Not Understanding The Gospel (Part 3)

Not Understanding The Gospel (Part 3)

In this thought-provoking blog post by Mike Barko, the focus remains on the crucial message that many individuals, both inside and outside the church, do not fully comprehend the gospel. Through various encounters with people like Sam and Jacob, Mike delves into the prevalent misconception that salvation is achieved through one's own actions and efforts. He emphasizes that Christianity is not about behavior modification but heart transformation, emphasizing that "Christianity is not a changed life; it is an exchanged life." Mike highlights the dangers of mixing grace with works and the idea of salvation being achieved through a combination of Christ's work and one's own efforts. He underscores the importance of trusting in Christ alone for salvation, shedding light on the truth that God's grace is sufficient and complete. The post offers clarity on common misunderstandings within Christian circles, such as the notion that commitment or good works play a part in salvation. It provides readers with a deeper understanding of how trust in Christ alone is the key to eternal life and how God's judgment was already fulfilled in Christ's sacrifice. The message is a reminder of the simplicity and power of the gospel message, encouraging individuals to place their trust solely in Christ for salvation.


Mike Barko

5/15/20198 min read

Let's continue now with our lesson from part 1 and part 2:

People inside and outside the church are not understanding the gospel.

Please keep in mind that all these stories were from one day, the Spirit of God wanting to impress upon us the one point in view.

Sam was the next person that I shared with. She thought she might get into Heaven because:

"I try to always think of Him. I took care of my loved one. I always try to treat people like they treat me. I'm always fair."

Notice the default setting of the human heart: I. Salvation is not what I do, it is only what Christ has already done for me.

Christianity is not primarily do: Christianity is primarily done.
Law is do: Grace is done.
Religion is do: Relationship is done.
Flesh is do: Spirit is done.
Work/Strive/Try vs. Rest/Trust/Believe

Christianity is not behavior modification. Christianity is heart transformation.

Watchman Nee explains it best: "Christianity is not a changed life. Christianity is an exchanged life."

"It is no longer I, it is Christ."

Sometimes people look at the Sermon on the Mount as something they need to do. Instead, look at the Sermon on the Mount as something that the Holy Spirit will produce in you as you trust and rely upon Him.

Confess your utter helplessness and allow Him to do it for you.

I shared the gospel with Sam as I always do and she wanted to trust Christ as her Savior instead of herself:

"He saved me. I let Him do it for me."


Jacob was the next person I got to share with. I believe Jacob was already a Christian. Unfortunately, like many people in the church, he was stuck in Galatians.

Jacob initially told me, "He has redeemed me and I live by the Word."

Jacob was mingling law with grace.

In other words, "Christ's work + my work" = Heaven."


"Christ's work = Heaven->His works are produced in me" I trust Christ alone for eternal life. Then, He works in me and through me. Ephesians 2:8,9 tells us to trust in Christ alone without any added works. Once we do that, Ephesians 2:10 tells us that He then He begins to work in us and through us.

We can't save ourselves. We trust God the Son for that.

'Not by works of righteousness that we have done, but according to his mercy He saved us..." (Titus 3:5)

We can't live this life. We trust God the Spirit for that.

"Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh?"
(Galatians 3:3)

As we began to talk more he said...

"I believe that I have earned my way."

Sometimes there is stuff in our hearts that we don't realize is even there. When it comes out, we are very surprised to hear it, as was Jacob with this statement.

Many people in the church today think Christianity amount to this: Accept Jesus and be good. We have to be very careful that when we preach messages, this is not the underlying theme. It may not be what is intended, but nevertheless, it is what is heard.

Because of this misconception, people begin the Christian life by trusting Christ but they then begin to trust in their good behavior.

Last year, I got to share with a precious J.M.U. student named Luke. He was already very involved in Inter varsity and thought he was a Christian. However, after we talked he told me that he really got saved after I shared the gospel with him. His testimony was something like this:

"I was always taught like most other people, about what Jesus had done for me. But, with that, I thought that I had to work hard to sort of earn what He had already done for me. I now know that is not true."

Jacob said something else of concern: "I have done what was required and so did Jesus."

Again, this is the Christ plus message. In other words, what Christ did was not enough to save me. I also have to: live right, be good, be baptized, take communion, go to church, etc. in order to be saved.

The Judaizers were telling the Galatian church that Christ was not enough to save them. They also had to be circumcised. This is the Christ plus message.

The result?

"...Christ shall profit you are a debtor to do the whole law...Christ is become of no effect unto are fallen from grace..." (Galatians 5:2-4)

These are serious words for those who add to the finished work of Christ.

What do most people think of when they hear the phrase, "fallen from grace?"

Yes, we picture the pastor who ran off with the church secretary. Isn't it interesting that here, 'falling from grace', isn't that. It is simply adding our works to the finished work of Christ, and trusting in both, instead of Christ alone.

"And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work." (Romans 11:6)

Here, grace and law are mutually exclusive. That is why Paul said that if we add one work to the work of Christ that 'we are a debtor to do the whole law.' (Galatians 5:3)

We have moved away from allowing God to justify us on the basis of the work of Christ, and are now attempting to be justified on the basis of our own work.

As soon as we do this, we now have to keep the whole law to be justified. Impossible. Right, that is the point. Martin Luther discovered this truth at the top of the Holy Stairs where he only had sore knees.

There is a church that teaches that baptism is a part of salvation. Years later a pastor gave me his church card and he had added church attendance and communion to the requirements. One work becomes two, two becomes three...and on and on.

"What is enough?"..."Have I done enough?"...

Trust in Christ alone.

So, I asked Jacob, "Have you done what God requires?"

He said, 'Yes, I was baptized and I committed my life to Him."

"They replied, "We want to perform God's works, too. What should we do?" "Jesus told them, 'This is the only work God wants from you: Believe in the one he has sent." (John 6:28,29 NLT)

You see, when many people are baptized, they are not completely trusting in the work of Christ for their salvation. They are partially trusting in the act of baptism. We must trust in the reality of Christ, not the representation of baptism.

What about Jacob, "committing His life to Him?"

We even have to be careful with this. Years ago, I spoke to an older couple who had taught Sunday school for 25 years. They initially told me they "were only 75% sure of Heaven, and there was no use trying to get them to 100%." They had heard the gospel many times before to no avail.

Yours truly gave it a shot anyways. At the end, they were still 75% sure. Listen to what they told me...

"Well, Mike, frankly, some days our commitment is good, and some days our commitment is bad."

What were they trusting in? 'Their commitment.'

This precious, sincere, faithful, 25 year Sunday school couple was unwittingly trusting in 'their commitment' instead of Christ alone. This is a very subtle form of works.

Amazingly, I wish you had been there...

The light went off for both of them and they saw the truth. No words can adequately describe the joy, peace, and enthusiasm that came into their hearts and expressions as they jumped up and exclaimed that after all these years in church they finally found the truth.

They wanted 25 bracelets to take back to their Sunday school class so they could share with them all!

This reminds me of another young man that I spoke with years ago at the West Virginia State Fair. His initial countenance was characterized by deep concern, lack of peace, and fear.

I shared the gospel with him, and he still wasn't 100% sure. So I asked him why?

He told me...

"Last year, we had a minister come to our high school. He told everyone that if we wanted to be 'real Christians', that we needed to 'take up our cross, deny ourselves, and follow Him'. Those who wanted to 'make a commitment' were invited to come forward and be saved.

This young man went forward...

Unfortunately, he still wasn't 100% sure that he was going to Heaven and his countenance was vexed with no peace.

What was the problem?

This young man was relying upon 'taking up his cross, denying himself, and following Him' for his salvation. Thus, in essence, he was trying to work his way to Heaven by doing these things.

How do we initially 'take up our cross and deny ourselves?'

We say no to our flesh that tells us we can save ourselves, and place all of our trust in the finished work of God the Son.

How do we progressively 'take up our cross and deny ourselves?"

We say no to our flesh that tells us we can live this life in our own energy, and instead, place all of our trust in the inward life of God the Holy Spirit.

The Christian life is trusting God from start to finish instead of trusting ourselves.

'Following Him", as Pastor Kerry Willis used to say, is pre-Pentecostal.

The disciples followed the one who was on the outside: God the Son. You and I now follow the one who is on the inside: God the Holy Spirit.

Our surrender to the the work of the Son saves us. Our surrender to the work of the Spirit sanctifies us.

Surrendering is trusting. Trusting the work of God the Son and trusting the work of God the Holy Spirit.

This is how we 'take up our cross and deny ourselves.' It is not primarily outward but inward. It is something that He does, not us.

This vexed young man saw the truth this day and was completely delivered. You should have seen the joy and peace on his countenance as God delivered him from himself.

Back to Jacob...

He told me...

"My pastor's told me to 'pray and ask forgiveness.'

We have to be careful with this as well. This too can be a subtle form of works that people trust in.

I remember a precious 13 year old girl at a fall bazaar many years ago. She told me she was initially 75% sure of going to Heaven because she had 'asked Jesus to be her Savior'.

After hearing the gospel, she told me she was now 100% sure.

She told me...

"I now realize that I am saved, not by asking, but by believing."

"Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved."

Jacob finally got the truth and told me...

"I now see things from a different perspective. The court case has already been decided. This brings peace."

One more story to expound upon Jacob's statement...

'The court case has already been decided

Sunday, I shared the gospel with a dear friend named Mike at the church. We got to the end of the gospel and he still was not completely sure.

He told me:

"When I stand before God, He will judge me and determine whether or not I get in.'

So many people in and outside of churches believe this. I explained to Him that Christ was completely judged in his place 2000 years ago. The law of double jeopardy declares that no person can be tried twice for the same crime.

Out of control forest fires are sometimes quenched by burning the ground directly in front of the fire. When the fire comes to the burned ground, it goes out because that ground has already been burned!

The fires of God's judgment already fell on Christ in Mike's place 2000 years ago. No more eternal judgment now exists for precious Mike as he saw this truth and decided to trust in Christ alone.

Yes, our works for Christ will come into judgment and we will be rewarded accordingly. But, our eternal judgment has already been taken.

Yes, God disciplines his children, you and me, but this is temporal, not eternal.

Mike went home a new man, and told his wife who had been praying for him for years, that he was now saved...

by trusting...

Christ alone.

To be continued.