"The Gospel is: we are more sinful and flawed in ourselves than we ever dared to believe, and at the very same time we are more loved and accepted in Jesus Christ than we ever dared hope."
“Gospel” is a word you’re likely to hear at church—certainly a word you’ll hear at Neelsville. But what does it mean? Most literally, it’s a word that means “good news.” But good news about what?
We certainly have enough bad news in the world: wars, pollution, injustice, conflict. We all know that things in the world are pretty messed up. Not only are things messed up in the world, but our lives are not what they should be. We find ourselves in conflict in our families or close relationships, divisions in society, or we carry around feelings of unfulfillment, resentment, anger, or guilt. However this works itself out for you, we all have the sense that something has gone wrong in the world—that the world is not the way it’s supposed to be.
Well, we’re right. The Bible teaches us that the way things are now is not the way God created the world to be. God intended a world of justice and joy, a world of meaningful relationships and satisfying work, God created us to be in close relationship with him, with each other, and with the world around us. That’s why we know things aren’t the way they should be: we were created for something better.
The problem is that we humans have always thought that we could do a better job of being God than God could. In a sense we substitute ourselves for God, put ourselves in God’s place and try to run our lives without worrying about him too much. By substituting ourselves for God, we also separate ourselves from God, and the result is the world we see around us, and it’s not a pretty picture.
God is so good and beautiful and true that somehow the evil and ugliness and mess in the world (and in our lives) needs to be dealt with before we can experience God the way we were created to. So how do we do this?
The religious answer is usually some version of this answer: work harder. Some religions tell you to say certain prayers or just live a good life and hope for the best. Most religions say that we make our way to God through good works, or enlightenment, or through trusting the goodness of our hearts.
The surprising but good news of the Gospel tells us that trying to get to God is hopeless. Trying to overcome evil, ugliness, and brokenness on our own strength is a waste of time and actually makes things worse. Christianity teaches that no amount of good behavior gets us “in,” because even our best efforts really aren’t that great in the grand scheme of things. Left to our own devices, we are in big, big trouble.
Once we realize that we can’t fix what’s broken in the world and in our hearts no matter how hard we try, we are ready to hear the good news. Remember that world God intended, the one that is filled with justice and joy, with meaningful relationships with God and other people? The Good News is that that is still God’s intention, and he’s not satisfied to just let us mess it all up.
In Jesus, God became a human being and entered into our world as a person. Jesus was just like us (he was fully human) and totally different from us (he was fully God). Because he was just like us, he could live the life that God intended humans to live. Because he was fully God (Christ means Messiah), he could do for us the things we couldn’t do for ourselves.
Remember how our problem started when we substituted ourselves for God and separated ourselves from him? The solution to our problem was when Jesus substituted himself for us on the cross, receiving the judgment that we deserved. When Jesus rose from the dead, he proved that he was indeed capable of dealing with all the evil and ugliness and brokenness, once and for all.
Because Jesus Christ triumphed over death he is still alive, and we can know him. We come to know him by trusting that his perfect life, death in our place, and resurrection overcomes our separation from God. He did for us what we couldn’t do for ourselves. And so now, through faith in him, our relationship with God is restored and we can begin to experience life the way we were created to.
So the Gospel isn’t just about knowing or doing the right things, it’s about trusting in Jesus Christ and what he did, and thereby living the full and joyous life we were created to live. What makes the Gospel unique—what makes it “Good News”—is that it’s not telling us how to reach up to grab hold of God, but it’s about God reaching down to grab hold of us! This good news is simple enough for a child to understand and deep enough that it takes more than a lifetime to fully comprehend it. As people who God has grabbed a hold of, we try to live in ways that please him, humbly, imperfectly, always seeking to grow and be changed so that we’re more like Jesus. To do this, we pay close attention to living what the Bible teaches, since we see it as a wonderful gift that shows us what life as God intended it looks like. We don’t do this to earn God’s love, but because we’re thankful for his love and the gift of his grace!
We’d be happy to talk with you more about this good news of Jesus Christ, or come alongside you as you seek to live in it!