How can Christians recognise the true gospel from false or shallow ones? For informed Christians, a false gospel might include claims that Jesus was just a good man, a prophet, or a teacher, but he was not God. A shallow gospel might make claims that are true, but just does not reflect the whole Bible’s teaching on the subject, saying things like “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life,” or “God wants you to be healthy and prosperous.”
If you accept a shallow gospel, you’ll end up with a shallow spirituality. The gospel is the DNA upon which the church and the Christian life hangs. So, what is the gospel? The gospel is the royal announcement that God’s Kingdom has come to us in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Messiah. And by faith in him, resulting in repentance, you can be saved and share the blessings that God has for you.
The gospel is the story of God saving a broken world fractured by sin. It is his plan to restore and renew the world through the person and work of Jesus Christ. So, by faith or trust in him, we might come into a right relationship with God. However, the crucial point that I wish to make here is that the gospel is not just the minimum doctrine we have to believe in for salvation (e.g., 1 Cor. 15). It is much more than that. The gospel is good news because it transforms our lives now. According to Paul in Phil. 1:27, Christians who live a life of faith should “conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel.” We are saved by believing in the gospel, but true saving faith must result in transformation and good works.
That means the gospel must permeate all areas of our lives. It means true believers will imbibe the qualities of the fruit of the Spirit, and live the life that God wants to produce in us. We become the type of people that God intends for us to be, when we live out this gospel faith. The life of discipleship then is the process by which we are being conformed to image of Jesus Christ (Rom. 8:29).
A major problem is that Christians do not look all that different from the world. As such, we have to be more counter-cultural. The best way to do that is to follow Jesus, and allow the gospel to determine our beliefs, values, and lifestyles. If Christians are to make a difference, we have got to be different! We must begin with understanding what the gospel is, so we may cultivate our spiritual life around it.