Remember playing “One of these is not like the other”? You’re shown a picture of beagles. In the middle of the pack stands a beagle-looking fox. Can you find it? In the middle of teddy bears on a couch sits a fluffy, baby chow. Which one? Here stand several meerkats in a row. What’s that, a real cat on hind legs between them? Now it’s a row of five well-chiseled and tanned body-builders. Number three appears anemic and emaciated. (A hard-working preacher?)
A lot of false claims, false gospels offer religious snacks, religious rewards, religious answers to life’s problems. “Do these five times.” “Worship three of these and call me in the morning.” “Tithe a triple amount to receive our blessing.” “Try harder, live better, do a hundred religious sit ups every day.”
Can you find, can you distinguish the gospel of Jesus from false? The gospel means “good news.” Regarding the gospel, the good news from beginning to end rests solely in Jesus Christ, in who he is, in what he said, in what he accomplished by dying on a cruel Roman cross.
The great feature about the good news of Jesus Christ focuses on one word – grace! Grace means that the salvation I receive by believing Jesus, by believing this good news about him, comes as a completely free gift. I cannot merit it. I cannot earn it. As a sinner, I cannot be good enough to deserve it. I reach out by the hand of faith and receive it.
The Apostle Paul scolded Christians in the Galatian churches for not distinguishing the true gospel, for allowing troublemakers to distort the good news about Jesus Christ (Galatians 1:6-9). They received – and fully deserved – his harshest words.
The gospel remains a precious gift, freely given to us, and given to us to explain to others. While we cannot give the gift of life, we can offer the life-saving good news of the gospel. But be clear concerning your own reception of the gospel. And be clear in offering the good news. No strings attached. No works-based baloney. Save that for your sandwich.