Reality: The God that is there
We begin with God who lives in eternal triune relationship, the creator of the heavens and the earth and they were very good. He is the one who is present and involved with His creation. He is not a disinterested God who is distant and removed from His creation, nor should He be confused with His creation. He is always the God of compassion and grace, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, forgiving wickedness, rebellion, and sin - yet He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished.
As the centerpiece of His creation, He created mankind into whom He breathed His life. God made humans in His image, blessed and called them into partnership with Him to reflect His goodness to the world and to each other as we live, work, and flourish together with Him.
So the gospel begins with a God who has taken the initiative to be present in loving relationship.
Rebellion: The Race that Sinned
However, given life in intimate communion with the creator of the universe in His lavish goodness, our first parents chose to reject the Creator’s wisdom and authority. They wanted to be their own gods, and to define right and wrong for themselves. This inward turn, towards selfishness and pride is what we call “the fall.” As a result humans become alienated from God, moved from life to death, from communion to corruption, from shalom to shame.
We have inherited the disease and have embraced the rebellion. We are shattered lanterns and in darkness turn to the creation and creature for comfort and meaning. We have rejected our maker and we are unthankful, dead in our sin and under judgment. Incapable of saving ourselves we are restless, blind, bound by self-worship, without hope, under the dominion of darkness and guilty of high treason.
Redemption: The Jesus that Saves
Who can save us from our sin and selfishness, and the world of death we have created? The good news is that the God who is there is love - holy love. He immediately put into motion a plan to rescue sinners and destroy sin. God acted by sending His Son Jesus. Jesus is the final word of the Father, God with us; He is a direct representation of His character, as well as a picture of mankind as we were intended to be. The unchanging God became something He was not before, a man. He lived the perfect life we could not, showing us how to live a Spirit empowered life. He died upon the cross, taking our place and the judgment we deserved. He rose from the dead as life bringer, conquering sin, death, darkness and the world. He ascended to the right of the Father as Lord of the universe gaining victory over all other powers. Now He sends his Spirit to dwell in those who place their faith in Him and Him alone. As followers of Jesus, we confess Christ Jesus came to die for sinners which includes all of us.
"In Him we see what man is and how far we have fallen, in Him we see what God is and how far we may rise." - E. Stanley Jones
Restoration: The Relationship that is Repaired.
God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. God has made a way through Jesus - the wall of separation has been torn down. Relationship with the living God is possible. We are called to enter every part of our culture and participate in God’s mission to bring restoration and shalom to our world. The genius and the glory of the Christian experience is that we have not earned it. It is a gift! Absolutely unmerited! So what do we do to receive this Life?
Repent: Change your mind about who God is, who you are, and what your life is all about.
Confess: Tell Him and His people your sin and hopelessness. Speak from your heart that Jesus died for you, and is now the Lord of your life.
Believe: Trust that what He promises is true, that His provision in Jesus is all you need for acceptance into His family.
Be Baptized: Express and confirm your identification with Jesus in His death and resurrection, His people and His mission.
Surrender: Recognize that all you are and have now belongs to your savior.
Obey: Embrace the teachings of Jesus and the Scriptures as the roadmap to a new way of living.
We now know that God is like Jesus. He is Christ like. And if He is, He is a good God. If the Heart at the back of the universe is like this gentle heart that broke upon the Cross, he can have my heart without qualification and without reservation – E. Stanley Jones