Friday, July 6, 2012

What IS the gospel anyway?

Can you state what ‘the gospel’ actually is?  Take a minute and think about it.  It’s not as easy as you thought is it?  It wasn’t for me anyway.  But it could be.  It should be.  I think the reason it’s so difficult is because we don’t hear it, think about it or speak it enough to be able to articulate it.  

The gospel is good news.  It’s life changing.  It’s glorious.  The reason we don’t see it as such is because we haven’t heard it.  Or we don’t understand it.  Or we simply don’t take the time to think about what it means.

For me, I just didn’t/don’t think about it enough to actually understand what it actually is.  We add things to the gospel and it becomes anything but good news.  The best news in the universe can be shared in under a minute....

There is a God.  He did create you and He created you for a purpose.  He loves you.  But He is perfect and you are not.  Your imperfection ruins your relationship with God.  No matter what you do, you cannot restore that relationship.  But God restores it for you!  Jesus died on the cross for your sin.  He gave you his perfectness.  He took your punishment.  Done.  Once and for all.  If you trust Him, you are reconciled to God.  The relationship is cured.  He sees you as perfect, even though you are not.

That’s it.  Nothing more, nothing less.  The good news.  The problem is other people will tell you it’s more.  You have to do more.  You have to change your life.  And if others aren’t telling you that, you will tell yourself that.  I do.  We start out believing that our salvation is a free gift from God, but then we slowly go back to trying to earn it.  In Galatians Paul wrote “Are you so foolish?  Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?” (3:3).  There is change in your life.  But it’s not because God requires it for salvation.  But we start thinking now that we’re Christians we have to start acting like it and living ‘good’ lives.  We start feeling proud of the change in our life.  We start feeling like we deserve salvation.  Then every mistake we make, we feel condemned because of it.  We, who began with grace, end up being slaves to the law every time.  And we start to require of others the same change we saw in our own life.  Just as we are not saved by the law, we also are not perfected by the law.  We are perfected by the Spirit.

Paul also states that “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore,and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.”(5:1).  Why do we do this?  Why is it so hard for us to accept the gospel?  Why do we continuously try to earn that which we cannot earn and was given to us freely?

The gospel is simple, it’s up there in the fourth paragraph.  It’s not where you begin your walk with God.  It’s where you begin, where you live and where you end.  Don’t let anyone add anything to it.  Don’t let them burden you with a yoke that you don’t have to carry.  Paul said do not turn to another gospel, ‘if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed.” (1:8).  If anyone tries to add something you have to do, reading your bible regularly, going to church, getting in a life group, stop cussing, stop drinking etc., it’s not the gospel according to the scriptures.  There are no requirements, no list of actions you must do, or not do.  That wouldn’t be good news at all.  He accepts you like you are and He doesn’t require anything of you, not only in the beginning, but throughout.  You just accept the gift.  And as you ponder the fact that He loves you, as you are, you fall in love with Him.   Anything else will take care of itself.

Bonus commentary:  People love to see a Christian caught up in a scandal.  They see it as validating their belief that Christians are no better than unbelievers.  That we think we are better people, but these scandals prove that we are not.  If we understood the gospel, this would be obliterated.  No one would be surprised when a Christian is caught in a sex scandal.  The world wouldn’t be looking for mistakes Christians make.  Christians wouldn’t be so afraid of ‘not living up to the moral person’ they portray themselves as.  We need to stop perverting the gospel.  The important difference between a believer and an unbeliever?  It’s not a moral lifestyle.  One’s not a better person than the other.  The difference is the believer has accepted a gift and is reconciled to God, seen as perfect by God though they are from from it and the unbeliever has not.  If we understand and articulate the true gospel, Christian scandals are no longer newsworthy.  They are simply evidence validating the whole point behind why the gospel is good news and why it is so essential.

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