Whatever Happened to the Gospel?

by Paul Gowdy

For the past number of years I have noticed some subtle changes in how the evangelical church presents the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I suspect that this has been a case of the frog in the kettle syndrome – slowly increase the heat and little Kermit will just stay there until he has been boiled to death! I am not sure if this is true or not and do not, under any circumstances recommend anyone try!

I suspect that the same slow increase in heat has been applied to the western evangelical Church. About a quarter of a century ago, as a teenage boy, I became a follower of Jesus. Indeed, a truly born again Christian and a committed disciple of Christ. I saw “the light”, got saved and my lifestyle changed. Call my conversion whatever you like, God through the power of the Holy Spirit entered my life and transformed my life completely. I willingly surrendered myself to the Lordship of Jesus whom I confessed to be the Son of God and Lord of all creation.

What brought about this radical transformation? It was the faith released within my heart as a result of the simple proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I was told that: (1) Jesus was the Son of God; (2) that He created everything including me; (3) that He came to earth becoming a man in order to save all men; (4) that He being fully God and fully man gave His life, shedding His precious blood as a ransom for my sin and the sins of humanity by dying upon a cross; (5) that His sacrifice was acceptable to atone for sin and appease the wrath of God the Father; (6) that He rose from the dead and conquered death, proving His divinity and the scriptures, in order that we might have hope who die in the Lord that we also shall have a glorious resurrection; and (7) that for those who trust in Him and confess Him as Lord He grants unto us forgiveness of sins and adoption as sons and eternal life!

As the Scripture says: For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not by works, lest any man should boast. Eph. 2:8-9

This is the same Gospel that many, but not all, preach today. So what is the difference? There is more to the Gospel than what I have just mentioned above and the subtlety in the change is not necessarily what is proclaimed, rather what is the truth that is omitted.

A Gospel without mention of Hell. Twenty-four years ago when I became a Christian, I did hear the information posted above but I also heard a little more. I heard that the wages of sin is death! I believe much of the church fails to preach the Gospel by the withholding of primary information. The death that sin brings is not only physical death, for all men die physically, but spiritual death where men are separated from God for eternity and condemned to Hell for ever. The doctrine of the eternal punishment of the wicked is so horrific that there are few today who actually preach it. Yet Jesus preached about Hell. To fail to warn men of the horrors of Hell is to fail to preach the gospel in its entirety.

Jesus said that a man should do what ever it takes to avoid going to this evil place. He said that it was better to enter Heaven with one eye or one hand than to have both hands and sin with them or both eyes and sin with them. The reason for this is because if we continue sinning with our eyes and hands and do not repent we will end up burning in hell for eternity! Jesus in no way espouses people cutting off hands or poking out eyes. His point is that Hell is so horrific that mankind needs to do what ever it takes to avoid going there.

Thankfully, the vehicle for sinful man to come into relationship with Christ is the gift of repentance. This means that when a person hears the good news about who Jesus is, what He has done on the cross and the gift of forgiveness and eternal life that He offers, that person can turn away from their evil, selfish, sinful lifestyle and turn to the living God by trusting in Jesus as their Lord and Saviour! This is repentance and is considered by the Holy God as a gift, a vehicle to bring us into relationship with God the Father.

Sadly, and to the shame of the church today, a gospel is preached that does not proclaim the sinfulness of man. Men are no longer sinners – but have just made wrong choices! I am convinced that the wicked motive behind this shift is simply that the modern church refuses to carry the shame and stigma associated with standing for the Truth. To proclaim the Truth as the Scriptures teaches it would be the death knell to the seeker-sensitive, packed out auditoriums that have become the Nirvana of the modern church growth movement! The modern church refuses to preach the Truth because the fear of man is stronger than the fear of God!

Men are no longer called sinners so they see no reason to have to repent! Alas, repentance is deemed a negative and the church is only obsessed with preaching a positive message! Worst of all, no one preaches about the fires of Hell any longer. The post-modern church does not wish to think about such doctrine. ‘Anyway,’ they say, ‘if we can persuade men to just say a prayer of acceptance, asking Jesus into their hearts and granting them eternal life then they are not going to Hell! So why mention it?’

If any mention of Hell is omitted from the Gospel, lost souls would not understand the results of their continuing in sin. If they do not understand the “wages of sin is death,” they can not comprehend that the “gift” of eternal life is only for those who freely accept what God has offered. In exchange for eternal damnation, He offers us eternity with Him.

The very first thing that Jesus said when he came out of the desert to start His public ministry was “Repent for the Kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Mt. 4:17

The last thing that Jesus said before His ascension was: . that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations.. . Lk 24:47

Paul, when speaking to the Greeks on Mars Hill said: And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent: Because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead. Acts 17:30-31

According to the next verse, some mocked, and others said,: “We will hear thee again of this matter.” Where do you stand on this very serious issue as we enter the New Year. The church today needs to wake up! Paul says that the resurrection of Christ from the dead is the evidence that there is coming a judgement, therefore all men are commanded to REPENT! The pastor and/or leader who omits this truth is nothing less than a traitor to his Lord!

The watered-down gospel that the church proclaims today does a marvellous job of creating backsliders. Some statistics suggest 19 out of every 20 people who say the ’salvation prayer’ (or the sinners prayer) end up backsliding! (I would suggest that is because only 5% of the church are actually preaching the Gospel!)

The answer is very simple. The Gospel is not being proclaimed and men and women are not truly repenting of their sins. When Jesus does not become Lord of a person’s life, all that transpires is that more heathen join the ranks of people who confess, “Oh I tried Jesus, It did not work for me!”

When the sinfulness of man, the horrors of Hell and gift of repentance are included in the Gospel we present, men and women are truly saved! It doesn’t matter if thousands are packing out huge arenas that give live entertainment and everyone goes home feeling good. What is happening is that the so-called ministry is promoted, the pastor has “star” quality and the money is flowing. The truth is – multitudes are not coming to true faith in Christ. No, they are not really saved.

If the church fails to preach the once and for all Gospel entrusted to the saints – genuine Christianity could die out with this generation. I pray that God grips your heart Christian! If you are reading this, my prayer is that you may you be one who, without shame or compromise, will carry the Cross and proclaim God’s Truth until He comes.