The word "gospel" means good news, but you will never understand or appreciate the good news until you realize that there is incredibly bad news. The gospel is only ever rightly proclaimed and received when it has come in light of the context and against the backdrop of this terribly bad news—it is the bad news that makes it the good news. It is this bad news that you will have to acknowledge and admit, without which you are unworthy of hearing the good news (Luke 5:32).
What You Must Know About God
God, who created all things, is a holy God of justice and is of purer eyes than to look upon evil (Habakkuk 1:13). He is separate and pure from sin and lawlessness, and has established His law and demands justice to be served on those who break it. He loves all that is right and good, but intensely hates and is offended at every sin. The Bible says God even hates all evildoers and is angry with them every day (Psalm 5:5-6; 7:11-12). God's anger and holy hatred is not like ours, which is frequently tainted by sinful desires and motivated by selfishness, but is always perfect, virtuous, and glorious, rooted in His justice and righteousness, and rightly directed against evil and those who practice it.
What You Must Know About Yourself
You have been a sinner from birth and have done nothing but sin against God all the days of your life (Psalm 51:5; 58:3; Genesis 6:5; 8:21; Romans 3:10-12). The Scriptures declare that you are abominable and filthy in His eyes because you have relished sin and have drunk down iniquity like water (Job 15:16). You have refused and failed to render to God what He requires. Neglecting to love and honor Him above all others, you have demonstrated on so many occasions, rather, that you love and honor yourself, your pleasures, or this world more than Him. You have made an idol of the blessings God has lavished upon you. You have uttered and thought so many unworthy words and thoughts about God, never carefully ascribing to Him the holy fear and reverence due His name. If you imagine that you have indeed served God, you have only presumed to serve Him in accordance with your own self-suited standards and in your own way; you have never allowed God to determine for Himself how He is to be worshiped by you. You have robbed Him of His divine prerogative in determining the use of your time, the ordering of your days, and the manner in which you are to live, and have made yourself your own little god, instead. Truly, you have broken every commandment that God has given, and any so-called "good" you have done—which you dare to offer up to Him as a bribe—has been wicked and disgusting in His eyes (Romans 3:23; Isaiah 64:6). Furthermore, even your prayers have been an abomination to Him, because you have asked with evil motives (Proverbs 28:9; James 4:3). God's word declares that by nature you have been a child of wrath and that God's wrath, not His love, abides on you (Ephesians 2:3; John 3:36). You may have imagined that God has been your Father, but the truth is, you have only ever hated God; it is the devil who has been your father; you belong to him. It is Satan whom you have been serving and obeying all of your days (John 8:44; Ephesians 2:1-3; 2 Timothy 2:26; 1 John 3:8).
What You Must Know About God's Justice
The justice of God demands sinners to be punished (Ezekiel 18:4). The consequence for sin is death (Romans 6:23)—not just physical death, where the soul is torn from the body, leaving it to rot and decay, but everlasting destruction in hell, which the Bible calls the second death (2 Thessalonians 1:9; Revelation 20:14; 21:8). This second death, the lake of fire, is where God forever punishes those who have sinned against Him. It is everlasting because the price of sin is so great that we can never pay it—a sin against an eternal God incurs an eternal consequence. All who are found guilty of just one sin will be guilty enough to be cast into hell—and yet we are guilty of an endless amount of sin each and every day! The measure of our sins is filling up and the wrath of Almighty God is awaiting us (Romans 2:5-8; 1 Thessalonians 2:16).
There is Hope for You Only in the Lord Jesus Christ
Here is the blessed good news of the gospel—the God of justice is also full of love and mercy. Instead of punishing all mankind for their sins in hell like we deserve, at great cost to Himself He condescended in mercy to offer us the hope of full pardon and salvation in His Son. Out of His great love and pity for mankind, God came to this corrupt world through the womb of a virgin as the man Jesus Christ, and He lived a perfectly sinless life. He was cursed, beaten, and nailed to a cross. As He hung on that cross, bearing all the sins of His people, the wrath of God was unleashed upon Him. He sacrificed Himself and became the sin-bearer of His people, that He might receive their penalty for sin, the just judgment of Almighty God on their behalf (1 Peter 2:24; 2 Corinthians 5:21). The Son of God was slaughtered by His own Father in order to save His people from their sins (Isaiah 53:10; Matthew 27:46). The death of Christ demonstrates that God will never allow any sin to go unpunished, because He would not even spare His only begotten Son.
Jesus Christ was raised from the dead three days later, conquering death, sin, and hell (1 Corinthians 15:3). His resurrection proved that He was indeed perfectly sinless and that God accepted His sacrifice for sins. He ascended to heaven and sat down at the right hand of His Father and has been given authority over all heaven and earth. God has appointed Him as the King of glory and has appointed a day on which He will judge the world for its sins and bring an end to unrighteousness (Acts 10:42; 17:31).
What You Must Do
God commands all men everywhere to repent of their sins, turn to God, and believe the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ (Mark 1:15; Acts 17:30; Luke 13:3). Come to Him and flee from the wrath to come (Matthew 3:7-10; 1 Thessalonians 1:9-10)! To repent is to turn away from everything in your life that goes against God's will, including your works, words, and thoughts (Isaiah 55:7). Stop fighting against God! Fall down before Him and stop trying to justify yourself and think you're good enough. Admit your wickedness before a holy God, your helplessness to do anything to please Him, and trust in nothing except what Christ has done on your behalf. If you come to Christ, repenting of your sins and believing in Him, you will be saved. It doesn't matter what you've done, and you don't have to clean up your life first, just come to Him now and He will change you. All your sins will be washed away. And not only will He take away all your sins, He will also give you His own righteousness through the work and merit of Jesus Christ His Son! Come to Him, all you who are weary and heavy laden, and He will give you rest for your souls (Matthew 11:28-29).
You Must Abide in Christ
A popular notion abounds which promises that all one needs to do is to "get right" with God by praying a simple prayer, and it treats the matter of repentance and faith as a one-time event that, if one has admitted that they are a sinner in need of salvation and that Jesus is the only way to be saved, then they are on their way to heaven and can go on living the rest of their life as they please. Such a message is not true Christianity, but is inspired by Satan and leads sinners straight to hell! True salvation consists of a sinner being united not merely to the benefits that come from God, but to God Himself through His Son (Romans 5:10; 2 Corinthians 5:18-20). He completely transforms them—they are born again—and they are left permanently changed (John 3:3-8; 2 Corinthians 5:17; 1 Corinthians 6:11). Therefore, truly coming to Christ will indeed involve the totality of your life and the remainder of your days (2 Corinthians 5:15; 1 Corinthians 10:31); it involves submitting to and hailing Jesus as He is in truth—Lord and King, who owns you and alone bears the authority to rule and govern every affair of your life. He is a gracious King, and He does not require sinless perfection—He alone provides that—but He does call for your whole heart and life, which is continually given to Him in ongoing repentance and faith.
The Bible warns of false Christs, false types of Christianity, and all sorts of false prophets and false teachers who tell people what they want to hear (Matthew 7:15; 24:24; 2 Timothy 3:1-5; 4:3-4; Titus 1:16; Jeremiah 6:13-15; 2 Peter 2:1-3). Jesus warned that there is such a thing as a false, temporary faith (Matthew 13:20-22; Luke 8:13-14); He charged people to count the cost of following Him (Luke 14:26-33), and warned that the majority of people who profess to be His followers are in fact self-deceived, that they were never saved, and that they will be condemned by Him on the day of judgment (Matthew 7:13-23). Jesus declared what it is that proves that one is truly His disciple: they abide in Him (John 15:4-11) and endure to the end (Mark 13:13; Matthew 13:23). Abiding in Christ is not the prerequisite or condition for getting saved, but rather it is the evidence and assurance that one has indeed been saved. It is a peculiar blessing of the New Covenant which God Himself has promised and what He personally guarantees (Jeremiah 32:40). Therefore, those who do not abide in Christ—those who may start out strong but later fall away—demonstrate that they were never saved, that they remain exposed to the wrath of God and danger of hell, and that the so-called faith or religious experience they possessed was nothing but a work of the flesh (1 John 2:19). It is absolutely critical, therefore, for everyone who professes to believe in Christ to diligently examine himself and acquire biblical grounds for assurance (2 Peter 1:10; 2 Corinthians 13:5).
This article was revised and republished on 08/29/2020. It was originally published on 01/20/2010.