September 6, 2020
Over the last few weeks I’ve tried to reduce my intake of news stories. It seems that every time I turn on the news there’s another city on fire, another murder, another confusing report about Covid-19, or some other story about human trafficking, drug abuse, corruption or suffering. Without a doubt we are living in a messed up world and yet the prevailing attitude is that if we just elect the right people to places of power, we can fix what has gone wrong. However, the problem with that way of thinking is that if this premise was true, then our world would be getting better and better with each passing election. But the more I read God’s Word; I see that this way of thinking is really a misplaced hope. For God says, our hope is not to be found in what man can do, but in what God has already done.
Tim Keller who serves in the heart of New York city says it best when he writes: “Since the garden of Eden, we live in a world filled with suffering, disease, poverty, racism, natural disasters, war, aging, and death – and it all stems from the wrath and curse of God on the world brought about by our sin. All human problems are ultimately symptoms, and our separation from God is the cause. The reason for all the misery – all the effects of the curse – is that we are not reconciled to God. Therefore, the first and primary focus of any real hope for the human race – the main thing that will save us – is to have our relationship with God put right again.”
What he is saying is this: Only the gospel of Jesus Christ offers real hope for a broken world. Only the gospel of Jesus Christ can save us. That is why today we’re beginning a new series entitled, “The Gospel.” You see, it is the gospel our world needs more than new legislation, new leaders or new ideas. And sometimes we forget that God has already given us what we need to make our world right. So today, to kick off this series we’re going back to our roots – to take a fresh look at the gospel and answer the question: What is the Gospel? So if you have your Bible handy, let me invite you to find 1 Corinthians 15:1-8, and let’s hear what God’s Word says about the Gospel. Follow along as I read: Now, brothers and sisters, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand.By this gospel you are being saved, if you hold firmly to the Word, I preached to you – unless you have believed in vain.
For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born. 1 Corinthians 15:1-8
So from these Scriptures were going to answer the question: what is the gospel? And the first truth about the gospel I want to remind us of is this: 1)The gospel is good news, not good advice. When Paul says, Now, brothers and sisters, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand, the first thing we need to remember is that the gospel is a message that comes to us from God. It is good news. It’s good news that was proclaimed, then received by faith, and becomes the foundation of our faith. In other words the gospel is the good news that something has been done for us, that we are called to respond to.
In fact, in the New Testament, the word group euangelion (good news), euangelizo (proclaim good news), and euangelistes (one who proclaims good news) occurs at least 133 times. D. A. Carson, one of our nation’s finest theologians, draws this conclusion from a study of these words: “Because the gospel is news, good news… it is to be announced; that is what one does with news.”
So Paul announced the good news about Jesus Christ, and the Corinthians responded to it. They received the good news by faith and now they have taken their stand on it. The good news has become the foundation of their new life as followers of Jesus. And what was true of the Corinthians is also true of us. Our entire faith rests on what Jesus did for us on the cross. Anyone who becomes a Christ follower becomes one the same way today: We hear the good news and respond by faith. No one ever becomes a believer in Christ apart from hearing the gospel. As Paul wrote to the Romans: “faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ.” Romans 10:17
So if this is true, then one of the greatest needs in our world today is the proclamation of the good news! People need to hear the message of hope found in Jesus Christ. But one of the greatest problems in our world today is that fewer and fewer people have actually heard the good news about Jesus. One reason for this is that we assume that since there are so many churches and so many Christians in our world today, people have many chances to hear the gospel. But that’s just not true. In fact, it’s becoming rarer and rarer for people to hear the good news about Jesus Christ. Another reason for the paucity of gospel proclamation is that we assume that it is the preacher’s job to share the good news. But if you are aware of the studies of how people come to faith in Jesus, the majority come to faith after hearing the good news shared by a family member or friend. The best preachers of the gospel are ordinary people who share the good news in the rhythms of ordinary life. But I would submit there’s a third reason why it’s becoming rarer for ordinary people to share the good news about Jesus and it’s not so much our lack of obedience in sharing the good news – but it’s our lack of experience with the power of the good news in our own lives. For if we have genuinely experienced the grace of God in Jesus Christ, if we truly grasp what we’ve been saved from, then telling others what Jesus has done for us will be something we can’t help but share. That’s how good news works. When something good happens to us, we don’t have to think about it, we don’t have to muster up the courage to share it – we share it with whoever will listen! We love to share good news. Who doesn’t? And that leads to the next point Paul wants to remind us about the good news. And that is this:
2) The gospel is good news announcing that we have been rescued or saved. Now look at verse 2, By this gospel you are being saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you – unless you have believed in vain.
Now the operative question for you today is this: What have I been rescued from? Well a look at the gospel words in the New Testament shows that we are being rescued from ‘the coming wrath” at the end of history. But this wrath is not an impersonal force – it is God’s wrath. God’s righteous anger and justice toward sin.
In order for the good news to be good news we must first understand the bad news. And the bad news is this: Because we have sinned against God our relationship with Him is broken. Our sin separates us from life with God because we have rebelled against His law and refused to give Him the glory He deserves. That’s why God seems so distant from you and why you live with a nagging sense of guilt, shame or fear. That’s why you sometimes feel all alone in the universe even when there’s all kinds of people around. That’s why you can’t find satisfaction in the things of the world – that why there’s an emptiness inside you cannot fill. It’s because you were created to find intimacy and joy and life with the One who created you. But because you are a sinner, your sin alienates you from life with God.
Isaiah describes our sin as a turning away from God: We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; Isaiah 53:6 We are the ones who separate ourselves from God. We turn our backs on God and chose to live life apart from God’s Will or God’s Law. We decide to be our own gods. We don’t want anyone telling us how we should live, let alone God. So we reject God and do our own thing. And the Bible calls our rebellion against God for what it is: SIN.
But the problem with our rebellion, it that our consciences won’t allow us to be at peace with this broken relationship. So we go through life trying to suppress our guilt, shame and anger; trying to fill this emptiness and heart longing with everything but God. And then on top of that, when life doesn’t go as hoped, we don’t blame ourselves, but we blame God or someone else for our misfortune. Why? Because the wrath of God still rests on us.
Listen to how Paul describes this reality of life without God: The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—His eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse. Romans 1:18-20
Next Paul goes on to explain how our rebellion, our sin, causes us to deny God the glory He deserves: For although they knew God, they neither glorified Him as God nor gave thanks to Him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. They exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Romans 1:21-23, 25
Here Paul identifies God’s wrath toward our rebellion as the great problem of our human condition. Because we are alienated from God, we are psychologically alienated within ourselves – we experience shame and fear. Because we are alienated from God, we are also socially alienated from one another: we blame others for our sin, we suffer depression, discouragement and even despair. And because our relationship with God is broken, we are also physically alienated from nature. Lfe is hard. We experience sorrow, painful toil, disease, physical deterioration and ultimately death. That’s the bad news. When we turn our back on God we live under the wrath of God, without hope, without love, without the life He wants us to enjoy.
But the good news is that Jesus Christ, the One and only Son of God has come to save you from the wrath of God. Jesus came to die for your sins to rescue you from the wrath of God. Jesus came to take the judgment you deserve by taking your place upon the cross. So, the good news announced in the gospel is that Jesus made it possible for you to be saved from eternal damnation – from eternal separation from all that is good, an eternity cast into outer darkness where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth – an eternal regret of rejecting the One who created you to know and love Him. Jesus saved you from that eternal hell by taking upon himself the judgment you deserved. So then, here’s the good news: Therefore, there is now nocondemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Romans 8:1 The good news is that when Jesus died for your sins, he saved you from the wrath of God. He set you free from judgment! He rescued you from a life of guilt, shame, fear and remorse.
So let me ask you: Have your responded to what Jesus did for you? Have you turned from trusting in yourself to trusting in Jesus for salvation? If you have, then God’s Word says, you are no longer under God’s wrath. If you’ve put your faith in Jesus, God’s Word says you are now under grace – you are forgiven – all your sins: past, present and future have been nailed to the cross. Jesus has removed your guilt and shame and made you righteous in the eyes of God. In fact, the good news of Jesus Christ not only changed your eternal destiny, but now changes everything for you.
Which leads to the final truth I want to share about the gospel with you today and that is this: 3) The gospel is news about what has been done by Jesus Christ to put right your relationship with God. Listen again to how Paul wrote of this in 1 Corinthians 15, For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve… After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born. 1 Corinthians 15:1-8
The final thing Paul wants to remind us of about the gospel is its first importance to us. We must never forget this. Why? When Jesus died for your sins, was buried, and then rose again on the third day to new life, he changed your status with God forever. First John 3:14 states that “we have passed from death to life,” not “we are passing from death to life.” That’s the good news of Jesus Christ. Once you believe in Jesus’ work for you in his death, burial and resurrection, your faith in Jesus instantly changes your standing before God. This is why the gospel is of first importance to us now as believers. It’s full of good news. We rest in that good news and we want to share that good news. Listen to what Jesus did for us when He saved us:
- When we were enemies of God, Jesus saved us so He could make us friends with God This is called “reconciliation” You were his enemies, separated from him by your evil thoughts and actions. Yet now he has reconciled you to himself through the death of Christ in his physical body. As a result, he has brought you into his own presence, and you are holy and blameless as you stand before him without a single fault. Colossians 1:21-22 Jesus made you friends with God by making you holy and blameless in the eyes of God. You are now totally accepted by God through your faith in Jesus.
- When we were slaves to sin, Jesus rescued us from the dominion of darkness and forgave all our sins. This is called “redemption” For he has rescued us from the kingdom of darkness and transferred us into the Kingdom of his dear Son, who purchased our freedom and forgave our sins. Colossians 1:13-14 Jesus purchased you from the marketplace of sin with His blood. You were bought with a price. And what was the purpose of Jesus purchasing you with His blood? To give you a new life in His kingdom, to set you free to be who He created you to be, to forgive you of all your sins so you can be free of guilt, sin and shame.
- When we were spiritually dead to God, Jesus saved us to make us alive with God This is called “regeneration” But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared,He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of His mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by His grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. Titus 3:4-7 Wow, there’s so much Jesus did for us summed up in these verses. Jesus revealed the kindness and love of God at the cross. Jesus gave us mercy at the cross. Jesus saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal – He made us brand new spiritually alive people the moment we believed! Jesus justified you – He made you right with God. And Jesus made you and heir with Him of the hope of eternal life. This is the Gospel – Jesus changes everything about you. This is why Jesus is the hope of the world.
And this is why Jesus united you with His body – the Church. So that together, we might not just remember the good news, or rest in the good news, but that we might be so changed by the good news that we can’t help but want to share the good news with everyone we know.
So I have one question for you today: Has the Gospel changed you? Has Jesus rescued you from God’s wrath? Has Jesus made you right with God? Has Jesus reconciled you, redeemed you and made you alive with God? If he has, then tell someone. For we have the most important news anyone can ever hear. Jesus has made a way for our world to be saved, if we respond in faith to the goods of what He has done for us. Let’s pray.