this reason we find all sorts of false or misleading gospels being presented by sincere but deceived people. The secularists deny the gospel, the liberals dilute it, and the cults pervert it. But what is most tragic is how many evangelicals seem to have such a poor grasp of this all-important message.

Once when I was doing a little sightseeing in Mexico, an American handed me a tract which encouraged people to invite Jesus into their life. I was happy to see this man out in the public lifting up Jesus and had a nice talk with him. But when I later read the tract I was saddened to find out how pathetic it was in its attempt to turn people to Jesus. It began by asking, “Do you wish you had a bodyguard, a confidant, a special friend, an advisor?” It went on to tell how that Jesus would be your friend, and gave a prayer to pray to Jesus and ask Him to come into your heart and be your special friend. While I have no problem with the idea of Jesus being our friend, I was appalled at what was missing – there was nothing in the tract about man’s sin, or the cross or resurrection of Jesus. In this “gospel” Jesus was not a Savior, He was a divine buddy.

In the modern evangelical church there seem to be two problems that are hindering a genuine presentation of the gospel. The first is a tendency to turn Christianity into a set of principles for successful living, and the second is an unwillingness to deal with the issues of man’s sin and depravity. The result of this twofold error is that a huge number of people sitting in our “evangelical” churches today have rarely, if ever, heard a solid presentation of the gospel.  

Principles Gospel 

American Christians have become enamored with principles and seminars. Pastors often preach various series of messages on marriage, the family, success, prosperity, business, and any number of other topics. They focus on Biblical principles which, (we are told) if applied will guarantee us success. Our children will be obedient, our businesses will thrive, and our spouses will treat us like royalty.

There is truth in this but it is not the whole truth. The Bible does indeed contain principles that can help us succeed in various areas, but man does not live by principles alone. If this were so, Christ would have been irrelevant. Just as man can never attain righteousness by attempting to keep God’s moral law, neither can man attain success by simply focusing upon principles. We all need large doses of God’s grace. For this reason the greatest principle of all is not a principle but a Person – the Lord Jesus Christ!

Every Christian should make an effort to follow the Biblical principles, but we must not forget to trust Christ to provide the grace necessary to make up for our inability to fully keep God’s precepts. And while teaching Biblical principles is helpful for believers it can never impart life to unbelievers.

Here lies a man who has just keeled over dead of a massive heart attack. His heart is stopped and he no longer breathes. A personal health trainer discovers the body and immediately goes into action. He runs to his library, pulls down a book which gives the finest principles of fitness and nutrition, and carefully places the book on the dead man’s chest. Though the book could be most helpful to a living man, it is of no value whatsoever to the dead man. The dead man stays dead, cross of Jesusregardless of the writer’s skill and the health trainer’s good intentions. Dead men do not need principles about exercise or proper diet; they need life!

So it is with the unregenerate who sit in church every Sunday. The principles they hear cannot possibly impart life. Only Jesus does that. And in our rush to attract sinners to church with principles of success we fail to give them the one thing they truly need – Jesus Christ. How many times have pastors given an invitation for sinners to come to Christ at the conclusion of a Christless, crossless sermon. Though they may motivate some to “come forward” through their persuasive personalities, the lack of gospel content in their preaching insures that new births will rarely occur. Paul writes, “I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone who believes…” 

Sin and Righteousness 

A second problem found in evangelical churches and in the witnessing of many Christians is a failure to deal with the issues of sin and righteousness. Contrary to popular opinion the gospel is not about raising our self-esteem or increasing our measure of peace and happiness; it is all about dealing with the sin problem we all have that separates us from our holy Creator.

Consider the following scenario: A young lady discovers that her unsaved friend has just broken up with her boyfriend and is depressed. She decides this would be a great time to witness for Christ. She tells her, “I know you are miserable, but Jesus understands where you are and wants to help you with your problems. He loves you and if you will invite Him into your heart, He will take away your sadness and give you His joy. When I asked Jesus into my life, He gave me a peace I never had before. And since that time He has blessed me so much. I have peace and joy, and He is always there to help me when I have problems. Would you like to pray with me and ask Him to come into your heart?” 

The Christian woman may feel she is doing a fine job of witnessing, but in truth she has not even begun to share the gospel. She has not mentioned the cross or the resurrection. She has not talked about sin and forgiveness. And she has failed to share that cardinal truth of the gospel – that salvation is “by grace through faith in Christ.” It is not wrong to share that Jesus wants to help us in our difficult situations, or that He gives peace, but it is not enough! Any gospel that ignores the cross is no gospel at all. 

It is also misleading to suggest that once Jesus has come into your life, you will have continual happiness and peace. The old hymn declares, “And now I am happy all the day,” but when we sing those words we are singing a lie. None of us are happy “all the day” every day. We all have times of grief and sadness. Jesus did not come into the world to become for us some kind of cosmic Prozac; He came to reconcile sinful man with his holy Creator. As we walk with Christ we will frequently experience His joy and peace, but we will also experience suffering and pain, and anyone contemplating becoming a Christian needs to be told these things up front. “In this world you will have tribulation” is one of those promises of God that no one claims but all of us experience.

The evangelist Ray Comfort uses the illustration of a plane which is destined to crash in mid-flight. Each passenger is given a parachute to wear, but there is a major difference of opinion as to the purpose of the parachute. Some have the impression that the parachute was given them to make their flight a more enjoyable experience. Yet as they sit in their seats they become restless. The parachute is not especially comfortable, and before long those who mistakenly assumed the parachute was given them for their personal pleasure begin to take it off and stuff it under the seat in front of them. Others recognize that the parachute was not given for comfort but for safety. Hearing the misfiring of the plane’s engines and feeling the constant shudder, they recognize that their parachute is their friend, even if it is not so very comfortable. When the engines fail and the doors open for mid-air evacuation, they are prepared.

The illustration is not perfect. After all, Jesus does give us peace and joy in the Holy Spirit which make life a whole lot more bearable. But He does not shield us from painful experiences. In fact there will be times when our commitment to Christ leads us into difficulties and pressures we might not have known had we lived our lives apart from Him. Jesus told Ananias concerning Paul, “For I will show him how many things he must suffer for My name's sake.” Had Paul remained the proud Pharisee, he could have saved himself quite a number of beatings and inconveniences. If our primary view of Christianity is to see it as a means of attaining personal happiness and success, and not for what it is – reconciliation to God and a relationship with Him through Christ – we will eventually become disillusioned. 

Happiness will Come 

The columnist Ann Melvin once wrote an article about happiness that summed up the proper Christian view. She wrote:  

My parents never asked me if I was happy. What a gift. They asked me if I had done my homework, fed the dog, closed the gate, watered the horses, made my bed, and put the butter in the refrigerator. They asked me who my friends were and where we were going on Saturday night… Did my mare drop her shoulder in the turn; had I checked the air in the tires?

 But was I happy? It wasn’t my job to be happy. It was my job to prepare myself for life, be polite, stay reasonably clean and be a credit to my family. Nobody worried whether I was happy. It was a given that, if I did my job, the appropriate moments of happiness – the happiness that mankind hoped would grace each life lived with responsibility – would reveal themselves to me. 

In the path of duty and delight in our God, there will be happiness – along with suffering and pain in their respective seasons. But greatest of all with be the fulfillment that comes from knowing that we are living our lives in the center of God’s will – doing what we were made to do and being what we were made to be. Courtesy of the cross.


For a full listing of all devos (written and audio) go to our Free Devos Catalog Page.


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