Jesus answered and said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Nicodemus *said to Him, “How can a man be born when he is old? He cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born, can he?” Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.
— John 3:3-6
As Christians, the Gospel should be the most familiar, basic, and obvious truth that we know. And yet there has never been more confusion in the history of Christendom about the Gospel than there is today. What did we lose and why? To rediscover the Biblical truth about the true Gospel we are going to look back at one of John MacArthur's best seller's "The Gospel According to Jesus". In his book John tackled the miss-conceptions of the Gospel that are taught in so many churches today. Some are a result of liberalism while others represent a faulty understanding of the Reformed Theology or Calvinism.
Here is what John has to say about the way we preach the Gospel today:
"Not everyone who claims to be a Christian really is. Unbelievers do make false professions of faith in Christ, and people who are not truly Christians can be deceived into thinking they are. [...] The cheap grace and easy faith of a distorted gospel are ruining the purity of the church. The softening of the New Testament message has brought with it a putrefying inclusivism that in effect sees almost any kind of positive response to Jesus as tantamount to saving faith. Christians today are likely to accept anything other than utter rejection as authentic faith in Christ. Modern-day evangelicalism has developed a large and conspicuous fringe, embracing even those whose doctrine is suspect or whose behaviour indicates a heart in rebellion against the things of God."
"Listen to the typical gospel presentation nowadays. You will hear sinners entreated with words like, "accept Jesus Christ as personal Saviour", "ask Jesus into your heart"; "invite Christ into your life"; or "make a decision for Christ." You may be so accustomed to hearing those phrases that it will surprise you to learn that none of them is based on biblical terminology. They are the products of a diluted gospel. The gospel Jesus proclaimed did not foster that kind of gullibility. From the time He first began to minister publicly, our Lord eschewed the quick, easy, or shallow response. He turned away far more prospects than He won, refusing to proclaim a message that would give anyone a false hope."
"In the course of their dialogue, Jesus confronted Nicodemus's spurious faith, his works-based religion, his Pharisaical righteousness, and his biblical illiteracy. The Savior called for nothing short of complete regeneration. Without such a spiritual rebirth, He told Nicodemus, no one has any hope of eternal life. Nicodemus was clearly jolted by Jesus' words, and there is no evidence in this passage that his immediate response was positive. Nicodemus stands as an illustration of inadequate faith. His mind accepted to some extent the truth of Christ, but his heart was unregenerate."
The 'Lordship Salvation' has long been contested by Christians and theologians who dismiss it as unbiblical at best while others even go as far as calling it an outright heresy. But the 'Lordship Salvation' is far from being a newly invented concept. In fact it is the oldest and purest expression of the Gospel as presented in Scripture. Those opposing it as contrary particularly to the doctrines of the Reformation make the wrong assumption that faith (in it's Biblical understanding) is at odds with one's obedience to Christ. Here is what John has to say about that:
"Salvation is solely by grace through faith (Eph. 2:8). That truth is the biblical watershed for all we teach. But it means nothing if we begin with a misunderstanding of grace or a faulty definition of faith. God's grace is not a static attribute whereby He passively accepts hardened, unrepentant sinners. Grace does not change a person's standing before God yet leave his character untouched. Real grace does not include [...] "the Christian's liberty to do precisely as he chooses." True grace, according to Scripture, teaches us "to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age" (Titus 2:12). Grace is the power of God to fulfil our new covenant duties (cf. 1 Cor. 7:19), however inconsistently we obey at times. Clearly, grace does not grant permission to live in the flesh; it supplies power to live in the Spirit. Faith, like grace, is not static. Saving faith is more than just understanding the facts and mentally acquiescing. It is inseparable from repentance, surrender, and a supernatural longing to obey. None of those responses can be classified exclusively as a human work, any more than believing itself is solely a human effort."
"Misunderstanding on that key point is at the heart of the error of those who reject lordship salvation. They assume that because Scripture contrasts faith and works, faith must be incompatible with works. They set faith in opposition to submission, yieldedness, or turning from sin, and they categorise all the practical elements of salvation as human works. They stumble over the twin truths that salvation is a gift, yet it costs everything. Those ideas are paradoxical, but they are not mutually exclusive. The same dissonance is seen in Jesus' own words, "I will give you rest," followed by "take My yoke upon you" (Matt. 11:28 - 29). The rest we enter into by faith is not a rest of inactivity. Salvation is a gift, but it is appropriated through a faith that goes beyond merely understanding and assenting to the truth. Demons have that kind of "faith" (James 2:19). True believers are characterised by faith that is as repulsed by the life of sin as it is attracted to the mercy of the Savior. Drawn to Christ, they are drawn away from everything else. Jesus described genuine believers as "poor in spirit" (Matt. 5:3). They are like the repentant tax-gatherer, so broken he could not even look heavenward. He could only beat his breast and plead, "God, be merciful to me, the sinner!" (Luke 18:13)."
And so how should we understand repentance then?
"Repentance as Jesus characterised it in this incident involves a recognition of one's utter sinfulness and a turning from self and sin to God (cf. 1 Thess. 1:9). Far from being a human work, it is the inevitable result of God's work in a human heart. And it always represents the end of any human attempt to earn God's favour. It is much more than a mere change of mind - it involves a complete change of heart, attitude, interest, and direction. It is a conversion in every sense of the word. The Bible does not recognise "conversion" that lacks this radical change of direction (Luke 3:7 - 8). A true believer cannot remain rebellious - or even indifferent. Genuine faith will inevitably provoke some degree of obedience. In fact, Scripture often equates faith with obedience (John 3:36; Rom. 1:5; 16:26; 2 Thess. 1:8). "By faith Abraham [the father of true faith] ... obeyed" (Heb. 11:8). That's the heart of the message of Hebrews 11, the great treatise on faith. Faith and works are not incompatible. Jesus even calls the act of believing a work (John 6:29) - not merely a human work, but a gracious work of God in us. He brings us to faith, then enables and empowers us to believe unto obedience (cf. Rom. 16:26)."
"Slavery to Christ is not a minor or secondary feature of true discipleship." [...] "You cannot have Jesus as Saviour and Friend here and now and decide later whether you really want to submit to His authority or not."
"The gospel Jesus proclaimed was a call to discipleship, a call to follow Him in submissive obedience, not just a plea to make a decision or pray a prayer. Jesus' message liberated people from the bondage of their sin while it confronted and condemned hypocrisy. It was an offer of eternal life and forgiveness for repentant sinners, but at the same time it was a rebuke to outwardly religious people whose lives were devoid of true righteousness. It put sinners on notice that they must turn from sin and embrace God's righteousness. It was in every sense good news, yet it was anything but easy-believism."
"We are chosen (Eph. 1:4 - 5; 1 Peter 1:1; 2:9); bought (1 Cor. 6:20; 7:23); owned by our Master (Rom. 14:7 - 9; 1 Cor. 6:19; Titus 2:14); subject to the Master's will and control over us (Acts 5:29; Rom. 6:16 - 19; Phil. 2:5 - 8); and totally dependent on the Master for everything in our lives (2 Cor. 9:8 - 11; Phil. 4:19). We will ultimately be called to account (Rom. 14:12); evaluated (2 Cor. 5:10); and either chastened or rewarded by Him (Heb. 12:5 - 11; 1 Cor. 3:14)."
For more on John MacArthur's "The Gospel According to Jesus" please follow the link below:
The Gospel According to Jesus challenges Christians to re-evaluate their commitment to Christ by examining their fruits. MacArthur asks, "What does it really mean to be saved?" He urges readers to understand that their conversion was more than a mere point in time, that, by definition, it includes a lifetime of obedience.
John MacArthur tackles the error of "easy-believism" by addressing these questions:
Is it possible to accept Jesus as Savior while refusing him as Lord?
Can someone truly believe without actually repenting?
How do obedience, commitment to Christ, and turning from sin fit together with the truth that we are saved by grace through faith alone?
The Gospel According to Jesus is just as powerful today as it was more than two decades ago. It is a Scripture-based clarion call for a rejection of the watered-down message that has gained popularity in the church and a return to the gospel Jesus preached. This 20th anniversary edition adds a powerful new chapter to the complete text of the original classic, reinforcing the book's timeless message--that Jesus demands to be both Savior and Lord to all who believe. This book is compulsory reading for Christians from all walks of life and will help guide you into a deeper relationship with Jesus Christ.