Have you ever watched a TV advertisement that makes an offer that seems so outstanding, and the price so ridiculously cheap, that it seems too good to be true? At first you might be skeptical. But testimonial after testimonial pile up to confirm that this is indeed a miracle product – one that promises to transform your life. The price is just a fraction of what you might have to spend on similar products that don’t work as well.
But wait – there’s more! If you call in the next five minutes you’ll get not one – not two – but three bonus gifts that are alone worth the purchase price. Our operators are standing by, but supplies are limited, so you MUST ACT NOW!!!!
So you succumb, and place an order. But when the item arrives you are deeply disappointed. As you take it out of the box it looks very different from what you saw displayed under the bright lights of a TV studio. The smooth presenter may have made it look like a miracle product, but in your hands it barely works. With a sigh you realize you have been tricked by slick advertising that greatly oversold the item. It leaves you feeling foolish and betrayed, and you resolve never to fall for that kind of deception again.
It’s bad enough if that happens with a vacuum cleaner, or a piece of jewelry. It is tragic if untruthful advertising misrepresents something as important as the gospel. But sadly, it does happen.
The gospel is good news, the best possible news anyone can hear. It promises a new life beyond death, a life rich in joy, peace, friendship and real love. It’s the good news of a life in communion with God, who loves you and wants you with him no matter who you are, where you’ve been or what you’ve done.
But the gospel is not always presented that way. Sometimes it’s presented as a way to get big cars, big houses and fancy clothes right now. Just “name it and claim it,” people are told. Sometimes it’s presented as a set of rules and regulations overseen by a temperamental God who’ll roast you forever if you don’t measure up. You need to “act now,” before it is too late to get back in his favor.
Sometimes it’s presented as a pyramid scheme in which the more people you talk into joining up, the greater your eternal income will be. You might be promised some “valuable free gift” as an additional reward for your quick response and “generous free will offering.”
Presented like this, the gospel message can be misrepresented as something it is not. Then, when it fails to deliver, people become suspicious and disillusioned. Some overly enthusiastic believers with their pushy, memorized spiels end up increasing their neighbors’ resistance to accepting the true gospel message. Some polls have shown that most people would rather live next door to a used-car salesman than to a Bible-thumping evangelical Christian.
But imagine if we could all share the gospel the way Jesus asked us to. Jesus said, “Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16). If we all let our light shine in such a way that people are won over instead of put off, imagine what a positive reputation the good news could have. That would present the gospel the way it really is – as a new life in Christ, a life of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control – the way Galatians 5:22-23 describes it.
Jesus made it pretty simple. He said, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:34-35).
What if we believers just did that? Wouldn’t that win more people over to the real power of the gospel? Testimonies have their place, certainly, but it’s God’s love that overcomes sin and the fear of death. People can warm up to genuine, godly love a whole lot easier than religious talk, pushy questions, judgmental frowns and threats of damnation.
The gospel is the best and only hope for humanity. It is the best and only hope for you and me and everyone we care about. Human beings can never become righteous on their own. But God does in Jesus Christ, forgive us, heal our minds, and make us righteous.
That is why we preach the gospel, calling on all people everywhere, as far as the Spirit gives us opportunity, to turn to Christ in faith so they can know him for who he really is and know themselves for who they really are in him.