The gospel of Jesus Christ is “good news” because it is the announcement that God has reconciled us to Himself by sending His Son Jesus to die as a substitute for our sins, and that all who repent and believe in Him will have eternal life. 2 Corinthians 5:21 declares, “For our sake God made Him who knew no sin, to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.” The perfectly innocent died for the hopelessly guilty. My prayer is that you and I will see in this sermon series that the gospel is not just the means by which we are saved; it is the driving force behind our transformation and it is the motivation for our loving God and our neighbors. As the gospel is believed and appropriated into our lives our selfish hearts will burst alive with love for God and a passion to worship Him. As we worship the Father we will want others to experience the abundant life we have found in Jesus!
To fully appreciate the gospel, you and I must answer four questions:
- What is God like?
- Who am I?
- Who is Jesus?
- What is the proper response to the gospel?
What is God Like?
You and I could spend a lifetime discussing what God has revealed about Himself in the Bible – and we should. But there are some basic truths about God that you and I must understand if we are going to be impacted by the gospel. First, God is our creator and because we were created, we are owned. Because God owns us He has the right to tell us how to live. Second, God is holy. To call God holy is to speak of His majesty and purity. God is holy in that He, by His very nature, is without sin and is set apart from sin (1 John 1:5). He is “utterly distinct from His creation” not a better version of us. He is holy.
When we think of God’s holiness and the gospel two truths emerge. First, because God is holy our sins separate us from Him. God is cut off from everything that is sinful and evil – He cannot tolerate being in the presence of sin. Therefore, we read in Isaiah 59:2, “But your iniquities have built barriers between you and your God, and your sins have made Him hide His face from you so that He does not listen.” Our sins separate us from God. Second, because God is holy He must punish our sins. The Apostle Paul, in Romans 6:23 stated that the wages of sin is death. He figuratively uses the word “wages” to imply that this is something we are getting because we deserve it – we have, as it were, worked for it (6:20–21).
Third, the Bible says that God is love. The Bible declares that God is love and that everything He does is loving, just as everything He does is just and right. God is the perfect example of true love. Because He loves us, He wishes that none would perish. Let me give you just a few highlights about God’s love:
- First, His Love is Unchangeable. Psalm 86:15 declares, “But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.”
- God’s Love is Eternal. Psalm 136:1-2 states, “Give thanks to the LORD, for He is good; For His lovingkindness is everlasting. Give thanks to the God of gods, For His lovingkindness is everlasting.”
- God’s love is Unconditional and Undeserved. There is nothing we can do to make Him love us either more or less. We don’t earn His love by meeting a certain set of expectations.
What is God like? He is the Creator of the universe and therefore, has the right to tell us what to do. Second, he is Holy. Distinct. Pure. And because He is holy our sin separates us from Him and, because we choose to sin, we deserve death. Finally, God is love. He wishes that none would perish, that all would come to everlasting life.
Who am I?
Today I want us to answer the question, “In light of who God is, who are we?” To fully understand the gospel and to appropriate it into our lives we must understand how God sees us before we come to faith in Christ and then, how He sees us after we have surrendered to His Lordship. To do so we must understand sin and its consequences.
We read in Genesis 2:15-17, “The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.” When God created man, it was the Father’s intention that humanity would live in relationship with Him, that He would supply for all of their needs, that they would live under His authority and in doing so, they would enjoy Him forever. All they had to do was live in obedience to His command.
We read in Genesis 3:7, “When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.” Adam and Eve disobeyed God’s command to not eat from the tree of good and evil. They sinned. When Adam and Eve ate of the tree’s fruit they did more than violating a command of God, however. They made a conscious decision to reject God as the King over their lives. Beneath every act of disobedience is an act of rebellion against God’s authority over our lives.
We all have sinned and fallen short of God’s standards (RO 3:23). You and I, just like Adam and Eve, have disobeyed God’s commands. We acknowledge our sin but I believe that we don’t see our sin for what it truly is. Many years ago, on the very day I got my driver’s license, I was caught, and ticketed, by a local police officer for speeding. On the ticket, there was a box you could check that said, “I am guilty of the charge.” By checking the box, you were pleading guilty to the charge and could avoid having to go to court. I checked the box and became a convicted criminal. The truth is that I didn’t feel guilty. Nor did I feel remorse. (I was afraid however that my dad would find out.)
Why didn’t I feel bad? To be honest with you, I didn’t think the offense was that bad. After all, I was just speeding. Nobody was hurt. My crime wasn’t that bad! Sure, I had broken the law but it was a minor law that I broke – a step above a parking ticket! I believe that’s exactly how we see our sin. I imagine we’re all aware that we have violated one of God’s laws. We’re also aware that there are far greater sins that we didn’t commit and that there are greater law breakers out there! I believe that we have reduced sin to a simple violation of God’s law.
Listen to me carefully. Every sin, regardless of its magnitude or regardless of the damage done to others – is the rejection of God Himself and of His lordship over our lives. In short, every sinful act or thought is the rejection of the Creator by His creation which is a detestable sin. That is why the Bible says in the Book of James that if we are guilty of one sin we are guilty of them all. We focus upon the magnitude of our sins, trying to reduce the extent of our guilt when at the heart of all sin is the rejection of God and His authority over our lives which is despicable. One of the most frightening statements in the Bible is found in Romans 3:19. The Apostle Paul had just declared that Jews and Gentiles alike are under the power of sin. He had just declared that there wasn’t one righteous person, that everyone has turned away from God. And then he writes that one day “every mouth will be silenced and the whole world will be held accountable to God.” Remember, God is holy and therefore, He will not excuse our sin. He will not let the guilty go unpunished. Because He is holy and just, He must punish us for our willful rebellion against His authority.
God had warned Adam that on the day he chose to sin He would surely die. Genesis 3:23 tells us that after their sin God drove Adam and Eve out of the garden and put an angel in place to keep them from coming back. On that day Adam and Eve died spiritually as well. You and I have rebelled against God’s leadership in our lives. Since we have chosen to sin, to reject God’s authority over our lives, we too are spiritually dead and separated from God. In the first couple of verse in Ephesians chapter two Paul paints a portrait of our spiritual condition before we came to know Jesus as our Lord and Savior. Let’s look at the text together.
First, Paul states that we were spiritually dead. He begins by saying in verse one that we were dead in our trespasses and sin prior to our conversion. To be physically ‘dead’ is to have lost life. Dead people are unable to respond to stimulus. Unable to communicate. No appetite. Cold. They are lifeless. Paul is saying that prior to our conversion you and I were spiritually dead. First, we were separated from the One who alone gives and sustains life. Second, because we were alienated from the one who gives and sustains life – we were dead. We were unable to respond to the things of God. Truth, righteousness, inner peace, joy, and ultimately every other good thing in life cannot be ours. We’re dead.
Second, Paul states that we were in spiritual bondage. Because we were spiritually dead we could only walk “according to the ways of this world, according to the ruler of the power of the air.” The ways of the world are the ways of living embraced by the world. Three things seem to characterize the ways of the world. First, humanism or the belief that man is his own boss and that he, and he alone, sets his own standard of good. In other words, man is his own god. Second, materialism or the quest to find happiness in the things of the world. And third, sexual perversion. Paul continues by saying that you and I, because we were spiritually dead, were living within the domain of Satan and under his authority. Knowingly or unknowingly, we were living under the influence of Satan. We failed to look to God as our example and instead, chose to follow the ways of the world. Thus, our lostness consists not only in our being cut off from our Creator, the source of life but also in being under the control of His enemy and living in a way that promotes the agenda and goals of that enemy.
Paul also states in verse three that we were living according to the desires of our flesh. By flesh, Paul doesn’t mean our bodies, because the body itself isn’t sinful. The flesh refers to our fallen nature, to the natural desire we have to sin. Our fallen nature wants to control our bodies and our minds and lead us to disobey God. In Galatians 5:19 Paul identifies the deeds of the flesh as immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these.
Finally, Paul says that because we were spiritually dead and were in spiritual bondage we would face spiritual judgment. In the second half of verse three Paul writes that because we were walking like the world, living under the dominion of Satan, we were children of wrath. Whose wrath? God’s. Ephesians 5:6 tells us, “Let no one deceive you with empty words, for it is because of these things that the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience.” Because you and I rejected God’s authority and chose to walk like the world, fulfilling the desires of our flesh – the wrath of God was set to come upon us on the day of judgment.
We Need a Savior
Can you see that you and I were in a mess? Because we rejected God’s authority over our lives we were dead in our sin and incapable of any spiritual good. We were held captive by the ways of the world and were living under the control of Satan. The desires of our flesh, and not God, were dominating our lives. Because of our choices we were without hope, destined to experience the wrath of God. There was no way for you and me to get ourselves out of this condition. We were destined to be separated from God and to spend an eternity in hell. We needed someone to rescue us. We needed a Savior.
Paul continues in verses 4 & 5 of Ephesians 2, “But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love that He had for us, made us alive with Christ even though we were dead in trespasses. You are saved by grace!” There’s the gospel once again! While we were yet sinners, God, who is rich in mercy and who loves His children, made us alive with Christ! Just as He raised Jesus from the dead, He can have given us life! Here’s the best part – He did so while we were dead in our trespasses. In other words, He moved us from death to life before we cleaned up our lives! Paul declared that you and I were saved by grace. God’s riches through the shed blood of Jesus are ours by faith (Eph. 2:8-9)!
On the day of judgment, those who have rejected the gospel will receive the punishment they deserve, the punishment they have chosen. But those who have placed their faith in Jesus Christ as their Savior will enter into the presence of God and dwell with Him forever. It is only through faith in Jesus that we can be saved from our sins. There is no other way.
If you acknowledge your need for a Savior; if you confess that you are a sinner who has rejected God and His rightful place in your life and if you believe that Jesus is the sinless Son of God and that His death on the cross paid for the sins of humanity, the Bible declares that you can be saved. All you have to do is ask God to save you from your sins and, with the power of the Holy Spirit, repent (turn) from your sins. Salvation is a gift received by grace through faith in the work of Jesus upon the cross!
We can receive God’s free gift of salvation by praying a prayer like the one below where we ask God to do what we could not do on your own. Although praying the prayer doesn’t save you, it should reflect the desire of your heart. And, if it is your desire, the Bible states that you are saved from your sin:
Dear God, I’m a sinner and know that my sins have destroyed our relationship. I acknowledge that I deserve death, separation from you for eternity. I’m sorry for my sins. I want to turn from my sins but cannot do so in my own power. I believe Jesus Christ is your Son. I believe He died on a cross for my sin and that You raised Him to life. I trust Him as my Savior and desire to follow Him as Lord from this day forward. Jesus, I put my trust in You and I submit my life to You. Holy Spirit, come into my life and be my guide. I pray this in the name of Jesus. Amen.
If Anyone Be in Christ, They Are a New Creation
Paul declared in verses four and five that because of God’s great mercy and love, we have been made alive with Christ! He wrote in 2 Corinthians 5:17 that those who have been born again are new creations… that the old things have passed away! We are not the same! Let me give you just a few changes in our lives worthy of getting excited about:
- You have been set free from the law of sin and death. The power of sin has been broken in your lives! (RO 8:2 & 6:6)
- You have been justified. God sees you as if you have never sinned and as if you have always obeyed. (RO 3:24)
- You are no longer a slave but you are now a child of God – you have been adopted! (Gal. 4:7)
- Your salvation has been sealed by the Holy Spirit – Nothing can separate you from the love of God. (Eph. 1:13 & RO 8:35)
- You can boldly enter into God’s presence through prayer. (Eph. 3:12)
- God will supply all of your needs. (Phil. 4:19)
- You are a citizen of heaven. (Phil. 3:20 & JN 6:47)
- You are no longer a sinner but a saint! (RO 1:7)
- You have been delivered from the power of darkness and transformed into God’s Kingdom. (Col. 1:13)
- You are an ambassador for Christ; your life has meaning and purpose. (2 Cor. 5:20 & Eph. 2:10)
- You are free from condemnation. (RO 8:1)
- You can do all things through Christ. (Phil. 4:13)
The gospel of Jesus Christ declares that you are accepted by God – we are His children, joint heirs with Jesus! It declares that you are secure in His love. Nothing can separate you from His love! And finally, you are significant. You are a masterpiece, appointed by God to bear fruit and to bring Him glory!
WHO I AM IN CHRIST
|I AM ACCEPTED…|
John 1:12 I am God’s child.
John 15:15 As a disciple, I am a friend of Jesus Christ.
Romans 5:1 I have been justified; declared righteous.
1 Corinthians 6:17 I am united with the Lord, I am one with Him in spirit.
1 Corinthians 6:19-20 I have been bought with a price and I belong to God.
Ephesians 1:3-8 I have been chosen by God and adopted as His child.
Colossians 1:13-14 I have been redeemed and forgiven of my sins.
Colossians 2:9-10 I am complete in Christ.
Hebrews 4:14-16 I have direct access to the throne of grace.
|I AM SECURE|
Romans 8:1-2 I am free from condemnation because I have been set free from the law of sin and death.
Romans 8:28 I am assured that God works for my good in all things.
Romans 8:31-39 I cannot be separated from the love of God.
2 Corinthians 1:21-22 I have been established, anointed and sealed by God.
Colossians 3:1-4 I am hidden with Christ in God.
Philippians 3:1-4 I am confident that God will complete the good work that He began in me.
Philippians 3:20 I am a citizen of heaven.
2 Timothy 1:7 I have not been given a spirit of fear but of power, love and a sound mind.
1 John 5;18 I am born of God and the evil one cannot touch me.
|I AM SIGNIFICANT…|
John 15:5 I am a branch of the Jesus Christ, the true vine.
John 15:16 I have been chosen and appointed to bear much fruit.
1 Corinthians 3:16 I am God’s temple.
2 Corinthians 7:17-211 I am a new creation and a minister of reconciliation for God.
Ephesians 2:10 I am God’s workmanship; a masterpiece for His glory.
Ephesians 3:12 I can approach God with freedom and confidence.
Philippians 4:13 I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.
Matthew 28:18-20 I have been invited to participate in God’s mission.
2 Corinthians 5:20 I am an ambassador for Christ; my life has meaning and purpose.