Thursday, October 19, 2006

The gospel is GOOD NEWS

I found this on another blog about the Gospel...

The gospel is GOOD NEWS
Good news. That is the dictionary definition of the term "gospel." The question that then needs to be answered is, of course, "what is the good news?"

The best answer to that question is in the Bible, where John 3:16 tells us that: "God so loved the world that he sent his only begotten son that whosoever believes in him should not perish, but have eternal life."

The good news is that God didn’t sit up in heaven watching humanity make a mess of their lives and their world. He did something about it with extraordinarily important implications for people both now and for eternity. Let’s look at our situation and what God did in more detail.

Without God, making a mess of our lives is pretty much what we do. We might look OK on the outside, but inside, in our quiet moments we are aware of a big empty place. When we’re all alone we suspect we’re missing out on a wonderful destiny that we were created for.

Inside, we know we were created to live forever. I think in every heart we know there is a place where all dreams can come true, where we will find forever perfect love, but somehow we also know we can’t ever get their on our own. So we try to build a heaven on this earth with money and stuff and toys—but the toys grow old and the dreams turn to nightmares.

We also know at the end of this life, if we face death without God, eternity is frightening.

What do we do then?

We might try to reach up to God, but just being a good person and trying to do all the right things never feels like enough. Just doing good and feeling good always feels like it falls short because it does.

The problem is that we can’t ever do enough good because the problem is inside s—it’s our inner core that wants our own way and not God’s. That is what sin is all about and from that wanting our own way, we turn away from all that is good. Every sin, from a selfish lie to save our reputation, to a theft or murder to get what we want—it all results from going away from God.

The problem is we were born sinners and we can’t make the sin inside go away on our own. Most of us can barely avoid chocolate for 24 hours; or exercise regularly or any other resolution we make, let alone stop sinning.

It gets even worse because God takes sin very personally. God can’t allow sin into His presence. Sin separates people from God, not only in this life, but for all eternity.

The hard part

There is one other part of the gospel story that is very hard to understand, and I can’t pretend to explain why, but God tells us that sin isn’t something He can just ignore. He can’t say, "Oh, it’s all right. . . I know you had a hard time on earth, or a dysfunctional family, or whatever other excuse we might use, but let’s just forget it all and welcome to heaven anyway."

I wish He was like that, but He’s not. Somehow in the whole plan of things (which again, I cannot explain) sin, big or little, that turning away from God, has to be punished. When people say, "my will be done," God says OK, for all eternity you don’t have to have anything to do with me. But once you decide that, (and the Bible tells us that humanity as a whole decided that is the direction they wanted to take a long time ago) there is no going back, there is no way on our own we can get back to God. The consequences are pretty grim: a life never truly fulfilling though it may be filled with lots of stuff here on earth. And then you die. The Bible describes life after death without God as a place of never ending regret and suffering. It’s not a party with the other guys who raised hell together in life. In the real hell you are completely alone with regrets that can never be resolved.

That’s what makes the gospel GOOD NEWS

Here is where the good news starts. In this situation, where we can’t do anything to save ourselves, where the future looks really grim without God, it says that God loves us and didn’t abandon humanity when we turned our backs on Him.

Immediately after Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden and went their own way from God, God first stated their punishment, and then immediately said that he would one day provide a savior to bear that punishment.

It sometimes seems (from a human perspective) that God takes an awfully long time to work things out and the good news of the gospel is one of those things. The story of that outworking is the story of the Christian Bible—the Old Testament looking forward to the day that Jesus would come, the New Testament telling the story of his life, death, resurrection and the start of the Christian church.

Because of the death of Jesus on the cross, because the Bible tells us that at that time all of the sin of humanity past, present and future was poured out on Jesus and he took the penalty of all that sin on himself, in a way also very hard to understand, we can be forgiven. That is the heart of the good news of the Gospel.

This good news is a gift

It’s rather amazing to consider all God did in history to prepare the world for his Son, all Jesus did in his life on earth and all he suffered dying on the cross, for us. The Bible says that Jesus, who personally never sinned, was willing to take on the horror of all the sins of humanity, past, present and future and to endure them for us. Think for just a moment about a horrible sin, something that makes you sick to even consider. Imagine what it would be like if you forced to bear the guilt and penalty of that sin.

How unfair! You’d respond and that’s true. No one deserves to pay for the sins of someone else. But multiply the horror of that countless times over. That is what Jesus did. He took our place on the cross and bore the plenty for our sin. It wasn’t fair, but He did it because He loves us.

The next move is up to us

It’s even more amazing that God doesn’t force anything on us, he always gives us free will, freedom to choose or reject this good news. It is our choice.

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