Many folks are quick to say, "I believe in the Gospel!" So what is the Gospel? Actually it should be properly stated as "The Gospel of Jesus Christ." The word Gospel itself means "good news". So, do you believe in the good news of Jesus Christ? Jesus Himself said, "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation." (Mark 16:15) Preaching the Gospel is proclaiming the good news about Jesus Christ.
The Apostle Paul says in Romans 1:16, "For I am not ashamed of the gospel (good news), for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek." So the good news (the Gospel) of Jesus carries with it the power to be saved! Rather than being ashamed of the good news of Jesus, Paul embraced and proclaimed the Gospel.
What a lot of folks don't realize is that there is more to the Gospel than what is being proclaimed by most. Many who proclaim the Gospel (which should be all of us) fail to proclaim the whole Gospel. The whole Gospel also includes the cost of following Jesus in addition to how to go to heaven, not hell. The focus of the Gospel should also be what it will cost you to give up your life and follow Jesus for the rest of your life, and throughout all eternity.
Listen to Jesus, "For which one of you, when he wants to build a tower, does not first sit down and calculate the cost to see if he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who observe it begin to ridicule him..." (Luke 14:28-29) Knowing the cost up front prevents a shipwreck later. Have you ever wondered why some people end up falling away from Jesus later, down the road? Because the sinner's prayer they prayed was not prayed in earnest. Why was it not in earnest? Because they had no idea what it would cost them not only to be saved, but as the Gospel proclaims, to sell out and follow Him for the rest of their life. There was no surrender.
Jesus said, "If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me." (Luke 9:23) This verse is extremely crucial because it states there is a cost to being genuinely saved. What is the cost? Everything! Total surrender to Him, and following after Him is a vital element of our salvation. When we fail to proclaim this aspect of the good news, many people pray the sinner's prayer but know nothing about denying self, taking up their cross, and following Jesus. When we present the Gospel in a way that coerces others to pray the prayer to ease the conscience, but not surrender their lives completely to Jesus, they eventually fall away from Jesus later when it becomes impossible to follow Him through the flesh. In all actuality they were not genuinely saved.
The rich young ruler in Mark Chapter 10 is a great example of the cost of following Jesus. In order to inherit eternal life Jesus said to Him, "One thing you lack: go and sell all you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me." (Mark 10:21) This was total surrender for a man who was extremely wealthy and owned much property. But Jesus didn't require that he just sell everything. He also required that he give all the proceeds away to the less fortunate. Can you imagine? He was to go from being filthy rich to having less than the poor! The truth is, he would be even richer! Instead, his treasures would be in heaven, and would supply his every need eternally! If he would follow Jesus, he would never lack while at the same time laying up infinite treasures in heaven!
There were lots of people who followed Jesus when He was on the earth. According to the Scriptures however, there were only a few that Jesus personally invited to follow Him. Could it be this rich young ruler would become the replacement for Judas, the son of perdition? We don't know this for sure, but we do know that when Jesus calls, He bids us to forsake everything for His sake and for the sake of the Gospel. "Truly I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or farms, for My sake and for the gospel's sake, but that he will receive a hundred times as much now in the present age, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and farms, along with persecutions; and in the age to come, eternal life." (Mark 10:29-30) It's a shame the rich young ruler chose not to follow Jesus. I believe he was torn between giving up everything to follow Jesus and retaining his possessions. He walked away grieving.
Let's make sure we don't shy away from the whole Gospel thinking we might deter some from praying the sinner's prayer. We must lay it all out, the way it is so each person can make an informed decision. Even if they are deterred, they will have the whole Gospel to ponder instead of just some of it. The Holy Spirit can be more effective in the heart of a person who has heard and is hearing the whole Gospel. When they do choose Jesus, it will be real. God will do great exploits through one who is truly born again, not one just who prays the sinner's prayer to ease their own conscience.