You may be familiar with the gospel message that goes something like this. God sent His Son to die in order to bring eternal life to all mankind. Now all you need to do to enjoy the benefit of this sacrifice is to “believe on Jesus”, “be born again”, accept Jesus as your personal Savior”, “pray the sinner’s prayer”, “repent and be baptized”. This gospel is supposedly designed to convert people from lost sinners to saved Christians. After conversion the message may get expanded to include all that I need to do to stay saved or “grow in the faith” or be a good, mature Christian. But that comes later, after I join a church and become a faithful member, supporting the local work with my time and money. Of course, by accepting this gospel I also take on the responsibility for converting others using this same “good news”. This is what I call the conversion gospel. It’s not a particularly thrilling story for the average hearer.
Did God send Jesus to give us this conversion gospel as the way to enjoy fellowship with Him? If so there seem to be some obvious weaknesses in the system. First, what am I to make of all the various terms or expressions that different groups use to describe what is required to be a Christian. It’s a strange sort of process or procedure because one is never quite sure when the process is complete. One minute you are supposed to be lost and then suddenly you are saved but what was the exact moment of salvation? Only God knows apparently.
Then there is the matter of having to hear the message from another human being before one can be saved. That by itself makes this salvation inaccessible to a large portion of humanity. Why rely on unreliable men to get this crucial message out to the world? Eternally significant “good news” should be disseminated universally in the most effective fashion possible. I don’t want to be the bottleneck between you and God, and I suspect you feel the same.
Finally, if what I do is the ultimate determinant of my salvation, how is that any different from righteousness by the law as described in Galatians 3? It isn’t.
Obviously, something is amiss with this conversion gospel. It is not really good news, and it can’t possibly work for the majority. That just doesn’t sound like a plan devised by a loving God.
The real story goes something like this. God so loved mankind that He sent Jesus to demonstrate that love and to open the door for full fellowship with Him for every individual. That fellowship is a present reality for everyone but full enjoyment necessitates recognizing that God loves me and having that recognition lift me to my highest spiritual potential. It is solely a matter between me and God, and no other person need be involved.
God is Love. You are the beloved. Love is the answer.