But surely, I hear you object, there’s only one gospel?
Well, yes, there is only one actual, true gospel, but there are many false gospels masquerading as truth, often in perfectly respectable churches. Some of them are quite obvious – the health, wealth and prosperity gospel, perhaps, being the most blatant example – while others are much more subtle.
One thing these false gospels all have in common is that those who embrace them do not think of them as gospels at all. Indeed, most churches and Christians who embrace false gospels would very likely agree among themselves that “the gospel” is the message that if you pray the sinner’s prayer and do your best to live a life that honours God, Jesus will save you and you will go to heaven when you die. Most would agree that Jesus is the only way to salvation. However, while most churches may profess that belief, many have functional gospels that are quite different.
You see, I’m using the word gospel here to mean anything that promises life. I think this is justified. We live in a world of death, manifested in many forms: sickness, war, famine, poverty, slavery, relationship breakdown, stress, depression, and so on. In this world of death, “good news” is the word of life.
Jesus claimed to be the resurrection and the life. That sounds to me like quite an exclusive claim. If it is only Jesus who gives life, then anything else that promises life – any other person, belief, philosophy, method, system or practice – is a counterfeit, and cannot deliver what it promises.
At this point in my Christian journey, when it comes to things that offer shining possibilities of a better, deeper, more meaningful life, I feel like I’ve seen them all. But I’m finally coming to realise that nothing –
– not money
– not qualifications
– not success
– not status
– not health
– not sex
– not knowledge
– not doctrine
– not power
– not family
– not wisdom
— nothing can save me apart from dying and being raised to new life in Jesus.
I’m starting to be a bit dogmatic about this. Basically, if your message is anything other than Christ crucified, I’m not interested.
So you can keep your self-improvement schtick and your forty days to a life of purpose; you can leave me out of your vision meetings and conferences; you can spare me your talk of destiny and an amazing plan for my life. Unless you’re all about Jesus Christ and him crucified, nothing you have to say can give me life.
To be clear, there is, of course, a place to talk about things other than Jesus crucified. There is a place to talk about ideas and methods for how to live more effectively as a Christian. But, next to the message of the cross, these things are all gravy.
So I repeat: if your message does not begin and end with the cross – if you do not live, breathe and bleed the cross – I’m not really interested any more.
There are so many gospels out there, but there is only one cross.
[ Image: Eli Braud ]