Pastor Terry Tatum
Did you know that this year Americans spent somewhere between 8.5 to 10.5 percent more on Christmas gifts than they did in 2020? It was roughly $859 billion on holiday purchases, to be exact.
I don’t know about you, but I have to think this isn’t what God planned for us to be doing when he sent His one and only Son to be born in a manger 2,000 years ago. The Christmas season is about praising God for sending us His son, not for us to praise Amazon for all the great Christmas deals.
I feel very confident in saying things are pretty far out of whack, would you agree? If you’re reading this, hopefully you know that the real reason we celebrate this time of year is that a child was born in the middle of nowhere, in the humblest setting, way back in the 1st century. We celebrate because the Good News of Jesus Christ is what life is all about.
Pastor Craig challenged us in a recent message to share the gospel with our loved ones during this holiday season. That sounds like a great idea in theory, but if you’re like a lot of people, it also sounds a little scary or difficult, especially if you aren’t really sure what the Gospel is, or why we need to share it. My goal with this post is to explain in very clear terms what the Gospel is, so that you’ll be able to better explain it to others.
What is the Gospel?
Gospel = the good news of Jesus Christ.
Note: Sometimes we mistakenly add an ‘s’ and say that the Gospels (the Bible books of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) are the Gospel. Those are actually just four individual presentations of the Gospel.
So what really is “the good news of Jesus Christ”? It’s a love story between God and humanity. There are three parts to this great love story, starting with part one, the Good:
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.
(Genesis 1:1 NIV)
God took the time to create everything you see. He made this world and everything in it just exactly how He wanted it.
What grabs my attention more than anything else in this story is the repeated phrase that everything was good: God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning — the sixth day. (Genesis 1:31 NIV)
Think about that for a moment. “God saw all that he had made, and it was very good.” At the very beginning of it all, this crazy world was just how God wanted it to be.
If you ever want to know exactly what God intended for our world to be, look back at Genesis Chapter 1. A beautiful world, taken care of by His creation (man and woman). Scripture tells us that the man and woman (Adam and Eve) lived in this beautiful place called the Garden of Eden. And everything was perfect. This is the “good” part of the Gospel story …. but it wasn’t “good” for long. All the bad stuff you see today had to come from somewhere. Let’s look now at the Bad…
As Adam and Eve worked the land and took care of things down here on Earth, another character enters our story, the serpent (Satan). At this point God really didn’t have many rules for Adam and Eve, but He did have one: There was a tree in the middle of the garden and God said they were not allowed to eat the fruit from it. Sounds easy enough, but it wasn’t.
Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?” (Genesis 3:1 NIV).
It sounds so simple, doesn’t it? DON’T DO THIS. But Eve did it anyway. Why? Well, why do we, everyday of our lives, do things we know God doesn’t want us to do?
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. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves. (Genesis 3:6-7 NIV)
The story of Eve eating the fruit God told her not to eat is the very first example of free will. We all get to choose whether to do what God wants us to do or do what we want to do. That means we can’t just blame Eve for this mess we’re in. Every day we choose to live at odds with God’s will for our lives. And whether we realize it or not our actions affect other people, particularly the ones closest to us.
By Eve going against what God wanted for her she committed a sin. The funny thing about sin is that it doesn’t always affect us negatively at first. Lots of sins seem fun and we bring others along for the ride with us. But when we go against God’s will and sin, we are separated from God.
Scripture says, “For the wages of sin is death….” (Romans 6:23a NIV). I have heard that my whole life, but I never really understood it until I understood it in the context of the Gospel. Wages are something you earn, like a paycheck. When you repeatedly sin against God’s will for your life what you earn is eternal separation from Him. This is what the Bible refers to as “death.”
How many of you are scared to die? Did you know you could die twice? Your physical body can experience death and spiritually you’ll die a second death by being separated from God forever.
Sin messes everything up. Every choice we make has consequences, and every one one of us has made choices that have damaged our relationship with God to the point where we can’t “fix it.” You cannot undo the wrong you’ve done or the mistakes you’ve made. You can’t go back in time and “undo it.”
Believe me I’d love to. But no matter how hard we try, “the wages of sin is death…” There are consequences for our actions.
The story of Adam and Eve is at the beginning of the Old Testament and launches us into thousands of years where God’s people continually go against His will for their lives and then try to make things right on their own. God goes so far as to put a system of atonement in place for them to cover their sins for a period of time (offerings). But they still weren’t back into a right relationship with God. They needed someone to help them communicate with God and save them from their sins so they wouldn’t have to suffer eternal separation from God.
When I said You can’t fix things, I meant it, but God can, and He did. That’s what He does in the final part of the Gospel story, when Jesus comes to live with us and die for us. This is the part of the story where it gets “good” again. Really good.
Think for a moment how much love you feel for your children, your parents or someone else you care deeply about. We don’t want them to feel an ounce of pain. Now imagine how God feels about Jesus. God sent his one and only Son to earth to be our once-and-for-all sacrifice so we could return to a right relationship with Him. This is clearly stated in John 3:16 NIV:
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life…”
You don’t have to stay in your sins. You can be forgiven and washed clean of them, as if they never happened. You can’t change the things you’ve done, but you can be forgiven.
This message isn’t to make you feel bad or give you a reason to relive old, bad memories. This message is so that you can be free… free from the guilt and shame of the past.
Jesus came to save you, not to condemn you. The very next verse after John 3:16 says: “…. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” (John 3:17 NIV).
God loves you so much that He sent His son to die for YOU!
But here is the thing, we live in a fallen world where sin is everywhere. There is so much sin in the world that we even begin to like it. We glorify it, we accept it as a part of life, we even try to condone it. But here is the truth as explained a few verses later in John: “This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God.” (John 3:19-21 NIV)
Light = Jesus (the truth)
Darkness = Sin (separates us from God)
Some of us are so far into sin that we can’t see a way out and we even begin to embrace darkness (sin). Some don’t see anything wrong with living a life that separates us from God. But it doesn’t have to stay that way.
Do you remember the Romans verse I shared earlier? “For the wages of sin is death….” (Romans 6:23a NIV). Here is the 2nd half of that verse: “but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23b NIV).
You don’t have to stay where you are. You are God’s child, and He loves YOU! God loves you so much that he sent his Son to die just for you. It is the greatest gift anyone could ever give.
That’s the Good News, that’s the Gospel. So why do we share it? Because some people just don’t know. Maybe they have never heard it, or maybe they’ve heard it but don’t believe it. But we know, and we know what Jesus told us to do with what we have been given. Right before He ascended into heaven, he told us, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely, I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28: 18-20 NIV)
Go! Take this message of hope and share it with a world that doesn’t seem to have much hope. Take the time to share the Good News the same way someone took the time to share it with you.