PART 2: The Goodness Delusion

I’m a bit of a perfectionist which is always very difficult to live with when your far from perfect, so when it comes to art and drawing, writing fiction or blog posts I’m never truly happy with what I’ve done. But with that attitude sometimes I find it difficult to even finish something which I think stunts my growth as a writer or an artist. So, although I’m not fully happy with this post I think I just need to post it and move on. Maybe coming back to it again some other time and fleshing it out some more. I’m happy with the general direction of the post but not necessarily the full breadth and depth of my argument. In any case here you go.

PART 2:

The second question I thought about was what is goodness according to God, and how does it differs from mankind’s understanding of goodness? When we are confronted with God’s understanding of what goodness is we find it un-palatable. You don’t like it, it’s doesn’t sit well with us and we probably would rather dismiss it, I still do sometimes in favour of my own interpretation.

I said in Part 1 that what mankind believes is good is something that meets our standards and thus is worthy of our approval. If that is the case for mankind, if the quality of goodness of and object or person is based on our approval, if the thing is good when it meets our standards, than it should come as no surprise that it is the same with God.

According to God, God was, God is and God always will be the standard of what is good. That to be good a person must act and be as morally and ethically upright as God himself to be good, which we are not capable of.

MATTHEW 19:16-17

16 And behold, a man came up to him, saying, “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?” 17And he said to him, “Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. If you would enter life, keep the commandments.”

Only God is good and to be good we must keep all the commands which we are incapable of doing.

PSALM 14: 1-3

1 The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.”
They are corrupt, they do abominable deeds,
there is none who does good.

2The LORD looks down from heaven on the children of man,
to see if there are any who understand,
who seek after God.

3They have all turned aside; together they have become corrupt;
there is none who does good,
not even one.

God created everything and by his standards it was good. The created thing, the universe, the planet, the fish in the sea, the birds in the air, the animals on the land and the humans he made to walk on this planet were good! That means they functioned as he intended. (Gen 1:31)

Romans 8:28 is an interesting verse. It says

28And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. 29For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.”

So what is this verse saying? What is good? Becoming morally like him is good and being called according to his purpose. This is not a promise of earthly wealth or health or anything like this but rather it is a statement that those who will be saved by Christ for their faith in him will become conformed, morally conformed into the image of Jesus Christ the son of God, who is God, and will work things out for the good of his purpose.

It’s not about us getting something it’s about us being transformed, renewed to the state that God wanted us to exist in the first place and then being part of his purpose and plan. Unsurprisingly it is clear from this verse that it is an act of God not man in which we can become good, there is just no other way!

The Psalms are full of verses stating the goodness of God, the Bible is full of them as well but here is where we find it un-palatable because sometimes, or many times, we find God doing things we don’t understand in the Bible, things we just don’t think are in fact good.

We’ve established that mankind determines what is good based on what meets their standards of what is good which contradicts God’s understanding of what is good. To solve this problem we could go to Job where God descends on the poor wretched man who is crying out in pain and God says, “Where were you when I laid the foundations of the world?” Saying who are you, oh man, to question your almighty God? What Does God owe you? And in truth that is a sufficient answer in some ways but in others it is not. It is sufficient in that the creation has no right to demand of the sovereign creator an explanation but it is insufficient because it is not the full message of the Bible about God’s goodness. Certainly it acknowledges his majesty which God wants you to know and acknowledge, but God also wants us to truly know and experience his goodness.

So we come to Question number three:

If God is truly good prove it!

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PART 1: The Goodness Delusion

This Monday I had the opportunity to teach at my Pastorate, which is a small home church that meets every other week. In this group we are studying the attributes of God in an attempt to learn more about him and in so doing learn more about us and our relationship with him.

This week, after a very interesting discussion last week concerning the will of God, I decided to talk on God’s goodness. In preparing for this lesson I had spent some time pondering several points. I was planning to cover the first two briefly here before going on to cover the third more extensively but just kept on writing on the first point so I split it into three parts instead. So here is part 1.

First, what is goodness according to man? Goodness according to man is what we deem worthy of our approval. If it is a created product it is good if it meets the expected function it was intended for, or the function we expected it to fulfil. A product may be good to the creator because it fulfills the function he expected but be bad to you and me if we expected it to be or do something different. The same thing occurs when it comes to art. The piece of art is good if it meets with my approval despite the original intent of the artist. It is hugely subjective.

The problem is that we maintain this same subjective understanding of what is good and bad when it comes to morals. A person is good so long as they live up to the expectations of their moral code in their own eyes. We dictate a person’s level of goodness based on examining them through our moral code, despite the fact that they, in their opinion, may have a completely different moral code. You might say so what? “To each his own.” How very postmodern. However none of us truly do ethics that way. We all bring our foot down when it comes to men like Hitler or Stalin. We say “They are bad and compared to them I am good.”

The best part about humans, and I mean that in a sarcastic way, is that we fall short of our own moral and ethical codes and thus we are forced to re-write the moral code to suit our own failings. Where do we stop? We don’t! “He’s basically a good boy, he just makes mistakes sometimes.” No He’s basically a horrible rotten sinner just like the rest of us, just like me. Where is our right to dictate the ethics of Hitler and Stalin if we are so week in our ability to set a standard of base ethics for all of humanity?

Just as the rest of humanity, the Church is full of fallen humans called sinners. In the Church, The moral failures consistently lead to a re-interpretation of the scripture to suit the readers understanding of goodness in an attempt, by the interpreter, to ignore the standard of goodness expected by the Bible. If a Church is re-defining the message of the bible to be more palatable for a modern audience they are trying desperately to re-define the standards of goodness in the Bible to meet their own moral or ethical code rather than allowing the morals and ethics of the Bible to change them.

Goodness according to man is subjective, flippant, frivolous, self gratifying and it changes with the wind all in an attempt to delude ourselves into believing that mankind is basically god, sorry did I say god…I meant to say good…

Christian Slavery or Christian Love?

Continuing my study of small books of the Bible I decided to look at the book of Philemon. I must confess I couldn’t even remember the name of this book and were it was in the bible, other than I knew it started with a P and was in the New Testament. I just remembered that it was the one about the slave who was sent back to his master. I was looking at this book again because I remembered it had to do with reconciliation, mercy and goodness, which I’ve been thinking lately.  This unassuming book written by Paul to a house Church leader, Philemon, is well worth the read. It examples how goodness, mercy and love are meant to be lived not just taught.

It’s so simple in its story yet so rich in its message. Onesimus, a slave who ran away from Philemon, is being sent back to Philemon, his Christian master, by Paul after having met the apostle Paul and having his life changed. This letter was written by Paul on behalf of Onesimus. Paul is entreating Philemon to take his former slave back and treat him well. That’s it, that’s the extent of the story, a runaway slave who became a Christian is being sent back to reconcile and serve his Christian master again.

The depth of the book however is so rich and touching. Paul is appealing to Philemon to take back Onesimus and treat him like a brother rather than a slave. The amazing thing is that Paul, knowing the character of Philemon, knows that he will not only great Onesimus as a brother but will even do more than that,  but treat him with love. He will not do the minimum required in reconciliation but that Philemon so reflects the character of God that he will do so much more.

Phil: 21 “Confident of your obedience, I write to you, knowing that you will do even more than I say.”

It is a stunning account of reconciliation of the indebted to his debtor, the transformation of a useless slave to a useful brother.

This book does not recount the gospel explicitly, nor is it full of theological discourse or apologetics but it is full of love and Christian principles. It is the application of the Gospel to life. As Christ forgives us, us who had been indebted to Christ unto death, so to is a Christian asked to forgive the slave who ran from his rightful master.

It may be noted that essentially Paul is sending a runaway slave back to his master, back to slavery, but we cannot use this as a justification for slavery, as some might, we must use it to breakdown the barriers of slavery and reconcile slave to master not to equal footing but to brotherly love. If a man loves his slave as a brother and a slave loves his master likewise what risk of inequality is there? None!

We are all slaves to sin set free by another, Jesus Christ, in Christianity. The issue is not slavery, its bigger than that, it’s about love.

Jesus Christ is our master who lovingly reconciled us to him but did so much more. God the father has made us co-heirs with Christ, adopted sons and Daughters of God himself, adopted into the family of God by faith alone. When you think about it we should be slaves who grovel before him and plead for mercy but should not receive it because we are not owed it nor do we deserve it because of our sin. Yet, God in his goodness, love and mercy came to us even while we were still disobedient slaves, and didn’t even recognize our need for forgiveness and mercy, and he died on the cross for us.

A man might treat a good slave with kindness but what kind of man would treat a disobedient slave with mercy and elevate him as a brother? Christ would and so should we.

The Redcoats are Coming the Redcoats are Coming!!

In this post I take some time to reflect on something that’s been on my mind for a few days. It isnt neccesarliy related to Church but it is an expereince that’s impacted me.

As I watched the legion veterans march out on the parade ground this remembrance day I felt a sense of pride and honour. These are men and woman who fought for us and gave a great deal, and they are the lucky ones, who served their country well and lived. You see I am reminded of what I have learnt about them, what I have come to know about their achievements through story and media and it is not their individual actions that I remember but the sacrifice and the accomplishment as a whole as a group, Individuals stepping up to act in amazing ways for a cause that is bigger than just them.

But what happened next I was not prepared for. The RCMP or Royal Canadian Mounted Police marched onto the parade ground as well, and I remembered, I remembered the stories and the media that I have been exposed to and I remembered that and all I felt was sadness and disappointment.

I remember as a child I wanted to be a member of the RCMP, to be a part of something greater than I was as an individual and belong to something. For the Americans their history books will forever associate the red coat of the British forces as that of occupier, as I write this I think of the old saying “the redcoats are coming the red coats are coming” that the Americans associate with Paul Revere’s wild ride.  But for Canadians that red coat was a source of pride a representation of law in a wild time and a force for peace that helped unit us from coast to coast with rugged determination; a force bigger than only one man accomplishing an insurmountable task.

However, in the last five years, my awe for the RCMP as an organization has been tarnished again and again and again. What do I remember when I see the red coats marching out on parade? I remember a man on his hands and knees being kicked in the face by a member, I remember watching a Polish man die at the hands of four members in an airport; I remember the stories of woman who say that if they complained about sexual harassment on the force they were blacklisted. I see those red coats and I remember it all and it makes me sad.

I try to remember the awe I had for those red coats and the men and woman who wear them but I am sad because I think it’s gone.

This remembrance day I did remember.

I’ll take “What is your point?” for $500 Alex

I came to a realization that I don’t know how to ask a good question! I mean that’s not fully accurate. If I know the subject well or know that I don’t know something I can usually ask a decent question, but when it comes to asking someone else a good question where I want to draw them to a conclusion I’m out of practice. I have, on occasion come up with some good ones in conversations but that’s a little different.

What I’m faced with in the Church this week is writing some questions to help the congregation go deeper in study during the next series of sermons. In the series we will be covering John, and we are in the midst of developing the booklet that will accompany the study. I’ve been given John 1:14-18…not the easiest verses but also some very profound verses. So yesterday I attacked the task with vigour and tried to develop some really good questions.

What I found was that it is very difficult to develop a good question. Sure I came up with some question but really they were rather weak.

Since yesterday’s failure I’ve been thinking about a better way of doing things and I’ve been running some thoughts through my mind about how to ask a good question and so I’m going to flesh out those ideas here.

1. Develop the main points being taught in the content.

Take the time to understand what the content I’m trying teaching is saying and summarize its main points for my own knowledge. It’s from these main points then that I can develop the questions. This step is when I can look at commentaries and other sources to support or shed some light on my own study of the subject. Here I can also develop questions from the content based on questions I had about the topic.

2. What are you trying to teach from those points?

My goal is to teach the main points therefore I need to have a clear understanding of those key points. I then have to ask myself what points would make the best questions, which one’s will lend themselves to being taught in question format.

3. Who is your target audience and what is their education level on the topic?

I can write questions earlier than this step but now I really need to consider who my hearer is and word the question in a manner that they can understand.  For children it will obviously be different than adults. When dealing with a Church congregation I also have to consider that there are going to be some who went to Bible school, some who have studied the Bible on their own and some who have very little knowledge about the scriptures.

4. Is your question grammatically correct? Will the reader be able to understand what you are asking?

This is probably the hardest part of the process for me. Grammar and spelling are not my best strengths but they are so important when you are trying to ask a good question.

5. Does your question lead the reader to a conclusion?

Does my question lead the reader to the answers I want them to reach? If I ask a question and they are simply left perplexed than I have failed. It needs to challenge them somewhat but a study question needs to lead back to the main points of the content so they learn.

6. Can your question be answered to simply, for example is it only a yes/no question?

A yes no question does no good unless you are testing someone’s knowledge about facts. “Did A cause B? Yes or no.” Better to ask “What are some of the causes that contributed to A causing B?”

7. Does the question only ask their opinion or does it teach them something?

In the case of questions related to Church ministry what I want to accomplish is draw people back to the Bible rather than their own opinion. It is not that a person’s opinion is not important but simply asking someone their opinion when they haven’t studied the topic is like asking me “how do you feel about quantum physics?” ahh its cool I guess..

Conclusion:

Well these are some of my initial thoughts about asking a good question…now I need to get off to actually doing it. We’ll see how it goes. Maybe I’ll post them up here later and people can give me some feedback on them.

Hey Jude!

I really wanted to study an entire book this week and I must admit that I chose Jude due to it’s length but also due to my lack of knowledge concerning its content. The book has very similar content to material written by the apostles but uses some unique references to apocryphal writing. Jude doesn’t appear to use the apocryphal works in a canonical or authoritative way but rather as examples.

I want to note that the book of Jude has very similar, and parallel teachings, as 2 Peter 2 does and upon reading the two the similarities are absolutely evident. However, in my brief study of Jude I don’t spend time examining these similarities but rather I am simply outlining the key points and thoughts of Jude itself.

The Book of Jude

The Book of Jude was written to contend against those who have snuck into the church, those ungodly people who are set aside to be condemned (3-4). Why are they condemned? Because they reject all authority including Jesus Christ’s, they change the faith to fit their desires of sexual immorality and reject truth based on their “dreams” or visions. (4) They use visions as their basis of authority. They blaspheme out of their innate sinfulness (7-8). They are compared to the unbelieving Egyptians (5), and the angels who rebelled against God (6), they are guilty of like sins to those of Sodom and Gomorrah (7), They are useless, not producing any good works (12) and finally they are easily swayed, this way and that, by their own false teachings and feelings. (13)

Jude tells us that these ungodly men will suffer destruction; in fact it is for one’s like this that God is coming to judge the world. They will be judged for their actions, their unbelief and their blasphemy against God (14-15.) Jude summarizes who they are, they are “…grumblers, malcontents, following their own sinful desires; they are loud-mouthed boasters, showing favouritism to gain advantage.” (Jude 16)

These people have so offended God that their destruction is assured. They deserve nothing else. How could God do anything but destroy them is a question we have to ask ourselves?

Now Jude turns to the true holy followers, to those who are part of Jesus true disciples and tells them they need to remember that the apostles said that people like this would come (17-18). The ungodly cause division and so not have the Holy Spirit, but you those with the Holy Spirit must keep themselves in God’s love, they must build their faith through prayer in the Holy Spirit waiting on the mercy of God (19-21).

The holy are also encouraged to have mercy on those who doubt, which are not the same as those who reject and blaspheme (22).

In closing Jude acknowledges that Jesus Christ is able to keep his chosen from stumbling and able to present them blameless to God, and that he is glorious, majestic, has dominion and authority over all time (24-25).

Thoughts on Jude

Jude is writing to a church with some very big problems. These ungodly are as terrible and as opposed to God as you can get, yet they have made their way into the Church. Jude is trying to shine some light on them, to make the faithful aware of them, to cause the faithful to contend against them and save those who might be swayed by them to their destruction. It is interesting that Jude makes no mention of trying to save them but rather assumes that those who have crept in to the church have no hope but are doomed to certain destruction, yet he contends for those who are still on the fence. Jude wants the faithful to build their faith and save those they can while handing the ungodly over to God for judgment.

It is interesting that Jude identifies these individuals’ sins, exposing them, but makes no mention of expelling them. Perhaps, by his appeal to the beloved he hopes, when he says to contend, that he desires them to step up and remember the truth about their faith. Although there is no direct admonishment to throw out the ungodly from their midst there is definitely an indication that they must separate themselves from these people doomed to God’s judgment by keeping themselves in the love of God. His language is so strong concerning these individuals you are almost astounded by his lack of instruction as to how to handle them other than to look to their own faith and save the doubter.

Due to Jude’s use of language concerning the ungodly, who assumed authority through visions in verse 8, referenced as “Shepherds feeding themselves” in verse 12, that they are in fact the leaders of this church and Jude is instead writing to the congregation. Whatever the case it is clear that Jude is intent on God being the Judge and the faithful are to strengthen their faith and save those who can be. The mercy Jude talks about does not seem to be for the ungodly among them but rather the unbeliever or the doubters; a unique distinction, mercy for those who are in doubt but destruction from God for those who claim to be part of the body but clearly live in sin and rebellion against him.

Jesus vs “Jesus”

I recently was invited to a lunch meeting of a local Christian Business group. This particular event was held at a local restaurant where we listened to an itinerant pastor. This was an interesting event because this pastor died for seven days and visited Heaven before being sent back to his body. Not every day you get to hear someone claim that.

After listening to him I just felt disgusted. All he kept saying was essentially that if you have faith in Jesus he’ll give you wealth and health, if you have faith you’ll be blessed with money, that same old tired teaching that faith leads to health and wealth. I mean how do we keep teaching this? Point to one disciple of Jesus in the first century that experienced wealth or didn’t experience death in the most horrible fashion for what they taught.

To his followers, my Jesus promised pain, he promised to his followers that they would be humiliated and made fun of for their faith, that some of his followers would suffer and die poor and in pain. Christians are not supposed to live for wealth! Christians are supposed to live for God, love him and others and for that they will be and are persecuted and killed.

Today I’m studying Jude and in verse eight it says “yet in like manner” to fallen Angels, Sodom and Gomorrah and the Egyptians,  “these people also, relying on their dreams, defile the flesh, reject authority, and blaspheme the glorious on (Jesus Christ).”  It made me think about this false teacher, this false prophet. This “Preacher” His claim to authority is an experience where he met with Jesus, a “dream” that in of itself could be a claim to authority, that’s what happened to Saul who became Paul after an amazing experience of meeting the risen Christ.

But, do we rely on someone’s visions simply because they declare it? NO. We check it against scripture, against truth, against the word of God written down by faithful witnesses who knew Jesus, walked with Jesus and talked with Jesus. Even Paul after meeting the resurrected Jesus Christ went to Peter the chief Apostle and made sure he checked his understanding about who Jesus was before heading out to teach. Like the ungodly in Jude we don’t let people teach from their dreams simply because they had them, they have to be in line with who Jesus actually is.

This preacher I heard claims to have spoken to Christ yet all I hear is a false teaching, that if you have sorrow and debt, high blood pressure and sickness you lack faith. It’s just health and wealth theology which doesn’t line up with scripture at all. So if this man doesn’t teach the same Jesus than what “Jesus” did he meet?  Maybe he’s just lying and never had this transcendent experience, which I am inclined to believe he didn’t, but if he did die and rise again, If this is the message of that “Jesus”, than I am more inclined to believe he met a demon speaking a false Gospel.

I don’t want to be quick to dismiss someone’s experience, although that is how I’m naturally inclined, but I do want to be devoted to checking if it’s true. How do we do that? Same way Paul did, check with the witnesses, the Bible, and see if what they are teaching is right. I could pull a verse here and there and justify any number of evil and disgusting things that mankind now blames God and Christianity for.  Whether it’s the Inquisition, the Crusades, slavery, Holocaust, whatever it is we can justify it by claiming “I had a vision, I read a verse out of context, I had a revelation from God that supersedes what’s written in the Bible.” Whatever it is if it doesn’t line up with the Jesus that is talked about it scripture – ALL of Scripture – then it’s just evil humanity trying to justify evil acts, even if they claim they are Christian.

You see, I am told that my religion has caused every problem with the world, all the wars are caused by my faith and my God. But I tell you this: that all the evil in this world comes from me and you and every other sinner that’s walked this world and the only thing that gives this world hope and redeems anyone is Jesus Christ. Don’t blame him for the evil that man commits. If you are pointing at Jesus I’d point right back at me and you as the problem; if I was allowed to point, my wife tells me I shouldn’t point.  😉

I’m saddend by that teacher, I mean I really feel sad about it, but angry as well because I know that more than a few people in that room agreed with him and believe in that “Jesus” he is preaching and that he is the same one in the Bible, but he’s not. If Jesus is just there to help them gain wealth and health they haven’t met the real Jesus, the offensive Jesus, that tells us all we are sinners, whether we believe it or not, and he’s the only way to be saved. I don’t want anyone to go to hell, I want everyone to meet the real Jesus, the one that lived a sinless life that we couldn’t live and died the death on the cross to us from going to hell all because he loves us.

Teaching the Gospel: Step 2

How does the Gospel affect us and play out in our life? It does so in the all encompassing process of redemption and salvation where by we are Justified, Sanctified, and ultimately Glorified.

Justification:

We were guilty, sinners before our God, but when we believe God forgives us and counts Jesus righteousness as our own. We are justified when we acknowledge Jesus Christ as our saviour and repent of our sins. Usually when we talk about salvation we mean that WE WERE once saved, we are talking about Justification.  This is our new life, this is what the Christian is talking about when they say they are born again, that they have believed and Jesus righteousness and death on the cross has made us right before God.

Sanctification:

Sanctification is a progressive work of God and man that makes us more and more free from sin and more like Christ in our actual lives. In Sanctification we are BEING saved.

Even if you are not a runner you can imagine a race. You can imagine that when the gun goes off you begin to run hard and fast with great excitement; or maybe you start out more hesitantly and take your time. As the race goes on your speed might change, faster or slower, you might even stop to catch your breath, or you may trip and fall. Running a race is the example that the Apostle Paul gives for the Christian life. He is emphasising the need to run, the need to push on, to strive for victory.

The Christian life is a marathon and by faith you’ve been given the opportunity to run it. It is not easy but there is a great reward at the end but it takes perseverance to get there. The Christian life is not a ride. We are expected to continue growing in faith seeking after God, If we don’t we might not finish the race. None of us is fully prepared for this race on our own, but the Lord has sent the Holy Spirit to be our guide and our helper, our coach. The lord gives us strength and with his strength we can persevere in faith.

The idea of sanctification might scare many evangelical Christians because they have been taught again and again that they are not saved by works and because of that any discussion of works and salvation in the same paragraph can cause them a lot of hesitation. However the Bible clearly teaches that the response to the unmerited justification that we receive from Christ is good works, again and again and again and again the Bible makes this clear. You see those who are saved by grace not by works are saved by grace to good works.

When I speak of works I speak of the outpouring of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, and self-control. John makes it clear in 1 john that if we are Christian we are assured if our new life produces love for others. So how can we know we are on the path of sanctification and are being saved? We can know by the state of our heart. If our heart’s deepest desire is to learn how to love God and others more we are on the right track. It doesn’t mean we are perfect yet. The works we produce gain us no special merit but serve as a reflection of an internal change, if these works of love are absent then can it be said of a person that they are saved? The Bible says no.

Glorification:

Glorification is the final step in the application of redemption. It will happen when Christ returns and raises from the dead the bodies of all believers for all time who have died, and reunite them with their soul, and change the bodies of all believers who remain alive, thereby giving all believers at the same time perfect resurrection bodies like his own.

Glorification is what we are striving towards, the prize, the goal the gift from God to those who faithfully persevere. It is in Glorification that we WILL be saved.

What does it benefit a person to begin the race, to lose sight of the goal and fall away or stop racing? Nothing! Glorification is the end result of our pursuit of God and a life lived seeking to love.

Glorification is the final act of the redemption process. When Jesus Christ returns those who believe, and as proof of their belief genuinely continued in faith, they will be rewarded with a new glorified body in a bodily resurrection.

Conclusion:

This is salvation, not that we are saved, but that we are being saved by Jesus Christ. That we are justified to a life of sanctification and when we come before God we will be glorified and it is all a gift of grace from God, not our own power that gets us there.

Teaching the Gospel: Step 1

I was recently asked to revise our Churches Baptism Manual which is used in baptism classes. This is a task I’ve really enjoyed because the manual gives me the opportunity to examine the Ordinances, Baptism and the Lord’s supper. But more interestingly it is challenging me to define the Gospel in a teachable way which even at college I was never asked to do.

So, defining the gospel is an exciting task for me and it is proving to be an interesting task. There is so much out there these days which defines the Gospel in reaction to a world that is trying to re-define the Gospel. For instance Greg Gilbert’s amazing book What is the Gosžpel? Is simple concise and easy to read laying out the Gospel in a very readable way.

However, I am tasked with writing a two page summary of the Gospel that is teachable. It is a challenge because I also want this teachable section of the manual to also be very robust. If it is to be part of a Baptism manual I would assume that the reader would have a basic understanding of Justification, the forgiveness of sin and righteousness before God, which is essential. But what I want to accomplish is an instructive lesson that prepares a person to be able to teach the Gospel themselves. I think over the next few days I will be working out my ideas here.

I’m excited to begin this project, really my first attempt at this sort of things. Well then where should I start? I’ll start with two views of the Gospel that are both Biblical. They are as follows:

 
God > Man > Christ > Response

  1. God is a holy God. Equally loving and Just and he has a plan to save us. (Col. 1.13-14)
  2. Man is sinful and unable to save themselves, fully deserving of death for our actions. (Col. 1.21)
  3. God in his love sends His son, Jesus Christ, who willingly goes to the cross, laying down his life of his own accord for our sins. Living the life we could not live and dyeing the death we deserved. (1 Cor. 15:3-5)
  4. Those who respond in faith and repent of their sins are forgiven and will have eternal life. (Col. 1.22-23)

Creation > Fall > Redemption > Consummation

  1. God is the creator God, he created everything that is and it is good. All of which was meant to stir up affection for him.
  2. Mankind has Fallen. We prefer creation instead of creator turning our affections away from God.
  3. Jesus Christ came to make all things new.  A saving work that is occurring.
  4. The consummation, the second coming of Christ the fulfilment of his saving action and the restoration of creation.

I believe that this is the framework, the twofold purpose of the Gospel, that I will take in explaining it.

John’s Gospel: Spoiler Alert

Have you ever read a book where they tell you the big secret right at the beginning of the book and then spend the rest of the book laying it out for you?

In John’s Gospel, the apostle John, a close friend of Jesus and one of the people who knew him best writes some pretty crazy stuff about him. It’s pretty crazy because a lot of people today just think Jesus was a good teacher and don’t want anything to do with that born again stuff, but the same guy who is going to tell you what Jesus taught, the same guy who is going to write all those cool things that Jesus said to all those religious guys, who we love to beat on because we like that Jesus would stick it to the “man,” is going to lay out at the very beginning something that might not be very easy for some people to take.

Chapter 1 in John’s gospel starts off by a making a connection back to Genesis, the first book in the bible and he writes this. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God.” (John 1.1-2)  Then in verse three he goes on to talk about creation. “All things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made.” What John is saying is that whoever he’s going to call the Word wasn’t only with God but was God and was the one responsible for all of creation. Nobody else is responsible for creation except God.

“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1.14) The Word came and lived with us, and John is saying I saw it, we saw it. I met him, the Word, and I saw his glory, the son of God. He’s talking about Jesus that teacher that we like to hear about when he is saying things like love your neighbour and feeding lots of people but who we don’t really want to kneel down and worship or call God.

You see we can’t just take the gospels and say wow look at Jesus’ cool radical and new ideas about love, kindness, mercy and grace, without taking everything else the Gospel writers wrote. Jesus was a real man who really lived and only the craziest and most out to lunch historian will tell you he didn’t live at all. So we go to the writings about him, to his friends and the disciples of his disciples who tell the story of his life. We need to realize that these writers were just as serious about the stuff we might think is crazy as they were about what Jesus taught. For these guys the two are linked and can’t be separated. To John, the guy who sat beside Jesus, talked with Jesus, ate with Jesus, walked with Jesus and recorded all of his teachings wanted you and me to know something, that Jesus is God.

Jesus isn’t a Prophet, he isn’t a teacher, he isn’t a political or social radical, he is God, the king of kings, the creator in who we have life and he is the one who brings light to the darkness.

You see another thing happened in Genesis, we rebelled against God, we became sinners and we brought darkness into the world. This darkness this sin has consumed the world and because of our sin it means we are going to die rebels to God. But what John also wants you to know is that Jesus is the light and that darkness, our sin, isn’t going to overcome him. Jesus goes on to bleed for you, he goes on to die for you!…

Jesus is the light and he overcame sin and now you and I we can get on our knees and apologize to the king of kings for our part, for our sin and Jesus that same king of kings, that same God who was responsible for creating you will forgive you. He’ll forgive you!

That’s crazy! That’s the crazy truth that John wants you to understand about Jesus. If you think you know Jesus and what I’ve written about him doesn’t seem to line up with the Jesus you know then I think you should try and get to know the Jesus John knew. It may be more radical and crazy, but it’s the truth.

(Taken from a community group lesson I’m writing for the church)