I was reading in a book today that discussed the Gospel, and I found myself asking if I really knew what the Gospel is. Now of course, a Gospel, in terms of the Bible, is one of the first four books of the New Testament, and it is about Jesus and his life/ministry (with a specific apostolic interpretation of the whole story). It contains Jesus’ teaching on the Kingdom of God, and covers the story of his death and resurrection. That is what it is. However, if I said this to a person who had never had any interest in God, he might wonder what specifically makes this news “good” enough to make such a big deal out of? It would just seem like a cool story with a happy ending. Shouldn’t good news motivate you? Fill you with joy? Make you want to share it? Shouldn’t you even benefit from good news sometimes? Instead, the Gospel seems to be one of those topics that Christians know about, but never really know.
We live in a society that challenges everything. Why does this happen? Why is that important? Why should I listen to you? Why is this happening to me? Why isn’t it happening to you instead? For a culture so focused on “Why”, there seems to be a lot of Christians who have a hard time answering the question “Why is the Gospel good news?” As I focused on this question in my brain, I came across another question: “If you were to describe the good news about Jesus, how would you do it?” This is how I would describe it. It is an answer, based on my logic, that is intended to explain the Gospel in a way that can be understood. But don’t take my word for it! Search the Bible for yourself!
For starters, God made people. If you have ever put time and effort into making something, then you have probably felt some sort of attachment towards that thing. This is especially the case if you are expressing yourself through what you have created, such as a work of art or a song. What you have created is then a small picture of who you are. This is a tiny taste of what it means to say God created people. God put time and effort into creating people, expressing Himself in all the smallest details. He didn’t speak us into existence, like animals and plants and light. He created us with his own hands. If I believe the Bible is true, which I do, then I believe that God is love. Love is God. They are the same thing! We were made by Love itself! This means that we are a small picture of who God is. We are a small picture of who Love is! We were made to have access to Love always. Can you imagine, reader, what it feels like for the very Namesake of the word “love” to have created you? Can you imagine what that Love must feel towards you? It is probably difficult to be totally amazed by this since our sin has caused us to have such a broken and twisted view of love. But we long for it, don’t we? We search for it, many times “in all the wrong places.” No one wants to be alone forever, and God knew this. He said He made a wife for Adam because “it is not good for man to be alone.” WE WERE MADE FOR LOVE.
As perfect as this sounds, it clearly didn’t last. As we have seen in so many robots-rule-the-world movies, the creation turned against the creator. God gave Adam and Eve an entire paradise to live in, and the only rule He gave was to not eat from ONE tree. They broke that rule. The one thing that God put time and effort and Himself into creating became separated from Him. If God is a perfect God, and if he is to remain perfect, imperfection cannot exist in His presence. In the same way, darkness cannot just exist next to a blazing fire. In order for darkness to exist, it has to be separated from the light source. There has to be something that blocks the light in order for darkness to exist. This is what it means when I say that we were cut off from God because He was perfect and His creation chose not to be perfect. We found ourselves outside some sort of wall that was cutting us off from the very One who gave us life. Wait…cut off from Life? That sounds a lot like…death doesn’t it?
The very standard that God holds us to is perfection. Perfection is a ruler and we simply don’t measure up. God said that the punishment for imperfection would actually be death. Because no one is perfect, everyone is doomed to die. That sounds a little bit harsh though, if you don’t understand the seriousness of imperfection, the seriousness of our sin. I have heard an analogy in the past that I like a lot. It compares our sin to slapping God in the face. When God tells us to be perfect and we choose imperfection, it is like we are spitting in God’s face. Here is the analogy:
If you were to walk up to a random guy on the street and slap him across the face or spit on him, he might punch you in the face. Repeatedly. If you were to walk up to a police officer and slap him across the face or spit on him, you will probably spend some time in jail. If you were to approach the king of a foreign country and slap him across the face or spit on him, you might actually lose your life. Therefore, if you slap the face or spit on an eternal God, you will be punished eternally. I’m fairly confident in saying that disrespecting authority is something that is pretty much unacceptable in all cultures. Science even supports that “for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.” Therefore, the higher the authority, the heavier the punishment.
“What in the world is good about all of this?” The good news is that God still loved us; He never wanted us to experience this punishment and He had a plan to get us back. God decided to send His Son to earth as a mortal human. Mortal. With feelings and stuff. This man would experience hunger and pain, fear and desire, weariness and joy, friendship and confusion. All of the human stuff. Despite this, he would live a life without sin, and prove that it was in fact, possible for a human to be perfect. Jesus taught the message that God wants people to live in His Kingdom. In order for this to happen though, sin has to be eradicated—exterminated. God has to recognize us as perfect.
The law that God gave the Israelites so long before Jesus was given so that we could at least know that we were broken. This law gave rules that could be followed so that God could at least be near His creation. These rules would also show the world that God had chosen them to be His representatives. This law was their identity. It could give them uniqueness. They could actually know who they were in a broken world of confusion. It makes sense that the Jewish leaders would be offended at Jesus saying their law wasn’t good enough—it was missing something. Jesus said, “I have not come to abolish the Law, but to fulfill it.” What could a mortal man offer that the Law couldn’t? PERFECTION. The law that the Jews were given existed because that was as perfect as they could possibly get. No one had ever lived a perfect life before, so how can they be expected to do it? The law said that murder was wrong, but Jesus said that even wishing something bad on someone else is equal to murder. The Law covers physical actions, but the law of God’s Kingdom is perfection in every way, including in the heart.
Next, Jesus died in our place so we wouldn’t have to. Let me put it another way. The less of something there is, the more valuable it is. That’s pretty basic. You could have a million dirty rocks, but the ones people really want are the sparkly pretty ones. In the same way, you could have trillions and trillions of sinful people, but the most valuable one is the perfect one. That person is so valuable, in fact, that he is worth all of the other people. If that one guy is traded, and punished for sinning, he will have paid the debt that so many other people owed. Once God’s people have been paid for, it is up to them to come home to paradise. If they come home, God will call them perfect because there is no more debt. You can’t honestly say someone owes you if you have already been paid what you are owed.
So the last question. How do we return home? How do we gain the title “perfect”? Jesus said he is the only way. Jesus said that he is the only truth. Jesus said he is the only life. No one comes to the Father unless they follow Jesus. It makes sense doesn’t it? If you don’t know or don’t accept the God’s payment for your life, then you are kind of implying that something else will pay your dept. Surprise. There is nothing else that can pay the debt. Jesus was it! That is the good news!! There is a place without anything bad! No more death, pain, cancer, hate, loneliness, or fear; we have a way to get there! We just have to accept and believe that Jesus’ death pays what we owe! How do we know that we can believe this? The cost of sin is death. Well, Jesus death-ed. The debt was paid; nothing more was owed, so God brought him back to life! Pretty smart right? God can raise us from the dead too! It’s up to us though. God unlocked the door to our prison cell on death row. We just have to leave the cell!