How to Spot a Fake or 'Half' Gospel
Next time you are at a church or event where there is some kind of gospel presentation, be sure to listen carefully. A clear, biblical declaration of the gospel of grace is profitable for both the saved and the unsaved (I Corinthians 15:1, 2). But how can we be sure such a presentation is in fact biblical?
While the gospel is expressed in a variety of ways in both the Old and New Testaments, its core is always the same. Paul summed up a biblical response to the biblical 'good news' in Romans 10:9:
...if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.
Think for a minute about what that faith-inspired, saving confession tells us about the message: 1) “Jesus is Lord” is first an admission that I'm not (even though every one of us attempts to 'play lord' and live a me-centered life in a God-centered universe (that's what the Bible calls “sin”!)). 2) “JESUS is Lord” means embracing the God-man, the One who was crucified in our place, who graciously accepted God's just verdict for our sins. 3) “Jesus IS LORD” is an act of submission to the loving leadership of a living Redeemer (notice the verb: “is”, not simply “was”).
So the gospel is 'good news' of forgiveness and life in light of the 'bad news' of sin and death. And a right response to that message is 1) a heartfelt acknowledgment and remorseful rejection of my me-centeredness (i.e. sin), 2) a heart-clinging embrace of the God-man Jesus and the sufficiency of His death on the cross, and 3) a faith-powered submissiveness to the leadership of the risen Christ; a desire to now honor God as God (the old life being defined by just the opposite according to Romans 1:21).
Not surprisingly, these three points are the same points Jesus outlined in Mark 8:34 for anyone who would “come after” Him in order to “save his life/soul” (Mark 8:35). Jesus said, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross (i.e. bear that shame (cf. Mark 8:38)) and follow me.” Moreover, this is simply an expanded version of the common biblical call, “repent and believe” (cf. Isaiah 55:7; Mark 1:15; Acts 20:21).
So the next time you hear the gospel announced or read a gospel presentation, listen or look for those three points. And if you're struggling to hear them clearly, there's a good chance you're not the problem. Sadly, fake and watered-down, 'half' gospels are common. But as the Lausanne Congress on World Evangelisation affirmed in 1974, the mission of the church still stands: “[it] requires the whole church to take the whole gospel to the whole world”.