This is the history of our world, the driving reality behind all that is, and it has the meaning and purpose of each of our lives. I hope that you’ll read it and consider its truthfulness. It makes sense out of our world, it is beautiful, and the God behind it all is worth devoting your life to.

It is a little longer than an average post, but no more than 2 or 3 posts combined. It is worth reading more than reading a couple other posts, not because I wrote it, but because of the beauty and trustworthiness of the gospel itself. And even if you already consider yourself a Christian, I recommend you read and relish your great God. For even after we are Christians, the gospel still is what God uses to work his salvation in us as we trust him more and more (Romans 1:16-17).

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What Is the Gospel?

The Meaning of the Word "Gospel"

The word "gospel" is just a word that means "good news"–nothing more complicated than that. It in itself is not a religious term. But because this term has become so religious and confusing to some, this brief post explaining "the gospel", the good news, must begin with emphasizing that this is actual 'news'. Meaning, in time, space, and history, something has happened. Just as news apps and news shows recount real events, so this gospel is about real events involving the whole world–me, you, and all in it. But mainly, God is the primary person involved.

God has been doing something ever since he made this all. He has had a plan and purpose for all his creation–including every person in it–and that plan is what the Bible call the gospel, the good news which all culminated in Jesus Christ.

The Creator and Designer Communicates to Us

Yet before we get into that, there is one more thing of utmost importance. It must be emphasized that the Person who made you and I–the Maker and Designer of everything–actually speaks. This is no light thing. God communicates. He really does.

Think about it. Apart from this, we would be subjected to our subjective opinions about what is true and real. But since the one who designed this all and is in control of this all communicates, we simply can listen and learn way more than if we were trying to figure it out on our own.

God has spoken and in speaking, he has revealed and told us much about what is true–about him, about ourselves, and about history. He does this in the Bible, and this is why Christians uphold the Bible so much. Here are the main facts concerning this gospel news.

God Is Really There; He Is Really Perfect in His Love and His Justice

The facts about what happened begin with God himself. The biggest step for most people is to recognize that God is really there. He isn't just a thought in our heads; he is objectively there. He is really here, in this universe (and outside of this universe as he made this universe). And he is personal. He existed forever. He is the one who created this world. Not because he needed to, but because he is so amazing (or as the Bible would say, 'glorious'), and he wanted to share his amazement with the world.

In his amazingness, he is perfect in two main ways. First, he is totally loving. The Bible goes so far as to say, "God is love" (1 John 4:8). He is the source of all love and relationship, and he cares more than we can imagine. And he desires the best for all. Second, he is totally right and just. This might not be as appealing at first, but just as we desire a beautiful love, we desire an admirable justice. We do not want a judge who is unjust in any trial. We don't want injustice for others. We desire what is right to be done.

The God described in the Bible (which, as you know, is a pretty big book!) is many things–all-knowing, all-powerful, all-wise, perfect in morality, infinite, and more–but the summary of who he is that he is limitlessly loving and limitlessly just.

Humanity Is Really There; We Are Really Wonderful

This is where in the message we step in. As stated above, this God created the entire universe. All of it. Yet the greatest pinnacle of his universe is us, humanity. It is not the grand mountains or the giant animals or the roaring sea or the astounding outer space, but rather his jewel above all else is you and me. He created us most magnificent of all. And now we are real, just like God has always been real.

Being the masterpiece of his creation, unlike everything else we see, he created us a little like him (Genesis 1:26). We reflect who he is. We are, as the Bible says, made "in his image" (Genesis 1:27). The Bible also says that God is Triune and therefore has always been loving and in relationship in the three Persons of the Trinity. And so, being in his image at least means that we are wonderfully rational, relational persons able to have create, relate, rule, and love (all similar to the God [“in him image”] who created us). God designed us to create, relate, rule, and love first and foremost him–which truly brings us the most joy–and then to do the same in his amazing universe underneath his loving authority. Again, all while in joyful relationship with him.

But Now Humanity Also Is Abnormal and Corrupt

Yet we chose and still choose to turn away and exchange him and his purposes for our own. The Bible tells the story of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden in Genesis 3, which details the beginning of it all, and from here on out all of creation and us within it are abnormal–we weren’t supposed to be corrupt like this. Adam and Eve decided to rebel against their loving God by essentially saying to him that they wanted their own way, and now we all still follow suit. Now we still want nothing to do with him. We want to be totally autonomous from him. We don't want him to be God over us (even though he loves us so!).

And the Bible says that God's response to this is just anger, or wrath–as he is a just judge. As we get justly angry at something like child abuse (and rightly so) because even we (who are corrupt in assessment of things) know that it is just so wrong and hurtful, so God (who is perfect in his assessment of things) gets justly angry when we sin. We might think that seems ridiculous or unfair, but it is simply that we have a low view of sin (it is the air we breathe!). But God sees it rightly. And it is horrendous in what it does to others, ourselves, and God's world. And it brings just anger.

In short, we have become corrupted versions of what God made us to be. The way we create, relate, rule, and love is now stained and marred in innumerable ways. We now see the sad results of this all in the world we live in. Yet most importantly, our relationship with him has been broken. We stand against him and he stands against us. We are not only separated from him, but in our deepest selves we are enemies against him, fighting against him with literally all our hearts (Colossians 1:21).

We hate who he truly is. We'll accomplish much. We'll acquire knowledge. We'll work hard. We'll even raise families and be kind to one another. But we do not want God–at least as he truly is. Maybe we'll form him to be more what we want him to be in our minds and religions, or just add him in for an hour a week to make us feel better about our clear sins, but we don't want him. It is truly a tragedy, because we are fighting against not only who we were made for, but who brings us deepest joy in ourselves and with one another.

So this is the God who created us and is really there right now, and this is the state of humanity–of you and me. We were created truly wonderful, and still are, but we also are abnormal and corrupt to the core.

How God Started to Bring Us Back

And it is now that we finally get to the good part of the good news–to what has been happening and what has happened. This God, since the very beginning of our rebellion, has decided to make a way to lovingly bring us back to our fulfilling relationship with him and our true meaning and purpose. Being totally loving and totally just, he purposed to plan and do what needed to be done to not only forgive us our failures and rebellions, but to bring us wonderfully back to what we were made to be–and especially to restore our relationship with him forever.

He had this plan right from the beginning of our failure. Genesis 3 is the chapter in which Adam and Eve do not trust God and choose that they really don't want God (Genesis 3:1-7). Yet in that same chapter, God gives a glimpse of hope of restoration (Genesis 3:15). From then on out, the whole Bible is glimpses upon glimpses of hope of restoration and reconciliation back to him. From Noah, to Abraham, to Moses and the Hebrews, to the nation of Israel, all progressively show God's heart and purpose of restoration. He is purposing to bring his humanity he created back into loving, fulfilling relationship with him and back to their true purpose. This is why the whole Old Testament exists, to show us God progressively unveiling his plan and purpose to bring us back. 

Yet all in the Old Testament was lacking a bit. Although God was described as the God who created all, his scope of reconciliation was mainly focused on just one nation. Although he lovingly decided to dwell with his people, it was only mainly in a physical temple in which they had to perform special ceremonies to enter. Although God gave a law to his people, they still could not keep it and overall failed to trust him. Although he forgave sins, it was a messy system of sacrifice in which people knew that bulls and goats couldn't be enough. Although he raised up good, strong leaders, none of them were able to lead God's people to really be who they were meant to be. And more could be said.

But there was one who was promised to come who was going to change all of that. Who was going to truly bring us back.

This is Jesus. The most important person who has ever walked this earth.

It All Culminates In Jesus

Jesus was what it all always was pointing to. He was the Rescuer that God had in mind from the very beginning. He is the Son of God, being God himself, who opened the way of salvation for the entire world. All of the Old Testament was pointing to Jesus' coming to complete was God intended. So how did he do it?

He came and lived a perfect life, thereby being the first and only human being who has ever perfectly reflected God’s image of justice and love. He was the most righteous and fair person who ever lived. And beautifully in this, he was the most loving and humble person who has ever lived.

Throughout this perfect life, he performed many genuine miracles (eg. Matthew 8:23-27; Mark 5:35-43; Luke 9:12-17; John 11:1-44; Side note: Miracles are totally possible in this world if one believes in the existence of God who created it all and rules over it all). He taught with astonishing authority (eg. Matthew 7:28-29; John 7:45-46). And he sought out and loved those who many thought were unlovable and despised (eg. Matthew 9:11-13; Luke 15:1-2).

All of this is surely amazing. Why? Because he is God himself walking on his earth (John 1:1-3; Colossians 2:9), coming to help us in our condition. Instead of distancing himself from everyone because he is so much greater and holy, God decides to condescend and wonderfully show his love. God Almighty humbled himself by becoming a human for us (see Philippians 2:6-11).

But Jesus’s perfect life–as beautiful as it was–is not the focal point of who Jesus is nor what he did. It isn’t the central thing in this gospel. Rather, the most important, beautiful, and wonderful thing Jesus did was die on the Roman cross about 2,000 years ago.

The Cross: The Most Amazing and Important Event in All of History

In space-time, in history, in Jerusalem (a city that still exists today), Jesus of Nazareth, who was fully God and fully a human, died on a cross around 30 AD. So why is it so important? Why is it the center point of all history?

The reason is because there, on that cross, Jesus took our place. He was the substitute, so that we might be forgiven and brought back to God This means he went through what we deserved to go through due to our corruption, our rebellion, our internal hatred of God. Due to our rebellion against God, we justly (like a murderer justly going to jail) deserve to go to hell. Each one of us. The Bible makes it clear that although that might sound harsh to us, a day will come when we will each see that it is only makes sense for hell to be the consequence of our sins (see Romans 3:19). Jesus knew all this, and he decided to suffer in our place. He took all our sin upon him and suffered for it, even though he had never sinned (see 2 Corinthians 5:21, Isaiah 53:4-6).

His Glorious Love For Us

Jesus doing this for us on the cross is beautiful, glorious, amazing. One of my favorite verses to show the glory in this is in the Gospel of Mark. Jesus is suffering on the cross (for us!) and being the object of intense scorn. Here is what happens:

[29] And those who passed by derided him, wagging their heads and saying, “Aha! You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, [30] save yourself, and come down from the cross!” [31] So also the chief priests with the scribes mocked him to one another, saying, “He saved others; he cannot save himself. (Mark 15:29-31)

Why is this amazing? Because at the very moment he was saving the world. He was going through the pain, the scorn, and the bearing of hell for us. He could have gotten right down and saved himself from it all. But he didn't. For his glory and for our sake. This is grace. This is love.

He Was Condemned So That We Could Be Forgiven and Made Right With God

Specifically, what happened on on the cross was that Jesus was condemned in our place (Romans 8:3). As noted above, we deserve to be sentenced by the judge to hell. When someone is sentenced by a judge like this to punishment, the judge legally condemns the perpetrator. God the Father legally condemned Jesus for our sins on the cross. He lovingly took them upon himself, suffered for them, for us.

And so what do we get? The opposite of condemning from the judge, namely, justification from God (Romans 4:5). This means two things. First, through Jesus we get forgiveness of all our corruption, failings, and sins (Ephesians 1:7). In real reality, in this universe in which God really exists and we really are sinful, God actually forgives us through Jesus. Our guiltiness is gone. This is good news.

Second, through Jesus God positively declares us just and righteous–in a right relationship with him. A great exchange occurred wherein Jesus takes our sin at the cross, and at the same time, we get to take his righteousness. We get to be counted righteous by God (2 Corinthians 5:21). He is our righteousness (Jeremiah 23:6; 1 Corinthians 1:30). We, therefore, are not just forgiven of all our negative sins and corruptions, but we positively are counted righteous by God.

And wonder of wonders, through this all happening, the Bible says that we who trust Christ are adopted into God's family and now know the Almighty God as our tender, loving Father (Romans 8:15; John 1:12). He invites us into his family. He loves us like sons and daughters. This is our truest identity now. This is good news.

But How Can A Just God Forgive Us?

But how can a just God do all this? Just a real judge can't see nasty evil and just let it go, so God can’t just let corruption and rebellion and real hurt go without justice being dealt with.

But he does so in this gospel because on the cross Jesus actually took the punishment. Sin isn't swept under the rug. It is rightly punished and dealt with.

The most agonizing part of the cross for Jesus wasn’t the physical pain of a Romans cross (although it was excruciating), nor the emotional shame of over 600 men mocking him (although it was exceedingly scornful, see Mark 15:16-20), but it was the fact that Jesus bore the wrath , punishment, and eternal hell that we deserve (Romans 3:23-25).

So at the cross, God shows his love and justice as 1) he loves enough to legally forgive and justify us, and 2) he saves in a right, just, and legal way, by not just sweeping real sin and hurt under the rug, but by punishing it in Christ. Jesus was condemned so that we could be justified, restored to God, and adopted into God's family.

God in the cross maintains his beautiful character. He is love. He is just. This is what we all deeply desire. Real love and real justice. No compromise. We long for this because this is the God who made us.

All To Be Brought Back To God, Our Exceeding Joy

But it needs to be emphasized that being forgiven is actually not the final goal of the gospel. Christ didn't die just to make us people who are forgiven from our sins, but rather he died to bring us back to God. As the apostle Peter, who walked with Jesus for years, wrote:

"Christ suffered for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God." (1 Peter 3:18)

This is the ultimate good for us in the good news. We are back to a right relationship with God. Forgiven, yes. But forgiven so that we are rightly restored to God, "our exceeding joy" (Psalm 43:4), once again.

John Piper really opened my eyes to this years ago. I encourage you to read this closely as it is so helpful and biblical:

What is the ultimate good in the good news? It all ends in one thing: God himself. All the words of the gospel lead to him, or they are not gospel. For example, salvation is not good news if it only saves from hell and not for God. Forgiveness is not good news it if only gives relief from guilt and doesn't open the way to God. Justification is not good news if it only liberates us from bondage but doesn't bring us to God...

This is crucial. Many people seem to embrace the good news without embracing God. There is no sure evidence that we have a new heart just because we want to escape hell. That is a perfectly natural desire, not a supernatural one...

The evidence that we have been changed is that we want these things because they bring us to the enjoyment of God. This is the greatest thing Christ died for. 'Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God' (1 Peter 3:18).

Why is this the essence of the good news? Because we were made to experience full and lasting happiness from seeing and savoring the glory of God...He created us in such a way that his glory is displayed through our joy in it. The gospel of Christ is the good news that at the cost of his Son's life, God has done everything necessary to enthrall us with what will make us eternally and ever-increasingly happy, namely, himself." - John Piper, Fifty Reasons Why Jesus Came to Die62-63 (see full quote here)

This is the ultimate goal of the gospel. For rebellious sinners to be brought back to God, to real joy in the One we all were made to know and behold. God gets praised as he is the one who lovingly saves us–he is glorified–and we are forgiven, yes, but much more important, we get to live forever knowing and enjoying together our wonderful God.

He Rose and Is Really Alive Right Now

But the cross isn't all that happened. Jesus didn't remain dead. Just as he died in space-time, in history, he also rose historically, three days after his death and was seen by his close followers (Matthew 28:1-20) and then by hundreds of people (1 Corinthians 15:6). He rose because the perfect Son of God couldn't remain dead. He rose in victory over sin, death, and all evil. And then, after living on earth for a short time after, he rose back to God.

Now, he is alive. Truly alive. As you and I are alive, so Jesus is a real Person who is really alive. It isn't just some idea. No. He is really alive. It all happened historically, and he historically is living right now. 

He's Coming Back and All Will Admit/Confess That He Is Who He Is

So what is he doing? He is reigning as King over the world. In his wisdom, he is waiting to come back. And when he comes back, he will make everything right again. And every person will see him and either admit for the first time, or happily confess, that he is Lord (Philippians 2:9-11).

Until that happens, for the time being he is fueling this gospel to spread all over the world–as he will save people from all over the world (Revelation 5:9-10; Matthew 24:14)–and he is rejoicing each and every time someone decides to turn (which is what the word 'repent' means) from their own rebellious ways and turn back to him for forgiveness and true life (Luke 15:7).

What Is the Church?

This is where his church comes in. The church is not some massive institution. Rather, Christ's church is simply the community of those who have turned from living for themselves and against God (1 Thessalonians 1:9-10), who have recognized their deep sin and corruption, who have trusted in Jesus (John 1:12-13), and who find Jesus and this gospel to be their supreme treasure (Philippians 3:7-9).

The church therefore is not a perfect people, but a rescued people. A people who trust Jesus for their salvation in this gospel, and who now are being transformed, slowly but surely, by God the Spirit himself to look more like Christ (2 Corinthians 3:18; Romans 8:29). The goal of the church is to shine forth the light of Jesus into the world, bringing God glory and praise, and doing good to all–especially through telling them the good news (Matthew 28:18-20; Romans 10:14-17). Knowing they are sinners, and no different in themselves, the church of all people should be loving and humble. Yet also bold, as this gospel is the true story of the world and it is the hope that all people need.

Christian's therefore are those who presently are reconciled to and know and love the God who is really there, who are trying to love and trust him more, and who seek to love others by kindly urging everyone to be reconciled to their God through this gospel (2 Corinthians 5:20). It is not because we want to force opinions on others, but because this is the true story of the universe in which we live, and it is really is the only hope for every person in the world (Romans 1:16).

Be Reconciled to God

There is much we can do during our lives. But the most important thing is for someone to be reconciled to God. This is what we were created for. As this happens, the world makes more sense and we find true purpose and joy in him.

So how does this happen for you and me? Simply by faith. Not just by believing in God's existence, or even just by believing that this is the true story of the world, but by trusting him, by clinging to him, by loving him. Those who trust him now can find forgiveness, meaning, purpose, and a restored relationship with God. There is nothing to do except raise the empty hands of faith and accept what he has done for us all.

What Will Be Your Place in the Story?

So this story, this true story of this universe, is still going on. The news story is something you and I are right now a part of. God created this all. We rebelled against him and still do deep in our hearts. But God has decided to bring us back to himself–to our true purpose and joy as we get to be his sons and daughters forever. He did this through Jesus. He did this mainly through the cross.

The question for each of us now is if we'll decide to accept his invitation and live by trusting in Jesus, or if we'll decide to continue to not want God and live for what we want–success, money, fame, sex, things, leisure, etc. Jesus said it perfectly, "No one can serve two masters" (Matthew 6:24). He then applied it to money, saying, "You cannot serve God and money", but it applies to anything we live for. You can't just have Jesus as a side thing–as a get-out-of-hell free card only, or as a way to get stuff, or a way to simply clear your conscience and then live how you want. The Bible doesn't allow this. Jesus is Lord. True Christians acknowledge this, love this (because he is the best Lord we could ever ask for!), and live for him. Success, money, fame, sex, things, leisure, and all else people live for cannot compare to the true hope and joy found in Christ (Philippians 3:7-8).

So what will you do? How will you decide to live in this story? I promise, living for Jesus is worth it. The hope in the gospel is beautiful. The God who exists is amazing and worth living for. And what is to come for God's people is going to be better and more beautiful than we can imagine.

The Satisfaction We're All Looking For

The truth is that we are all thirsty. We are all looking for satisfaction and joy, for meaning and purpose. And what the Bible teaches is that God has made us this way, and that Christ and his gospel is what we all long for. It is our hope.

“Come, everyone who thirsts,
    come to the waters;
and he who has no money,
    come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
    without money and without price.
Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread,
    and your labor for that which does not satisfy?
Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good,
    and delight yourselves in rich food." (Isaiah 55:1-2)

"To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment." (Revelation 21:6)

Why labor for success, money, fame, sex, stuff, and leisure when they don't satisfy? Instead, be reconciled to God. Come, drink, and find that satisfaction we're all looking for. It is found in this gospel. It is found in Christ.

Believe the gospel. Trust Christ. It's worth it.

 

 

If you have any questions about the gospel above, please feel free to contact: