Last week in my message I spoke on the Gospel. I began with who God is, and moved on to talking about who we are, our sin, and the judgment it requires. Then I began to speak of Jesus. I told of who He is, of His divine nature, of His life, of His crucifixion, burial, and resurrection. And then I spoke of our response to this: faith.
After the service, one man spoke to me and said: "You know, a lot of times when people are teaching the Gospel, they speak about faith, but it's hard for people to understand what that means exactly. But you told us all the story of Jesus, and asked us to believe that story. It was so clear what you meant by 'faith.'"
That comment confirmed to me something I had been thinking about, and that I had recently been discussing with a friend. In many cases, the church has lost its understanding of what the Gospel is. We have stopped having faith in Jesus, and instead have "faith in faith." Our faith is not placed in Jesus, but in the fact that we have faith. Does that sound confusing?
Think of it this way: when people teach the Gospel, what do they focus on? Often they focus on faith. Only believe. You must believe. If you have faith you will be saved. But the Gospel message is not simply "you must believe."
The Gospel is that Jesus Christ died for our sins according to scripture, that he was buried, and that he rose again on the third day (see 1 Corinthians 15:1-5). Faith is our response to this Good News.
A few months ago my pastor did an experiment in which he "preached the Gospel" without ever even talking about Jesus. He was curious to see how many people would recognize what had been left out. In our church, he was pleased to see that many people recognized what had been left out. But he said he had seen churches where no one realized what was missing.
This is a tragic state of affairs.
If your message is not about Jesus, it is not about the Gospel, because the Gospel message is a message about Jesus.