In preparing us for the Lord’s Supper, we’ll hear a short sermon that explains the Gospel, the good news of how God has committed to and saved His creation in the face of our rebellion. When we gather at the Lord’s Table, we are remembering this specific salvation in the Gospel.
Since this presentation of the Gospel will be somewhat theoretical, afterwards we’ll watch a video of someone testifying about how this played out in real life, about someone coming to know God through Jesus, coming to believe this Gospel.
So what is the Gospel?
Here’s the background:
Romans 3:23 – All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.
We human beings are naturally and universally in a bad state. That dismal point might be self-evident from just looking around or getting onto social media. But perhaps our primary problem is hidden: we are all and each “miserable offenders” (Common Prayer language, there!) BEFORE GOD, having failed at acknowledging and thanking him. And this neglect, while we’re created specifically to bear His image, reflecting His good nature and His wisdom into the rest of the creation, ruling the creation as His deputies, and reflecting the praise of the creation back to Him!
But, as we said, not only have we not borne witness to the Creator to the rest of the Creation, we’ve never even gotten around to properly acknowledging the Creator as Lord over every segment of our lives, including our intellectual life. Thanking Him formally and informally.
But also, our rule over the creation in God’s place was to come out of the center of a warm relationship with Him. Indeed, we are to image God as a son does a Father, in dependence and trust in Him. But we haven’t taken refuge in Him as do trusting children with a good Father. Instead, our every thought of our Creator is tinged with suspicion and complaint. Really. This is true of everybody.
In the place of knowing and praising God, we’ve filled ourselves with idols – yes, filled the void with lust for autonomy and power and illicit pleasure, and we’ve been given over to all kinds of depravity. At first, this distance from God feels like freedom: Free to experience life on our terms – yes! But in the confusion and stress of living away from God we’ve lost the ability to relate to others, to our environment, and finally even to ourselves. As one writer summarized, we’re “lost in the cosmos.”
So we’re “miserable offenders” not necessarily because we feel miserable, but because in we fact we have offended miserably…we’ve not carried out our basic calling as humans, to live toward God, in reference to God, in fellowship with God, with full-hearted praise in God.
And we haven’t just failed occasionally at this calling. We’re living contradictions of it. We’re like the businessman who never makes any money. Or the veterinarian who never gets around to seeing any animals. Or like the pilot who has never flown.
Romans 6:23: The wages of sin is death
Both the proof and the result of everybody being out of sorts with God is death in all its presentations. Alienation from Creator God is death, it has to be.
An invention that turns against its Maker and begins destroying other of His inventions should be disassembled and thrown away. We deserve death, and we do die.
Death that has already started showing up in our bodies and relationships, and that will culminate in an eternally extended dying agony. Moreover, since it’s a settled fact that God has placed man over the creation, the death that permeates man has extended into the creation. So, from man, the process that now dominates the creation is un-creation. Death. So we’re all in a bad state indeed.
A Unique Man
Well, there is one human who hasn’t failed so with God, whom God fully approves. (OK… though He is 100% human, there’s more to be said!) The Man Jesus, who is the Eternal Son with God the Eternal Father from the beginning, sent by the Father into time and the human race, and in the face of all the pressures and temptations as the rest of us have faced, came out spotless.
Take heed how you hear that word: Not the kind of “spotless” we might associate with self-righteous or holier than thou; but from every conceivable angle, Jesus was the human in full, the non-stop true image bearer, the perfect expression of what the Creator intended when he set about making man and woman.
We know that God fully approved of Jesus because, after he died, God brought him back up out of the grave, as certain eyewitnesses attested.
But more than that, and what no eyewitness could have seen: God has done with Jesus what he intended with Man when he first made him. Taking him out of the realm of the dead, He has then placed this Man at his right hand over the rest of the creation, over every rule and power in heaven and earth.
Ephesians 1: 20b-22a –[God] raised [Christ] from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And he put all things under his feet…
So, Jesus is Lord. Lord over angels and demons and nations, and all earthly powers that aren’t the state (including Google and that vague combination of moods and ideas we call ‘zeitgeist’). Lord over everything. So, that’s already good news, to learn that there’s someone – not chaos! – over everything… everywhere… at every time. Ruling even today is Someone who’s perfectly just and wise and resourceful, and backed by Almighty God. Hallelujah, God reigns through the rule of Jesus!
But that’s only half of it. While noting that God raised Jesus from the dead because he fully endorses him as a human being, we shouldn’t skip over the fact that he had indeed been dead. Why would God allow that to happen to someone He thoroughly delighted in, who had thoroughly delighted in Him?
Answer: Jesus is the Christ, the King who acts in behalf and in the stead of his people. In his death Jesus was taking upon himself the punishment for humanity’s lust and deceit and anger and shallowness and mismanagement… and the ungodliness, the disregard for God that lay behind all of this.
He willingly offered his life to God for us as atonement: the thing which fixes our wrongdoing, cleanses the stain of our failure, pays the full price for the basic miscarriage of our human calling. And paid for all sins of every one of his people. For the sins we’ve repeated a thousand times and keep promising to stop, for all the wrong that was done, and all duties left undone, for the millions of small, unjust slights that are rendered ignorantly or unconsciously… or with frosty calculation.
2 Corinthians 5:21 – For our sake [God] made [Christ] to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
Apart from Jesus, the Devil can always beat us over the head with the “Guilty” stick – we really do warrant death because we’re not the creation the Creator intended; we’ve so thoroughly missed the mark of the image-bearers we were made to be that we’re actually called “missing-the-markers.” Or, sinners.
But by his violent death, Jesus took that condemning power away from the Devil and all in league with him by cancelling our guilt. Every instance and case of “missing the mark” fully paid for by the blood of Jesus. Every one. No more guilt. Ahhh – Forgiveness! Truly!
So, Jesus’ people are forgiven, and already, NOW, in Heaven’s records are in the right; at the final judgment they will be officially declared to be justified. Did you hear that? In the right. So, deserving of life, eternal life. The kind of men and women God intended when He first said, “Let us make man in our image…” So warmly at home with the Holy Creator that they already call Him, Abba – – Dad. And, one day, joining Jesus, their Lord and Elder Brother, as image bearers in full: inheritors of the earth and rulers over the creation.
Colossians 3:10 – You have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its Creator.
But (review) not because of anything they did, or didn’t do, but because of the virtue and sacrifice of the Christ – Jesus. (We weren’t even alive when He took care of all this!) When God raised Jesus from the grave, He was also pronouncing an eternal YES over his people. When Jesus stepped out of his tomb, something new was begun in His resurrected body. Awhole new creation where sin, guilt, and death no longer have power. Where God dwells.
Where the defining truth is: a perfect Image-bearer died for our sins, and then God has raised him up, out of the realm of death and into one marked by renewed, God-ward life as it was meant to be… and this Man has brought his people along.
And the resurrected Jesus is the “firstfruits” – the re-creation that began in His body will one day culminate in a renewed environment, the re-creation of heaven and earth, where there’s no more sorrow or pain, and the former things have passed away. Ah, Rest!
Which brings us to an important question: So, who are Jesus’ people, who are right with God and heirs of this glorious and eternal Rest, who have acquired the divine YES?
THE BAPTISTS, of course. (Har har har – That’s a little preacher humor, there.) No, Jesus’ people are all and any of those wretches (“Amazing Grace”) who simply listen to what God has done for them, the ‘miserable offenders,’ and believe. By truly listening to this Gospel they decisively turn from disregarding God, even if that disregard superficially had a moral or religious or respectable look, and they turn to acknowledging what is true about God in Jesus Christ, and so what is true about them.
The Gospel isn’t just for spiritual people (whatever that means) or bookish people or westerners or any subcategory of humanity. The Gospel is for Everyone! Meaning, you can get in on that Gospel right now, as you’re listening. Do you believe what God has given us…you… in Jesus? Well then, you’re in! Justified! Now your next step is to ask the pastor about next steps in this new life.
And if you don’t yet believe, but are interested in learning more about this Gospel, please do reach out and let me or Mike try to answer your questions or satisfy your arguments. Your hearing of this gospel today is no accident – God loves you and is reaching out to you at this moment!
John 3:16 – For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.
Now let’s watch a video in which a fellow named Andrew Klavan relays how he came to believe in Jesus and was thus brought into this Gospel of a renewed heaven and earth.