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Gospel

Jesus Christ is the Lord God Creator. And that’s as crucial to us today as it was to his twelve disciples two millennia ago. Because if it’s true, that Jesus is who He says he is, it changes everything. It would be the single most important truth ever. 

It means that our Creator-God didn’t just leave us alone in our messes, but He chooses to reach out to us, to live among his creation and to redeem us back to Himself. 

Why do I believe in a God in the first place?
As I look around I see an amazing universe. It’s obvious to me that a great intelligence created such an intricate system of time, physics, and life. 

The heavens proclaim the glory of God. 
    The skies display his craftsmanship. 

Day after day they continue to speak;
    night after night they make him known.

They speak without a sound or word;
    their voice is never heard.

Yet their message has gone throughout the earth,
    and their words to all the world.
– Psalm 19: 1-4

If an intelligence had the power to speak the universe into existence it would make sense that this intelligence would care about the lives He had created and would reveal Himself to His creation. I believe that the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is that Creator-God.

(This is a longer explanation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ that is usually presented, but I figure that you don’t want a Reader’s Digest summary, you want to really understand. It’s basically two parts – our impossible problem and God’s amazing solution )

Houston, we have a problem
As I take another look around I see that we are not a satisfied people. Something’s missing in our lives. Life’s unfair and then we die. We try to fill the void within us with thrills and new things, but the effect is short lived. The Rolling Stones got it right with the song “I can’t get no-o sa-tis-fac-tion“.  

The same is true of folks who seem to have it all together, and those who are a wreck. In Scripture, Qoheleth (the teacher who wrote Ecclesiastes) comes face to face with this feeling of meaninglessness, 

Yet I saw that the wise and the foolish share the same fate.
    Both will die.

So I said to myself, “Since I will end up the same as the fool, what’s the value of all my wisdom? 
    This is all meaningless!”

For the wise and the foolish both die. The wise will not be remembered any longer than the foolish.
    In the days to come, both will be forgotten. 

So I came to hate life because everything done here under the sun is so troubling.
    Everything is meaningless, like the chasing of the wind.
– Ecclesiastes 2:14-17 

Isaiah wrote this depressing line…

They don’t know where to find peace – Isaiah 59:8

The Source of Problem

This pain, this empty feeling, this frustration, isn’t just “the way things are”, it’s a direct result of Adam’s sin in the garden of Eden. After Adam and Eve chose to disobey God, this is what God said to Adam,

“Since you listened to your wife and ate from the tree
    whose fruit I commanded you not to eat,
the ground is cursed because of you.
    All your life you will struggle to scratch a living from it.

It will grow thorns and thistles for you,
    though you will eat of its grains.
By the sweat of your brow
    will you have food to eat
until you return to the ground
     from which you were made.
For you were made from dust,
    and to dust you will return.”
– Genesis 3: 17-19

When Adam and Eve sinned in the garden, God cast them out of paradise. Ever since then life’s been hard – we are broken beings living in a broken world. 

And this sin problem isn’t just an issue that Adam had, or just a surface problem, or a behavior problem. This tendency to sin in ingrained within us. We can’t help ourselves. 

We are constant sinners, how can people like us be saved?
We are all infected and impure with sin.
 

When we display our righteous deeds, they are nothing but filthy rags.
Like autumn leaves we wither and fall, and our sins sweep us away like the wind.
Yet no one calls on your name or pleads with you for mercy,
Therefore, you have turned away from us and turned us over to our sins.
 

-Isaiah 64: 5b – 7   

What exactly is sin? Merriam-Webster’s basic definition is “an offense against religious or moral law.” But here’s more to it than that.  There are sins of commission – doing something that’s wrong, and sins of omission – failing to do what’s right. 

The purpose of the law it to show each of us that we’re guilty,

for it’s purpose is to keep people from having excuses, and to show that the entire world is guilt before God. For no one can ever be made right with God by doing what the law commands. The law simply shows us how sinful we are. – Romans 3:19,20

Did you notice that the Prophet Isaiah said that even our righteous deeds – the good things we do – are as good as filthy rags? Even doing good doesn’t solve our problem because the problem is deeper than behavior. We have a heart problem.   

Designed for Worship
If you took a poll and asked 1,000 people, “Which is the worst sin?”, I’d bet that murder, war crimes, rape, and crimes against children, (and maybe adultery), would be at the top of the list. On a strictly human scale, those are evil, and those evils are definitely on God’s list too; but I don’t think those sins get to the root of the problem. 

If sin is violating God’s law, then it makes sense to consider which sin is at the top of God’s list. It would follow that the greatest sin, the greatest brokenness, the root of the problem is violating God’s highest law. When Jesus was asked what the greatest commandment was, He quoted the Shema (which means hear or listen), the scripture that the Jews recited daily,  

Listen, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength. – Deuteronomy 6:4,5  

The first commandment addresses this issue of worshipping God,

I am the Lord your God who rescued you from Egypt, the place of your slavery.

You must not have any other god but me. – Exodus 20: 2-3

When the Apostle Paul wrote about the progression of sin, the first specific sin he mentions is failing to worship,

they wouldn’t worship him as God, of even give Him thanks … Romans 1:21

God rightfully deserves our worship because He’s the Creator of the universe. He created our individual souls. If another human expected worship, that would be pure arrogance, but it’s what God rightfully deserves. It’s the correct order of things.

Worship is far more than going to church, we were intended to live out worship to God with our whole being like the kind of worship found in Psalm 66. 

Shout joyful praises to God, all the earth!
    Sing about the glory of his name!
    Tell the world how glorious he is.
Say to God, “How awesome are your deeds!
    Your enemies cringe before your mighty power.
Everything on earth will worship you;
    they will sing your praises,
    shouting your name in glorious songs
– Psalm 66 

That Psalm puts words to our highest calling in life. Praising God is what our hearts were designed to do. Our hearts come alive in worship.

We’re not called to worship God because life is good. We worship because he is God, regardless of our circumstances. Job lost nearly everything (his children, everything he owned, and his health) yet worshipped God, 

(Job) said,  

   “I came naked from my mother’s womb,
      and I will be naked when I leave.
   The Lord gave me what I had,
      and the Lord has taken it away.
   Praise the name of the Lord!”
– Job 1:21  

And the Prophet Habakkuk worshipped when times were hard,

Even though the fig trees have no blossoms,

     And there are no grapes on the vines;

Even though the olive crop fails,

    And the fields lie empty and barren;

Even though the flocks die in the fields,

    And the cattle barns are empty;

Yet I will rejoice in the Lord,

    I will be joyful in the God of my salvation,

The Sovereign Lord is my strength,

    He makes me as surefooted as a deer,

    Able to tread upon the heights. – Habakkuk 3:17-19

We are hard-wired to be worshippers. It’s in our DNA. To worship literally means to “ascribe worth”. Basically, whatever we chase after, whatever we treasure, that’s what we worship. When we don’t worship God, we find something else to worship instead. Money, romance, intelligence, education, beauty, elegance, love, feasts and celebrations, inner peace, and happiness might all be good things when used appropriately, but if we value them more than our Creator God then they are idols in our lives. And worshipping anything less than God cheats our lives of meaning.  

Like Little gods
The root of our brokenness isn’t just that we do wrong, or fail to do right. It’s that we want to do it our way. 

The ultimate rebellion is to think that we don’t need God. We think we can run our own lives just fine thank you. We like trying to be in control rather than trusting God to be in control. We want to be the god (little g) of our lives.

All of us, like sheep, have strayed away, We have left God’s path to follow our own. – Isaiah 53: 6 

This is how Satan initially deceived Eve, when he talked her into disobeying God. 

“You won’t die!” the serpent replied to the woman. 
“God knows that your eyes will be opened as soon as you eat it, and you will be like God, knowing both good and evil.”
 – Genesis 3:4,5 

Even today, many spiritual leaders draw people by teaching that they can become a god, or that they can “find the deity within them”. But, we fail miserably at playing god. There is only one true God. 

For there is no other God but me,
   a righteous God and Savior.
      There is none but me.
– Isaiah 45:21 

No matter how good our intentions, usurping God from the throne of our lives is high treason.

Infinitely Broken and Without Hope
We commit sins of omission by failing to worship the Creator God and usurping the Creator God’s rightful place as God of our lives. We commit sins of commission by doing wrong.

Our sin causes several problems for us. Sin causes death. Before Adam and Eve sinned they would have lived forever. The entropy of the universe started with the first sin. The death that sin causes is also a spiritual death. It separates us from God both now and eternally. The profane simply can’t exist in the presence of the pure. We have as much chance living in God’s presence in heaven as an ice cube on the face of the sun. When the Prophet Isaiah was taken up into heaven and met God, his reaction was appropriate, 

Then I said, “It’s all over! I am doomed, for I am a sinful man. I have filthy lips, and I live among a people with filthy lips. Yet I have seen the King, the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.” – Isaiah 6:5  

Salvation is as much about this life as the next, but the fact remains, however unpleasant that there are eternal consequences to sin. 

Our sinful condition also prevents us from being capable of moving toward God.

For the sinful nature is always hostile to God. It never did obey God’s laws, and it never will.
That’s why those who are still under the control of their sinful nature can never please God.
  – Romans 8:7,8

The brokenness of our hearts keeps us from our created purpose of glorifying God, serving God, and serving others. And, our sin nature means we end up hurting and disappointing those we love, cheating ourselves out of peace, and then we die. Perhaps our biggest problem is that we are completely stumped. It is absolutely impossible for us to solve our sin problem and climb our way back to God. Like Isaiah said, we’re doomed.

God has a Plan
In the Holy Scriptures we read,
through love and faithfulness sin is atoned for. - Proverbs 16:6  

We can’t atone for our sin, we don’t have enough love nor faithfulness. It’s a good thing God’s wisdom is higher than ours! God knows all. He knows us. God is not bound by time. He was not surprised by Adam’s fall. Scripture says that before the beginning of time, God planned a way to solve our sin problem for us. 

 Listen! The Lord’s arm is not too weak to save you,

Nor is His ear to deaf to hear you call – Isaiah 59:1

God loves us, but He is also a just God and won’t simply ignore our sin. To simply forgive our sin without satisfying justice would violate God’s Holiness. God can’t just wink at sin and pretend it’s not there. He had to make a way to truly solve the problem and reconcile us back to himself.  

God’s solution was for God Himself to pay the penalty for our sin. God became a man and lived a perfect life among us. Jesus Christ is God made flesh. It had to be God who could rescue us because only God can met the requirements of God. Then, having kept all the law with a pure heart, he was faithful to His Father’s will and Jesus accepted the penalty for our sin. When Jesus was crucified, it was more than the physical pain. He took upon himself all the guilt and shame of the creation’s sin. He died in our place.  

The death of an innocent God is sufficient to pay the price for all the sins – finite and infinite.    

When Jesus was crucified his disciples went into hiding. They were confused and afraid. Several others had claimed to be the Messiah, but their following had disappeared like mist when the leader was killed. Everyone knew they weren’t the Messiah because they were dead.  

Psalm 16 taugth about the Messiah (literally, your holy one, or annointed one)  and death.  

No wonder my heart is glad, and I rejoice. My body rests in safety. For you will not leave my soul among the dead or allow your holy one to rot in the grave.  – Psalm 16:9,10 NLT  

If Jesus was dead he couldn’t be the Messiah, all was lost.  

But very early on Sunday morning the women went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared. They found that the stone had been rolled away from the entrance. So they went in, but they didn’t find the body of the Lord Jesus. As they stood there puzzled, two men suddenly appeared to them, clothed in dazzling robes.  

The women were terrified and bowed with their faces to the ground. Then the men asked, “Why are you looking among the dead for someone who is alive? He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead! Remember what he told you back in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be betrayed into the hands of sinful men and be crucified, and that he would rise again on the third day.” – Luke 24: 5-7  

In the weeks that followed, Jesus appeared to 500 of His followers several times, and they worshipped Him as their Lord and God. The disciples were no longer afraid, they preached boldly and all died horrible torturous deaths without recanting their faith. Who would die for what they know is a lie?    

His resurrection conquered sin and death forever. The living God can freely redeem whom he desires. The good news is that God provides the love and the faithfulness to atone for our sin.  

Come, Follow Me!
Jesus is calling us to become His followers – to turn from trying to find satisfaction on our own and trying to be our own little gods, and to return to our created purpose of worshiping the living God as our God, and to trust His mercy.  

God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God.Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. – Ephesians 2:8,9  

The mark of Jesus is that He forgives and our life with God begins by accepting his gift of forgiveness. We stop trying to earn our own way, trying to be our own god, and depend instead on God to be God. We rest in God’s ability to solve our sin problem. God alone gives to us the gift of real life here and now, and in eternity.  

This isn’t how most “religions” work so let me explain the good news again; It isn’t about being good, cleaning up our act, or mustering up enough faith to impress God. Jesus even said the faith of a mustard seed was enough. Mustard seeds are pretty small. It’s not about us. It’s about God. Salvation is of the Lord. The hardest part about becoming a follower is stopping to trust in our “whatever” to get us to heaven. It boils down to doing nothing and resting in God’s hands, knowing that He solved our sin problem for us.  

It isn’t head-knowledge ether. It isn’t simply agreeing that Jesus lived, or that he was a good rabbi, or even agreeing that Jesus is God-incarnate-risen-from-the-dead. It’s a trusting in your heart that Jesus is your God. The Bible says that even the devils believe that Jesus is God. But they don’t worship Jesus or trust in Jesus to be their God.  

When we trust in Christ to be our God, He does several wonderful things for us. First he gives us eternal life beginning right now. He also births new life to our hearts so we can once again serve and glorify God. He makes us one of His brothers, with God the Father as our Father. God’s Holy Spirit comes and dwells within our heart. God promises that followers of Jesus will always have eternal life. Being alive spiritually is something God did, so only God could undo it. Keeping our salvation is up to God; not us.  

Being holy means being set apart for a special purpose. When we believe we are declared holy right away. As far as God is concerned we qualify as perfect for entry in heaven, because God sees not our sin, but the righteousness of Christ covering us.  

Walking with Christ
Once we become followers, the Holy Spirit begins working in our hearts to mature us. God begins a wonderful work within us, making us more like Jesus in our ability to love, forgive, and serve. God begins to ‘work-out’ our salvation into the rest of our life. God cleans up our act from the inside out, by changing our hearts. Our part is to grow in Christ in the same way we become a follower, by resting and trusting Jesus to be our God. As we grow closer to God, we find that God truly is our Father, and Jesus our friend and brother.  

Be Wise
Finding truth is a lot like walking on an iced-over pond. You may be completely convinced the ice will hold you, but if it’s only a half-inch thick, you’re going to get wet. But even if you have a few doubts, ice a foot thick will hold you once you walk on it. Truth is like the ice. You might sincerely believe in your ability to be good enough, or some sacrament, or even some religion to get you to God. But if it’s not the truth you’ll end up very cold and very wet. It’s not the sincerity of one’s faith but the object of one’s faith that makes the difference!  

It may feel good to believe that there are many roads up God’s mountain. But the prophet Isaiah quoted the Lord as saying,
I, even I, am the LORD, and apart from me there is no savior.
– Isaiah 43:11  

and Jesus said,
Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
– John 14:6  

Beware of false teachings. There can only be one truth. Is Christianity exclusive, yes. It’s very exclusive – it claims to the the only truth. But it’s also the most inclusive religion, all are welcome.  

The Apostle Paul once preached this same good news to the Bereans. Their enthused response was to check what Paul said according to the scriptures. The Apostle declared them noble. Don’t just take my word for it. This is too important to leave it to someone else to figure out for you. Ask God to reveal Himself to you in a powerful way. Then read the Gospel of John. I recommend the New Living Translation. 

Now is the time to worship 

If your heart is stirred to worship God, if you feel God calling you to be a follower of Jesus, you can follow Jesus now. Just talk to Him,  

Jesus,   

I believe that You are the living Creator-God and I’m awed by Your power and love. I believe You died in my place and rose from the dead conquering death and sin.   

Like Isaiah, I am a sinner with filthy lips. I have been selfish with my life and I have failed to worship You. I can only ask for mercy and beg you to forgive me. I offer nothing, my righteousness is as rags. I can only hope for your mercy and grace.  

I worship you my Creator, my Lord, and my God. Please make my heart an altar to You. Teach me to be true to my created purpose of glorifying and praising You.   

I praise You. Amen.  

Oh, what joy for those
    whose disobedience is forgiven,
    whose sin is put out of sight!

Yes, what joy for those
    whose record the Lord has cleared of guilt
Psalm 32:1,2

One Comment
  1. August 26, 2010 5:38 pm

    Thanks for taking the time to write this out.

    <>

    That statement really resonated with me as I read your post. The depth and wonder of God’s grace is still too huge for me to comprehend. I don’t deserve his mercy or attention. Yet, because God is love, in his mercy he ransomed me and redeemed me out of my hopeless state of lostness. What a father we have in God. What an affirmation. What a marvel. Mind-blowing. Hope-restoring.

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