The gospel is the power of God unto salvation for those who believe (Rom 1:16). The gospel is what saves. Nothing else! Wisdom, philosophy, experiences, and things like social justice do not save. As believers we are commanded to preach the gospel (Mark 16:15). They can not believe if they do not hear. We have a great responsibility to accurately and truthfully proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ. It is important that we get the truths of the gospel correct. Paul warns us twice in Galatians that if we preach a different gospel we are to be accursed (Gal 1: 8,9)! He leaves no escape for good intentions. As Christians we are on this earth to proclaim the gospel. We have no control of who will truly believe and be converted......we can not make someone believe, that's the Holy Spirits work. However, we can make someone think they believe by giving them a weak, watered down, perverted version of the gospel.......and that should terrify us.
When we speak of "the gospel" we often times tend to think of a purely evangelistic message. But the gospel is not just a "five point" plan of salvation outline. The gospel includes all the truths about Christ (Rom 1:1-6). It does not stop at the point of conversion and justification but embraces every other aspect of salvation. The gospel's significance therefore does not end the moment the new birth occurs; it applies to the entire Christian experience. When Paul and the other NT writers spoke of "preaching the gospel", they were not talking about preaching only to unbelievers!
As I look around at the landscape of American Christianity, I am deeply burdened. I see many people filling church pews who claim to belong to Him but have no brokenness over sin. They claim to belong to Him but love the world and the things of the world (1Jn 2:15). They claim to belong to Him but have no desire to glorify Him by living an obedient lifestyle (1Jn 5:2). They do not die daily (1Cor. 15:31) or take up the cross daily and follow Him (Luke 9:23). Jesus is an add-on to their life. WHY? Because they have put their faith in another gospel and not "The Gospel". Their faith is in a god but not the God of the Bible. They may have said a prayer or walked an aisle but they have never REPENTED and turned from their sin.
Repentance is probably the most overlooked and ignored aspect of preaching the gospel today. Very few preachers are inclined to make repentance a part of their sermons. Many Christians who actually make an attempt to share their faith are reluctant to bring up the sinner's true nature and the need to repent and turn from sin. They do not want to offend or "scare" away an evangelistic prospect. A message without repentance is not the gospel message. From the beginning of Jesus' ministry, the heart of His message was a call to repentance. In fact, when our Lord first began to preach, the opening word of His message was "Repent" (Matt. 4:17). It was also the first word of John the Baptist's message (Matt. 3:2) and the basis of the gospel the apostles preached (Acts 3:19; 20:21; 26:20). No one who neglects to call sinners to repentance is preaching the gospel accurately. Christ's call to salvation and discipleship is extended only to desperate sinners who realize their need and desire transformation. Our Lord came to save sinners. But to those who are unwilling to admit to their sin, He has nothing to say- except to pronounce judgement.
Real repentance alters one's fundamental character. It is not a one-time act. The repentance that takes place at conversion begins a progressive, lifelong process of confession (1John 1:9). This active, continuous attitude of repentance produces the poverty of spirit, mourning, and meekness Jesus spoke of in the Beatitudes (Matt. 5:3-6). It is a mark of every true believer. There is no salvation without repentance. No message that eliminates repentance can properly be called the gospel, for sinners can not come to Jesus Christ apart from a radical change of heart, will, and mind. Repentance is not a human work. It is a sovereignly bestowed gift of God (Acts 11:18).
Another aspect of the eroding of the gospel today is the message that obedience is optional. Sinners today hear not only that Christ will receive them as they are, but also that He will let them stay that way! Many people erroneously believe today that they can come to Christ, receive absolution and immorality, then walk away and continue living life as they please, according to the desires of their own flesh. That is a corrupted gospel. Nowhere is that taught in the New Testament. A concept of saving faith not producing surrender of the will corrupts the message of salvation. Here is how Paul characterizes conversion: "Though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart" (Rom 6:17). The Biblical concept of faith is inseparable from obedience. Genuine faith produces obedience. Obedience is the fruit, not the root. Obedience IS NOT a work that you are trying to add to your salvation to earn points with God. The faith God graciously supplies produces both the volition and the ability to comply with His will. Thus faith is inseparable from obedience, and the person who has believed will yearn to obey.
Remember, we are not good! Popular psychology and evangelicalism today want to tell you that man is inherently good.....quite the opposite, man is actually evil. Our hearts are deceitfully wicked (Jer 17:9). We are by nature children of wrath (Eph 2:3). There is none righteous, no not one (Rom 3:10). Every intent of the thoughts of our heart are only evil continually (Gen 6:5). If a person does not recognize he is a sinner in desperate need of a Savior, he cannot be saved. This is the gospel. But we can not do this on our own. Salvation is impossible for sinful humanity. We have no redeeming resources on our own. We cannot atone for our sins. We cannot even believe without God's sovereign enablement (John 6:44, 65); we cannot conjure up faith out of the human will. And we certainly cannot live up to God's standard of perfect righteousness. God's own righteousness thus becomes the ground on which believers stand before Him. This is the doctrine of justification.