The Explicit Gospel

Matt Chandler: “Response” (Excerpt, Chapter 4)

We have seen tons of people at The Village who sat here for years just hearing but not hearing, seeing but not perceiving, and then all of a sudden, at some random worship service or Bible study, the Lord just hijacked them.”

Jesus puts it simply: “Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters” (Matt. 12:30). The gospel is such power that it necessitates reaction. Jesus Christ has worked such an outrageous wonder that he demands response, whether hatred or passion. Anyone ambivalent about what Christ has actually done just isn’t clear on the facts. To present the gospel, then, is to place a hearer in an untenable position. The heart of the hearer of the gospel must move, either toward Christ or away from him. Pastor Chan Kilgore puts it this way: “True gospel preaching always changes the heart. It either awakens it or hardens it.”

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We certainly see this alternating affection and aversion in the four Gospels, as Jesus and his disciples persevere in their itinerant ministry, declaring forgiveness of sins and the inbreaking of the kingdom of God. Some are drawn; others are repulsed. But nobody hears Jesus and just says, “Eh.” In some cases, as in the feeding of the five thousand in John 6, they are drawn by his miracles, then repulsed when he connects the miraculous deeds to the miraculous words of the good news.

Knowing this, we don’t need all thirty-six verses of “Just As I Am,” a plaintive pleading from the altar, heads bowed, eyes closed, and shaky hands raised to issue a gospel invitation. No, the invitation is bound up in the gospel message itself. The explicit gospel, by virtue of its own gravity, invites belief by demanding it.

We each stand from birth on the precipice between life and death. Because we are stained with sin from conception, we are rushing headlong into the fires of hell before we can even walk.

Jesus lays his body across the path; there is no ignoring him. If it’s headlong into hell we want to go, we have to step over Jesus to get there.

Many Christians desire to say yes to the gospel, but one of our biggest problems is mistaking the gospel for law.