The word "gospel" means "good news." This is what Jesus came to bring to us. His message is the good news of deliverance from sin, suffering, and death. It is the good news of the way to eternal life, to reconciliation with almighty God, and to an everlasting kingdom where impermanence will no longer poison every good thing with the threat of loss, disappointment, and decay. This good news is for all mankind, for as many as will turn from their sins and believe, and walk the narrow and afflicted way to life.
When Christians speak of God, we are not talking about a mortal and finite spirit who shares the cravings and petty desires of men like the gods in whom many have believed. When we use the word "God," we mean the unique, eternal, unchanging personal Being who brought all things into existence. God craves nothing, for He is fully sufficient in His own perfect nature. He is all powerful, all knowing and wholly above and beyond all that He created. God is one Being but exists in three persons: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Spirit. Thus, even before creation, God had in His own nature fellowship and love. He was His own "I" and "You" and "Us" and "They." He needed no other. God had within Himself authority and submission, lover and loved, master and servant, Father and Son. God always was and ever will be perfect and all sufficient.
Creation and Fall
When God created, therefore, it was not because He needed something or lacked something. It is by the compassion of God that we exist, not out of any need or necessity. God created the universe and everything in it out of nothing, distinct and separate from Himself. He formed mankind and gave them dominion over and responsibility for all that lives upon the earth, to work the ground and care for every living thing. God did not need any help from men but blessed them with this dignity and responsibility. The world then was a perfect place. It was life without death and loss.
The first humans, however, rebelled against the will of God. They disobeyed Him, and their evil brought with it death and suffering into the world. From that day forward, the world has been under the curse of man's evil, and of death and decay. Our death is just and right for our evil, and we are desperate for redemption from our sin.
Sin and Guilt
It is not merely that we have behaved unwisely. We certainly were foolish to rebel against God. It is certainly unwise to kill, to lie, to rape, to commit adultery, or to dishonor our parents. It is not, however, merely unwise. It is evil. Such actions are objectively morally wrong. They are sins against a Holy and Pure God who is perfect and just and will not allow such to go without righteous punishment. God is, indeed, so pure that even the pride and greed of our hearts and the evil words of our mouth rightly bare His just and holy wrath.
We have all sinned, and there is no amount of good we can do to balance out the guilt. This is not only because our sin is so bad, but also because that is not how guilt works. If a man has stolen or murdered or burned down another man's home, and he appears before a good and just judge in court, what will happen to that man? What if the man says, "yes, I committed that crime, but look at all these other wonderful things I have done! Doesn't that make my crime okay?" will the judge ignore the man's crime and let him go? Of course not! Justice is not about whether you have also done good things, it is about whether or not you have committed the crime. We have all committed crimes against God's law, and we deserve the punishment not only of death but also of suffering forever in hell, separated from God, the source of all that is good. It is for this reason that we are in need of some good news, some hope of redemption from this condemnation!
Our situation, however, is even worse that it at first appears. It goes deeper than the guilt of our actions, down to our very nature.
If your father had died in his infancy, where would you be? You would not be alive. You would be dead, for you would have died in him. When the first man and woman sinned against God and brought death and suffering into the world as a consequence of their evil, they spiritually died at that moment. They become irrevocably broken, poisoned by their evil. They died before their children were ever born. All of their children after them, even down to you and me, therefore, died in them.
Have you ever wondered why every single human being ever born lies? Have you ever met a man who has only told the truth, from his first childhood words all the way until his old age? There is certainly nothing logically impossible about living a whole life without deceiving or lying to anyone (as we will shortly see, Jesus Himself did just that) but none of us ever do this. We all lie at some point or another. We are all selfish and greedy. We all have impure sexual lusts. We have all done evil.
This is because we are dead inside. We are morally and spiritually broken. We are born in the sin of our first father and mother, and we affirm their sin by sinning ourselves. We are born in sin, conceived in iniquity. There is none righteous, no not one. So we not only need forgiveness for the sins we have committed, but we also need healing for the sinful creatures that we are by nature. We not only need deliverance from our guilt, but we also need our cold, stony, dead hearts to be replaced with living, beating hearts of moral, spiritual life. We need both to be atoned for and to be remade. The good news is that Jesus Christ has come to offer us both!
One of the most common phrases in all of the Bible is that God is slow to anger, abounding in love. God could have brought swift judgment on mankind immediately after the first human acts of evil, but God did not. God is patient and compassionate, and instead gave the opportunity for redemption and deliverance from the guilt of our sin and from our broken nature. He did this in the coming of Jesus Christ.
For centuries God promised His people that He would send them a deliverer. He made it clear this deliverer would not be any mere man. For example, the prophet Isaiah predicted 700 years before Jesus came that He would be called, "wonderful counselor, mighty God, everlasting father, prince of peace," (Isaiah 9:6). As I mentioned before, God is one perfect Being that exists in three distinct persons. At the appointed time, God the Father sent God the Son to come take on human flesh and be born as a man. The one and only God was both the sender and the one sent. God the Son took on the fullness of human life while also remaining fully God. This incarnation of the Eternal Divine was the man Jesus, the "Christ," or the "anointed one."
He felt all of our pain, our struggle, our loss, and our temptation. Unlike us, however, His perfect and pure moral nature was not drawn away by the temptations of sin, and He lived His earthly life perfect and without fault.
"For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin," (Hebrews 4:15)
"He had done no violence, Nor was there any deceit in His mouth," (Isaiah 53:9).
He did not deserve death or suffering of His own, but He voluntarily took upon Himself the death and suffering of all who will repent and believe on Him, and thus paid the price of our sin, serving our sentence in our place, paying the debt of justice in our stead:
"Although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross," (Philippians 2:6-8).
"Surely our griefs He Himself bore, And our sorrows He carried; Yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, Smitten of God, and afflicted. But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, And by His scourging we are healed. All of us like sheep have gone astray, Each of us has turned to his own way; But the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all To fall on Him," (Isaiah 53:4-6).
"When the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons," (Galatians 4:4-5).
After three days in the grave, He proved this was by rising from the dead and coming forth from His own tomb. He further explained these things to his disciples and then ascended to heaven, returning to His glory in the presence of God the Father. God then poured out His own Spirit upon those who turned from their sins and trusted in the full sufficiency of Jesus as their substitute and Redeemer and who submitted to Him as Lord and Master. The Spirit of God now dwells within God's people, giving us the new life from within that we so desperately need. As God promised through his prophet Ezekiel:
"I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances," (Ezekiel 36:25-27).
God has, therefore, dealt with the guilt of sins and the spiritual death of all who will repent and trust fully in Him through the life, death, and resurrection of the Son of God in Jesus Christ. All who turn away from sin and self and put their faith in God through Jesus Christ will be reconciled to God and will not have to suffer the just and righteous eternal punishment for their sin. Jesus has suffered for them. All who do not turn from their sins to Jesus will be left to remain in their own condemnation and will be found guilty on the day of judgment.
An End to Suffering
Having dealt with the causes of human suffering, the promised time is coming when God will likewise do away with suffering itself. God is patient, and just as He did not bring swift judgment before first offering redemption, He also will not consummate that redemption before first bringing the good news of salvation to all who will repent and believe. You have the opportunity to hear this message today and find life in Him because God has been patient and compassionate to delay. But the day is coming when He will bring just judgment on the wicked and will give eternal life to all those who are in Christ. On that day:
"He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away,” (Revelation 21:3-4).
We do not, therefore, hope for the blowing out or extinguishing of our flame in the realization of Nirvana. We are promised an eternal flame, burning pure and bright, with fuel that is never exhausted and pure, clean air that can never be consumed. As the Apostle Paul, a follower of the Resurrected Jesus, once stated:
"For we know that if the earthly tent which is our house is torn down, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For indeed in this house we groan, longing to be clothed with our dwelling from heaven, inasmuch as we, having put it on, will not be found naked. For indeed while we are in this tent, we groan, being burdened, because we do not want to be unclothed but to be clothed, so that what is mortal will be swallowed up by life. Now He who prepared us for this very purpose is God, who gave to us the Spirit as a pledge," (2 Corinthians 5:1-5)
This is the hope God has given us in Christ. This is the hope we wish to share with you.