The Offense of the Gospel

The gospel is offensive. Not in the way that an unedited Snoop Dogg song or a Lars Von Trier film is offensive, offending the senses. But the gospel is offensive on a different level, because the gospel tells you that you are wrong. This is the central stumbling block of the gospel, I would argue that issues of logical consistency, biblical infallibility, creation and the like are excuses to ignore the main problem people have with the gospel, it tells you that you are wrong.

The nature of the Gospel is one that tells you that you are wrong. Because the gospel says man is evil, none excluded. That means you and I are by nature evil and that we need to be saved from ourselves. This offends our self-sufficiency, however that may flesh itself out. The Gospel holds a mirror to us and does not show people with their lives together, it shows people spiritually, emotionally and physically making progressive shipwreck of their lives. The Bible, our gospel mirror, shows a human race that is broken, ugly and brutish, on their best day. This tells us truths about ourselves that deep down we know, but we think we can fix. We, as humans are on the Titanic, but refuse to admit that it is sinking.

Offense is a challenge to our understand of ourselves and the world around us. People naturally hate being told they are wrong and instead opt to take offensive news and do one of two things with it: 1)We reject it outright -or- 2)We reject it by adapting it. Both are simply delusions, and allow us to stay at odds with whatever truth we are ignoring. But just because you refuse to accept the fact that you cannot breathe underwater will not save you from drowning. People do this in every area, we prefer the safe to the real. That is why nobody went to see Winter’s Bone, because it was offensive on a deep level for many, it was a very real look at a very real place, and it did not resolve itself, leaving you with a picture of brokenness, and most people will not allow themselves to go there.

But to understand the gospel, we must go there, we must be made uncomfortable. Uncomfortable on a personal level, to understand the gospel, we must understand we are wrong. The offense is deep and multifaceted, a few key offensive gospel ideas we must consider are these.

1. We are not good.

[6] We have all become like one who is unclean,
and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment.
We all fade like a leaf,
and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.
[7] There is no one who calls upon your name,
who rouses himself to take hold of you;
for you have hidden your face from us,
and have made us melt in the hand of our iniquities.
(Isaiah 64:6-7 ESV)

What an ugly view of humanity. Yet what an unavoidable truth, that man is evil. Look at the last 60 years of human history alone. On a big scale: Genocide, war, enslavement, sweatshops, colonialism, and the like. And on a smaller, more local scale: Adultery, murder, the pornography industry, eating disorders, self-harm, school shootings, fist fights, bad parenting, the list goes on…

This tells us something about ourselves: we are wrong. And nobody likes to hear they are wrong. Beyond wrong, this says that you and I are a contributor to the depraved and broken human condition. Sufjan Stevens illustrates this well in his song “John Wayne Gacy Jr.” that talks about the horrendous crimes of serial killer John Wayne Gacy. The song speaks of evil but keeps it at arm’s length until the very last lines, when Sufjan utters the true and offensive lyrics:

‘And in my best behavior
I am really just like him
Look beneath the floor boards
For the secrets I have hid’

Nobody wants to hear that about themselves, but this is the truth. The Gospel says you and I are no different that John Wayne Gacy, and we need a savior.

2. We are not self sufficient 

No man has power to retain the spirit or power over the day of death. There is no discharge from war, nor will wickedness deliver those who are given it (Ecclesiastes 8:8)

Not only are we not good, we can’t make ourselves good. If we are wicked, this implies, we can’t become un-wicked by our own power. The American way is to pull ourselves up by the bootstraps. But this is not the gospel way. Think about that verse, if you were to go up to someone and say that, you would probably have a good chance of getting punched in the face. Not because it’s untrue, but because it strikes a nerve with out, when this is pondered, it can induce a panic, especially among Christians.

To believe the gospel, we have to give up self-sufficiency and actually believe that Jesus makes us righteous. Not ritual, good works, obedience, religion, church attendance, bible reading or church planting. If those are your offerings to God that give you your sense of righteousness, you are just a wicked man trying to deliver yourself through wickedness. You can’t appease God, what an insult. Instead, we must trust in the finish work of Christ. Only when we accept the finished work of Christ and are humiliated by our wickedness can we be found acceptable by God. Colossians 1 says

[13]He (Jesus) has delivered us(wicked people) from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son,[14] in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sin

That is the gospel, nowhere in there did you deliver yourself, so give up your American dream, and admit you need a savior. Because, good news, there is a savior, Jesus. The work is finished and we contributed nothing, a little offensive huh?


When you understand you can’t do it on your own you have three places to run. delusion, despair or the gospel. Don’t fool yourself, this is true, investigate it objectively and logically. And if you come to the realization of the truth, don’t despair, there is a God who loves sinners like you and me. He loved us by sending the perfect son of God, Jesus, to the cross as the punishment for sin. Then Jesus rose from death, proving God’s power and victory over sin. Because of the cross “you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ”. That is better than religion, skepticism or the American Dream. The only thing is: you have to be willing to be offended.

Adapted from Misplaced Confidence by Jon Bricker

Week 1: Disciplines of Grace Series

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