For the past few months I’ve been discipling a couple of college age guys at my house on Tuesday nights. We’ve been going through a portion of discipleship material my church created called, The Journey. Along the way, as we talked about practical things like how to pray, and theology like the role of God’s grace in our lives, it became clear to me that what these guys really needed was a basic understanding of the answer to this question:
What is the gospel?
So, I asked them…
and watched the cerebral machinery abruptly grind to a halt.
Huh? It’s a type of music, right? Wait, no. It’s a book in the New Testament.
They really didn’t understand the question at first. In fairness to them, I was very unclear on the question myself until a few years ago, and I’ve got a graduate degree in theology! And if you had to write an answer to that question on a test right now, the first thing you’d probably realize is that you’ve never thought about it, and second, that no one in any church you’ve attended has ever taught you about it.
Explain The Question
So, the first order of business was to explain the question. In the New Testament, the word that is commonly translated “gospel” literally means “good news”. The authors of the New Testament record that Jesus went around like a news announcer telling people a message that He considered THE good news. So the question, “What is the gospel?” really means, “What message did Jesus (and His disciples after Him) announce during His earthly ministry?”
Understand the question now? Okay, the answer should be simple, right? Well, not quite. You see, Jesus announced his good news in a way that puzzled, and then angered, His hearers.
He Told Them to Repent
What? Shouldn’t good news call for rejoicing, or at least a solid, warm fuzzy? Well, yeah except that Jesus said if they didn’t repent they wouldn’t get the good news, so repenting was necessary first. Now, this made His good news kind of unpopular to people who evidently didn’t think it was good news, and so…well, they killed Him.
What’s the Problem?
The problem was that although Jesus came preaching good news, He also came preaching bad news. As a matter of fact, the Jews of Jesus’ day had learned from their prophets to be on the lookout for some good news for centuries. So when Jesus came, some of them were all ears and found out the good news was waaaay better than they had expected. But most of them hadn’t expected any bad news, and Jesus made it sound like it was waaaay badder than anything many of them (or us) wanted to hear.
And the Bad News Is?
That’s what I’d like to ask you. If you have some thoughts about the bad news Jesus preached, please share it by commenting on this post. Pass it on to your friends and ask them to do the same. To prime to pump, here’s my own imperfect summary of the good news Jesus announced as if from His own lips:
You can have a right relationship with God forever through faith in me.
So, what do you think? What’s the bad news? How would you summarize it? Please leave a comment at the bottom of the page for this post.
You can read my follow-up post here: And the Bad News Is…
[BTW – the guys I disciple did a great job digging in, and we all made a lot of progress understanding the good news and why it matters.]