Ricky Chelette, Executive Director
The term “gospel” is thrown around a lot these days. In some ways, its familiarity has apparently diluted its true meaning. Once a noun that identified the life, teaching, and work of Jesus for the redemption of mankind, it has now become more an adjective to describe movements, attire, books, community, you name it. Taken from the Greek word euangélionand translated as “good news,” the gospel is indeed the good news of redemption. Good news is, well, good news! It should bring a sense of hope and transformation to those who embrace it fully. The gospel is something that has been boldly proclaimed since Jesus began preaching. Its message is one of change that has radically transformed our world.
Embraced initially by a group of rag-a-muffin fishermen and tax collectors who followed a mysteriously born carpenter’s son, the gospel is now preached around the world. Jesus’ radical teaching of amazing grace and complete surrender to God’s lordship in one’s life upended expectations of messianic leadership, ushering in the greatest movement of faith the world has ever experienced. The gospel’s fundamental teachings have liberated men and women, united Gentile and Jew, connected slave and free, established equality between men and women, and influenced the foundations of kingdoms, kings, governments, and religions. The gospel has indeed brought about change because the gospel—at its core—is about change, the greatest change that can happen in a man’s heart, a change from self-serving to God-serving.
However, today we live in a world where even the simplicity of good news has been nuanced and twisted into something far less transformational and, therefore, far less good or news. You see the whole reason God showed up on earth in the form of man was “to seek and save the lost,” (Jn 19:10) and “to call sinners to repentance” (Mk 2:17). Both being lost and needing repentance requires transformation or change. One who is lost is without boundaries, unfamiliar with one’s whereabouts, and in need of finding borders, markers, and truth to rightly give direction. Repentance means that we turn away from whatever we are pursuing to seek God. Both realities denote transformation and change. Simply, to experience the gospel is to change.
But recently some who claim to know Jesus and believe in his Gospel have twisted the message of Christ, asserting that there are parts of our lives that cannot change nor be transformed. They claim that our feelings, and specifically the feeling of being “oriented” sexually toward someone of the same gender, are impossible to change. In fact, one popular proponent of this more “progressive” understanding of the gospel stated plainly, “the gospel has never been about orientation change.” I guess that depends on how you would define “orientation,” but I strongly disagree with his lack of focus on transformation.
I believe the Bible teaches that when we experience the gospel, we are new creatures (2 Cor 5:17); we are transformed from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of light (Cor 1:13; Eph 5:8); we no longer walk in the futility of our minds, laying aside the old self and putting on the new made possible by the gospel (Ep 4:17-24; Col 3:9-10; 1 Pet 1:14-15). To think that some aspects of my personhood could, or would, be exempt from the all-penetrating, all-transforming power of the gospel is to limit both the gospel’s power and my enjoyment of the magnanimous blessings God has provided for me through His Son, Jesus. It is akin to getting the keys to a grand mansion but being satisfied with merely camping on the porch.
We must realize that any manifestation the Bible qualifies as sin (e.g., pride, lust, greed, gossip, murder) are all evidence of a fundamental human orientation towards sin (Ps 51; Rm 5:12). From man’s fall in Genesis 3, all mankind is drawn towards sin. The manifestation of that sin is only indicative of the wound, brokenness, or lostness we are trying to medicate with that sin.
Paul’s warning to the church in Galatia is an admonition we need heed: “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel—not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed” (Gal 1:6-7).
A gospel which doesn’t advocate the ability to transform our lives and passions completely is not really the gospel at all. I don’t want to tell people that when they follow Christ, they can only have parts of what God offers; I want them to experience the fullness of Christ. I don’t wish to merely invite people to stop something that is destructive in their lives; I want to offer them something that is fulfilling and satisfying beyond their wildest imaginations. I don’t want a new “progressive” gospel; I want the gospel Jesus taught, lived, and demonstrated through His death and resurrection. I want the gospel that changed the murderous Saul to Paul, that transformed the denying Peter to evangelist Peter, and that moved demon-possessed Mary to witness Mary proclaiming the resurrection of her Lord!
Don’t believe a gospel that doesn’t transform you and give you hope for the future. Don’t believe the lies that you won’t, you can’t, or you will never have a change in your feelings, desires, or attractions. Only God holds the future. He knows what you need because He created you. If your desires become His desires, you will find wholeness in Him. Don’t believe another gospel. There is but one. In it is the story of redemption brought about by the God of the Universe coming to dwell among His creation, loving them, teaching them, dying on the cross for their sins, being buried and rising from the dead never to die again. That is the gospel all of Christendom has believed. That is the gospel that has changed the world. That is the gospel that will give you hope and change your life. In the words of Jesus, “Repent and believe the gospel!”