The Gospel

"I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes..." Romans 1:16

The primary message of the New Testament in the Bible is the salvation of sinners. This message is about how sinners, who have made themselves enemies of God through their evil deeds, can find forgiveness for their guilt and be restored to God, their creator.

The term the Bible uses for this message of salvation is the word gospel which literally means "good news." What I hope to make clear in this booklet is that the message of the gospel is not just good, it is absolutely the most amazing message you will ever hear. In fact, to many, the message is so amazing, they find it unbelievable or even foolish.

"It pleased God by the foolishness of the message preached, to save them that believe." 1 Corinthians 1:21

But friend, I beg you today to consider this message with a sober mind as if your life depended on it, because, in reality, your life and your eternity really does depend on it.

So, onto the good news.

But first, the bad news...

God Resists the Proud

"God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble." James 4:6

"Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted." Matthew 23:12

One of the most fundamental ideas found in the Bible, is that there is a war between good and evil. On the side of Good is the Creator God himself along with any of those who join themselves to him. On the side of Evil are those individuals who set themselves in opposition to God and what he stands for. Many times the Bible uses Satan, the Prince of Darkness, as the figurehead of the forces of evil.

The scriptures say over and over again that God is a god of loving kindnesses and tender mercies, always ready to forgive and restore. But God does not pour out his grace and favor to everyone. He reserves his kindness to those who are willing to humble themselves before Him.

For those who resist God, oppose his commandments and insist on loving themselves above others, God reserves only wrath and justice.

God is Angry

"God is a just judge, and God is angry with the wicked every day." Psalms 7:11

"For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness..." Romans 1:18

So many in our culture have created a God in their mind who is nothing like the God revealed to us in the Bible. They have imagined a God who is only kind and only loving and only merciful and only forgiving. But such a God exists only in their imagination. God is certainly kind and loving and merciful and forgiving, but not at all times and in all situations.

In reality, the God who created us, grows angry when men defy him and hurt others. When a man punches his girlfriend in the mouth for back-talking him, God gets angry. When a woman seduces her friend's husband, God gets angry. When anyone turns a blind eye to injustice instead of doing what they can to promote justice for all, God gets angry.

But is God's wrath justified?

Of course it is.

What would we think of a parent who was not stirred to anger if their child were abused, stolen from or otherwise hurt in any way by another person? We would think them callous and unloving. In the same way, God's anger against the wicked stems from his great love for the people he created. He isn't apathetic about the pain and misery that mankind is constantly inflicting on each other.

We also learn from the Bible, that God's anger is accompanied with grief. In the days of Noah, God saw that men's hearts were filled with evil and it grieved him.

"And the Lord was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart." Genesis 6:6

God is a Righteous Judge

"God is a just judge..." Psalms 7:11

"He shall judge the world in righteousness, and He shall administer judgment for the people in uprightness." Psalms 9:8

"... He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained." Acts 17:31

As the Creator of the world, God has taken upon himself the responsibility of administering final justice as the judge of all the world. He has appointed a time in which he will judge the world based on their deeds (Romans 2:6). Some have wondered why God would permit so much injustice during this earthly season. In his wisdom and mercy, God gives men the liberty to do good or evil, so all men might have the opportunity while they still have breath in their lungs to turn to him.

Others have wondered why God wouldn't simply have mercy on all, instead of requiring strict justice. Our innate sense of justice, given to us by God, answers that question. What would we think of an earthly judge who simply acquitted every criminal to come into his courtroom, regardless of the circumstances? We would be incensed, especially if the crime had been committed against us, and we would consider such a man to be a corrupt judge and not a righteous judge.

God is not a corrupt judge. He is righteous and will judge the world in righteousness.

God's Commandments

The history described in the Bible tells an amazing story of God's favor on a group of people called the Jews. One of the things that God gave the Jews, through his servant Moses, was a law of commandments written on stone tablets. These commandments have been preserved to this day and are recorded in the Old Testament scriptures.

However, the Bible tells us that God's moral law is also written somewhere else. It is written on the heart or the conscience of every man. When a man has his goods stolen and he says, "Don't steal from me, stealing is wrong," he becomes a witness to the law written on his heart (read Romans 2:12-16). Because God's commandments, his moral standards for right and wrong, are written on everyone's heart, the Bible says that all men are without excuse (Romans 2:1). On the day of judgment, they cannot plead ignorance to God in order to justify themselves. God will demand that they take responsibility for every sin they've committed.

So when you stand before God on that day appointed for judgment, you will be judged according to a fixed standard that has not only been written on your heart but has also been published in black and white a billion times over in the most published book in all the world.

When you stand before God, do you think you'll be found innocent or guilty? Take the time to test yourself, looking at just a few of the 10 commandments that represent the entire law.

You shall not steal. Have you ever taken something that doesn't belong to you? That would make you a thief.

You shall not commit adultery. Have you kept sexual intimacy only within the confines of marriage? Jesus also added, "Whoever looks at a woman to lust after her has committed adultery in his heart."

You shall not use the name of your God in vain. Have you ever used God's name when cursing or expressing disgust? That's called blasphemy.

Honor your mother and father. Have you ever dishonored your parents?

How do you measure up to God's standard? If you are honest, I think you'll recognize that when you stand before God, you'll be in big trouble. Yet, so many people who have not taken an honest, hard look at their own hearts and deeds, have the mistaken notion that they'll be found "good enough" on that day. If you've thought that in the past, I hope you've come to the realization that you are dead wrong.

Deserving of Death

"... knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death..." Romans 1:32

The ultimate consequence of a sinful life, is eternal separation from God. Natural death is simply the separation of the spirit from the body, but the warning in the verse above is a reference to a more fearful spiritual death, which is eternal separation from God and all that is good.

Some might complain that this type of punishment is too severe, after all, it's not like you've exterminated millions of innocent people like Hitler or Stalin. You try to keep your sin at manageable levels, keeping on par with your friends and family around you.

It is true that God has in store varying degrees of punishment for varying degrees of sin (see Luke 12:47-48). But He certainly isn't willing to allow any proud sinner entrance into heaven to spoil the eternal peace and happiness that he has prepared for those who humbly turn to Him for grace and mercy.

Grace to the Humble

"God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble." James 4:6

If, after reading the previous sections about God's righteous standards, you are not convinced, or at least somewhat persuaded, that you are guilty of crimes worthy of God's wrath, then there is really no reason for you to continue reading. God's grace and forgiveness is not for you.

As the scripture above states very clearly, God has reserved his grace for those who are willing to humble themselves before Him. Humility means admitting when you are wrong. If you are unwilling to admit that you stand guilty before God, then He is unwilling to make His offer of peace available to you. As Jesus himself said, "Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance."

If, on the other hand, you readily acknowledge the persuasive stirring of your own guilty conscience, I pray you will read on with an undeterred hope to find the forgiveness and grace that you desperately need.

The Bible relates multiple accounts of the most obstinate of sinners who finally humbled themselves and were received by God and showered with favor and mercy. God does not want anyone to die in their sins, but wants all men, no matter how sinful, to come to Him and receive grace.

"The Lord ... is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance." 2 Peter 3:9

Don't Reform Your Life

Some people realize their guilt in one way or another and do what they can to make amends or to make themselves into a better person. It is certainly a noble thing to turn away from past wrongs and to assert yourself towards doing good. However, there are two fundamental problems with this approach to redemption.

1. Doing good things cannot erase your guilt

Imagine a judge with a criminal before him who has, until now, eluded justice for five years. He is charged with robbery and murder, and freely confesses to that crime, but since that time has spent the last several years dedicating his life to serving and caring for the less fortunate. Can those years of good deeds erase his past guilt? Should the judge forgive his crime based solely on his newfound virtue?

Some might say, "yes," but imagine the type of world that kind of forgiveness would create. Young people, especially, would be emboldened to live a carefree life, fulfilling every desire at the expense of others, knowing that, as long as they spend a few years later in life, serving others there will be no personal consequences to their previous actions. That kind of world would be quickly consumed in destruction.

Doing good cannot erase guilt, nor should it.

2. You WILL fail in your pursuit of living a good life

Pessimism is certainly no virtue, but let's be realistic. Many, many people have made the effort to commit themselves to being a good person and living a good, noble life. How many of those people have succeeded? If history books, newspapers and my personal experience are any indication, then I would have to say the answer is around zero.

If you think you have the will and determination to live a life, from here on out, free from guilt, I fear for you. Certainly, if that was the only option, I would say, let's give it a go, but fortunately there is another way.

God's Tenderness Toward Humble Sinners

"Say to them: 'As I live,' says the Lord GOD, 'I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live.'" Ezekiel 33:11

We've seen that God is angry with the wicked every day, and we might be tempted to think that His wrath cannot be placated. But it's not as if God enjoys being angry at sinners. In fact the Bible tells us that God grows weary of our sins. He doesn't like being at odds with us.

" have burdened Me with your sins, You have wearied Me with your iniquities." Isaiah 43:24

God doesn't want to be angry. He would much rather pour out his compassion and mercy and favor on us, if only we were willing to turn to Him and receive it. God's desire that people everywhere would turn to Him was so great that He did something almost unimaginable. It was so utterly incredible that some refuse to believe that it's even possible.

The God who created the universe and everything in it humbled Himself to become a man so He could die for the sins of the world.

Jesus Died So You Could Live

"For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." Romans 5:7-8

Almost everyone in the world has heard of Jesus Christ. The book about his life is translated in thousands of languages and has been printed more times than any other book in the world. Practically every calendar in the world, is based on the date of his birth and the wheels of global commerce come to a halt each Sunday because of the Christian observance of his resurrection from the dead.

While the life that Jesus lived was important and there are many things we can learn from his parables and teachings, the most important thing that Jesus ever did was to die. Many famous people are remembered because they changed the world by the things they did in life; the nations they conquered, the books they wrote or the words they spoke. But Jesus is different because he changed the world most profoundly through his mostly silent death on a cruel, wooden cross. That cross has become the cherished symbol of Christianity.

Christians sing heartfelt songs about the blood that Jesus shed on that cross because the death that he died provides something so precious to each believer: eternal life.

"For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." Romans 6:23

How to be reconciled with God

If you know you are headed to destruction and want the eternal life offered by God through Jesus Christ, the path is simple. There are no ceremonies to perform, promises to make or good deeds to accomplish. Though God required certain rituals of his special people, the Jews, in times past, those requirements have been done away with since He made a way of salvation available for both Jew and Gentile (non-Jew) after the death of Christ. In this age of God's great favor, He requires only one thing:

Believe the Gospel.

As I said before, the term gospel simply means "good news," and the Gospel you need to believe is the good news that Jesus died for the sins of the world.

"Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures..." 1 Corinthians 15:1-5

But believing the gospel is not just giving intellectual assent to the historical events that happened 2000 years ago. Instead it means believing that YOUR sins have been paid for by Jesus Christ and accepting that gift for YOURSELF.

Reconciliation with God is personal and individual. It's doesn't come through being part of a religious family or affiliation with a religious organization. God has done His part to make his offer of reconciliation to everyone. It's now simply up to you to accept the offer through faith in Christ.

Many people will stand before God one day trusting in themselves. They will trust in their own goodness to acquit them or maybe in their ability to fast talk God or charm Him. That is misplaced faith.

Trusting in Christ means that when you stand before God on Judgment Day and are asked to give an account for your life, that you own up to every selfish thing you've ever done and admit that you are not worthy of any reward. Then you tell God that you're letting it all ride on the death of Christ. That you are trusting only in his payment for your sins and that you don't have anything else to offer Him.

But instead of waiting until Judgement Day to do that, you can do that right now. Don't wait. Don't put it off until another day.

"... it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment..." Hebrews 9:27

No man is promised another day. God gives us the opportunity to turn to him during the short time we have on this earth. Once we take our last breath, our fate is sealed and the choice is taken away.

"Behold, NOW is the accepted time; behold, NOW is the day of salvation." 2 Corinthians 6:2

Search your heart today and consider what I've said with great earnest. The message of the gospel has transformed millions of hearts across the world and it can transform yours as well.

Nathan Rambeck is a full-time husband, father and software engineer; and a part-time Bible teacher and pastor. He lives in the Dayton, Ohio area with his wife Jamie and 7 children. (Facebook)


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