Various theories have been proposed, numerous books have been written, and plenty of disagreements have surrounded nearly every issue and aspect of the Christian faith - but amongst Christians, there is little debate about the most essential piece of the faith: the gospel of Jesus Christ.
The gospel message is the heartbeat of Christianity. It is the common ground that every Christian ought to stand upon, and both its simplicity and beauty is truly stunning and profound. Even a child can understand and grasp the basics of the gospel. And yet, we still somehow find ways to forget the gospel or overcomplicate it.
What Is It?
What are the most basic tenets of the gospel? Man was created by God and for relationship with God, but when Adam and Eve chose to disobey God, they sin and death entered the world, and mankind was separated from God (Genesis 3). We could no longer have intimate fellowship with God because we were stained with sin. However, God had a plan to redeem us and restore us to himself. He accomplished this through his Son, Jesus Christ.
Jesus came to earth fully man and yet fully God. His birth was miraculously accomplished through the virgin Mary by means of the Holy Spirit. Jesus then proceeded to walk this earth for 33 years; he taught and preached about the kingdom of God and repentance from sin, healed the sick and broken, rebuked hypocrisy and injustice, and lived a perfect and sinless life. He was betrayed by one his twelve disciples, was wrongfully convicted of crimes he did not commit, and went to the cross willingly to suffer and die for the sins of each and every person so that we could be restored to God through faith in him. He, being completely innocent, died the most excruciating death imaginable - in our place - even though we were guilty. Three days after his death, he rose from the grave, conquering death and securing the salvation of his people.
Important, But Not Essential
Sadly, over the course of time it can become easier to focus on issues that are important but not essential. As the old saying goes, we lose sight of the forest for the trees. We forget to take a step back and gaze intently at the wondrous truth that lies at the center of our faith. Somehow we become numb to the beauty of the simple gospel message. We do not cease to believe in the gospel message, but we fail to fully appreciate it.
When we truly believe, for the first time, that Jesus Christ laid down his life for us, there is a wonder and fascination that fills our hearts. Like a kid on Christmas morning who is awestruck and totally amazed at the gifts before them, we come face to face with the incredible love of God. However, somewhere along the journey we begin to lose this wonder and amazement. It is not necessarily that we believe it any less, nor is it the we necessarily lose sight of what has saved us, but we no longer stand in awe of the gospel. It seems that the gospel can become “old hat.” It is no longer fresh to us.
However, if we would begin to meditate deeply on the original good news, and consider the depths of darkness from which we were rescued by the love and grace of God, I am willing to bet that the awe and wonder that captured us when we first encountered the gospel would soon return - and our hearts would become refocused and re-centered on Jesus. The gospel would become fresh once again.
While We Were Still Sinners
The gospel proclamation should never become old or tired. God the Father, Almighty, did not spare even his own Son to redeem me (Romans 8:32) - even though we, through our sin, separated ourselves from God to begin with. Indeed, how could we not stand in amazement at a God like Jesus, who is willing to sacrifice himself to reconcile his broken creation to himself?
It is the gospel message that unites all Christians, regardless of denomination or network, in a way that nothing else has the power to do. Divisions becomes secondary when the true gospel remains in its rightful place.
The gospel is also what brings new believers into God’s kingdom. When the apostles began preaching after the ascension of Christ and after the Holy Spirit descended at Pentecost, they preached the gospel alone. Their message was completely Christ centered, it was not a new self-improvement or self-help program.
And yet the known world was reshaped by this good news; good news that is still as powerful and fresh today. We should live in continual thankfulness for the truth of the gospel and the work of Christ to reconcile us to the God. I invite you now, and as often as you are able, to focus the eyes of your heart upon the beauty of the Gospel - upon the beauty of Jesus.
“…God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8, ESV).