Tuesday, November 22, 2011

What is the Gospel?

I would like to know what the Gospel message really is. I don’t know that I completely understand it right now, but I think it might be possible to know. To sum up the Gospel in one sentence might be a little irresponsible, but I have been thinking about it for a little while and I have a few thoughts on what it might be about. I think the Gospel message is about the restoration of broken things. Whether those broken things are physical (ailments, cancer, etc.), relational with other people, or relational with God. I think that Jesus came to show us how to restore relationships with other people as well as be the atonement for our sins, which is what separated us from God. Because of Jesus’ blood we are able to be in the presence of the Father. Because of Jesus’ blood we are able to have the Holy Spirit residing within us and empowering us to carry out the Gospel, which is to restore and repair those that are broken. It is as if Jesus took that barrier down, but you and I still have to choose to walk through the gap where a barrier once existed.

Most people say that there is nothing that we can do to get to Heaven, but the Bible says that there is nothing we can do to separate us from the love of God. God loves us no matter what we do, just as a parent will love their child no matter how ‘good’ or ‘bad’ they are, but God, just like any good parent is just. God has an indescribable love for us, but it is still our choice whether we carry out the Gospel mission or not and that seems to be what Jesus is concerned about. In Matthew Jesus tells the story about separating the goats and the sheep. The thing that separates the goats and the sheep, in Jesus’ eyes, is what that person did or didn’t do for the least of these in His name. So, according to Jesus, there has to be something that we can do in order to experience eternity with Him. ‘God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, so that whoever believes in Him shall have eternal life.’ Another way of saying ‘believes in Him’ would be to say, ‘trusts in Him.’ This paints a little better picture. Trust is what I do when I sit down on a chair. I fully trust the chair to support me and all my weight. Whoever trusts in Him and relies on Him will have eternal life, because they are experiencing the kind of relationship they were supposed to have with God. One where we are dependant on the One who can give us life and satisfy every need that we have, but also, one where we are free from the bondage of sin that had previously oppressed us.

So, I think there are two different questions usually being asked when we talk about what Jesus came to do. There is the question of, ‘what did Jesus’ death do for us?’ and the question of, ‘what is the Gospel?’ I think Jesus’ death was the breaking of the barrier between God and His prized creation, and I think the Gospel is restoration. While forgiveness of sins is a part of restoration, it is only that, a part of it. You can look at restoration however you want, but I think as long as you are meeting needs of those around you I believe you are living out the Gospel.

I think another layer to that would be 1 Peter 3:15, ‘always be prepared to give an answer to anyone who asks about this hope you have.’ Because you have been set free of many things, you will walk about with some sort of hope that is just hard for other people to understand. So, don’t be alarmed when other people ask you about this hope that you seem to have for a better tomorrow, in fact, be prepared with an answer for them. There should be some sort of glow to your face and a little bounce in your step, you should be happy and excited above all else. I don’t think that this necessarily means we are just supposed to share the Gospel with everyone around us though. Some people who try to share this ‘hope’ that they have don’t really seem to have much hope. In which case, other people would only ask where their hope comes from is so he or she can run as far away from that source as possible.

Faith, love, and holiness is where Paul tells Timothy salvation comes from. What is faith if you never have trust in or rely on something or someone? What is love if it is never acted out through meeting the needs of others? What is holiness, period?

Maybe this is what the Gospel looks like. Maybe this looks like the Gospel you have believed in and put your faith in, but this is different than the picture that was painted for me when I was growing up.