G O S P E L
G O S P E L
Gospel is a word that means ‘Good News’! This good news is the story that comes to us from a book called ‘the Bible’. It is God’s story that He dictated to chosen persons who wrote it down so that we could know His plan and purpose for us. The Bible starts this way, “In the beginning, God”… and what these four words mean is that before all that is now ever was… even before time and space as we know it… God existed. It’s very difficult for us to understand that before there was this something we call the world, there was nothing… but God. And those words are followed by, “created the heavens and the earth”. The Bible tells us that God spoke and the heavens (the universe) and the earth were formed. He continued to speak and created all that is… without the advice or help of any other being. He created day and night… land and ocean… plants… trees… and all living creatures on the land, in the sea and in the air… all according to His plan and for His purpose. The very existence of this world displays God’s power and authority over all creation… since He made it all then it is all His to rule.
Then God completed the process of creation by forming mankind… first a man and then a woman. He gave us the privilege to rule over His creation as He would… to treat it as He would. He provided everything we would need to live… food, shelter and companionship. And He even placed in mankind a part of Himself… a spirit, so that we could have a relationship with Him. So, more than being created to manage His creation, God designed us to know Him… to love Him… and to worship Him as King over all things. This is why god is amazing and awesome and more than words can describe… and this is just the start of God’s story as it is known by mankind.
Now our story starts with Adam and Eve, the first humans, and what they did has an eternal effect on all their descendants… all of mankind… even you and me. God put Adam and Eve in one of the sweetest parts of His creation… in the Bible it’s called a garden… and the best thing about the garden was that God was there with them. He told Adam that everything in the garden was for him to enjoy except the fruit of this one tree. By this, mankind was given the opportunity to obey God and honor Him as King or to choose to place himself in authority by eating the fruit and rejecting Him as God.
Now the fruit they were told not to eat came from what God called ‘the tree of the knowledge of good and evil’. Guess what happened… they ate the fruit! And you know what happened then, they realized at that very moment the difference from good and evil… that what they had done was wrong. This one effort to be God was an act of disobedience which is called sin and is the ultimate and eternal game changer.
So, what happens when you break a law? There are consequences and a price is to be paid. If you speed you get a ticket and if you steal there’s a good chance you’ll go to jail. But what happens when you rebel against a king? Even more, when your effort is to push a king off his rightful throne and put yourself in his place? This is called treason and the penalty is often immediate execution. When God confronted Adam and Eve about their disobedience they made excuses but God knew what was at the core of their hearts… sin, which is a rejection of His authority. Now God has a lot of attributes… sort of like characteristics. One of them is that He is absolutely without sin… it’s called Holiness. God had every right to wipe mankind off the planet and completely remove sin from the world. But another attribute of God is perfect love… so, according to His plan and for His purpose He had compassion on Adam and Eve.
When you stand before a judge, having been convicted of a crime, there is a sentencing. God is a righteous judge (another one of His attributes) and although He didn’t sentence mankind to immediate extermination, His judgment was intense, absolute and righteous. Instead of the life of comfort and plenty found in that awesome garden, Adam and Eve were expelled and would have to work for a living, enduring a life of hardship, pain and heartache. The most severe element of God’s sentencing was that mankind was now separated from God… removing Himself from our presence, which is called spiritual death because we have no relationship with the King, now and forever. Finally, actual physical death was cursed on all mankind and creation. Yet even in these judgments, God hinted at an eventual hope… a provision.
God loves mankind so much that he provided a plan for a restored relationship with Him. First, a temporary provision that revealed that man could never be God and then a second, perfect provision that displayed why God alone is worthy of our love and worship!
Through the generations that followed Adam and Eve there were two kinds of people. There were those who rejected even the notion of God as creator and king, who made themselves the center of attention and focused on fulfilling all their sinful appetites and darkest desires. And then there was a group, much smaller in number, who humbled themselves before God, who in faith believed that He existed and would one day provide a path back into His presence. The most prominent among those was a man called Abraham who, because of his faith and obedience, was promised that a great nation would come from his family… which was to be Israel.
Generations later, under the leadership of Moses, Israel received a list of rules from God called the law… a portion of which is called the 10 commandments. In all there are over 600 of these rules given not only to govern the nation, but more importantly to display God’s standard of perfection and to reestablish His authority to rule over them as King. The only way to exist with God is to be as perfect as He is… and these laws revealed that spiritual perfection was impossible to achieve by any person. Because these laws were broken, God demanded that the price for disobedience would be the sacrifice of an animal, for only the shedding of innocent blood was the proper payment for sin. Individuals, families and even the nation would offer animal sacrifices for their sins.
But at just the right moment in history God entered the time and space he created in human form. He was born as God but also as human and His name is Jesus, the Christ, the Messiah, the King of Kings and Emmanuel… which means God with us. In Jesus all the predictions God had spoken through special messengers called prophets regarding the perfect and lasting provision to restore a relationship with Him were fulfilled. Not only did He live a perfect life without sin, He delivered a message about God, (whom He called His Father), of His Kingdom and of the love He has for the world. Jesus explained it this way, “for God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.” Regarding God’s Kingdom, Jesus told those who followed Him and His teachings that ‘the Kingdom’ was here… not a kingdom of land or territory but of rule and authority. But if mankind were to be able to enter this kingdom a payment for our sin was necessary.
So Jesus freely offered Himself to the religious and political authorities of that time…all whom had rejected God’s Kingdom. They beat him harshly for many hours and then killed Him in the most savage form of death imaginable. They drove long spiked nails through His hands and feet into wood beams and then posted Him in front of an angry crowd of people who mocked and made fun of Him. Why would Jesus do this? For two reasons… because He loved us so much and because this was the only way for mankind to have a restored relationship with God. As Jesus hung, dying on the wooden beams called a cross he cried out, ‘it is finished’, which means the price for sin had been paid… and then He died. The ‘Lamb of God’ (another name for Jesus) was the perfect, sinless sacrifice for the forgiveness of all mankind’s sin.
But the story of provision doesn’t end there. Because of the religious rules and a special holiday, friends and family members of Jesus took His body and laid it in a temporary tomb. The plan was to come back in a few days to bury Jesus in a proper fashion. But to everyone’s surprise, when they came back three days later they learned of the most amazing miracle to ever happen… that Jesus had risen from the dead. This is called the resurrection and it is not only the proof that Jesus paid the price of sin, but the consequence of sin, which is death, had been defeated. So the cross reveals the passion that God has for mankind, that He offered the supreme sacrifice for our sin, and the resurrection displays God’s power and authority to rule over all things… even death!
ENTRANCE INTO THE KINGDOM
The reason we share this story with those we care about is we believe that God has made this provision for everyone, but each person must choose for themselves if they will follow the steps necessary to gain entrance into the kingdom. Each citizen of God’s Kingdom has:
A. Admitted that God is God and that we are not. This affirms God’s rightful authority in our lives and rejects any notion of our ability to rule our lives.
B. Believed that Jesus is who He claims to be and completed God’s mission for Him. This means that by faith we embrace the fact that He is God’s lamb, who’s sacrifice alone paid the price of sin. That there is nothing we could ever do on our own to restore this broken relationship.
C. Confessed to God that we are sinners in need of salvation (deliverance from death) that He alone offers. We have also turned (repented) from a course of self governed living by claiming the power of Jesus’ resurrection to live the life of a Kingdom citizen.
It is by faith, belief in God’s story… it is through trust in God’s love and His best intentions for our lives… and it is through hope in the power of the resurrection that we will one day be in God’s presence that we live as citizens of His Kingdom.
L. I. F. E
Through Jesus Christ I now have the opportunity to live a life abiding in Christ. This means I understand:
God’s love… that there is nothing that I could ever do to make him love me more or less…it is complete…it is forever.
My identity…is in Jesus Christ. Through the act of baptism I have identified with His death, burial and resurrection and those who know me best know me as a Christ follower.
God’s favor…as God had favored me with His grace, mercy and generosity I will do the same with those with whom I come in contact.
Eternal perspective… I invest my time, talent, and treasure in what matters most to God… those things that last for all eternity.