That’s the Gospel

“”The One we preach is not Christ-in-a-vacuum, nor a mystical Christ unrelated to the real world, nor even only the Jesus of ancient history, but rather the contemporary Christ who once lived and died, and now lives to meet human need in all its variety today. To encounter Christ is to touch reality and experience transcendence. He gives us a sense of self-worth or personal significance, because he assures us of God’s love for us. He sets us free from guilt because he died for us, from the prison of our own self-centredness by the power of his resurrection, and from paralysing fear because he reigns, all the principalities and powers of evil having been put under his feet. He gives meaning to marriage and home, work and leisure, personhood and citizenship. He introduces us into his new community, the new humanity he is creating. He challenges us to go out into some segment of the world which does not acknowledge him, there to give ourselves in witness and service for him. He promises us that history is neither meaningless nor endless, for one day he will return to terminate it, to destroy death and to usher in the new universe of righteousness and peace” (John Stott).

First, the gospel is bad news. We’re all messed-up sinners in dire need of redemption. Then it is good news. God took on human form and became one of us to rescue us from our sin and ourselves. Then it is the best news ever. We not only get the penalty for all those sins paid for, but we get the blessings and benefits of Christ plus eternal life.

For it to be the true gospel, it has to tell the whole story. Not just the pretty or politically correct parts. It needs all of it. Any other gospel is really no gospel at all with no hope and no redemption.

After all, it’s the true gospel alone that still brings salvation.

 

 

Not All the News Out There is Bad

Sometimes, when you read the headlines, you get the sense that everything is going wrong and we’re all headed to hell in a very large handbasket. You sometimes get the feeling that all the news out there is depressing and bad with no redemption anywhere in sight.

But I ran across this little news story just now and it gave me hope.

http://www.today.com/pets/final-goodbye-dying-zoo-worker-gets-kiss-giraffe-2D79416546

It’s bittersweet and a bit sad but also a bit hopeful as well. It shows that people can be decent to each other and that even animals can be kind. I won’t add any more to spoil it.

Of course, not all the news is gloomy and bad. The Gospel, which literally means good news, says otherwise. The Gospel is the best news ever shared because it gives us hope. It gives me hope.

It says that no matter how bad my present may seem, the future will be much better. God has guaranteed it. The Gospel says that the ultimate and final victory has already been won and the ultimate Good Guys are the victors. It may not seem like it right now, but God’s promises are as good as done.

In fact, what God promises is so sure that we can speak of it as if it were already accomplished. We can speak of the future in past tense because it’s that certain. That’s what I love about the Gospel.

Here’s my take on the Gospel. You and I were born messed up and diagnosed with a terminal case of sin. We’ve rebelled against God and messed up our own lives as well as the lives around us. But God wouldn’t let it end that way.

He became one of us and lived among us and showed us how it’s done. He lived the perfect life. Not only that, but He died in our place, taking the punishment we deserved and offering a free and full life of abundance that we don’t deserve. Life that is rich and full and that lasts forever.

That’s the good news of the Gospel. And I think that’s good news.

For All the Phonies in the World

Let me ask you something. Just between you and me (and the world wide web). Do you ever feel like a phony?

Do you ever hear yourself giving Sunday School answers to real life questions? Do you ever feel that you’re praying what you think God wants to hear instead of what’s really in your heart? Do you ever lie awake at night wondering what would happen if the people around you knew what you were really thinking? What you were really like?

There’s good news that sounds like bad news at first. God knows. God knows it all. He knows all the faux-prayers and the religious jargon you talk sometimes. He knows what you do and what you think when no one’s watching. That seems like bad news until you get to the clincher. He loves you anyway.

He loves you at your phoniest. He loves you at your meanest. He loves you at your darkest moments in the middle of the night. He looks at you and doesn’t see phony. He looks at you and sees Jesus and what Jesus did in your place. He sees the perfect life Jesus lived instead of your own very imperfect existence.

Best of all, God sees you for who you will be instead of who you are. He sees what He designed you to be. He promised to not stop working on you until you’re 100% real and complete.

In the meantime, it’s okay to be real and honest and admit you have made a mess of your life. It’s okay to confess you don’t have all the answers, or even all the questions. It’s really not about how much you know or how well you act but how much you are loved.

I raise my glass and toast to all the phonies who are stepping forward to take off the mask and be honest about themselves. I drink to all the pretenders who just got real. I salute all of you who are letting down the walls on what God is doing in your life so others can see grace at work and how love can transform a person. That’s where the freedom is. That’s where I want to be. I hope you do, too.