“Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” – John 12:24
“The last enemy to be destroyed is death...Death is swallowed up in victory.” – 1 Corinthians 15:26, 54
"The greater the sin, the greater the mercy, the deeper the death and the brighter the rebirth.” - C. S. Lewis
"This story...has the very taste of primary truth." - J. R. R. Tolkien

Saturday, May 24, 2008

The Gospel

I had never really liked the term "gospel" until I decided to write out the gospel as I would tell it to some ordinary old shmoe on the street. Then I realized that "the Gospel" was really nothing more or less than the extraordinary good news of the Victory of God which is so central to my theology (see my earlier posts). Here is a short summary of the Gospel - a bit simplistic, but still to the heart of the matter:

In the beginning God created all things (Genesis 1:1). God has all power and wisdom and knowledge – he reigns over all things. But God also chose to create mankind in his image (Genesis 1:27), to know him and to be his friends and delight in his goodness and greatness and all that he is (Philippians 4:4, 3:8) – not because he needed us, but because it is in his nature to create and to fill all creation with his glory. God created us for the greatest joy – being in his presence. This is the greatest joy because God is infinitely beautiful and infinitely loving.

But man rejected God and disobeyed him in an attempt to find glory and honor apart from God. Man chose to seek his own way in the world and turned away from God’s purposes. All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23, Romans 1:23).

Because we sinned against God, we deserve his wrath and punishment (Romans 6:23). It would only be just for God to punish us according to our sin against him, and God is just. But God has made a way to bring us back to himself while at the same time upholding justice. We cut ourselves off from God, but his purpose is to bring us back to himself. We rejected God, but he pursues us and offers to be our friend. He has made a way for our redemption and salvation, to make us what we were meant to be. Not only has God told us about himself in the beauty and majesty of creation (Romans 1:20), set a longing for eternity in our hearts (Ecclesiastes 3:11), but he has in fact come into the world, befriending and even serving us in our brokenness. God has done a great work throughout history – he has written the Story of our redemption, told to all generations in the Bible, and he has himself entered into that Story as the main character. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who is himself God (John 1:1, Hebrews 1:3), became a man and endured humiliation, suffering, and death on a cross in order to pay the price for our redemption and to show us the greatness of God’s love for us (Romans 5:8). Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends (John 15:12). God loves us and showed the greatness of his love by giving himself, taking the punishment in our place (Isaiah 53, 2 Corinthians 5:21) by suffering and dying on the cross. We deserve death, yet we have life through the death of the Son of God, who was without sin. How strange, yet beautiful and true – this is the way of love, and God is love (1 John 4:16). Yet it was his will, it was part of his plan, and his ways are deeper, more wise, and more powerful. Jesus Christ rose from the dead and returned to life, triumphing over death and evil and securing our redemption, for the glory of God. Death could not keep its hold on him (Acts 2:24, Hebrews 2:14).

God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16). All that we must do in order to be saved and reconciled to God is to truly believe in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, treasuring him as our Lord and God. It is solely by the grace and power of God that we are saved, and not because of any human merit (Ephesians 2:8-9, 1 Corinthians 1:18-2:5). If you confess with your mouth, Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved (Romans 10:9).

There is a way to back to God, and that way is made by God himself, not by man. God himself came into the world to purchase our redemption and gain victory over evil, revealing more how great and good and loving and just he is. This victory of God is the climax of God’s story of the redemption of a fallen world and the salvation of a sinful people. The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life (Romans 6:23). Come and see what God has done, how awesome his works in man’s behalf! (Psalm 66:5) All we must do is put our hope and trust in Jesus Christ, and God will give us a new life and the joy of knowing and loving him so that nothing can separate us from his love (Romans 8:38-39).

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