What Is the Gospel?

“A test”
“A road map for how to live your life”
“The books about Jesus”
“The Cross and Jesus dying for our sins”

All of these are responses I’ve received when I’ve asked the question, “what is the Gospel?”

How would you answer that? What is the Gospel?

 

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Image Credit: Harold Lloyd, Creative Commons

I can remember people telling me all of my life that I was a sinner, telling me Jesus died for me, and if I wanted to go to Heaven I needed to believe in Him. And none of that ever made sense to me. First of all, I wasn’t a sinner, I was a good person. Sure I did some “bad stuff,” but a sinner?? That’s a little harsh. Secondly, Jesus died for me? What does that even mean?

All I really knew of Christianity was some of my “Christian” friends telling my very best Jewish friend she was going to Hell because she didn’t believe in Jesus, and I personally didn’t want any part in that. So I sided with my Jewish friend and went to synagogue with her in 7th & 8th grade. That’s right you guys, I was practically Jewish for 2 years.

Then I started going to Christian church with my high school boyfriend’s family, and I think became a Christian then? I don’t really know because once I was introduced to cigarettes and booze, I left all that behind and ran to the party scene. And that was where I lived, a little bit Jewish, a little bit Christian, believed in God, was a good person (during the week), and sort of knew about Jesus. Until my father passed away suddenly and I realized this little made-up belief, and idea of being a good person and in control of my own life came crashing down in front of me.

Shortly after my father passed away, I was confronted with all of this God stuff once again. I knew deep within my heart I wasn’t in control of my life, my time on Earth, and neither was anyone else. But how can I know God? How can I know there is just one God? And what about Jesus? Why is everyone always telling me about Jesus? And in complete humility and honesty, I looked at my now-husband and asked him about God. I asked him about why people called me a sinner, why people told me about Jesus and asked:

“What does His death have to do with my life?”

I needed to make sense of this life, my life, and Jesus’s life. Because if what people were telling me was true, then His life and death have implication on my life.

So what is the Gospel?

Gospel literally means good news. The good news that Jesus lived the life we couldn’t live, and died the death we should have died.

In one word, the Gospel is . . . Jesus.

God created the world and everything in it (Gen. 1:1).
He set man on the earth, as His prize creation, and gave him a choice (Gen. 2:15-17).
Sin entered the world through the Deceiver, by tempting mankind to choose between trusting God at His word or eating the fruit of disobedience (Gen. 3:1-7).

Sin is simply trying to find satisfaction outside of God. It’s selfishness. It’s choosing our own way over God and His kind of life.

Adam and Eve ate the fruit of disobedience, and we do the same to this very day (Rom. 3:10-18, 23). When we sin, we break relationship with God. Something must be done in order to be brought back into right standing with God (righteousness) and inherit eternal life. A perfect sacrifice, a satisfactory payment, a fulfillment to the Law (Rom. 3:22-24, Matt. 5:17) must be made to inherit eternal life.

Religion and humanistic thinking tells us we can do enough good so that God will be pleased with us.
God tells us there is one way He is pleased with us . . .
Believing in His son (Acts 16:31).

In order to be brought into right relationship with God, a perfect sacrifice, a sufficient payment, must be made for our ransom. Jesus Christ paid for our sins with His perfect life by dying on the Cross.

His death was the satisfactory payment for our sin (1 John 2:1).

But it doesn’t just stop there. His death and His resurrection bring us new life (2 Cor. 5:17). The Gospel is what Jesus did for us on the cross, but it’s also the promise of new life. The Gospel is walking in the power of the Resurrection and living out our new life (Gal. 2:20).

The Gospel is Jesus.
The Gospel is hope.
The Gospel is grace and mercy new every day.

God
Man
Sin
Jesus
New Life

THAT is the Gospel.

Reading & Reflection

1. Read Romans 8. What words or phrases do you see repeated in the first 16 verses?

2. What is the difference between living in the flesh and living in the Spirit?

3. Do you struggle to believe Romans 8:1? Do you truly believe you’ve been forgiven of sin and God sees you as righteous? Spend some time reading the last few verses of chapter 8 and reminding yourself of God’s love.

 

I’m so excited to announce that we will begin a study of the book of Philippians beginning on Monday! Will you consider joining us??
Sign up here if you want to read along with us the month of August.
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A Love Like This

As I’m reflecting on Jesus’ last week on this earth, I am reminded of his love.

A love I don’t understand and a love I don’t know how to live.

I’m reading John 13 and realizing before the “Last Supper” Jesus did something so crazy, so upside-down to demonstrate one final lesson to His disciples about His character.

Jesus had spent three years with these disciples. Day in and day out, walking with them, teaching them, breaking bread with them, loving them. He knew them. All of them, their hearts, their thoughts, every part of them, every one of them.

Even Judas.

Jesus walked side by side with Judas. He was in Jesus’ inner circle. And Jesus fully knew him. Jesus knew Judas was a fake, a phony, a hypocrite, and a betrayer. He knew Judas was going to sell him out and hand him over. And look at what Jesus does the night before it happens:

“Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. During supper, when the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him, Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him.” (John 13:1-5)

Jesus, fully knowing that Judas was going to betray him, gets up from the table, takes the posture of humility, maybe even humiliation, bends his knee, and washes Judas’ feet.

“When he had washed their feet and put on his outer garments and resumed his place, he said to them, “Do you understand what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them. I am not speaking of all of you; I know whom I have chosen. But the Scripture will be fulfilled, ‘He who ate my bread has lifted his heel against me.’ I am telling you this now, before it takes place, that when it does take place you may believe that I am he. Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever receives the one I send receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me.” (John 13:12-20)

He does this to show us what is at His core, humility and submission to the will of the Father. So that we might believe He is the Christ.

Jesus doesn’t try to confront Judas, kick him out of the group, call out his sin, prove his point, etc. He knows his heart, tells him to his face “do what you came here to do”, exposing him, and yet trusts God’s plan to let him. Jesus shows Judas love even in the midst of his betrayal.

Jesus invites his betrayer to the table, feeds him, looks him in the eye, and bends down to wash his feet. He serves the one who would hand Him over to death.

 I don’t know how to love like this. I don’t know how to humbly submit like this. I don’t know how to forgive like this.

I will never be able to love and forgive like this apart from being filled with His spirit and remembering the love God has for me.

This kind of love, the love of Christ, is beyond my understanding.

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World Vision, Civil War in Christianity, and Where We Go from Here

There was a storm on social media this week, a civil war in Christianity. World Vision announced they would hire people in committed gay marriages, then in less than 48 hours, reversed it.

People were outraged.
People were divided.
People took a stand and dropped sponsorships for nearly 5,000 children.

We made a very loud, a very public, and a very clear statement this week.

We would rather be known for what we’re against, than what we’re for.
We would rather divide than unite.
We would rather write blogs calling each other out, than entering in.
We would rather oppose gay marriage than feed starving children.

Regardless of your position on World Vision, the damage has been done-on both sides, to both sides, and most of all to children around the world.

And I don’t know about you, but it feels like a tornado just tore through our neighborhood and now we’re left to clean up the wreckage.

What do we now? Where do we go from here?
Who are we really helping when we do this?

I am all for standing up for truth and proclaiming what is right.  ALL for it.  I don’t think it’s loving to let people remain in sin and continue on a path that takes them further away from God.

Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”  (1 Corinthians 6:9-11)

Yep, it’s in there.  And it’s hard to read.  Scripture calls this sin, and I’ve committed most of those in that list. But, if we’re going to “take a stand” for truth, for scripture, let’s take a stand for all of it.

Here are some other parts of scripture I didn’t see people “defending” in the midst of the World Vision debacle:

“If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless.   Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.”  (James 1:26-27)

“Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” (Galatians 5:19-23)

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”  (John 13:34-35)

As I look through the “works of the flesh” in Galatians, I not only see “sexual immorality”, but “enmity, strife, fits of anger, dissension, and divisions”.

So I ask you Christian, what were you known for this week?

This week, we publicly picked our sins to call out, publicly divided and cast stones, publicly committed works of the flesh, and got mad at the other side for doing the same.

And the whole world watched.

And I’m deeply grieved.

I’m grieved over the fact that prominent leaders used their platform to slander one another and disobey scripture in public.
I’m grieved that thousands of children lost their sponsorship for food, healthcare, and education in a day.
I’m grieved that we drew lines in the sand where Jesus didn’t.
I’m grieved that we unite quicker over being pro/anti gay marriage than we do over caring for the poor.

We have to realize that when we do these things publicly, we are shutting people out that Jesus died to let in.  When we defend only parts of scripture, we are hypocrites.  When we use our “platforms” to launch ebombs, we’re causing more harm than good.

As I processed the two sides, I couldn’t land on either one, I kept thinking there has to be a third way.  There has to be another way to process what happened this week.

And the LORD whispered to my heart, there is:

The Cross.

It’s not about picking a lane or choosing a side.  It’s about running to the Cross.
It really is the ONLY thing that unites us. It is the only thing that will bring us together, the liberal and conservative, gay or straight, hungry or fed, rich or poor, hater or lover.  The only way is the Cross.

I don’t know about you, but I’m choosing the way of the Cross, the way of the gospel, the way of Jesus.  The line in the sand for me is not us vs. them, it’s us vs. Him, and He chose to lift us out and graft us in.

So as we move forward, let’s commit to cleaning up the wreckage.
Let’s commit to slowing down, to praying before proclaiming, to examining our hearts before prosecuting others.
Let’s commit to being peacemakers, the kind that speak truth and show love, and help reconcile people to Christ.
Let’s take a stand for Jesus, by living closely to his new command in John 13. Let’s take a stand for Jesus by calling out sin and caring for the least of these.

Let’s be people of the Cross, not people of dividing lines or opposing sides. Let’s be people who recognize Jesus cares just as much about our sexuality as he does about the poor. Let’s be people who wage war against darkness, not each other.  Let’s be people of unity, truth, love and grace.

Let’s be people of The Cross.
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