It is possible to transmit the gospel in a way that never really gets to the root of the problem. Sometimes we share Jesus in such a way that we simply invite people to receive more of what they already want.

“Come to Jesus, you’ll feel better about yourself. Come to Jesus, your marriage will improve. Come to Jesus, you’ll be a better student. Come to Jesus, you’ll find friends. Come to Jesus and he’ll bless you with more stuff. Come to Jesus and your life will improve.”

Now there is a way to many of those statements true. But you really haven’t given the gospel until you also tell people: “Come to Jesus and repent. Take up your cross. Follow him as your Lord, no matter the cost.”

It’s tempting to give a gospel which amounts to “Everything you could ever want! Right now!” Come to Jesus, and I’ll throw in this extra ShamWow! There are whole churches built on this type of infomercial-Jesus, this type of methodology, claiming time is running out, so come now!

Yes, you do receive incomparable blessings when you come to Jesus. But we must also hear, to paraphrase Calvin, that true Christian faith is built on denial of ourselves. This is why some folks have such a hard time hearing the gospel. We think, “God is love, and if God is love then he wouldn’t ask me to do something I don’t want to do.” But what good news is this?

The good news is that God is going to give us more than we could ask or imagine. But the reality of Christianity is that it only comes by a cross. Unless a seed falls to the earth and dies, it does not bear fruit.

When Jesus calls a man he bids him come and die.

That he might truly live.

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Comments:


18 thoughts on “The Gospel: Accept No Substitutes”

  1. I’m crafting a gospel presentation for somebody right now and totally stole your ShamWow line. Awesomeness.

  2. anaquaduck says:

    There is so much to consider regarding the promises of Scripture & getting it right is important.Jesus made it very clear it has to be done a certain way & repentance is required before forgiveness & renewal can begin,cart before the horse & all that.

    Jesus begins with the heart of the problem & its internaly spiritual, like you say, other things become effected but first things first.

    And what good is it anyway to gain the whole world for a moment but forfeit your soul eternally, Mk 8:36. Sobering words that can so easily be lost in shallow translations.

  3. Dave Boettcher says:

    What you said, God has been beating me over the head with the bat of many Writers/preachers.
    Recently, I read John Piper’s chapter out of a book where he look at Hebrews and challenges us to step outside the tent. That is, take a risk like Jsus to spread the gospel. Actting like a Christian is not enough. One must speak the gospel before our actions mean much. In the discussion Piper told the story of a college grad who ended up in a life time job of driving rivets and how his trust in Christ kept doing a good job.

    My boss came to our office and as we all had lunch some one brought up boring jobs. I thought ok I can use the story to take a risk. I got the expected response from the boss and others, what kept him gong, how coul he do such a job.

    It was at that point I faltered. I explained his relationship with God. But that as this article points out is not the gospel. I could not get the conversation back where it needed to be. The moment was lost. This seems the spot where it always goes astray.

    Any suggestions? Things to read? No longer can i only act like a Cristian but I must talk like one. But, that talk must make sence.

    Dave

  4. Simon says:

    “Come to Jesus, you’ll feel better about yourself. Come to Jesus, your marriage will improve. Come to Jesus, you’ll be a better student. Come to Jesus, you’ll find friends. Come to Jesus and he’ll bless you with more stuff. Come to Jesus and your life will improve.”

    Ironically, there is no gurantee that you will receive any of these things (and if they are our motivation we are idolators). In fact, Jesus told us that the world hated him, and if we are to follow him we can expect it to hate us also.
    John Chapter 15:
    19 If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. 20 Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also.

    What we are guranteed however, is assurance of salvation.
    1 John 1:
    9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.

    Great advice Kevin, we must be careful we don’t sell out on the tough news of the gospel.

    @ Dave.
    there is no easy answer.
    We must work hard;
    Col 3:
    22 Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to curry their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord. 23 Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, 24 since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.

    We must be prepared to tell them about Jesus;
    1 Peter 3:15 But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect,

    We must commit them to the Lord in prayer regularly, ask God to draw them to Himself;
    John 6:44 No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him

    Lastly – keep doing all the above and never give up!

  5. Paul Janssen says:

    I know some of your readers may not believe this, but this is exactly the passage that I (a somewhat progressive Christian pastor) am preaching this Sunday. And, hearing (and proclaiming) it in largely the same direction as Kevin.

  6. Rick says:

    I agree with the thrust of the post.

    However, you wrote: “But you really haven’t given the gospel until you also tell people: “Come to Jesus and repent. Take up your cross. Follow him as your Lord, no matter the cost.”

    That is not necessarily the gospel either, at least not a sufficient one (who Jesus is and what He did). Rather, what you are describing is more of our needed response to the gospel.

  7. Dave Boettcher says:

    Rick,
    I think that’s the point of the post. Once one has told of what Jesus did we can not end the story and believe the gospel has been shared. The second part of the gospel must be told: ” Come to Jesus and repent. Take up your cross. Follow him as your Lord, no matter the cost.”

    Neither half of the Gospel message is sufficient. I believe that is, at least, one important point the author was making.

  8. Rick says:

    Dave-

    Thanks for your feedback. I think you are right about the point of the post, although I don’t see where Kevin mentioned the “first part” of the gospel (who Jesus was and what He did). If we look at the sermons in Acts, that was what was emphasized, followed by telling what the listeners’ response should be.

  9. David says:

    “Now there is a way to many of those statements true.” I’ve read this sentence several times and I can’t understand it…is there a typo here?

  10. Bryan says:

    Rick has a good point here. Kevin is talking about accepting no substitutes regarding the Gospel, and it seems he left out what a vital part of that Gospel in this short post. I think he is right on to be challenging easy-believism in calling out a kind of “salesmen approach to the Gospel” – come to Jesus and you’ll feel better about your life or improve your relationships, etc.

    But what about: “Come to Jesus, repent and find forgiveness of your sins.” Maybe that was implied, but then that kind of undermines his point. Taking up your cross and following Christ as Lord is certainly the calling of a Christian, but that comes as a result of the Good News that we’ve been forgiven by God for the sake of Christ, no?

  11. Dave Boettcher says:

    “Now, there is a way in which those statements are true. ” That is how I understood the sentence. But only the author can tell us what he meant.

  12. Dave Boettcher says:

    Bryan and Rick, you guys are doing something but I am not sure what. Rick states in response to my comment, “I think you are right about the point of the post, although I don’t see where Kevin mentioned the “first part”” That statement indicates you understood Kevin’s point and he was including both prongs of the Gospel, assuming there are only two.

    Bryan, you jump on Rick’s band wagon. Then, I think, add another point.

    Come on, we all know what Kevin was talking about, who he was talking to,the assumptions that those individuals reading should naturally make and that in this forum brevity is required due space. Kevin was not writing a book, just making one simple point, feeling good is not the reason to become a christian or to convince one to be a Christian.

    Your reasoning is reminiscent of what the disciples, Peter,Paul and the rest, faced as they spread the Gospel. Like Paul at the Areopagus, argue the Gospel, the whole Gospel and nothing but the Gospel.

  13. This post doesn’t even mention the gospel. Jesus came to seek and save the lost. That’s the gospel. Of course, there is a right response to the gospel, which this post hints at, but the gospel does not consist in our response to it. The gospel is what Jesus did. Period. We are made right with God because of his works, not because of our response.

  14. Dave Boettcher says:

    If nothing else, the post and comments demonstrate a lack of agreement or understanding to the meaning of the phrase “the gospel.”

    That may be what needs to be agreed on prior to further discussion of the post. I though what I would include in the gospel. It would take a book to set it out. So, my question is, what are the minimum elements of the biblical story that must be told/set out to be considered “the gospel”?

  15. Brady Granstaff says:

    Amen Kevin amen!

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Kevin DeYoung


Kevin DeYoung is senior pastor of University Reformed Church (RCA) in East Lansing, Michigan, near Michigan State University. He and his wife Trisha have six young children. You can follow him on Twitter.

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