I’m not talking about the gospel itself, but the gospel that becomes disappointing because of how we present it. The disappointing gospel is one of the worst messages in the world because it so abuses the very best message in the world.
The disappointing gospel sounds like this:
- The gospel is so great, let’s not do anything but talk about the gospel.
- The gospel is so great, let me ramble about it for the next hour without making any substantial points.
- The gospel is so great, let me drink three Red Bulls before giving this sermon SO I CAN TELL YOU ABOUT THE AWESOME GOSPEL. MY TOTAL ENTHUSIASM FOR THE GOSPEL IS VERY, VERY ENTHUSIASTIC.
- The gospel will change everything about your life, so that you are always full of joy, even if you are tortured and killed for Christ. However, my loyalty to the gospel has caused me no evident suffering, and I will studiously maintain the appearance of perfection in my public ministry.
- The gospel upends racism, materialism, and all idolatry, but we will not make any efforts to diversify our church, challenge our materialism, or rebuke our individualism. Be sure to stop by the bookstore to buy some books on the gospel!
Have you heard other variants of the disappointing gospel?
Yea, pretty disappointing stuff.
But the gospel is incredibly good news. So we need to continue to rediscover the wonder and awe of the good news.
C.S. Lewis, as usual, got something profoundly right when he wrote this:
The central Christian belief is that Christ’s death has somehow put us right with God and given us a fresh start. Theories as to how it did this are another matter. A good many different theories have been held as to how it works; what all Christians are agreed on is that it does work. I will tell you what I think it is like…. A man can eat his dinner without understanding exactly how food nourishes him. A man can accept what Christ has done without knowing how it works: indeed, he certainly would not know how it works until he has accepted it.
We are told that Christ was killed for us, that His death has washed out our sins, and that by dying He disabled death itself. That is the formula. That is Christianity. That is what has to be believed. Any theories we build up as to how Christ’s death did all this are, in my view, quite secondary: mere plans or diagrams to be left alone if they do not help us, and, even if they do help us, not to be confused with the thing itself. All the same, some of these theories are worth looking at (Mere Christianity, 54-56).
By all means, lets explore the nature of propitiation. But if propitiation is that exciting, then let’s also be clear about the difference it makes in our daily lives. Otherwise we can’t help but conclude that you are more excited about academic hairsplitting than you love the atoning work of Christ.
The great gospel of God deserves a response. You cannot neglect the challenge of the gospel.
If studying and sharing the truth of God’s saving grace does not lead to worship – and obedience – then you have dulled yourself to the greatness of God’s love. And that personal dullness will inevitably make your proclamation of the gospel a disappointment to others.
The gospel does not need your added enthusiasm.
The gospel deserves more than your aimless meandering.
But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ— by grace you have been saved… (Eph. 2:4-5)
The good news of the gospel is that when you present a disappointing gospel, God still loves you. God loved you when you were dead in your trespasses. And so He loves you when you are disappointing in your gospel exegesis.
When the Apostle Peter’s life was “not in step with the truth of the gospel” (Gal. 2:14) did God abandon him? No, not at all. Instead, God sent Paul to rebuke Peter. God forgave Peter. God encouraged Peter. And ultimately, both Paul and Peter actually gave their lives for God.
Are you a gospel failure? Is your gospel disappointing? Is your life a disappointing reflection of the gospel?
Is your emotional response to the gospel a disappointment?
Are you disappointed by how disappointing we are in discussing and living the gospel?
Well, I have some good news for you, because the gospel is good news for disappointed people. The gospel is true though we are not. God’s love is not defeated by our discouragement.
“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Eph. 2:8-9).
Your failure to embody and proclaim the gospel is no surprise to God. God saved you by grace. You didn’t earn this. There is no boasting in our preaching or in our lives. God’s gift will save you when you don’t deserve it.
Though you are disappointed by the disappointing gospel, the gospel is still true.
Christ has died for you. Your sins are forgiven. You are reconciled with God. Christ is risen – and you will rise from death. The Holy Spirit is giving you a faith that trusts in the love of God. The love that God has for you right now. May we pray, “I believe, help my unbelief!”
So: may God’s gospel message encourage you. And may it change us. “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Eph. 2:10).
Thank God for the gospel!