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When is the Gospel Not Good News?

Sometimes when we share our faith, we can sense the message is not getting through. We can feel that the good news we have about God’s love for the people of the world – highlighted and evidenced through Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection – just doesn’t resonate as good news with the hearers of the message. How should we respond when the gospel is not “Good News”?

If you are anything like me, you’ll heartily agree that the message of the cross is in fact “Good News.” The gospel has the ability to inwardly transform a person so that the change in their heart spills out into the visible world of the gospel recipient. We believe that the gospel has the power to transform a person from the inside out and that this transformation is indeed good news to those who would receive it by simple faith.

So why do people reject the amazing truth that the gospel is good news? Here are three simple reasons. They are not exhaustive, and I am sure you can think of many more to add to the list:

When They are Not Ready to Receive the Good News

A wheel chair is an amazing invention! It provides a person the means to move from one place to another often with a good amount of independence. It can enhance the life of a person who has lost the use of their legs. It may raise that person’s self esteem if previously they have felt home-bound or isolated. It can enable them to participate in community or sporting events.

I imagine most of us able bodied people have not thought about this before. A wheelchair is good news to someone who has lost use of their legs – but to an able bodied person it is more than likely just ‘interesting’ news. The difference is found in the need for the wheelchair. Most of us do not need a wheelchair. Therefore we would be unlikely to value information about them.

The gospel is like this: many people do not receive the gospel simply because they do not yet perceive their need for it. This is why it is essential that we continue to preach the whole gospel that without God we are lost. Without Jesus, we are separated from God’s love and from God himself. Without the cross, there is no way back to the Father. Many people simply do not see their need for God. He is outside their need list. As preachers and missionaries we must communicate the gospel at a person’s point of need. This requires us to get to know people relationally and personally. This takes time as we will need to observe and listen to those we are sharing the gospel with.

When Their Hearts are Hard to the Good News

It is not unusual to come across someone who has hardened themselves to the good news that God loves them. Many people have hardened their hearts to Jesus. This is to be expected in a fallen and broken world. It is well known that when people are hurting they often put up defenses against being hurt again. These walls surround the heart and are often set up not just against human hurts but also against God who is perceived to be to blame.

The gospel shows us that God reaches out in love, and love is exactly what hurting people need. Think back over your life. When you were hurt by others how did you respond? I know that even with God on my side I have often taken offence and built mental barriers between myself and others (God included!) in order to ‘protect’ myself. Your friends and family are human like you. They will need the gospel to be incarnated in your lifestyle, actions, and compassion. Not only in your words. A simple response of active love is the first step to softening a persons’ heart toward you and the loving God we serve. Small steps and words of love are God’s good news to those who are hurting.

When They Don’t See Enough Evidence of the Good News

“But I have shown them so many passages of the Bible that prove who Jesus is and what he has done…” Have you ever felt this way? We might be moved to despair or frustration when our loved ones are not coming to Jesus.

Sharing scriptural support for belief in the gospel is good, but the gospel is not about revealing scripture to people. It is about revealing Jesus to people. We need to back up the verbal gospel message with lives that reflect the truth of the gospel. Our lives need to be bearing the fruit of the gospel that transforms us from the inside out. People need to see the fruit of the Holy Spirit evidenced in the day to day things we do. It’s not going to church that will convince a person that the gospel works (although it might!). It’s not just reading your Bible or praying that a person needs to see (although they might!).

They need to see how you handle conflict in Godly ways. How you treat your spouse. How you show hospitality unconditionally. How you make yourself available when needs arise. How you speak. How you act. Everything. It is sad but true that often the worst ‘advertisement’ for the gospel is the carrier of the gospel – me and you. I pray that this would not be the reason our friends, families, neighbors, work colleagues, and enemies reject the gospel. When people don’t see the evidence, we need to return to God to soften our hearts to Him as we surrender our lives afresh to Him.

As we share the gospel, we need to really discern where the hearer is at in life and faith:

Are they oblivious to their need? Help them to see their need. Listen like Jesus

Are they hurting? Let the gospel be given in love in order to bring healing. Love like Jesus.

Do they lack true evidence that the Gospel transforms? Make sure your life matches up to gospel values. Live like Jesus.

Stuart McCormack has worked as a shelf stacker, bingo caller, archivist, Youth Minister and is currently living out his calling to missional living in the secular workspace as a Targeted Youth Support Worker/mentor.  He co-leads “Vintage,” a missional community which is part of Kairos Network Church based in Harrogate North Yorkshire.  He is husband to Jenna and father to Noah, Bella and Sophia. In his spare time he tweets @missionalrev and blogs at www.missionalrev.wordpress.com