I thought I’d take a moment and share a simple way of understanding and sharing the Gospel from a book by Randy Pope entitled The Answer. It’s an exploded version of Bill Hybels’ “Do versus Done” approach.
This first diagram is how all other religions attempt to relate to God. God has the capacity to bless us, but in order to wrangle that blessing from him, we need to DO in a way that earns this blessing from God so that he is then obligated to give it to us.
This leads to the performance trap, which results in self-righteousness, and although many of our favorite “good” people operate in this realm, it is repulsive to God. Just like flowers, candy or jewelry given to your spouse to butter her up so she’ll say yes to a weekend with the guys is repulsive and manipulative, so is our self-righteousness to God. It’s about manipulating God to get blessing and not about relating to him out of love.
This next diagram is a picture of the Gospel and how Christianity works differently. Rather than us reaching up to God by our performance, God must reach down to us by grace. It’s all about what God has DONE through Christ. This is, therefore, not self-righteousness, but an alien righteousness, the very righteousness of Christ imputed to our account by faith (Phil. 3:9).
And once we receive the grace of God by faith, we are motivated to love God because of the immense love with which he first loved us (1 John 4:10; 2 Cor. 5:15). This love then motivates us to perform for God, but for completely different reasons. We no longer need to try to manipulate him. We’ve already been declared righteous freely in Christ. What more can God give us? We have every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ (Eph. 1:3). No, we perform out of love, overwhelming gratefulness and deep desire to please this God who has reached down to us in Christ. This results in the kind of demonstrated righteousness that James talks about (James 2:14ff).
I hope this brief summary was helpful for your own understanding of the Gospel and possibly even gives you a simple way of explaining it to someone you love.