What is the Gospel?

We hear the term “Gospel” used in numerous settings, but what does it mean?

The word “Gospel” in simple terms means, “Good News.” It is typically associated with its use in the Bible in reference to the life and work of Jesus Christ to provide salvation for all humanity.

But is it just another religious term zealous Christian use in their propaganda?  Is it just about getting people out of hell and into heaven? Is it something only Christians can claim? Is there another Gospel? Do we even need the Gospel?

Bad News

No one can ignore it nor dispute it, we see it all around us and even inside of us, more and more bad news. Though there is a lot of good within us, there is also a lot of bad. You know it, God knows it, and other people see it. No matter how hard we try, there just isn’t enough lipstick we can put on the pig of bad news around us and even within us to make it go away.

Part of what makes the Gospel such good news is the reality of some very bad news. If there wasn’t any bad news, there would be no need or value for “Good News.” So, to truly understand the Gospel (Good News) we first have to understand the bad news.

The bad news is, sin has infected every aspect of our life and the entire world around us. Sin is simply anything that falls short of the character and standards of God. For example, God is loving all the time. There is never a time when God is not loving. In fact, the Bible says, “God is love.” Yet, because of our sin nature, we aren’t always loving, that is obvious. Or, for another example, God sets a standard of not murdering and teaches us that even hating another person is a form of murder. Well, in that sense and by that standard, we have all murdered… emotionally, spiritually, and maybe even physically. Not good news.

Because of the fall of humanity recorded in the book of Genesis in the Bible, we are all born into sin. It’s not just something we do, but something within us and all creation. Sin doesn’t just infect people, it has infected everything. And by everything, I mean everything. What’s the big deal about sin? It makes us spiritually, emotionally, and physically broken. Because of sin, everything in life has an expiration date.  Nothing is as it was meant to be. Sin injects all of life with death… emotionally, physically, and spiritually. It’s the reason why children die of cancer, mosquitos bite, tornadoes strike, depression sets in, and on and on. It’s undeniable, it’s indisputable, sin is everywhere and in everything. The reality that nobody can accurately say they are perfect is evidence enough.

Furthermore, the bad news is, we can’t do anything to fix sin. It is a terminal condition within all of life that we cannot cure. Nothing that we can do, say, invent, build, achieve, become, master, learn, or author can provide the fix. It’s that bad.

But it gets worse, because the reality is, if this sin condition isn’t cured, when we die we will spend forever separated from God in a real place called hell. Now before you get in debate mode and shut your mind. Hear me out.

Hell is a real existence that is completely devoid of the presence of God. It’s what you get when you take God entirely out of the picture. Sure, in this life right now, we get tastes of what hell is like. But currently, we are not completely without the presence of God. In this world, the sun still shines, there is still hope, joy, peace, satisfaction and life. That’s because God is not completely removed. Out of His grace, He is deeply at work and present in this world today. However, that will not always be the case for those who die without their sin condition being cured.

See, we were created to live forever, and by God’s design, we all live forever. Think about it this way, if we weren’t created to live forever, death wouldn’t bother us. The fact the death bothers us is confirmation of God’s design that we live forever. However, if the sin condition in our lives is not cured, we will live forever separated from God in hell instead of completely present with God forever in heaven. As you will read later in this post, this will not be out of God’s choice, but ultimately ours.

The reality is, our sin condition is not compatible with the presence of God. The two cannot exist together in complete harmony. That’s understandable, right?  The moment God has compatibility with sin is the moment God is no longer God. Compassion for sin is different than compatibility with it.  No one would expect God (who has compassion for sin) to become compatible with that which would corrupt His existence.  It’s like trying to mix oil and water. So, either it gets dealt with in our life or we cannot be present with God as we were originally designed to be. God created us to live with Him and be a part of His forever Kingdom. Sin makes that impossible for us. Sin cripples us in this life and makes us incompatible with God in the next life. That’s the bad news. And as you can see, it’s really bad news.

The Good News

However, the good news is really good news. It’s better good news than there could ever be bad news.

The good news is that God loves all humanity and the world He created. He has created all humanity and all things with great value, worth, potential, and purpose. Better yet, God has not given up on the world because of the reality of sin. In fact, out of His love and Grace, He provides the cure for it. Yes, God has provided the cure for sin. And the even better news is that this cure is free.

The consequence of sin is death, and the only thing that can destroy the power of sin is death. The very thing that sin causes is the very thing that can cure it. Thus, sin can only be cured by death. Unfortunately, when we die, we die. We can’t handle death because it kills us a 100% of the time. So, an ordinary person, animal, or created being cannot experience death without dying permanently. That is the essences of sin, permanent death. Therefore nothing created can cure themselves of sin nor anyone else’s for that matter by dying. As long as the end result of sin is death, it still has power.

With this awareness, God realized if sin is going to be cured, the perfect person, His son Jesus must die, it’s the only way.  Only Jesus could die and live to tell about it. Only the perfect son of God could take the consequences of the entire sin of the world upon Himself and be raised back to life. Why? Because He is God. He is perfect, He is sin proof. In simple terms, on the cross, Jesus takes the consequences of all sin upon Himself, puts it to death through His death and in His rising back to life, takes the power out of sin and gives life where there once was death. Jesus wins, sin loses. Jesus takes sin and death and turns it into life. We didn’t deserve it, we can’t earn it, but Jesus did it freely for us out of His love. Jesus is the cure.

Jesus pays the penalty we couldn’t pay so that we can have the forever-life we were meant to have. This in short terms is called, “Salvation” We are saved from sin by Jesus dying on the cross and being raised to life three days later.

So does that mean that everybody is now automatically saved because of what Jesus did on our behalf. No, because the way that salvation is applied to our life is through faith in Jesus Christ.  What Jesus did on the cross is the gift of salvation, but our faith in Jesus is how that gift is opened and applied to our lives. Because God loves us, He would never force Himself and a restored relationship with Him (salvation) on anyone. God is not interested in having a religion with people, but a restored forever-relationship with them. Faith is how people have a choice to receive or reject the salvation Jesus is offering. Thus, when a person responds to the Gospel (Good News) with faith, their relationship is fully restored and they can have peace with God, themselves, and the world. Everyone has the capacity to have faith in Jesus. If they don’t have faith in Jesus, it’s by their own choice, not God’s.

But, the Good News gets even better.

Sozo

When the scope of “salvation” comes up in the Bible, we find that salvation includes much more than getting people out of hell and into heaven. In fact, Jesus spoke of the “restoration of all things.” And the Bible speaks of “all thing things being reconciled unto Him” When the bible speaks of all things, it means “all things.” It’s not just people, but also animals, relationships, creation, values, systems, and on and on. Why? Because salvation is about bringing the complete Kingdom of God to people’s lives. This Kingdom involves the whole aspect of our lives and all of creation. It’s not just the restoration of life, but also the restoration of how to live and the world we live.

The word for salvation in the New Testament of the Bible is the word “Sozo” in Greek.

“For the Son of Man came to seek and to save (sozo) what was lost.”  Luke 19:9

In this context, it’s about getting people out of hell into heaven, that’s a beautiful part of salvation. But what is super interesting is that same word sozo is used in other places…

“But Jesus turning and seeing her said, “Daughter, take courage, your faith has made you well [sozo], and at once the woman was made well [sozo]” Matthew 9:22.

So, in this setting, it’s about this person’s life being healed in the here and now.

“And those who had seen it reported to them how the man who was demon-possessed had been made well [sozo]” (Luke 8:36)

And in this setting it’s about a person being delivered from the power of evil in their life… right there, right then.

See, salvation (The Gospel) is about redeeming the whole person, not just getting them out of hell into heaven, it’s about ministering to the whole person, bringing the power of God into every area of their life.  So yup, it’s about people repenting of their sins and putting their faith and trust in Jesus, but it’s also about marriages being restored, addictions being overcome, attitudes and hearts being changed, hurts being healed, and the list goes on and on.  

Salvation ism’t just about the next life, it’s about this life, right here and now. Furthermore, salvation is never  just about a person, but about the entire Kingdom of God being brought into a person’s life and living and the whole world and how it works being restored back to God.

The Gospel is the reality that every aspect of our life can be made whole, and all of life will one day be made whole again. All of creation and how things work will be reset back to the way God originally designed it.

What was God’s original design? Well, 1) it wasn’t a perfect world in the sense of everything being done and nothing left to do! If that were the case, it wouldn’t be good news, it would be boring, uncreative news. Rather, God created the world “good,” not perfect. By perfect I mean that there is nothing left to do and we just sit around doing nothing forever. Rather, God created it “good.” He loaded  it with potential. And God created us to use our gifts, passions, and competencies to take it as far as it can go in ways that honor God. Now that’s heaven! Doing what you love to do forever in ways that honor God. That’s Good News.

2) It wasn’t an existential world in the sense of that everything is colored white and we all float around in the clouds. That’s not good news. No, heaven is more real than this world is now. Right now, everything is tainted with sin. Imagine tasting an orange without sin in it (its broken nature), how delicious will that be! Imagine seeing things with our perfected eyes! Imagine loving without any fear or reservation. Heaven isn’t existential, it’s this world, this life, this earth, restored and reconciled back to God.

2) Nor is a world that is off in some separate part of the universe where you “go.”  Rather, heaven is this world, this earth, and all followers of Jesus, restored and reconciled (reset) back to God. In short, it is the restoring of God’s Kingdom on earth the way it was meant to be

Recommended Resource: “Heaven” -Randy Alcorn

The Gospel in other Religions

I respect other religions and in no way desire to bash them. Nor am I am trying to toot the Christian horn. But the truth is, every other religion presents bad news as an answer to bad news.

Study them for yourself, in all other religions, if you want to overcome death and the difficulties of life, you have to earn your way to God and solve your own problems. That’s not good news. Some call it enlightenment, others have a series of things you have to do, others have levels you have to reach. But in each, you are told to do that which is ultimately impossible to do which is to save yourself. Granted, some religions deny the reality that things are bad and that we even need to be “saved,” but denying what we know in our conscience to be true isn’t good news. We clearly live in a broken world with broken lives that need to be fixed, denying this reality isn’t good news, it’s bad religion.

Christianity is the only religion where God comes down to you and does all the work that we can’t do ourselves. In every other religion, you do the work and hope it’s enough. You find a way to God. In Christianity, God finds a way to you.  In fact, in no other religion does God “love” accept for Christianity. Rather, you find people sleeping on one foot, taking long treks through the desert, slamming planes into buildings, performing all kinds of religious gymnastics ir order to appease their god and earn their way to the afterlife. I have one question for all the other religions of the world… how that’s working for ya?

The truth is, there is no Gospel (good news) in any other religion but Christianity. Any time you have humanity doing anything in anyway shape or form to earn their place with God, to get to God, solve their own problems, or to become a kind of god, you have a bad news situation. Such things are impossible. The Gospel is that Jesus does all the work, and what we do is receive it by responding with faith. Jesus does the impossible so that’s it’s possible for us to have life… today, tomorrow, and forever. Jesus doesn’t come with a way to God, Jesus is the way.

Is Calvinism “Good News?”

Unfortunately, some within Christianity have taken the Gospel itself and made it into not so good news, or not as good of news.

I have many calvinistic friends who I love and respect. And in no way do I desire to trash their convictions. But as to their understanding of the Gospel, I respectfully disagree. Calvinism is not good news.

If good news is truly good news, then it needs to be good news for everyone or it’s not really good news at all. Furthermore, how can you rejoice in something you don’t believe is available to all and then call it God’s sovereign grace. Grace that is not available to all is not Grace at all, it’s favoritism. What am I talking about? The tenants of Calvinism.

Calvinism teaches that through what they call “irresistible grace,” God sovereignly overrides the God-hating, deprived will of pre-selected people and causes them to believe in Him as He regenerates their heart against their will so that they believe and thus are “saved.”  This isn’t good news if for no other reason that the moment you override the will, you kill the potential for love, of which the Bible says, “God is love.” In fact, the bible says, “Love does not insist on it’s own way.” Why? Because you can’t force love. Love is a choice. Yet, Calvinism makes God into an insisting, unloving God and calls it sovereignty.

The truth is, by it’s destruction of love and having a loving relationships with the God through the removal of human will, Calvinism is not good news at all. And at best, it is only good news for those whom God decided in eternity past to cause to believe.  In fact, Calvinism teaches that Jesus did not die for all people, but merely for those He predestined to save. Is this really, good news?

If Calvinism is true, then only certain selected people are going to heaven, no one has the capacity to believe unless God makes them believe against their own will, God is not interested in a relationship with His created people but rather in having human robots who worship Him, the only way you can know you are of the elect whom God has chosen to save is by proving to yourself that your heart has been regenerated through works, and Jesus didn’t die for everyone, but only the preselected elect God chose to save.  Some leading Calvinist even teach that God created evil, wills evil, and we don’t have any sense of free will in life at all. Everything you do, and every move you make is pre-chosen by God.  That’s doesn’t sound like the Good News of the Gospel to me.

The truth is, the Gospel is not good news for some and bad news for others, it is “Good News” for all. If some don’t receive it by responding in faith, that’s their choice not God’s. God has not given the ability to believe to some and not to others. God doesn’t send anybody to hell by withholding anything, people send themselves to Hell by refusing to put their faith in Him. That’s how God in His sovereignty set it up.  God desires that all people repent of their sins and put their faith and trust Jesus, He has given light to all men that anyone and everyone might believe (whosoever will), out of love for the whole world Jesus died for all the sins of the whole world, and faith is the greatest assurance of our salvation, not our works.

Now that, is Good News!

Recommended Resource: “What Love is This?  -Dave Hunt

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