For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son. (John 3:16)
You and I are staking our lives on the gospel of Jesus Christ. But what is the gospel of Jesus Christ exactly?
One mega Christian influencer defines the gospel as “the good news that Jesus came to earth to make it possible for all of us to live forever with Him in heaven.” In one of the bestselling books of all time, one pastor declares that “[God] wants all his lost children found! That’s the whole reason Jesus came to earth” on Christmas Day.
These statements are examples of what I call The Abridged Gospel, which can be summarized like this:
The Abridged Gospel: Jesus came to save people from their sins.
While every word of that statement is gloriously true, there are three major problems with defining the gospel in this way.
First, The Abridged Gospel is incomplete. It distills the good news of God’s Word into a two-act drama—humans sinned; Christ redeemed us—and functionally neglects the rest of the biblical narrative. It says a lot about what Christ has saved us from, but by ignoring the beginning and ending of God’s story, it makes it impossible to see what Christ has saved us for.
Second, The Abridged Gospel is individualistic. It is all about human beings going to heaven when we die—the rest of creation be damned. But Isaac Watts got it right in “Joy to the World." Christmas isn’t just good news for our souls. It is good news for the world. As we’ll see in this series, Christ has indeed come to make God’s “blessings flow far as the curse is found.”
Finally, The Abridged Gospel is innovative. Dr. Mike Metzger explains that “tragically, two hundred years ago the [biblical] story was edited to two chapters; the fall and redemption. The opening chapter of creation was largely forgotten. The new starting line was Genesis Three.”
It’s not a coincidence that The Abridged Gospel came to prominence at roughly the same time the Great Commission became the only commission we preach. These two ideas are inseparable! If “the whole reason Jesus came to earth” was to save human beings, then your work only matters when you leverage it to the instrumental end of sharing the gospel with other human beings.
If we want to see how our work matters beyond the important act of evangelism, we must catch a bigger, more accurate, more biblical picture of Jesus’s good news—The Unabridged Gospel, if you will. Not the abridged two-act version that starts in Genesis 3 and ends at Easter. But the full five acts of God’s good news that stretch from Genesis 1 to Revelation 22:
Join me as we embark on a journey through these five acts together next week!
P.S. This series is derived from Chapter 1 of my new book, The Sacredness of Secular Work. Want to dig deeper into the dangers and history of The Abridged Gospel? Pre-order The Sacredness of Secular Work on Amazon or one of these other retailers!