The Gospel must be central to all that we do, say, and think. The truth of the Gospel – God’s unfathomable love (John 3:16, Romans 5:8), our inherent sin (Romans 3:23, 5:12), salvation by and through Jesus Christ (Romans 6:23, John 1:12) – is the Good News that we are called to live out and carry to the very ends of the earth.
Straightforward? Yes! But easy to stand firm in? Not so much. The truth is that standing firm – and I mean really standing firm, as in being squared, centered, immovable in the Gospel – doesn’t come easy, nor does it come naturally. And the real kicker is this: The biggest problem we have when it comes to standing firm in the Gospel is ourselves.
Here’s how author Michael Horton describes the problem:
“In such a therapeutic, pragmatic, pull yourself up by your bootstraps society as ours, the message of God having to do all the work in saving us comes as an offensive shot at our egos. In this culture, religion is all about being good, about the horizontal, about loving God and neighbor. But all of that is the fruit of the gospel. The gospel has nothing to do with what I do. The gospel is entirely a message about what someone else has done not only for me but also for the renewal of the whole creation.”
The slippery slope that Horton is referring to is what he terms “Gospel Plus.” Here, there’s an understanding that God did in fact descend in Christ to save us, but added to that is a belief that to be truly reconciled to God we must also somehow, someway “ascend” to God. In the early church, the tendency was to add in Old Testament Law, which of course diluted the true Gospel. And while today we don’t mix Law with the Gospel, we do tend to add in things like good deeds, religiosity, and self-actualization.
But anything we add to the Gospel of Jesus Christ results in a hybrid, diluted Gospel – Gospel Plus. So why do we tend to veer in this direction so easily? Mostly because it’s just plain less offensive to us. That’s why we’re drawn to alternative forms of the Gospel, and why it’s so important to reaffirm on a regular basis the centrality of the true Gospel of Jesus Christ.