What’s So Good?
The beautiful thing about the gospel is that it isn’t extraordinarily complicated to understand. At its very core, the gospel is a simple message. However, just because it is simple to understand doesn’t mean it is easy to apply to our lives.
The word “gospel” simply means “good news,” but when we talk about the gospel of Jesus, we’re not just talking about any old “good news,” we’re talking about the best news imaginable, news that has the power to change a person’s life. In fact, that’s exactly what the Bible says it does in the lives of those who believe, but before we get to all that, we should probably talk about what the news is, shouldn’t we?
I know how much we love talking about us, but we need to talk about someone else first: God, the Creator of all things, the Author of human existence, the Beginning and the End. Three persons in one God; Father, Son, and Spirit. The eternal, all-knowing, perfect one. The holy, righteous, judge who rules over everything our human minds could possibly comprehend. We need to start here. If we don’t start here, the gospel isn’t good news. In fact, if we leave out any piece of the gospel, it stops being good news.
God has existed eternally. He doesn’t need anything. Yet, out of His great love, He created mankind in His image. Just think about that statement for a second. The God of the universe created us in His very likeness with the intention of loving us completely and perfectly. His desire, as we see in the book of Genesis, was to be with His creation. So, He created a world for His new creation to enjoy and rule. We even see this perfect, holy God walking with His creation in the cool of the day. The good news starts pretty good, doesn’t it?
However, despite being given all things, including a close, intimate daily relationship with the God of Creation, man and woman, the pinnacle of all created beings, weren’t satisfied. In fact, they were deceived. God’s newly formed image-bearers, Adam and Eve, desired more than they were given and disobeyed God’s one and only command, eating from the one forbidden tree in the paradise God had crafted for them. This action introduced another “way” into God’s creation, a way that contradicted God’s perfect way. We call this way “sin.”
When God came to spend time with His beloved children, there was a new barrier. A barrier of shame, guilt, embarrassment, and anxiety. Sin entered the world through one disobedient act, and we feel its effects today. We can look around us at a broken world that was not intended to be this way. It’s a world steeped in the “way of the creation,” not the Creator. Everyone is born into a world of sin. Don’t believe me? Watch a child for a while. No one has to teach a child to sin. It’s already there, gripping their heart tightly no matter how cute they look in their dinosaur pajamas. Sin is the great chasm that separates us from the relationship God desired to have with us when He created.
In fact, sin makes God dangerous to us. Just as flipping on a light switch causes darkness to evaporate, God’s holy presence completely overwhelms and obliterates sin. So, you and I have a problem, don’t we?
But lest we think God was surprised at this, taken aback, or distraught over man’s sin, let’s remember that He is eternal, all-knowing, all-powerful, and perfect. God did not pull the ripcord on plan A, opting for a lesser plan B. He moved forward with redemption on His mind. God solved the problem of our sin once and for all with one tremendous, jaw-dropping act. He sent His Son into the world to take our place.
When the Bible says that the penalty for sin is death, it means the penalty for sin is death. Something has to die for God’s perfect and just wrath to be satisfied. Spoiler alert: that thing should be me. I’ve sinned. I sinned today. Just based on who God is, His very nature, I should lose my life as payment and be eternally separated from Him.
But this is where the Christian faith is so different from every other religious system in the world. God Himself sent Jesus, His beloved Son, to live among His creation, to experience every kind of temptation, but never succumb to sin. He lived a perfect life, the only One who didn’t have to die, then willingly took our place, being nailed to an ancient Roman cross until His death.
Christ died for you and for me. He settled the debt that was owed because of our sin, but He didn’t stay dead like we would have. He rose to life after three days, proclaiming authority over sin and death. He made a way for sinful people to approach a holy God. And yet, many refuse, choosing their own way, the way of sin, instead of God’s way. God requires repentance, completely turning away from our own sinful ways and following His way. He requires us to trust in Him, believing that His way is better. Only then can we live in a relationship with Him as He intended.
And when we do live in relationship with Him as He intended, we are given a new heart. The Bible says we are raised to new life, and we find hope in this broken world. Jesus came to settle our debt, but He also showed us what a relationship with God looks like in real-time. He gave us an example to follow, calling those who believe in Him to be “ambassadors of Christ.” Living God’s way brings incredible joy and purpose despite the pain and suffering all around us. And when we mess up, when we sin, Jesus is there to remind us that He paid that debt, He is there to forgive, dust us off, and set us back on the path of following His way.
Such is the Christian life: conforming to the image of Jesus Christ more and more each day until one day He returns and brings final judgment against sin, wiping it away once and for all. God will restore His perfect creation, living in perfect love with us forever and ever.
Finally, Christ-followers are not to keep this good news and life transformation to themselves. The Bible says to go and make disciples of all nations. Those who have tasted the goodness of God are called to find others who are suffering, lost and confused in a broken world, and point them to Jesus. We call this sharing of the good news evangelism.
Whew! That’s a lot packed into a little, but isn’t it amazing? I greatly encourage you to go read others’ explanations of this good news, comparing it to what we find in Scripture, our ultimate baseline for truth. Never stop pursuing a deeper understanding of what the gospel is and how it affects everyone on the planet.