What is the gospel?
What do you think about Jesus? You are surely familiar with the name. Do you think he was a good guy, a model to follow? Do you think he was a hopeless martyr? Or do you think he was a normal man whose followers made him into something he wasn’t, or something he never intended to be?
Maybe you think of him as Savior? But Savior from what? Are you among those who go to church each week hoping that Jesus will help them, save them from their financial problems, give them peace from the stress and trouble of their lives, or relieve them from the consequences of their bad choices? Is Jesus the trick to achieving your best life now?
In the Bible we read, “Christ came into the world to save sinners” (1 Timothy 1:15). Simply enough, Jesus Christ had one purpose. He said, “For (I) came into the world not to be served, but to serve, and to give my live as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:45) These two verses simply describe the problem (sin) and the solution (Jesus). The problem is not your finances and the solution is not a Mercedes. Your problem is sin, and it is not just your problem, it is the same problem that every human being has been saddled with since the inception of the human race.
Sin is missing the mark. It is failing to achieve the standard for perfection that is inherently based on God’s character. He is holy; that’s who He is. And we are all sinners. We read in the Bible, “For all have sinned and fall short of God’s glory” (Romans 3:23). So, we are all in the same boat. And that boat is sailing to a hopeless end, physical death and separation from God for eternity.
So, how does anyone have hope? This is where Jesus comes in. He lived a perfect life and is perfectly holy in his character because he is God. As such, he was worthy of serving as our substitute, and he did so. Romans 5:8 says, “But God shows His love for us this way- while we were still sinners, Christ died for us”. As the perfect God-man, he could take our punishment. We could never be good enough, so God “made him who knew no sin to be sin for us, so that we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Corinthians 5:21)
That’s good news, right? So, sin is paid for? Yes, it is good news. But, God offers it as a gift, not as a compulsion. No one has to accept Christ’s payment for his sin. In fact, many people reject it because it requires them to acknowledge what we have already concluded- that they aren’t good enough. We have to acknowledge that we can’t make it on our own. In that spirit of humility, “if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” (Romans 10:9,10) But even that isn’t the end of the good news.
You see, the gospel isn’t just about eliminating the penalty for sin. It really is about giving you “your best life now”, what Jesus called “abundant life”. Abundant life isn’t where you get whatever you want and pursue your own selfishness. You are free to do that now. In fact, you have no choice but to do that right now- your misery, lack of peace and restlessness are due to the fact that you are in bondage to your appetites. And those appetites can never be satisfied. On the other hand, Jesus says, “whoever drinks of this water will never thirst” (John 4:14) and “the one who comes to me will never go hungry” (John 6:35). Life with Jesus isn’t easy- he promises suffering, he promises people will hate you and he promises that you will have to deny yourself. But, in exchange he offers a life of meaning, peace and joy with an eternity to come.
God has done for us what we cannot do for ourselves; he has, in Christ, achieved salvation for us. That’s the greatest news one could ever hear, but also the saddest news if you reject the gift. There will come a day where our present concerns, what absorbs our thoughts and energy each day, will seem trivial. Peter said, “Jesus is the one appointed by God to be judge of the living and the dead” (Acts 10:42). That leaves no one out. Jesus is coming, and we will either thank him as Lord and Savior or fear him as Judge.
The good news is that God has provided a way of salvation and that gift is yours through faith in Jesus Christ. The good news is that there is a life of purpose and meaning ahead, lived in submission to Jesus and not in slavery to your appetites. The good news is that there is an eternity spent with God in celebration of his love for you instead of an eternity separated from him. “If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.”