Do these words sound familiar? They should especially in America. Somehow the idea has been postulated that America is a Christian nation. It only takes a reading of the Bible and its definition of Christianity to see that America doesn’t live up to that notion. What’s worse is many well meaning people attend churches and make church a part of their weekly routine and still don’t have an accurate understanding of what true Christianity is. Yet many believe they’re Christians, not understanding or misunderstanding how one becomes a Christian – a follower of Jesus Christ.
Why does this ignorance pervade our culture? Is it the local church’s fault for not declaring the whole counsel of God? Or is it an apathetic attitude many people have toward the truth of Jesus Christ. I think both of these play huge roles, but we can’t forget that there is an enemy who seeks to keep the truth of Jesus Christ from being clearly communicated and accepted in our culture. That adversary is Satan: the prince of the power of the air that is at work in the sons of disobedience, the god of this world blinding the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.
What is the Gospel?
Literally, the word “gospel” means “good news”. It is the good news of God that tells of how God the Father sent Jesus Christ to pay for and forgive our sins through His perfect life, His death on the cross, His burial and resurrection to give us eternal life and restore us back to a right relationship with Himself. This is of utmost importance and we can not afford to misunderstand it.
In case you’re unfamiliar with the truth of the gospel, here are the basic points of the gospel to help you understand who God is, who we really are and what God did for us through Jesus Christ.
The Bible declares there is ultimately one true God, Yahweh. Among His many attributes, the Bible says God is loving, gracious, kind, patient, merciful, holy and just. The Bible also tells us that God has created all of creation (Genesis 1-2; Job 38-39). As the Creator, God intended for all of creation to bring Him glory. The pinnacle of His creation is man (humanity), which is the only part of creation that was created in God’s likeness and image (Genesis 1:26-27). Man’s being and his function was to live and work in such a way that glorified God unlike any other part of creation.
Every human being is born a sinner or spiritually dead. Our sinful nature leads us to commit sinful actions, and thoughts. We inherited our sinful nature from the 1st man to sin, Adam.
“Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man (Adam), and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned…”
“…all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,..”
The word sin means to miss the mark. God has a standard for our lives and when we fail to do the things He tells us (You shall…), or when we do things He says not to do (You shall not….), we sin. In failing to live as God designed us to, we have missed the mark of His standard. We end up hurting people and ultimately being separated from God spiritually. Examples of sin are: unjust anger, vindictiveness, hatred towards others, bitterness, envy, jealousy, pride, selfishness, deceit, etc. Other examples of sin are: fornication, homosexuality, adultery, masturbation, lust, theft, lying, cheating, cursing, violent behavior, drunkenness, experimenting with drugs, witchcraft, greed, etc.
God is so holy, that even one sin justly condemns us to eternal death apart from God in hell.
“For the wages of sin is death…”
Death was not part of God’s original plan for humanity. Death is the penalty or consequence for our disobedience. God told Eve the consequence of disobedience (sin) was death in Genesis 2:17. There is another death. It is called spiritual death. This is eternal separation from God in hell where God’s wrath (conscious eternal torment) will be poured out on those who reject Him.
God is also so holy that sin cannot dwell in His presence. We rightly deserve to be punished for our sin. To maintain His holiness, He has to judge sin. If He didn’t judge sin, He would cease being holy and righteous. In saying that all humans are sinners, we rightly deserve God’s eternal judgment. But just as justice is a characteristic of God’s nature, so is forgiveness. So here’s the question:
HOW DOES A HOLY & RIGHTEOUS GOD FORGIVE SINNERS WITHOUT COMPROMISING HIS HOLINESS?
Will it be by our good behavior? NO!
“…there is no one who does good, not even one.” (Romans 3:11b)
Will it be because we have good hearts and the best intentions? NO!
“The heart is deceitful above all things,And desperately wicked; Who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9)
Will it be because we do religious works? NO!
“…for by the works of the (religious) law no one shall be justified.” (Galatians 2:16b)
So if none of these will merit God’s forgiveness, how can anyone be forgiven of sin?
Man is only forgiven by the grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ alone. Jesus Christ met the standard of the Law of God (The You shalls and the You shall nots). The Law requires perfect obedience and it requires death for disobedience. Jesus Christ lived the life we are unable to live; yet He died as if He broke the law. He met the demands of the Law for those who believe in Him.
Because we’re sinners, no amount of good works we do can ever erase our sins. Jesus Christ lived a life free of sin and His life pleased God the Father. The Father is eternally satisfied with the life Jesus lived. But because God is holy and just, he has to punish sin. Jesus Christ willfully offered Himself to bear the wrath of God for our sin (See Mark 10:45). That’s what the crucifixion was about. God the Father was pouring out His wrath on Jesus (God the Son) for our sin. God was so pleased with Jesus because of His sinlessness, He didn’t deserve to stay dead in the tomb. That’s what the resurrection is about. The resurrection of Christ is the the vindication of His deity, His holiness and the security of the believer that he/she is justified and will one day be raised and dwell in the presence of God for eternity.
Jesus is our sin substitute and our righteousness through faith in Him. When we turn to Christ in repentance and by faith, we are admitting our sin before God. We also are admitting that there is nothing we can do to erase our sin debt and that Christ is our only sufficient hope.
“For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in sinful man, in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us. ”
RESPONSE: Repentance & Faith
For the gospel to be good news to anyone, they must respond with repentance and faith in Christ. There must be a turning away from sin and an allegiance to Christ.
When a person repents of their sin and asks for God’s forgiveness, 3 things are miraculously occurring:
1. Our sin is forgiven by God because of the acceptable death of Jesus.
2. Jesus’ righteousness is imputed to us by God (2 Corinthians 5:21).
Once we turn to Christ, judicially we are seen as forgiven by God and there remains no more condemnation for us (Romans 8:1). But if we reject God’s Son, we will experience the eternal wrath of God in hell.
Jesus testified of Himself saying:
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.”
“I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
By sending Jesus, this was God’s act of grace and mercy toward us. Grace is getting what we don’t deserve and mercy is not getting what we do deserve.
When a person turns to Christ they experience the grace and mercy of God. They experience grace because they have received forgiveness of sin and eternal life, though they don’t deserve it. That person also experiences mercy. They are not getting what they do deserve – eternal judgment.
Every person is faced with two options: to remain in their sin or to accept Christ as their Sin Substitute by faith. The Bible teaches that every person is a sinner. In fact the Bible teaches that we are slaves to our sin nature until we repent of our sin. (See Romans 6:6)
The Bible also teaches that no amount of religious activity can save us from the penalty of sin. Religious works can not change our sinful hearts. We need to have “a new heart”. We need spiritual life given from God. It is only by God’s grace through faith Jesus Christ that any person can be forgiven and have this new life.
“…know that a man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by observing the law, because by observing the law no one will be justified…..I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!”
(Galatians 2:16 & 21)
- Every person is born in sin and enslaved to its power.
- There is nothing we can do to save ourselves from the power and just penalty of sin.
- God’s free gift of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ is the only way sinners can be forgiven of sin and reconciled back to God.
He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.
Grace & Peace,