Just this week a family member posed this question for a research project she was conducting: “In your words, what is the gospel?”
For many the answer was a simple matter of faith and truth-Jesus, the son of God came to earth as a man, died for us, and rose again. This is a certainty I believe with all my heart. My whole life is established upon this foundational truth! For me it is a simple and basic undeniable fact. Yet, there are those who refute this belief and even deny the existence of Jesus. Others acknowledge the existence of Jesus as a man or great teacher but do not see him as the Christ, the Son of the Living God. No amount of my faith will change their faith. Jesus himself said flesh and blood cannot reveal this truth alone. It is through the Father in heaven. (Matthew 16:17)
In truth this answer means little or nothing to those who don’t understand who Jesus is, the sacrifice he made, and what that sacrifice meant in the culture of the day. There are many who have never set foot inside the doors of a church building, never been to a Bible Study or Sunday School Class. They didn’t grow up singing “Jesus Loves Me” or “Deep and Wide”. They never saw the felted figures of Adam and Eve, Samson, Mary and Joseph, or Jesus and the Disciples moved around a board as the teacher recounted their stories. They’ve never been to church camp or youth lock-ins. They’ve never sneaked out of a youth lock-in and ended up in a bar…Ooops! How did I even end up there? And why on earth did they allow teenage girls in?! One guy banged his pool ball onto the floor. I bent down to pick it up and he thanked me suggestively for picking up his ball. I was naive enough not to have a clue what he was talking about, but uncomfortable enough to turn around and walk right back out.
Later, in my college days, I was partying with some friends and closed the clubs down a few times. We stayed and danced until just before the sun came up. But it was still dark inside the club…and inside many of those who stayed into these early morning hours. It was on one of these nights my eyes were opened to the hollowness of people searching for a connection-a quasi-relationship with anyone, a Mr. Right Now, to fill whatever parts of them they saw as empty. One overheard conversation in the girls’ restroom was enough for me to realize this was not the life for me. The spirit of the Lord spoke to my heart in mercy and grace and led me out. He told me He wanted to be the One to fill the empty spaces in me. He told me He wanted a relationship with me that clubbing, alcohol, friends, or men could never fill. I believe with all my heart that my praying Mama asked for my ears to be open to His voice. Because I guarantee you, He wanted to have that same conversation with every human in the club that morning. I believe He was speaking to each of our hearts. I hope I wasn’t the only one who heard Him.
He cares about the lost and hurting. He sees you! He knows you! I can guarantee you there are empty people all around us. They do not exist only in bars, clubs, and places of darkness. They are in your neighborhood and yes, even in our churches. Many of those who are lost, broken, and in darkness do not understand the simple gospel story of Jesus came, died and rose again. They can’t comprehend the meaning of the sacrifice Jesus made when He laid His life down for us. The idea of bloodshed to many is offensive and the twenty-first century culture just doesn’t grasp first century Jewish culture. Those of us raised in church, taught the precepts of this simple truth often forget this. We take our teachings for granted.
So, as I considered the question posed to me I remembered what I know to be true.
I love to tell people this: In Luke 4 Jesus went to the temple and told the people why He came. He opened the scroll given to him and purposefully began to read from Isaiah.
The gospel is GOOD NEWS. Why? Because JESUS CAME! He came to heal those with broken hearts and spirits. He came to declare freedom for those taken captive by evil, or those who may feel trapped, as though they are held hostage by circumstances or wrong thinking. He says that even in the midst of our circumstances we can be free. The book of Job tells us that we shall declare a thing and it shall be established. If this is true for us, how much more for Jesus, who declared the hope and reality of freedom for us!!!
For those who cannot see the light, He came to remove the scales from their eyes and dispel the darkness! He came to give us sight. He says, “Come and see!”
He came to restore those of us who are broken and bruised. He laid His life down for us to redeem (purchase) us from brokenness, captivity, and darkness into wholeness, freedom, and light. And then He sends us out to share this same good news!
What is the good news? We are not alone! Jesus loves me! This I know! Jesus love you, this is true!
There is no one on earth who at one point has not been broken, trapped, or felt as though they were in the dark and drowning. But Jesus calls to us. He reaches for us! Each and every one! He will leave the 99 to seek the one! There is no far that is too far for Him. His arm is not short. His arms are everlasting and strong enough to pull us up and out, to hold us, and to hold ONTO us! He calls us out of where we have been, and then into himself (abide in me and I in you-Jn 15:4), and then sends us out to share with others (Mt 28:19).
This, my friends, is the gospel truth!