In fact, I realized that a lot of the time, Christians preach half the gospel! So maybe you're a non-Christian reader and you've only heard half the gospel. Well, if that's the case, I'm really sorry. I'm sorry that we Christians don't always get the full story (I know I still don't!) but I'm thankful to God who does, and who is graciously making it known.
It goes something like this. God is our Maker and He designed us to be worshipers (enjoyers) of Him. We, however, ditched Him but not our worship, because worshiping is central to who we are (we can't not worship!) So instead of God, we chose to worship whatever else we could get our hands on. Older cultures worshiped things they could see like the sun and the rain. We enlightened Westerners laugh at such a notion and instead worship much more civilized things like money and sex and relationships. We turned what is good, and designed to bring us greater enjoyment of God (i.e. the sun, money, sex) into what is ultimate. We made idols and worshiped "false gods."
Again the issue is not whether we worship, but what we worship. So since we worshiped false gods, we got ourselves into a big sticky mess. Relationships became dysfunctional. We sought our identity in "measuring up" to others which made us jealous of each other. Pretty soon we were killing each other and invading each other's countries. We put our hope in things that would fail, like our sex drives and our twenty-four inch waists. Pretty soon fourth grade girls started calling themselves fat and developing eating disorders. We began to display evidence of the fact that something was wrong. Very wrong.
But, as the Story goes, God saw all this. He watched us make our own mess and then roll around in it. Despite consistent reminders that life is in Him, not created things, we blamed Him- not our rebellion-as the source of our trouble. We were dying of thirst next to the fountain of life, and cursing Him all the while. And yet, in all this God still came to the rescue. Jesus came and took our rebellion (and all its mess) onto Himself, offering His own perfect life and enjoyment of God in its place.
So here's where sometimes the gospel gets cut in half. We share all this and then say, "so ask Jesus to forgive you and come claim your ticket to Heaven."
What?!?! Where did that come from? What happened to all that talk about life and worship and enjoyment of God?
The gospel rescues us not just from punishment, but from false worship. It's not just an offer of forgiveness, but an invitation to life! In other words, Jesus didn't come just to get us out of something bad, but to bring us back to something good. He came to redeem our relationship with God, and restore our ability to enjoy Him- and for that matter, with everything else in creation! It restores to us what is Ultimate and therefore allows us to enjoy all other things in proper context. The gospel has to do with our sex life. It has to do with our relationship to our job and with our spouses and with our friends. The gospel saves us from making these things ultimate by restoring us to right worship of God alone.
Jesus came to give us life, which starts now- not in some celestial place-after-death. Jesus said, "and this is eternal life; that they know the One True God, and Christ, whom He has sent." (John 17:3) I'm learning that the gospel is much more than a "free pass" to a happy place that I get to redeem when I die- it's rescue in the here and now! It's relationship and enjoyment of the One I was made to enjoy. It's freedom to see all these other blessings around me as just that- blessings- which lead me to enjoy and glorify God all the more.
(The Heaven part just means that it won't ever end!)