If you have spent any time around Christians, you have probably heard the word “gospel” at some point. Have you ever wondered what it means? Or why it is so important to Christians? It is not a type of music, or simply a way to live life. The word “gospel” simply means “good news”. It is a declaration of something that has happened, something God has done. It is the most important and life-changing news you will ever hear.
It starts with the recognition that we all have been created by God, who has revealed himself to us in nature and in the Bible. Romans 1:20 says “For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made.” However, the Bible is God’s more clear revelation of himself. The Bible tells us that God is holy, loving, just, and merciful. There is no one else like him. Because he has created us, we are accountable to him. He has shown us the difference between right and wrong (both in the Bible and in our consciences) and he expects us to do what is right, which includes loving him and worshiping him above all else, as well as loving and respecting our fellow human beings. “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.” (Deuteronomy 6:5)
However, there is some bad news before we get to the good news. The bad news is that we have rejected the God who made us. All of us have. We have loved ourselves and other things more than God, doing what is terribly wrong in his sight. This is called sin. Romans 3:23 says, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”. And don’t think that just because you aren’t a criminal, you are a good person. Jesus said in Matthew 5 that unjust anger in your heart makes you guilty of murder and lust in your heart makes you guilty of adultery. And which of us have never been guilty of lying? Which of us have always done what is loving to our neighbor? Our sin makes us guilty of cosmic treason, a rebellion against the God who made us, who continues to supply the very air that we breathe. And because God is supremely just, he will not allow sin to go unpunished. Just as a good earthly judge won’t let a criminal off the hook, but will pursue their just and righteous conviction and punishment, God is the same. He will pursue justice against all who have rebelled against him and will send them to a place called hell. Hell is a real place that the Bible talks about. In fact, it talks about it even more than it talks about heaven. Why is that? It is a warning to us to run from it. God is not someone who will be mocked. Heed his warnings. “The wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23)
That paints a pretty dark picture, but it is a realistic one. Have you ever wondered why the world is in so much turmoil? Why we can’t just love and respect and help each other? It’s because of the human disease called sin. And as much as we try, we can’t do enough good deeds to make our selfishness disappear. We can’t pray or meditate our sins away. We can’t be religious enough to get on God’s good side. The apostle Paul says in Romans 3:20 that “by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight”. In other words, no matter how hard we try, our good deeds can’t make up for the wrong we have thought and done and won’t make us right with God. And even our good deeds continue to be stained with our own selfishness. “All our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment” (Isaiah 64:6)
So how can we deal with this human problem of sin? How can we be forgiven and made right with God? The answer is the most amazing truth we can find in the Bible: God did something about our condition. In spite of our terrible rebellion, he chose to provide a means for us to be made right with him. He sent his only Son, Jesus Christ, to become a human like us. As he lived his life, he perfectly obeyed the laws of God that we could not and would not. And then, in an incredible display of love, Jesus laid down his life for sinners. He was crucified and suffered terrible physical pain, but that was not the worst part. He suffered something far worse: He suffered the wrath of God, the hell that sinners deserve as a result of their sin. He took the punishment for sin that we deserve so that we could be set free. “But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8) And how do we know that Jesus death actually accomplished this great saving purpose? Because on the third day, Jesus rose from the dead, proving once and for all, not only that he was who he said he was, but also that his sacrifice was accepted by God.
The Gospel is good news! Good news that we don’t have to try our hardest to make God accept us; Jesus has done it all. Other religions are about what I must do; Christianity is about what God has done.
But how do you receive this great gift that God has given? How do you become right with God? The Bible gives us the clear answer: repent of your sins (turn away from them), and place your trust in Jesus Christ alone to save you. You cannot earn forgiveness. It is given freely to those who repent and believe in Christ. Will you do that today? “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)