Imagine a buffet. See the towering stacks of plates, the orange heat lamps, the steam rising. The freedom to pick and choose however much (or however little) you want. Now imagine modern Christianity. A choice between the many perceived in-roads to salvation. Pick one or a few based on culture, theology and denomination. Do these individual pieces make up the gospel? Absolutely. Can we choose a few and leave the rest? Absolutely not…

We’ve been told Heaven and Hell are the endgame. And, for the most part, that’s what our finite minds comprehend. It’s the whole reason we even came to the gospel buffet in the first place. We might believe it’s hunger. A need for community. A desire for nourishment. But in reality, it’s always been about survival. Whether consciously or subconsciously, we’re just trying to find the right formula for entry. “I can choose the bare minimum to keep myself out of Hell, and that’ll be enough…” We say the words. We pray the prayer. And we believe it just might buy us the golden ticket.

The gut check comes when wondering how we’re supposed to spend the other 27,374 days of our human experience. If securing access to Heaven is all there is, do we even need to live life further? Perhaps one of the greatest pieces of succinct instruction on the topic comes from Philippians 2:12-13 when Paul says, “Continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.” Paul is speaking to the church, explaining the active, ongoing work of salvation. The Greek word for “Salvation” is Soteria, meaning deliverance, preservation, the present-tense profession of all Christians. A person cannot be kept safe, delivered, preserved without an active, ongoing, present-tense relationship with the One who delivers.

Here are some questions to ask ourselves: What was it about the gospel that first attracted us to Christ? Have most of our decisions been in the interest of eternal self-preservation? Does our relationship with Jesus extend beyond a single transaction? Is it transactional at all? What are some key indicators that our spiritual communion with God is ongoing? What are some key indicators that we are spiritually dead? Where have we allowed our gospel experience to go stale or stagnant?

The primary purpose of the gospel, to put it bluntly, is not to get into Heaven. It’s certainly not to get out of Hell. The primary purpose of the gospel is transformation. To experience new birth. New life. To trade our old self for a new one. We don’t simply accept Christ’s gift and kick back until eternity rolls around. There’s a daily call to wake up and say, “Yes, Jesus. Today, I trust you.” To worship in the practice of denying our new self what our old self would have so desperately wanted. To remain in spirit-to-spirit communication with God and never be the same again.

If simply getting out of Hell is all we come to experience in this life, we are living a deception called Segmented Gospel.