What is “The gospel”? The word “gospel” means “Good News”. Jesus Himself talks about the Good News. It is the most important word in Jesus’ teachings. The issues of heaven and hell are settled over a persons understanding and trust in the gospel of Jesus Christ.

What is the Good News of Jesus Christ? There are common misunderstandings of the gospel. So to understand the gospel let’s try understanding what it is NOT.

1.) The Good News is NOT simply that we are okay.Even though we are created in the image of God, the Bible tells us that we are sinful from birth and by our personal choices (Romans 5). In fact in God’s eyes we are spiritually dead in our sins (Ephesians 2). On their own, no one seeks God (Romans 3:9-20).We have broken God’s laws (the 10 Commandments) and to break any one of them is to personally offend God (James 2:10-11). The payment we have earned for our sins is death and His eternal wrath (Romans 6:23).This is BAD NEWS – but it is realistic about our dark side. We are sinners in rebellion against our Creator. But there needs to be “bad news” in order for the “good news” to be good.

2.) The Good News is NOT simply that God is love.The Lord reveals Himself in the Old and New Testaments of the Bible. The Bible is clear that God is love (I John 4:8). But that is not ALL He is. He is also one in essence, yet three persons (the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit). He is holy, perfect, just, all-knowing, sovereign, all-powerful, wise, and eternal.

3.) The Good News is NOT simply that Jesus wants to be our friend.Jesus did not come to just pass on good moral teachings or to just lead a good life. He came to live a perfect sinless life and die on a cross for guilty sinners who repent (Mark 10:45). The horrifying cross of Christ is the focus of the entire Bible because the cross is God’s way of bringing us back to Himself. Jesus death is usually presented as a sacrifice involving His blood (Eph 2:13). Jesus is our friend but He is much more than that. He is also our Redeemer and Savior. The work of Christ on the cross is described as our redemption from slavery to sin. He paid the price for our freedom. The work of Christ on the cross is described as our reconciliation – hostility between two people resolved. The work of Christ on the cross is described as our propitiation – God’s just wrath against the guilty is satisfied.

4.) The Good News is NOT simply that we should live right. To be a Christian is not MERELY doing good things (in private and public), keeping the Ten Commandments and following the Golden Rule. The Gospel is a message of wonderful good news for those who know and feel their desperation before God. So what should a person do if they understand who God is, who Jesus is and what He has done? What response does the gospel call for?

a. Repentance. “Repent” – means, “to change your mind”. It means to begin thinking right about yourself and God. And because you mind changes your life changes. Once you have felt the depths of your sin and seen God’s holiness and His love in sending Christ to die on the cross and be raised from the dead, THEN you are called to respond with repentance. I have declared to both Jews and Greeks that they must turn to God in repentance and have faith in our Lord Jesus. (Acts 20:21) “The time has come,” He (Jesus) said. “The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!” (Mark 1:15)

b. Belief. You must honestly believe that the gospel is true – not just intellectual agreement. It means to rest fully on and trust fully in Jesus Christ alone for salvation. We have to come to the place that we are helpless to save ourselves by our own good works or effort. Repentance and belief are two sides of the same coin. You can’t have one without the other and it will always demands that our lives actually change. Not a self-improvement course. We change the way we act because we change the way we believed. To really hear the gospel is to be shaken to your core. To hear the gospel is to change.

c. So how does true conversion happen? Jesus commands all people to repent and come to Him in faith. But it’s not just a matter of making the right decision to repent and believe. This is not a self-salvation. Before anyone comes to Jesus, the Lord must first give them a new heart. I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh. Then they will follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. They will be my people, and I will be their God. (Ezekiel 11:19-20) Notice the order of salvation: the new heart comes before the choice to follow God. Jesus said it this way:“No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day.” He went on to say, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled him.” (John 6:44, 65)The Lord has to do something in here before we have the ability to come to Him. Jesus told Nicodemus that he had to be born again before he could enter the kingdom of God.

d. Everyone’s conversion story is different. The Lord calls each of us to Himself out of various backgrounds and experiences. Your conversion story is your testimony. Although every testimony is different they all have this in common: the gifts of repentance from my sin and faith in Christ alone to save me from God’s wrath.