The word “gospel” means “Good News”. There are a lot of common misunderstandings of the gospel, so to understand the gospel of Jesus Christ let’s first try understanding what it is NOT.
The Good News is NOT that "we are okay".
1.) Though we are created in the image of God, because sin entered the world through the disobedience of Adam and Eve, the Bible tells us that the whole human race is sinful from birth and by our own personal choices (Romans 5). On our own, no one seeks God (Romans 3:9-20). Each and every one of us has sinned by breaking God’s laws 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 God's eternal wrath (Romans 6:23). This is BAD NEWS. We are sinners in rebellion against our Creator.
The Good News is NOT that "Jesus came and wants to be our friend".
2.) Jesus did not come to be our friend and pass on good moral teachings. He came to live a perfect sinless life and die on a cross for guilty sinners who repent (Mark 10:45). When we recognize our sinful state, repent and look to Christ for our salvation, He frees us from the bondage and eternal punishment of sin. He adopts us into His family and sends the Holy Spirit to indwell us and give us the power to fight sin and start living the way we were designed to live.
The Good News is NOT simply that "we should live right".
3.) To be a Christian is not merely doing good things, 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 and recognize that apart from God, nothing truly "good" can ever be done or accomplished.
The Good News is NOT simply that "God is love".
4.) The Bible is clear that God is love (I John 4:8). But that is not ALL He is. He is holy, perfect, just, all-knowing, sovereign, all-powerful, wise, and eternal. He is a just judge who can not simply overlook our sin and rebellion and allow us to live in a manner contrary to His design. Rather, God loved us by sending his only begotten son, Jesus, down from Heaven to take the form of a man, live the holy and perfect life that we were supposed to live, and then enduring the punishment that we deserved to experience by being tortured, beaten, nailed to a cross, and dying in our place. 3 days later Jesus physically resurrected and declared defeat over sin and death. Jesus took our place, paid the fine and made it possible for all those who would place their trust in Him as their Lord and Savior to be forgiven of their sin debt and have communion and fellowship with 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?
Repentance. “Repent” – means, “to change your mind”. It means to start thinking correctly 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 (Acts 20:21, Mark 1:15).
Belief. You must honestly believe that the gospel is true – not just intellectual agreement. We have to come to the place that we realize we are helpless to save ourselves by our own good works or effort and rest fully on and trust fully in Jesus Christ alone for our salvation. Repentance and belief are two sides of the same coin. You can’t have one without the other. The fruit of true repentance and belief is a changed life that seeks to fight sin and in so doing brings honor and glory to Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior.
Everyone’s conversion story is different. The Lord calls each of us to Himself out of various backgrounds and experiences. Your conversion story and the sanctification process you are undergoing post-salvation is called your testimony. Although every testimony is different they all have this in common: The Lord first drawing you to recognition and repentance of sin and faith in Christ to save you from God’s wrath.