What Is the Gospel?
"...but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." Rom. 6:23
Did you know that the God who created the heavens, the earth, and all that is in them loves you personally and intimately? If you want to know how much, look no further than what the Bible has to say: “For God so loved the world that He gave His Only Son that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).
To understand the full scope of the good news of God’s love for you, you first have to come to recognize the bad news: we are all sinners. This sinful nature is a birth defect that we have all inherited from the beginning of our lives (Psalm 51:5). Sometimes you might like to think of yourself as a good person; you may even consider yourself to be a righteous person if you are doing your best to live a good life. Even though that’s how we would like to portray ourselves, the Bible teaches us that “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23) and that “none is righteous, no, not one” (Romans 3:10). No, you are not a “good” person.
Just like in Newton’s Third Law (for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction), the result of our sin is death (Romans 6:23). It only takes the breaking of one of God’s commandments to be guilty of them all (James 2:10). Have you ever stretched the truth to save face? This is lying. Ever spoken about someone in a negative light behind his/her back? This is slander. Ever wished you had something someone else had? This is coveting. Ever been angry with someone? “Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer” says 1 John 3:15. All of this is sin, and the list could go on. Since God is perfect, His requirement of us is also perfection. He is holy and just, and does not allow sin to go unpunished. We need to accept the reality of hell, which is the punishment for breaking God’s law. Jesus taught and warned about its reality, referring to it as the unquenchable fire (Mark 9:43) and a place of eternal punishment (Matthew 25:46).
Outside of faith in Jesus, there’s nothing we can do to get in right standing with God, because even our “righteous acts” are like filthy rags to God (Isaiah 64:6) –the Hebrew word, by the way, means used menstrual cloths. It’s a graphic picture to show us that even what we consider to be our best efforts are not presentable to God—we have nothing we can offer Him. If we work for our salvation, then anything we receive is like a paycheck, as Rom. 4:4 says: “Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due.” Because of our sin, our paycheck would be death, and our wage, hell. But there is a way to be right with God.
The rest of the passage in Romans 4 says: “And to the one who does not work but trusts him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness” (Rom. 4:5). Jesus Christ wants to give us what he’s earned for us—a free pass into heaven. We are offered a free gift! “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing. It is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9). The good news is that God’s love for you is so immense that He doesn’t want you to spend eternity without Him—so He did the unthinkable. He sent His Only Son to become a man and live God’s law perfectly, which we could not live, and then pay the debt that we owed by taking our death-sentence on the cross, in our place, as our Substitute. He paid a debt He did not owe because we owed a debt we could never pay. Jesus, the only sinless man to ever live died for our sin, so that we don’t have to pay the price ourselves for what we deserve. The blood that He shed on the cross actually makes peace with us and God (Col. 1:20). He removes our sins and expunges our criminal records if we put all our trust in Him; what He did was enough to reconcile us to God.
Jesus conquered over sin and death. He wants us to believe in Him and accept that generous gift that He offers so freely. Isn’t that an incredible deal? Every wrong that you have ever and will ever do is erased as if it never happened. Micah 7:19 puts it this way: “He will again have compassion on us; he will tread our iniquities under foot. You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea.” God promises that He will remember our sins no more (Heb. 8:12) and that even though they once stood out like bright crimson, they will be made white as snow (Isaiah 1:18).
God has a deep and intimate love for you! He doesn’t want “religion” (which gives you a laundry list of things to do to be right with Him), He wants a personalized relationship with you through Jesus Christ. It’s like the Creation of Adam painting by Michelangelo on the Sistine Chapel. In the painting, God is fully extended spanning the universe to connect with us, and man just barely lifts his finger to touch Him. For some reason the God who tells the lightning where to go (Job 38:35) and who laid the earth’s cornerstone (Job 38:6), cares about us and is mindful of us (Psalm 8:4).
So how do we respond to His advances of love? Paul teaches that, “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9). There’s only one way for you and I to find that peace with God and it’s through faith in the name of Jesus (Romans 5:1). When we receive Jesus, we are declared righteous and perfect in God’s eyes. And most amazingly, our condemnation is no more (Romans 8:1). If you believe in Jesus, you are given the assurance and promise of eternal life: “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life (1 John 5:13). To live with Jesus forever—eternally abiding in the love of God—is indeed Good News!
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