What is the gospel, really?

 Photo by  Alex Wong

Photo by Alex Wong

In all the chaos of news headlines and constant tragedy, it can be so helpful to remember that this current reality is not where our story began—nor where it ends.

In fact, we are part of a far greater story than our own tiny lives.

Figuring out exactly what the gospel is, and how it should impact my life has been the most important question I've ever dealt with. It's now the narrative that defines my life.

To me, the most logical way to approach the gospel is as a complete story with a beginning, middle and end.

As someone who passionately loves stories, I have yet to find one that rivals it. I cannot begin to do it justice, but here's my brief overview of this intensely beautiful story.

THE BEGINNING

God created the entire universe (Genesis 1-2). He created humans in his image and put the earth in their care. However, he gave humans the ability to choose whether or not to follow his commands.

Ever since Adam and Eve first chose to listen to Satan instead of God, (Genesis 3), every human is born with an evil nature. This means that none of us can live as the Lord intended through our own willpower.

The earth God made was good and beautiful—everything was designed to work together in harmony.

But with each generation, our evil has pulled us further into Satan's power and away from that intended plan. Our hate corruption has taken an ever-increasing toll on the earth. That is why the world we live in today is such a pain-filled, sorrowful, messed up place.

There are consequences for our immorality, greed, selfishness and violence. There has to be, because God detests these things. He is completely perfect; therefore, he cannot stand evil (Isaiah 59:1-2).

That leaves humanity in a pretty hopeless situation. We cannot live blameless lives because we’re incapable of being perfect on our own.

So, are we just screwed over forever because a couple people however many generations ago decided not to listen to God?

Well, the unfathomable part is that although God despises evil, he still loves the arrogant and yet remarkably intelligent, diverse humans he created.

The Lord cannot ignore our evil, but he still wants to bridge the gap we've created between us and him (Jeremiah 31:31-38). We see this narrative of love all throughout the Old Testament, where God sets up a system of laws and rituals in Exodus and Leviticus.

This rhythm of life was meant to keep God’s people safe from the growing wickedness around them, and to give them a tangible picture of both their weakness and God’s infinite mercy.

Unfortunately, one of humanity’s greatest flaws is always thinking we know better than God.

The Israelites kept wandering off and doing their own thing. The Old Testament prophets record call after call, warning after warning, sign after sign, as God asks his people to return to him, and they continually ignored him (Isaiah 65:1-3).

THE MIDDLE

But there was still an even bigger problem.

No one can be saved by the law. It simply works like a mirror, where we can see ourselves clearly and understand that we can never measure up to the Lord’s standard of perfection (Romans 3:20).

This means that no matter how well a person succeeds in following God, they will still be guilty of doing wrong in his eyes. Death is the only way to pay for our evil—and not just any death either—total separation from God in hell.

This isn’t the fate God wants for his people. But the only way to avoid it was for someone else to die instead. Someone who is utterly perfect.

That is why the Father sent his only Son, Jesus Christ, to earth to die in our place. Being completely innocent, Christ paid the price for the world’s evil, once and for all, by dying and descending into hell (Galatians 3:13-15).

When Jesus rose again, he broke the curse of that second death. This means that, if we acknowledge Christ as Saviour and repent of our evil, we don’t have to be separated from God anymore.

We can be completely forgiven through his Holy Spirit, who comes to live inside each believer (1 John 4:13-15). This is the same Spirit who spoke through the Old Testament prophets and who inspires the Word of God, that is, the Bible.

The craziest part about God's forgiveness is that now, when the Father looks at his children, he doesn't see our terrible pasts anymore—he sees the perfection of Christ.

Becoming a Christian doesn't automatically make us perfect. However, the Holy Spirit does help us to resist our evil desires and actions.

We get to embark on an exciting new journey of becoming more like Christ and joining him in restoring this broken world.

THE END

The best part of all is that we actually get to know how the story ends (Revelation 21:1-8). One day, Jesus will come again to judge each of us according to our actions. 

Every injustice will be set right, and all those who are saved will live with him in heaven. His kingdom will be joyous and perfect, and it will have no end.

Essentially, we were created for a purpose, and we can fulfill that purpose by worshipping God and acknowledging that he alone can save us. Through his grace to us, we can then receive eternal life in heaven.

And that is the good news of the gospel.