What is the gospel? Why is the message of Jesus good news? Why is it that his death and resurrection are so important in the christian message of God’s love and grace? And how does it help us, if we are locked away, stuck in a sinful condition, unable to help ourselves be sinless and perfect? Why is it important that Jesus rose from the dead to make the Christian religion credible? I believe the Christian message of God being perfectly loving and merciful and perfectly just to be fundamentally flawed without Jesus’ claim that he is God, and without his resurrection from the dead, and his sacrifice on the cross for sinful mankind, it is impossible for God to be both perfectly just and perfectly merciful. If he were perfectly just, he would have to punish every sin, making no one eligible on the basis of ‘works of righteousness’ to earn his favor, for everyone sins and fails and is flawed. But to compromise that justice, he would no longer be perfectly just. The same is true of his perfect mercy. If he were perfectly merciful, he would have to dismiss every single human sin and flaw, and compromise his standard of justice for the oppressed. How does he then remedy this problem? We continually make assaults against the character of God when some moral code is broken… Someone takes an innocent life and we are fuming inside at the injustice if it all, daring even to blame the God of heaven as to why he allowed this injustice to occur, standing idly by, appearing uncaring to our cause. Do we not see from this example alone that we are made in the image of God, sharing with him the same value of both mercy and justice? How then does this dilemma get resolved? What is the perfect solution to the mercy/judgment problem? I believe the answer lies in the person of Jesus Christ. If he is who he says he is -the son of God, (the second person of the triune Godhead), and if his claim, and the claims of the many witnesses who testified to the fact that he was indeed resurrected from the grave are indeed completely true, then Christ MUST be the messiah, sent to redeem mankind from something far more than the Jewish believers of his time period could see. He was after something so much more important than rescuing his people from the Roman occupation of the nation of Israel. He had a much greater mandate, a free gift offer to all who would receive his message, and was living out the grand narrative of the mission of God -to redeem the hearts of his creation back to himself!

We will circle back to that mission in a few minutes. Let’s explore a bit further. What is it in us that desires perfection so much, that we strive for it in every area of our life? What is it in us that if we fail, we lose all hope and believe we are a complete failure? What is it that causes us to want to earn favor, recognition, love, appreciation, affirmation, success? Is it not the very nature of the divine, indicating we were created in his image, his image that is perfect, and unflawed, unconditional, and unending? Why do we have trouble accepting death? As if innately, we knew death was never meant to be the natural condition of mankind? Why do we believe we have good within us and fight so hard against ‘the bad’ or ‘imperfect parts’ of our being? Because somewhere inside of us, we know. We know we were meant for more. Romans 1:19 suggests ‘that which is known about God is evident within them, for God made it evident to them, for since the creation of the world his invisible attributes, his eternal power and divine nature, having been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse”. The evidence is in. We have inherited qualities that God himself possesses, we long for (often unaware) that which was lost to us because of sin, independence and separation from God. For instance, the longing for love that completes us, that is fulfilling, and that never ends, we long for freedom, and mercy and justice and to be perfect. And I could go on and on. But we cannot earn perfection, and the human love we seek after is fundamentally flawed, it ends, it fails us, eludes us. The purpose we seek in life, we try and fill with lesser loves, like success in a career, and we are often still left unfulfilled. As if we were made for something more substantial to sustain the largeness of our hearts. We grieve and cry out against injustice, often unaware that the name for injustice comes from the root issue of sin. Someone’s sin and evil mistreatment of another. What is the solution to this madness? To the cycle we spend our lives on trying to live for ourselves and make ourselves happy, and work toward being perfect… For what? For who? Why?

And love… The pursuit that leaves us so often in so much pain…. I want to share this quote with you, before I delve into the solution that the godhead came up with that the early believers that Jesus was messiah simply called ‘the good news.’ Today, we will find out why. But first, let me share this quote with you, from C.S. Lewis:

“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will be certainly wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it careful with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket -safe, dark, motionless, airless -it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable… The only place outside Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers of love is Hell.”
(The four loves)

And yet the solution to the inhumanity of man, is love.

“Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.” 1 John 4:8

God is love.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his only son, that whoever would believe in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16

“Love does no wrong to a neighbor, love therefore is the fulfillment of the law.” Romans 13:10

“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” John 10:11

“greater love has no one than this; to lay his own life down for his friends.” john 15:13

Stay tuned…. Part 2 of ‘Good news – what is the gospel’ will be coming later this afternoon.

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