On Healthy Churches 5: The "Gospel" (Mark 3)

Last night in our Karis C-Group, we looked at Mark Dever's third mark of a healthy church, what he calls a "biblical understanding of the good news."  Jeremy Linneman, our new Karis intern, is now writing the studies, and he did a good job of getting us to discuss Dever's chapter. First, we asked the question, "What is the gospel?"  We discussed the idea that it differs from religion that puts an emphasis on our works for our glory.  The gospel is the "good news" that Jesus came and walked on earth, living a perfect life on our behalf, and dying a cruel death in our place.  The "gospel" of our world (that is no gospel at all) is based on self-help for the purpose of self-esteem.  However, the Bible clearly teaches that we can't help ourselves.  We are dead in our sins (Eph. 2), and we desperately need help outside of ourselves.  In addition, self-esteem is in no way the intended end of Christianity.  Rather, it's God-esteem, giving God glory, spreading His fame.  The path of salvation people give in the world is that "I'm ok and you're ok," we can "be a good person" and go to heaven, and therefore, we should think highly of ourselves.  Sadly, this often isn't too far from what we hear in our churches.  But, rather, the truth of the gospel is that we're not OK.  Nothing we do can make us right with God.  And the ultimate goal is not that we feel good about ourselves, but rather that we delight in God and give Him glory.

Second, we talked about the content of the gospel.  Although the gospel speaks about a relationship between humans and God, there are propositions that must be shared and understood.  Dever likes to explain the gospel in terms of God, man, Christ, and response.  First, we look at God and see His holiness.  Second, we see ourselves in relation to Him.  When we compare ourselves to others, we often don't look too bad at all.  But when we look at our Father, and the ultimate human (of course, He's God, too), Jesus Christ, it cuts us down to size.  We are broken sinners, the Bible says.  And that is bad news.  Sin leads to death.  Therefore, to comprehend the "good news," we need to understand the bad news, and the facts are that we are sinners before a holy God.  Third, the good news is that Jesus came to save His people.  He never sinned, keeping God's law perfectly.  He died, suffering for those who broke all the laws.  Jesus accomplished redemption through His life, death, and resurrection.  People can be saved through His person and work.  Fourth, though, we must respond.  We repent of our sins, turning the other direction, and believe, coming to God in humble faith.  Our repentance and faith don't save us.  God saves us through the work of Jesus.  But repenting and believing are means by which we are connected to God.  No person who does not repent and believe will be saved.  God, sin, Christ, response: that is the gospel.

Jeremy also shared Piper's outline, which is quite helpful:

1. God created us for His glory. (Isaiah 43:6-7) 2. Therefore, it is the duty of every person to live for the glory of God. (1 Corinthians 10:31) 3. Yet all of us have failed to glorify God as we ought. (Romans 3:23) 4. Therefore, all of us are subject to eternal condemnation by God. (Romans 6:23; 2 Thessalonians 1:9) 5. Nevertheless, in His great mercy, God sent forth His Son, Jesus Christ, to save sinners by dying in their place the cross and rising bodily from the dead. (1Timothy 1:15; Romans 4:25) 6. The benefits purchased by the death of Christ belong to those who repent and trust in Him. (Acts 3:19, 16:31)

Third, we talked about the fact that the gospel is not just meant for unbelievers.  It's meant for Christians.  Soon, we should be reading for C-Groups the book The Gospel for Real Life by Jerry Bridges.  This helpful book argues that all of life should be lived in light of the gospel.  It is what we should preach to ourselves every day.  I also recommend this Tim Keller article which explains the same idea in brief.

Fourth, we discussed our need to share the gospel on a regular basis.  We talked about how the gospel should be displayed by our deeds, but we reminded ourselves of the need to put words to our actions.  The gospel does present facts about Jesus that must be cherished for salvation.  We must do what Jesus did and minister through word and deed.  Having one without the other is insufficient.

The point?  The gospel is the sum and substance of the Christian life.  To have a healthy church, we must have healthy Christians.  You can't become a Christian without the gospel, and you certainly can't become a healthy disciple without it.  What message does your church gather around?  Is it the gospel?