The Christian Gospel
The gospel is the good news about what God has done to rescue us from the consequences of our sin. It begins by diagnosing a problem: each of us falls short of the standard that we ought to meet, and so justice demands that we pay a price. It ends with the solution to this problem: Jesus’ death on the cross, which covers our sins and reconciles us to God.
Most of us know that there’s something out of place in our lives. Most of us aren’t the people that we would like to be, and know that we should be, and no matter how hard we try we don’t seem to be able to do much about it. This dissatisfaction with ourselves is the human condition; it’s pretty much universal. Everyone, at at least some point in their lives, feels this; most people feel this at most points in their lives. Sure, a few of us have things good enough that we think that we’re doing fine, but deep down there’s almost always a dissatisfaction, no matter how satisfied people seem.
This feeling that there’s something wrong is there for a reason: there is something wrong. And the solution, in spite of what the self-help books all say, isn’t as simple positive thinking. Pretending that the problem isn’t there won’t make it go away. It’s far better to try to understand the problem, and confront it.
The problem, fundamentally, is a moral one. Morality isn’t a myth. More and more people like to pretend that it is, that morality is just some arbitrary set of rules that we all agree to live by, or something made up by other people who want to control how we behave. It’s not. Moral rules are real. We can’t change them to match our own personal preferences; we don’t get to make them up. Whether we like it or not, we have responsibilities and we know it.
Everyone knows this really. Sometimes people like to deny it, but really it’s obvious to everyone. If you do something wrong then your conscience tells you about it. We all know that there are rules about how we should live our lives; that’s why we feel guilty when we break them.
The problem is that every one of us has broken the rules. Every one of us. Just think of the things that we ought not to do: we shouldn’t steal; we shouldn’t lie; we shouldn’t wish bad things on people; we shouldn’t gossip. Etc. Etc. A lot of things are wrong, but most of us do most of them anyway. We aren’t the people that we’re meant to be. This is pretty much undeniable. This is why we’re dissatisfied with ourselves.
Of course, some people do things that they shouldn’t more than others; some people are pretty despicable and others aren’t so bad. Every one of us, though, has broken the rules. We all fall short of the standard that we should live up to. We’re all sinners to some degree.
The bad news is that justice will be done, and that without God’s help we’re in trouble. People who do bad things deserve to have bad things happen to them, and we’re all people who do bad things. God is real, and just, and will judge the world; a lot of us are going to get what we deserve.
The good news is that we don’t have to get what we deserve, we have a choice. God hasn’t left us to face the mess that we’ve made for ourselves. Instead, he’s intervened, making his help is available to each of us, making it possible for us to sort out this problem.
He did this through the cross. There’s a price to be paid for our sins, a punishment to be suffered for what we’ve done. For justice to be done, someone has to pay that price, someone has to take that punishment. God decided to help us by taking that punishment upon himself. On the cross, he suffered a punishment that covers everything that we deserve, so that there’s no longer any price for us to pay.
For this to work, though, there has to be a connection between us and Jesus; without that, Jesus is just some guy dying on a cross, nothing to do with us. If we follow Jesus, turning from our sin and putting our faith in him, then the connection is there. If we don’t, then it isn’t, and we’re still in the situation where God wants to forgive us but, in his justice, will not.
The gospel doesn’t mean an easy life; Christians face problems too. If you put your faith in God, then that doesn’t mean that you’re in for an easy ride. It does mean, however, that you’ll be part of the family. God will meet with you, help you. As you seek him, he’ll strengthen you, and over time you’ll become more like the person that you were made to be. And from the moment that you put your faith in Christ, the fundamental problem is solved: your sins will be covered. Whatever you’ve done, forgiveness is instant and complete.