The gospel (the good news message about Jesus), the grand story of God from creation to new creation told in the Bible, has five main movements

Movement 1 - God rules:  God made us to know and love Him

God is all-powerful and loving, without beginning or end and can always be trusted to act faithfully and truly.  The physical universe was created by God.  Humankind is the centrepiece of God's creation - uniquely among all the creatures God made, human beings were made to know and serve God as stewards caring for the world and multiplying in order to bring order to it.  God is the only one who should be worshipped and obeyed. 

 

Like a loving Father, God provided everything the first human beings needed and gave them great freedom to enjoy the things He had made.  This freedom was not limited, though - they had to trust in Him and obey His command, acknowledging their need of Him.  God was the King and human beings were intended to live like His children under His rule in the place He had made, enjoying harmony and peace together.

Movement 2 - We rebelled: we rejected God's rule

The first human beings disobeyed the command of God.  They were tempted by Satan, the enemy of God, and decided to follow his lies instead of God's truth.  They decided that they could be their own rulers and could live without God, making their own decisions about what is right and wrong and enjoying freedom without limits.  This rebellion against God is known as sin.  Although they thought they could hide from God, they soon discovered that they could not.  They lacked the power to rule the world and control their own destinies and they became slaves to evil.  There were three results of sin:

 

  • Relationship with God destroyed - their relationship with God was broken.  Instead of trusting God they now feared God and over many generations the knowledge they had of God was lost.  Following their own desires, people invented false gods based on created things, resulting in confused religious beliefs that held them in fear of death.  God allowed them to follow this path of their own choosing.

 

  • Relationships with others corrupted -  human relationships became spoiled by pride, jealousy and greed.  Instead of cooperating people began to compete, resulting in theft, slander and even murder.  When people created political systems in attempts to overcome these problems, they left God out of the equation, trusting in the illusion human wisdom and goodness rather than God's genuine wisdom and goodness.

 

  • Relationship with nature disrupted - human beings became subject to ageing, disease and death.  It became difficult to produce food and other resources necessary for life and painful and risky to produce children.  Instead of caring for creation, human beings began to use and abuse it.  These were limits imposed by God in order to limit the harm human beings can do and to cause them to seek God.  After death each human being must answer to God, facing judgement according to God's perfect standard.  We are destined to face punishment for our rebellion and separation from God permanently.  We need to be rescued!

Movement 3 - God rescues: God planned to save us through Jesus

Despite our rebellion, God still loves us.  God initiated a plan to rescue us from the results of our sin and to restore our relationship with God by saving a people who would know and obey God's truth . 

 

God revealed this plan gradually over time through people who wrote down words God gave them, forming the Old Testament of the Bible.  It tells the story how from one man, Abraham, God called a nation to be God's own, to receive God's Law and to show the other nations God's character.  Israel failed to obey God's commands and instead worshipped false gods.  Through prophets God called them back and also promised to send a great King and Saviour (the Messiah or Christ) who would finally rescue them from sin and rule over them forever.  Within the Law God taught Israel to worship through animal sacrifices, reminding them that sin leads to death and that only through the death of an innocent in their place could they be forgiven.  Some prophecies spoke of a Servant of God who would die as the ultimate sacrifice for the sins of the people.

 

Finally, God sent the promised rescuer.  His name was Jesus and He taught wonderful things about God and performed many miracles to prove that He really had come from God.  He taught that all people can be made right with God, even those whose lives have been destroyed by the sin of others and those who have destroyed the lives of others by their own sin, and He demonstrated God's love for those who are unloved and marginalised.  He spoke of God's Kingdom that had arrived through Him, but He also said that He had to die to release people from sin.  He was claiming to be both the promised King and the Servant - the Christ.

 

Jesus was put to death on a cross, but God raised Him to life again and He was seen by loyal followers - both women and the men He had chosen and trained to be His authorised messengers (apostles).  He sent them into the world as faithful witnesses to His life, teaching, death and resurrection.  The apostles and others close to them taught the earliest Christians, organised them into the Church and wrote down the story of Jesus' life as well as books that explained the significance of His death and resurrection as God showed it to them.  They explained that Jesus died as the one sacrifice for sins forever and that His resurrection proved that His sacrifice had been accepted by God.  He ascended to God's side where He now reigns over every power and authority. 

Movement 4 - We respond: we must repent and believe in Jesus

Jesus died to win back a people for God and His resurrection defeated death and guaranteed God's ultimate restoration of the whole unvierse.  There will be no place in that future for people who continue to rebel against God.  Only through Jesus can we receive eternal life and share in God's promised future. Only those who recognise God as King can be saved from God's judgement.  This salvation is not something we can earn - we deserve judgement and no amount of good deeds or religious activity can overcome the effect of sin - but God offers it to us as a free gift through Jesus, the Christ. 

 

To receive God's forgiveness we must first recognise that we need it.  We must acknowledge God's right to judge and correct us and ask for God's forgivness.  We must surrender to God and acknowledge that we are not God.  This turning away from sin is called repentance. 

 

The flip side of turning away from sin is that we turn to Christ.  We recognise that He is the rightful King and that He died in our place to rescue us from sin and death.  We ask Him to become Lord over our lives, the One who guides and leads us, trusting Him to save us and accept us.  This turning to Christ is called faith.

 

Through repentance and faith Jesus becomes our Saviour and Lord.  If you are looking for words to express your repentance and faith to God, there are three simple phrases you may want to use:

 

  • Sorry - "I am sorry for sinning against You."

 

  • Thank You - "Thank You for loving me enough to send Jesus to die for me."

 

  • Please - "Please forgive my sins and guide me from now on.  I want Jesus to be my Saviour and Lord."

Movement 5 - God restores:  the Holy Spirit transforms us forever

Those who turn from sin to Christ are accepted by God.  God has promised to forgive them and to include them in God's new people, the Church.  They have a new beginning and share in Jesus' life - the life of the new restored universe God has promised, which can never end.  This is what it means to be a Christian and the Christian can be assured that they are secure in Christ.  Although we become Christians individually, we discover that we are part of God's family.  God is now our perfect, loving and guiding Father and we relate to Him as children and to one another as brothers and sisters.  Christians meet together to worship God, to be taught from the Bible and to remember Jesus by eating bread and drinking wine (communion or the Lord's Supper).  Jesus also commanded those who believe in Him to be baptised with water to mark a new beginning and to identify as part of the Church.

 

The new life that the Christian enjoys is more than just a new set of priorities and standards, although it includes that - the resurrection life of Jesus becomes alive in the Christian through the Holy Spirit, who makes His home in their life.  The Spirit gives new power to overcome temptation and to serve God's purpose.  He begins to grow the character of Christ - love, patience, peace, self-control and every other virtue - in them.  Christians continue to struggle with sin and face the same challenges of life in a sin-scarred world as every other human being, but they have a new hope, a new purpose and a new power at work in them.  Above all, God calls Christians to do good deeds as a response to His love, showing Him to others as they serve them and share the good news about Jesus.

 

Becoming a Christian is the beginning of a new life.  You are no longer defined by your past but by God's future.  The old you is dead and your life is now in Jesus.  He is your identity.  To grow as a Christian you need to keep on turning away from sin (repenting) and trusting in Jesus (faith).  You should learn to pray - talking to God and surrendering your heart to Him - and begin to read the Bible - learning more about God and discovering God's purpose for you.  You should get involved with a church where the Bible is taught and people can support you and help you to learn.  You should also obey Jesus through baptism and begin to tell others what God has done in your life, sharing with them the true story of this world, the good news about Jesus.

If you have understood and responded personally to this good news message then you may find the materials on the First Steps page helpful - they are designed for new Christians who want to grow in their faith. 

I'd also love to hear from you so that I can pray for you.

© 2014 Dr Paul B Coulter, www.paulcoulter.net - Soli Deo Gloria

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