Saturday, October 25, 2008

The Gospel

In my post announcing Emily's death, I said, "We are realizing from the inside the value of good, gospel theology right now." What did I mean by that?

I didn't mean that we aren't suffering. We are weak, hurting and bewildered, but not despairing. If we didn't have the presence of God and the hope of the gospel, where would we be?

Gospel means "good news." The good news is that God sent His Son to be the Saviour of the world. Christ died for sinners and rose from the dead on the third day. To believe this and to confess "Jesus is Lord" is what it means to be a Christian.

Years ago, I heard someone say, "The gospel is for Christians, too." I thought that sounded a little odd. My response was, "Well, I guess so ...but, what do you mean?" I would have said that the gospel is primarily for non-Christians, so I was confused. It now sounds very natural - I couldn't imagine not having this as the very center of what I believe. Jerry Bridges has popularized the saying, "Preach the gospel to yourself every day." This is excellent advice, and it is very biblical.

In the Spring of 2007, I heard a message by Dr. D.A. Carson from the first Gospel Coalition conference simply titled, "What is the Gospel." I highly recommend it. Right off the top he says that a lot of Christians think that the gospel is what just "tips people into the kingdom," and we get onto the "real work of discipleship" after that. This could not be more wrong-headed. Dr. Carson's message was on 1 Corinthians 15, where the Apostle Paul tells us what is "of first importance." What is of first importance is the gospel.

The gospel is central because I am a sinner and God is holy. The grace of God through the person and work of Jesus Christ - particularly on the cross - is my greatest need in every area of my life - every day. We human beings seriously underestimate the evil of sin. Sin "out there" that hurts us is a wake-up call about the power of this evil, but the sin inside us is a curse that alienates us from our Creator. That Christ has come to bring me grace when I only deserved wrath and reconcile me to God through His shed blood is The Good News - The Gospel.

If you are unclear about what the gospel really is, I urge you to get it straight. This really a matter of life and death. An excellent, concise summary of the Gospel by John Piper can be found here (text, audio and video). If you are not sure you are a follower of Jesus Christ, then I encourage you to walk through an online presentation called Two Ways To Live. Pray and ask God to open your heart to His truth and love.

If you are already a Christian but are unclear on why we you would still need to focus on the cross of Christ, buy yourself a copy of Living the Cross Centred Life by C.J. Mahaney and I trust that you will be captivated by a whole-life gospel passion. A couple of books by Jerry Bridges have been very helpful to me as well. I commend to you The Discipline of Grace and The Gospel for Real Life.

If you have been searching the internet for help with your Christian life, I'm sure you've found that there are many excellent resources online, but there is a lot of flaky stuff, too. What you'll find at the Gospel Coalition site, Desiring God Ministries and will give you years worth of solid, reliable reading and listening material that is Gospel saturated and God-honouring.

Last but not least, read the Bible with Christ at the center. The Lord Jesus said that the Bible is all about Him, so take Him at His Word and look for Him when you read the Bible. If you are not a Bible reader, then start with the Gospel of John and then read the book of Romans. The gospel of John will captivate you with the shattering personality of Jesus (as I think C.S. Lewis put it once) and the Apostle Paul in the book of Romans will walk you through the details and most important implications of the gospel. R.C. Sproul said one time that if every person in America who claimed to be a Christian actually sat down and read the book of Romans from cover to cover - just once - a great revivial would break out in the land.

Discover, study and be captivated by the gospel. Live it as the center of your life and you will not only have a sustaining faith, you will know and treasure the One True God who will sustain you with joy - no matter what happens otherwise in your life.