The Gospel In A Nutshell
(Reflections by Dane Burgess from Bob Thunes book, The Gospel-Centered Life)
What exactly is "the gospel"? It is a question that when posed to Christians can seem to bring more of the "deer in a headlights look" then a confident explanation spoken out of true understanding of identity. A lot of the time, when you ask a Christian "what is the gospel?" you tend to get answers that are broken down to two, three or even four core principles. But the problem within those principles is that they come off as dis-genuine and they lack true conviction. And when I mean principles, I am talking about very basic core beliefs that might be true about the Gospel but when boiled down to the bare minimum of its meaning will have no weightiness to its true reality.
But when you understand "the gospel" as an intricate story of God creating, man falling, Christ redeeming and a new people created then you start to see how your own life fits within this Redemptive Historical reality.
Creation: The Story Doesn't Start With Us, But God
As all stories begin, it starts with a beginning. But within this story, our human tendencies is to begin with us. Yes this story has something to do with us but it isn't primarily about us but God.
God is eternal, infinite, perfect and unchanging who created all things before there was anything (Genesis 1:1-31). We can see through Scripture that our God is one God but He exists in three persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:19). God was perfectly happy and completely joyful amongst himself. Which means he did not create the world because he was lacking in anything. He already had perfect glory, community, joy and worship within the Trinity. Rather He created creation out of the outpouring of His perfection, His goodness and His love. Humans were made in the image of God (Genesis 1:27). And he created us to join in and experience that perfect joy he had amongst himself within the Trinity. We are the created and not the creator. We are dependent and under His authority whether we like it or not. We are on His terms and not on our own. We were made to worship, love and serve him. Not serve ourselves.
God's words when he was done with all of creation were "And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good." There was perfect order, perfect structure and all of creation was under submission to its Creator.
Fall: We Batched It, Not God
Humans were made in the "imago dei", which means we were made in the image of God. We were created by God to worship Him. All that we did was to be directed towards him. But instead of coming under full submission to God's authority, humans (We, all of us) turned away from God in sinful rebellion (Genesis 3:1-7; Isaiah 53:6). Our cosmic treason caused a great disease or an illness to saturate all of creation. God's perfect creation that he said "was very good" is now tainted. Cosmic brokenness happened because of our sin. Pain, suffering, death and sorrow to name a few happened because of us.
For now "all sin and fall short of the glory of God." Human beings, because of the great fall, are sinners by nature and by choice (Ephesian 2:1-3). Non of us truly think of ourselves as that bad or sinful. Someone is always worse then I am, we say. But in reality this view only shows our true lack of understanding of how our sinfulness is committed towards a Holy, Perfect God.
"Sin is not primarily an action, it's a disposition" - Bob Thune
Sin is our soul's bend towards our perfect Creator. Sin has permitted everything within us. Our pride, our selfishness, our independence, and our lack love towards God and our neighbors. At times sin is very open and obvious but other times it is hidden within ourselves. Like I said earlier, sin has permeated every part of creation and there is no hope for change or is there...
Redemption: God's Acts To Save Us And What We Have Broken
How often do we put our hope and trust in other sinful human beings to save us or save our world. We look to political systems to bring us out of bondage, we look towards self-help books to make us feel better. And yet no matter what we do, there is always that sense of brokenness and guilt that we can't seem to get rid of fully. That is why we need a hero. We need a Savior. That hero and Savior is Jesus Christ. We sinners need a Savior, a Redeemer, a Deliverer to free us from the captivity of our own sin and restore the order of the world back to its original purpose. A purpose that had a worshipful, dependent bend towards God as Creator.
Jesus Christ being fully God (to incur sin fully) and being fully man (to pay the ultimate debt we owe to God). God sent his Son to be a perfect substitute. One who lived the life we could not live and died the death that we ultimately deserved.
"This is why God sent Jesus into the world to be our substitute (1 John 4:14). The Bible teaches that Jesus was fully God - the second person of the Trinity - and also fully human. He was born to a human mother, lived a real flesh-and-blood existence, and died a brutal death on a Roman cross outside Jerusalem. Jesus lived a life of perfect obedience to God (Hebrews 4:15), making him the only person in history who did not deserve judgment. But on the cross, he took our place, dying for our sin. He received the condemnation and death we deserve so that, when we put our trust in him, we can receive the blessing of life he deserves (2 Cor. 5:21)" - The Gospel Centered Life pg. 9
Jesus did die in our place. But how do we know who he said he was unless he could show us who he was? We know this by him rising from the dead, displaying his victory over sin, satan and death. All that was lost, broken and corrupted in the fall will ultimately be put right. Redemption isn't simply salvation for individual souls; it means that all of creation is being put back to the way it was suppose to be.
Restoration: Now This Is More Like It
What is required of us to partake in this restoring process? How to we experience salvation and become mirrors of redemption towards our world? By faith alone (Ephesians 2:8-9). Faith is complete trust or confidence in Someone. It is a heart that has a whole-hearted commitment to Jesus Christ.
When we trust in Jesus Christ we are released from the penalty of sin and from the power of sin. We were originally created "able not to sin" but through the fall we were "not able not to sin" but for those who believe in Jesus we are now "able not to sin" and once Jesus brings redemption to completion of all things we will "not be able to sin." That is an amazing hope and reality that will come one day! One day, for those who are in Christ, will not be able to sin. Are you kidding me!!
We are free to die to ourselves and live a life that has a dependent bending of the knees towards our King Jesus. We are free to serve because Christ first served us. We are free to see all the things we own as gifts given to us by God and steward them well to bless others. We are finally free in whatever we do to do it all for the Glory of God.
Jesus promised that he will return soon to judge sin and make all things new. Until then, he is gathering under His rule a people from every tribe, tongue and nation (Rev. 7:9). As he has given us eternal life, he has also called us to participate with Him in His mission (Matthew 28:18-20).
This is the Gospel! A story of triumph and vindication. A story of hope and longing. It is the good news, the greatest news this world has ever heard and needs to hear.