Updated: Sep 14, 2020
"The Gospel," "The Good News," "The Grace of God." In the church world, we utter these phrases repeatedly and for good reason. These phrases have more power and significance than any person on this side of Heaven could ever fathom. Unfortunately though, they are becoming more and more like simple "Buzz words." Just statements that are tossed around flippantly and without an acknowledgment of their true meaning.
As a youth minister, I have a good perspective on this disappointing trend. Many of the students who I work with have little to no knowledge of the meaning of these statements, yet they use them frequently. It's a sad thing to watch when one cannot adequately expound on the very thing they claim has largest positive impact on their lives. I want to rectify this issue in this post by doing two things:
1) Provide a clear and concise explanation of "The Gospel."
2) Leave you with an illustration that will help any prospective believer understand the previous statement and what it means for them.
So, without further ado, let's begin.
What it is:
The gospel literally means "Good News." It is the good news of God saving us from our sin. This is a "churchy" statement so let me explain: God is Holy, perfect in every way. He cannot be associated with imperfect things (AKA Humans). This is a significant issue considering we're all imperfect humans and we want a relationship with God and to spend eternity in Heaven. This is where the gospel comes in. The gospel is about the fact that God loves us so much (John 3:16) that he looked past our sin and made a way for us to have a relationship with Him. The way he made involved sending His Son, Jesus Christ, to live a perfect, sinless life and to die on the cross for our sins (Ya know, Easter?). He did not stay dead though, he rose from the grave three days later - defeating death and sin. Now, Jesus paid the price for our sins. We technically deserved to die a horrific death like Jesus did. But, no longer have to because God loves us more than we deserve. We can have relationship with God by believing and trusting in what God did for us in sending His Son as a sacrifice for our sins. That is the gospel. But, to be honest, that's a fairly dry explanation that can leave you a little bored. So, check out the illustration below.
Imagine you're standing on the coast of a large lake. You stand on the coast looking across to the ever-distant other side. As you, for some reason, need to go to the other side of this large body of water. This is us in a spiritual sense. We stand, in our sin, on one side as God resides on the distant other side. We are separated by an extreme distance. You begin to think to yourself "How am I going to get from here to there?" How is someone supposed to from where they are - sin, to where God is - perfection? There's a way, but first let me tell you what most people do: They Swim. With all their might and energy they swim. As the waves crash and the wind howls they do everything they can to make it to the other side. In a spiritual sense, they go to church a lot, they don't cuss, they're generous, they don't smoke. Heck, they might even read their bible once in awhile. They will do whatever they think they can to make it across the divide.
Unfortunately though, this body of water isn't swimmable. No matter how hard someone tries, they won't make it. It is the same way when it applies to our spiritual lives as well. No matter how good we try to be, it won't be good enough. No matter how hard we work to get to God, the divide will always be too wide. Our best efforts won't even come close to bringing us into a relationship with God.
There's good news though! AKA the gospel. We can't make it from our side over to God, that's been established. But, God recognized that and came to us. Remember, He sent His Son Jesus Christ to be a sacrifice for our sins, thus making a way for us to get to Him... picture a bridge. A bridge that stretches from God's side to ours, giving us an opportunity to cross it and have a relationship with Him. To cross this bridge we must simply put our faith in Christ and confess that He is our Lord and Savior. (Romans 10:9). That Simple.
When I was younger, I was riding with my mom to the beach in Pensacola, Florida. To get there, we had to travel across a large bridge over the Pensacola Bay. While on the bridge, my mom told me a story about a man who attempted to swim across the extremely wide body of water. She mentioned that the man tried his best, but ran out of energy halfway through and had to be taken back to land. I responded to this story with a direct and poignant question: "Mom, why didn't he just use the bridge?"
The same question can be asked to those who continue to "work" their way to Heaven. To those who keep striving to be good enough. Who pray that if they go to church enough, don't drink, and keep from cussing that they'll make it to heaven. Here's the secret: You cannot work your way into the Heaven. The only work that can get you into Heaven is the work Jesus has already done for you on the cross. We are brought into relationship with God by trusting in what God has already done, not what we can do. By trusting in how good God is, not how good we can be.
If you haven't done that, do it. If you know someone who hasn't, tell them about it. Our time here is short... let us not waste it striving for something we will never get on our own.