Have you ever read or heard something that was so thought-provoking it was on your mind for days, weeks, or even months? That was me several years ago when I read several books by various authors. A repeated theme was rethinking Christianity; in these books, they invited the reader into conversations, which challenged Christians to be less dogmatic and more like Jesus. This morning I was thinking about the compelling stories, the call to action, and verses on love and compassion found in all of those books. I recalled how stirring it was and parts where I felt convicted for inaction.
The one thing, as I look back, I recognize that there was something glaringly absent in all those books, and that was the lack of the gospel. Sure, the authors will challenge your thinking, at least that is how many feel because that’s what they want you to believe; you’re thinking on a deeper level, your challenging religious tradition. The problem is our sinful nature is absent from the message, the need for repentance and salvation is missing from the message, the atoning work of Jesus is denied in the pages of all the books I read that particular year.
The great reformer Martin Luther said, “We need to hear the gospel every day because we forget it every day.” As Christians, we tend to get into this mindset that the gospel is the door, and once we walk through it, we need to get to the cool stuff. Progressive Christians want to be about social justice, Evangelicals of all stripes want to be culturally relevant, and Pentecostals and Charismatics become all about power.
When we read books that emphasize social action, the power of the Holy Spirit, or life improvement tips and leave out the gospel, we are missing the point of Scripture. The gospel impacts every area of our lives and, it’s not about a liberal or conservative political agenda. Jesus’s Kingdom is not of this world; no amount of liberal or conservative action will have any bearing on eternity.
We need to read books and listen to podcasts that have the gospel in them. If you don’t quite see how the gospel relates to every area, read The Gospel-Shaped Life by Ian Hamilton. We never graduate from the gospel, and people cannot receive the good news or the good things God has for them without first hearing they are a sinner and need to repent.
Leaders in the Church today often say people know they are sinners. It’s simply not true; if you ask someone if they think they are good, they will say yes. Scripture is clear that we are not good (Romans 3:10-12, Isaiah 64:6); that’s why Jesus came to redeem the unrighteous.
Many people often quote the famous line; “Preach the gospel, when necessary use words.” But Scripture disagrees, Romans 10:13-17 LSB “for “Whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher? And how will they preach unless they are sent? Just as it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who proclaim the good news of good things!” However, they did not all heed the good news, for Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed our report?” So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.”
The Word of Christ brings salvation; people can see good works and miracles all day long, that doesn’t convert people. Jesus rebuked the cities where most of His works were done because they didn’t repent. Unbelievers and Christians alike need to hear the gospel every day because it’s the gospel that saves us, and it’s the gospel that sanctifies us.