Everyone who desires to be a follower of Christ and seeks to join a Christian church does so because of the good messages heard concerning Jesus from the Scriptures.Like you, others may have heard the good news about Jesus and the love of God He exemplifies through various media: a sermon in a church setting, a televangelist, a friend, reading a book, or an article.
By whatever means, the message received was processed in your mind as the truth, and that conviction has motivated you to respond to the good news. That good news heard is called the gospel, but what is the gospel?
The word “gospel” means “glad tidings” or “good news.” It refers to the story of God as proclaimed primarily by Jesus Christ, His Son, to the people of the world. Nowhere is the gospel better expressed and explained than in the Bible, especially the New Testament.
In the New Testament it denotes the glad tidings of the kingdom of God and of the salvation through Jesus Christ to be received by faith on the basis of His expiatory death, His burial, resurrection, and ascension. Since you have responded to the gospel message, let us examine what you have heard more fully. In doing so, you may gain a more comprehensive perspective of the gospel and better apply its message to your individual life. Read John 1:6-8; Luke 3:1-18 (cf. Matthew 4:1-17; Mark 1:1-11)
From the definition and the scriptural readings above, it is clear that the mandate of the gospel of Jesus Christ is that we “repent” and “believe” the gospel that was proclaimed to us so we may be saved by God’s love and grace. This was the message John the Baptizer preached as he prepared the nation of Israel for the Messiah/Christ (the Anointed One) whom God had sent. The purpose of the Messiah was to bring salvation and deliverance to Israel, in particular, and to the rest of the world, in general (Luke 4:18, 19; John 1:29).
After Jesus the Messiah was introduced by John the Baptizer, His message was the same: “Repent and believe the gospel” (Mark 1:15). Again, the message of the gospel calls for two principal actions on our part: repentance and belief. What do these mean? What is God asking us to do?
In a literal sense, the word “repentance” means “to perceive afterwards. ” Therefore, it has to do with a change of mind upon reflection of one’s actions in relation to another or to something. In the context of its use in the New Testament, repentance always refers to these:
a. A change of one’s mind or purpose for the better. Almost without exception, repentance is used to signify a change from sinful living.
b. It also refers to regret ― to be sorry for a particular action, behavior, or attitude towards something in which one is deeply involved. Hence, Jesus’ message to us is to change our minds with deep regret about our sinful living.
c. Most importantly, repentance implies a complete turnaround. In other words, you do a complete about-face. It is a radical change of direction from the wrong way to the right way in order to please God. Read the story of the prodigal son in Luke 15:11-32.
The second action Jesus requires of us is to believe or to have faith in the gospel message we have heard. To believe is “to be persuaded of and hence, to place confidence in; to trust.”To believe is not merely giving mental assent to that with which we agree. Rather, it is to rely on what we heard as the truth we stand on. In other words, to believe is to have faith, to have a firm conviction that what is heard is trustworthy and true.
Notice that the one who believes may not have all the facts to fully prove what is presented. However, the hearer is fully persuaded that what is heard is the truth and merits his/her sincerest acceptance and response (Hebrews 11:1).
Therefore, when used in relation to the Word of God or the gospel of Christ, believing has three main elements:
a. A firm conviction producing a full acknowledgment of God’s revelation or truth (John 6:68)
b. A personal surrender of one’s self to God, the purveyor of the truth (Luke 1:38; Romans 6:13; James 4:7)
c. Conduct which corresponds to such surrender (Hebrews 11:8)
The gospel is presented to us so we can believe the truth, submit ourselves to it, and conduct our lives in accordance with the message God conveys to us through His Son, Jesus Christ. Conversely, those who fail to believe the gospel will not evidence a resolute conviction in its message, and they will not demonstrate the life-changing results such faith brings. Notice that John explained these principles when he proclaimed to his audience, “Therefore bear fruits worthy of [in keeping with] repentance…” (Luke 3:8a).
Fruits are literally the outward manifestation of the inner nature of the trees on which they grow. Figuratively, our behavior is the fruit of our inner nature. Now that we have been grafted into Christ, we ought to bear new fruit reflective of His nature and Spirit and no longer that of our sinful flesh (read Romans 11:16-18; Galatians 5:16-24).