As one who has been forgiven much I've come to love much the One who forgave me (Luke 7:47), and I have come to love His gospel. For many years as a Christian, I didn't think about the gospel... I had some misconceptions about what this word, meaning "good news" from the Greek evangelion, represents, and my understanding of it fell far short. I didn't know what I was missing! Here are some ways I misunderstood it:
I thought that the gospel was simply the "facts" about Jesus' death on a cross, His burial, and His resurrection from the dead, and the necessity of our believing it as true.
I thought "gospel" was a genre of music.
I thought the gospel was what the preacher explained before issuing an invitation to be saved, after which the congregation droned through several stanzas of "Just As I Am."
I thought it was the foundation of Christian life that was to be celebrated and dwelt on briefly, when we first got saved, but then should be left behind as one moved on to "deeper" things. The deeper things, I thought, were the more mystical teachings everyone seemed enamored with.
I thought the gospel, being this sort of one-time story, was like milk, and we were then to move on to these deeper truths, the real "meat."
But I didn't know the glory of this gospel.
The gospel begins with the historical truths of Jesus' death by Roman crucifixion on a hillside outside of Jerusalem, where He made atonement for the sin that had condemned me to death; the historical fact of His burial in a rich man's grave, foretold hundreds of years before and so essential to the truth of the account; and the historical truth of His physical resurrection from the dead and His reigning power over sin, death and hell, that changes everything forever...
The gospel is the ever-more-realized, ever-more-dawning truth about God and about ourselves that must begin to permeate the Christian's thinking and reasoning. The reason I didn't think much about it after I was saved was because I just didn't realize how utterly desperate my need had been, and still daily was, for a Savior. I did not see my true condition before a holy God.
I didn't understand that the gospel is the truth that must be preached to congregations and to our own hearts day after day, not simply as a narrative of historical events leading up to an invitation to be saved, but the truths we constantly need to hear concerning our heart-sick helplessness and our ongoing need for the work of the cross in our lives; the truths about what was purchased at that cross, and what it means for our marriages, our finances, our sanctification. I didn't get that the gospel is what we need to preach to each other and cling to every day, lest our hearts become hardened and we succumb to the deceitfulness of sin (Hebrews 3:13.)
I just didn't know that to gaze admiringly upon the beauty and sufficiency of the gospel of Christ is the highest joy of all... to wonder at being saved from condemnation, to thrill at the relief and the astounding grace that sought me out and rescued me from the wrath and judgment I deserved.
I didn't comprehend that the gospel is the truth that is both the sincere milk of the new-born believer and also the robust meat of the mature believer. We can never outgrow God's gospel of grace... rather, it nurtures and grows us, more and more, into its message.
I didn't realize that the gospel is the power of God for salvation.
I found out that the gospel is the good news that what I could not do, cannot do and never will be able to do, God has graciously done for me at the most tremendous cost imaginable. I must come back to it again and again because I share the sad tendency with every other human on earth to try to be self-sufficient. My haughtiness and pride are laid low again and again and again, in every effort and every area of life, as I learn again and again that this old self I so love and look to is totally corrupt, and in fact, has already been put to death... crucified with Christ.
"I am crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me" (Galatians 2:20.) This puts an end to self-help and boasting, and brings the beginning of great rejoicing in what Jesus has done. Our whole lives here on this earth are to be an outworking of this truth. This is the very best news possible.
The gospel is the grid through which the Christian must view all of life. God is not glorified (and we are not helped) by our self-help techniques. Anyone can try those; making use of self-help books is an attempt to utilize our own self-sufficiency and moral muscle to apply patches that, if effective at all, are only for the short term. But God is greatly glorified when we joyfully (fighting for that joy!) take up our cross and by faith obey His gospel in our marriages, or our finances, or any other practical matter of life.
In what passes for the gospel in many churches and books, we remain at the center of our lives, and God exists primarily to meet our needs. Too much of what passes for the gospel today begins with us; with our needs for our marriages or our finances. Our all-encompassing and greatest need, though, is to know God as He really is, and to worship Him. When we worship and serve God in this way we discover the wisdom and power that helps us live lives that bring blessing to our homes and to the world.
The gospel of the Bible begins and ends with God... His purposes for this earth, His plans for His own people, His glory. He is King, and we are His subjects; He is most glorified when we are most satisfied in Him! In the gospel of the Bible God is central, and all these important things, marriages, finances and all other cares we have, are secondary to His glory and holiness. And in my life, that was the best news I ever heard!
I urge and encourage you to look into these things... after all, the Bible tells us that the gospel is a mystery that angels long to look into and understand! (1 Peter 1:12.) If that is so, then what will we say when we stand before the Lord to give an account of our lives (a day quickly coming) and have to confess to Him what He will already know: that we had little interest in His glorious gospel of grace?
May it never be. It is at our own peril we think so little of His great truths and mercy. I urge you to avail yourselves of the rich resources of teaching and preaching that God has provided for us (for "faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ"), and learn and grow in this evangelion: the extravagant, the immense, the impossible-but-true good news of God's mercy and grace for us sinners.
Some helpful resources:
Tim Keller on "The Centrality of the Gospel" (for those willing to tackle some worthwhile reading)
John Piper-"The Gospel In Six Minutes" (Google video)
D.A. Carson-"What Is the Gospel?" (good synopsis of, and link to, downloadable audio sermon)