Wednesday, 20 August 2008

What is the gospel anyway?

This is the first part of an assignment for my Trinity@Night class, Head, Heart and Hands: The Christian Life.

The topic is: You have been invited to give a talk where you are sure the audience will include Christians who believe what you believe but also people from a wide variety of denominations as well as some non-Christians. The topic that has been assigned to you is this: The Impact of the Gospel on the Daily Life of a Wife and Mother.

So here goes.

Before I can talk about the impact of the gospel in our everyday lives, I want to make sure you know what the gospel is. You may have attended church your whole life without having it explained clearly. Or, you might never have set foot in a church building and heard that word before today. So let's start at the beginning... the very beginning.

"In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth." That's the first sentence in the Bible (Genesis 1:1). It is one of the fundamental, foundational beliefs of a Christian. God made everything that we experience with our senses and He also made those things which cannot be perceived directly but which never-the-less exist. Because God created everything that exists, He is in charge. As I tell my kids, God's The Boss.

The Greek word "gospel" means good news, but the next part of the gospel isn't good at all. Soon after God had created the heavens and the earth, things went pear-shaped. The first people God made disobeyed His direct instructions (Genesis 3). They decided that they knew better than The Boss, and they'd rather do things their way. This is what Christians call "sin": rebelling against God. Sadly, since that first sin, every person who ever lived has chosen to do the same thing: to be their own boss rather than letting God be The Boss. And, as every young child knows, when you disobey, you get punished. The Bible says that the punishment for sin is death, eternal separation from God (Romans 6:23). That might seem pretty harsh; but consider, we have not just disobeyed our parents, our husband, or our employer, but our Creator: the most important Boss of all.

Now for the good part of the gospel. God had a plan to take the punishment for my sin and yours, so that we would not have to be separated from Him forever. God made us, and He wants to have a relationship with us. So His only Son Jesus died for us, taking the punishment in our place. This is how God had mercy on us: just as a merciful mother might choose to bear the unpleasant consequences of her child's misdemeanour herself, God has taken the negative consequences that we deserved for our sin. This is how God extended grace to us: just as the mother extended mercy freely, God gave up His Son freely for us, so that "all who believe might not perish but have eternal life" (John 3:16). And just as a child cannot ever repay their mother for what has been done on their behalf, there is nothing we can do to repay God for what His Son Jesus Christ has done for us.

The gospel story doesn't stop there. Jesus didn't just die to become our "Saviour", saving us from the consequences of our rebellion against God. No. The Bible tells us that "God has raised this Jesus to life" (Acts 2:32) and that He now sits on a throne in heaven (Ephesians 1:20), as the "King" of every Christian's life. The Bible says that if we hold firmly to the truth about what Jesus Christ has done for us through His death and resurrection, we will be saved (1 Corinthians 15:1-5).

That's the gospel in a nutshell. If you've heard something today you want or need to hear more about, I'd invite you to talk to the person who you came with or one of the organisers of this event, or to consider joining one of our upcoming courses, Introducing God and Two Ways to Live. These courses will explain what I have just said in more detail and give you an opportunity to ask questions and have them answered in a more private setting than here.

Of course, Jesus being King over a kingdom which includes you and I means that we will live our everyday lives differently to those lived by others around us. This is what I'm going to talk about now...

[Okay, that's 667 words, over twice as much as I had allocated. Obviously I'm going to have to cut back somewhere! For further instalments of my assignment/talk, please check back at my blog over the following few days. If you are interested in the course I mentioned called "Two Ways to Live", you can read more about it here.]


Anonymous said...

Repeat after me: "I hate word limits..." I feel for you. It's much harder to dump than to come up with!

In Him


Mrs. Edwards said...

Okay, this doesn't help condense, but I wonder if you could explain more clearly what it means to "hold firmly to the truth about what Jesus Christ has done..."? How exactly am I saved? By holding firm?

You've done a marvelous job explaining the doctrine of the gospel, but probably could emphasize belief and believing in His Name more.

Very solid! Can't wait to read more--

Mrs. Edwards said...

One more thing...I sent this link to my mom, who teaches classes on teaching the gospel to children, and she thought your post was super!

Take care.

Sharon said...

You're right Mrs Edwards, I knew it was weak in that area. I have managed to get this section down in my "final-ish" version to 442 words so I'll see how I can tweak it.
~ Sharon

mom24 said...

Things went "pear shaped"? I've never heard this phrase and it made me chuckle! :-D

My only thought was "this is what Christians call sin" maybe could be "what the BIBLE calls sin" in order to clarify for those who may not be believers where the authority of this truth comes from - not we humans but from God himself? Just my 2 cents though. I think you've got this VERY well written! Let me know how it works out when you present it!

Sharon said...

Thanks for that tip Andrea. You are completely right about the wording needing to refer to the final authority, rather than just the ones who are proclaiming it.

As I wrote "pear-shaped" I did wonder about whether it was toospecific an idiom, but since this is meant to be a talk I thought it was important to use "talk" language, rather than "essay" language. I don't get to present it as a talk, however. I just hand in the paper. In a class of about 30 people you can understand why.

~ Sharon