What Is the Gospel? The ABC’s of Becoming a Christian
It seems that when it comes to religion in our culture almost anything goes. If you were to take a random survey of people’s beliefs you would hear all kinds of ideas that are not true:
-“All paths lead to the same God”
-“It does not matter what you believe as long as you are sincere.”
-“All world religions teach the same things.”
-“Only a few of the worst people go to Hell”
-“Just take the best parts of all the faiths to find the path that is right for you.”
These misconceptions have led to a widespread misunderstanding of what the Gospel is.
It is therefore imperative that Christians have a good grasp of the basic tenets of the faith in order to rightly represent it to those whom they seek to reach.
In the next three weeks I will address the question, “What is the Gospel?”, by presenting nine scriptural elements that are essential for true conversion.
These nine elements outline the basic steps a person must take, the core beliefs they must embrace and what Christ promises to do when a person puts his or her faith in him.
The first three elements are what I call the ABC’s of becoming a Christian.
Recently my laptop quit working.
A computer technician determined that the problem was a dead hard drive.
My son-in-law promptly ordered me a new one.
When it arrived he called
me with good and bad news.
The GOOD news was that the new hard drive was successfully installed.
The BAD news was the computer still did not work! The bad news swallowed up the good.
The Gospel is often called the Good News because of Christ’s substitutionary death on our behalf. But this good news is in response to some very BAD news: That we are all separated from God because of our sin.
When we present the Gospel to people I think it is a good idea to start with the bad news.
After all, most people don’t take their car to a mechanic unless they recognize that something is wrong with it.
Similarly, they won’t visit the doctor unless they believe that they have a problem.
So it is with coming to Jesus as Savior.
A person must comprehend the BAD news of their hopeless state before they can genuinely turn to God and receive the GOOD news of salvation.
So the first step in becoming a Christian is A-
Admit your sin
Isaiah records God saying:
“For this is what the high and lofty One says-- He who lives forever, whose
name is holy: "I live in a high and holy place, but also with him who is contrite and lowly in spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite (Isaiah 57:15).
Most people are in denial about their true spiritual state. I often hear something like this: “Nobody’s perfect and I am not either.”
The Holy Spirit must break through this denial and bring them to the realization that they are “in trouble” with God. They have broken God’s laws in innumerable ways.
They’ve been selfish and rebellious and God is not happy about it.
Their deeds have rightly earned them condemnation. In response to this revelation, there must be genuine repentance as emphasized in both the Old and New Testaments
(Matt. 3:1-2, Matt. 4:17, Acts 3:19, Acts 17:30).
Repentance is sorrow before God over our sin and a willingness to turn away from our sin and toward God.
It involves humbly admitting wrong without excuses or justification.
In addition to admitting their sin a person must B:
Believe in Jesus
“For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).
Saving faith requires more than an intellectual assent to truth. It involves trust.
A story is told of a great circus acrobat who crossed Niagara Falls on a steel cable.
With no safety net he did things like walk, run and dance on that cable above the crashing water in front of large, awestruck crowds.
Once, after pushing a wheelbarrow full of bricks across the falls, he asked the audience if they believed that he could push a man across in a wheelbarrow.
Everyone, without exception, believed that he could.
The crowd became excited with anticipation. Then he asked, “Who will be that man?”
Not surprisingly, no one was willing.
People believed he could do it but they were unwilling to entrust themselves to him. Saving faith entails entrusting ourselves to Jesus.
The benefits of Jesus’ death and resurrection must be personally received in order for them to apply.
As John said,
“Yet to all who received Him, to those who believed in His name He gave the right to become children of God” (John 1:12).
Several years ago my wife and I received a tax return check from the Federal Government in the amount of several hundred dollars.
The check got buried under a pile of papers in a drawer and was forgotten for six months!
We found it before it expired.
We had money credited to us but until the check was found and deposited it did us no good.
Likewise, the saving benefits of Jesus death and resurrection are only activated in a life when received through faith.
In addition to admitting sin and believing in Jesus, a person must C:
Count the cost.
The cost is total commitment.
While it is true that we cannot clean ourselves up or earn our salvation through repentance or committing to follow Christ, Jesus did say,
Any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:33).
Denying ourselves, taking up our cross and following are entry level requirements in becoming a Christian (Matt. 16:24-26).
The Lord wants the rights to our time, money, attitudes, relationships, ...everything.
He asks us for permission to run our lives and we can gladly give it to Him because we know what a mess we make of it when we take control.
Giving up control of our lives runs contrary to our natural way of thinking.
We want to hold on to what we have.
It is like learning to dive into a pool. It is a skill I have never mastered because I could never ignore the voice inside my head that screamed: “Don’t lead with your head!
It’s dangerous!” Just as a person learning to dive needs to overcome that resistance and trust that diving is safe, we must overcome the urge to keep control of our lives and abandon ourselves to him.
Jesus said that
“whoever wants to save his life will lose it but whoever loses it for me will find it” (Matt. 16:26).
Next week: “The 3 R's of What We Must Believe”
Copyright Ed Skipper 2013