A Biblical Understanding of the Good News is, according to Mark Dever, one of the marks of a healthy church. What is the good news? Is it “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life”?
The Gospel is not the news that we’re okay. It’s not the news that God is love. It’s not the news that Jesus wants to be our friend. It’s not the news that he has a wonderful plan or purpose for our life. …the gospel is the good news that Jesus Christ died on the cross as a sacrificial substitute for sinners and rose again, making a way for us to be reconciled to God. It’s the news that the Judge will become the Father, if only we repent and believe.
Here are four points I try to remember whenever sharing the gospel, whether in private or in public—(1)God, (2) man,(3) Christ, and (4) response. In other words:
- Have I explained that God is our holy and sovereign creator?
- Have I made it clear that we humans are a strange mixture, wonderfully made in God’s image yet horribly fallen, sinful, and separated from him?
- Have I explained who Jesus is and what he has done—that he is the God-man who uniquely and exclusively stands in between God and man as a substitute and resurrected Lord?
- And, finally, even if I’ve shared all this, have I clearly stated that a person must respond to the gospel and must believe this message and so turn from his life of self-centeredness and sin?
Sometimes, it’s tempting to present some of the very real benefits of the gospel as the gospel itself. And these benefits tend to be things that non-Christians naturally want, like joy, peace, happiness, fulfillment, self-esteem, or love. Yet presenting them as the gospel is presenting a partial truth. And, as J. I. Packer says, “A half truth masquerading as the whole truth becomes a complete untruth.”
Fundamentally, we don’t need just joy or peace or purpose. We need God, himself. Since we are condemned sinners, then, we need his forgiveness above all else. We need spiritual life. When we present the gospel less radically, we simply ask for false conversions and increasingly meaningless church membership lists, both of which make the evangelization of the world around us more difficult.
-Mark Dever, What is a Healthy Church?