THE GOSPEL

God created the universe.  Everything displayed his love, power, and wisdom – his glory.  God created humans on the Earth.  He made them in his image, like him, as his partners to oversee the creation and to represent him in the creation.  God and humans enjoyed a personal relationship with each other.

The first humans were deceived by the spiritual enemy (aka Satan), rebelled against God’s authority, and broke the relationship with God.  As a result, heartache and death came into humanity’s existence.  Rebellion against God was embedded in the human soul.  The image of God was marred, and humanity was no longer able to oversee God’s creation as his true representative.  The creation itself was subjected to corruption and decay.  The Enemy took over as the ruler of the Earth, continuing his deception.  The world came under the dominion of a being who intended to rule forever in rebellion against God.

God was not finished.  Ready for this turn of events, he put into action a plan to restore humans and the creation to their intended condition.  He promised that the Enemy would be defeated.

First, there was a period of preparation which would lead to that victory.  God chose a man named Abraham and his wife Sarah to be the beginning of the plan.  He promised that their descendants would become a great nation and blessing to all nations.  He trained them to live by faith in him, to trust him.  They frequently failed, but God was working.  Their descendants became the nation of Israel, named after one of their grandsons.

Held in slavery to Egypt, Israel appeared to be heading for oblivion.  Then God, through the leadership of Moses, rescued them.  He assigned them to be holy (like God) and to be a kingdom (overseers) of priests (representatives).  He commanded them to obey him in everything.  He gave them a system of animal sacrifices and holy days to observe.  Those were foreshadowing the actual means which God would provide for defeating the Enemy and renewing humanity and creation.  Those laws and observances could not and were not intended to overcome humanity’s rebellion, heartache, and death.  God placed David as Israel’s king and promised that one of his descendants would be the King who would rule over all with God’s justice, goodness, and power.  Israel repeatedly failed to live up to God’s expectations and suffered national defeat at the hands of a succession of foreign powers.  But God was working.  Prophets continued to proclaim that the descendant of David would come and lead Israel to victory and the entire Earth would once again be filled with God’s glory.  Israel longed for the arrival of this Messiah.  A key component of the prophetic message was that there is only one true God, the creator of all, and he was the God of Israel.

Finally all the preparations were ready.  The descendant of Abraham, through the line of David, was born.  But he was not just another human with rebellion embedded in his soul.  He was God in the flesh by being born to a girl named Mary.  He was named Jesus.  All of the features of Israel’s religion pointed to him; he fulfilled them.  Jesus taught the way to live as God’s people, centered on love for God and for others, showing what it is like to be God’s image.  He healed diseases, showing that the corruption that had dominated creation was going to be reversed.  He drove demons out of people’s lives, showing that the Enemy was going to be defeated.  He called together a group of followers as the first members of a restored humanity.  Jesus fulfilled the role of representative of God that all humans had failed to complete.

Jesus had to do more than teach, heal, exorcise, and lead.  He was rejected by most of the people, and they thought his teachings and claims were so bizarre that he should be killed.  He was tried and executed by the ruling power, Rome, on a cross.  But God was working.  On the cross, Jesus confronted all of humanity’s rebellion against God and the authority that the Enemy had established over creation.  He did so in his own way: without violence and force; with sacrifice.  He put himself in their hands for them to have their way, yet God was using it for his way, to bring rescue and redemption to the world.  Jesus gave his life.  He took the sin of all people as his own.  He took the rebellion of all humanity to himself.   And because he took the sin and rebellion he had to take the consequence, and so he died.

On the third day after his execution, God raised Jesus from the dead!  Now things look completely different.  He has risen!  He knocked the Enemy off the throne by breaking the hold of guilt and death.  He took our sin to himself and left it in the grave.  He took our rebellion as his own and left it in the grave.  The enemies were conquered and Jesus became King.  The apostle Paul put it this way: “Having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us, he took it away, nailing it to the cross.  And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.” (Colossians 2:14-15)  Jesus is King and so God’s Kingdom has come into the world.

Forty days after his resurrection, Jesus ascended.  He took his place in Heaven with his Father.  He instructed his followers to wait in Jerusalem.  Ten more days passed – a total of fifty since the resurrection.  Then the Spirit came.  God’s own Spirit, the third person of the Trinity, moved into the souls of Jesus’ followers.  It was Pentecost, the remembrance of God giving the Law to Israel and making them his kingdom of priests.  This Pentecost began a whole new way of life for the followers of Jesus: life in the Spirit.  It was a continuation of Jesus’ work – his love keeps going; his words and power keep going; his leadership and protection keep going; his blessing and joy keep going.  As they opened their souls to God’s work, the Spirit moved in and began a deep, lasting transformation.  The Spirit is God here, God with us, God in us.  The Spirit is God revealing himself to us, calling us to himself.  The Spirit is God involved with us, making his purpose for us into reality, generating his Kingdom in us and with us.

Jesus did not become King by force and he doesn’t rule by force.  Jesus and the first Christians knew that even though he is King, there will still be opposition and rebellion.   They taught that the Kingdom takes root in individual hearts and that it spreads slowly.   It’s like a gentle stream of water that soaks dry ground instead of a raging river that sweeps everything away.  A gentle stream can be dammed and diverted.  The Kingdom and the King can be refused and rejected.  But the King has promised that his Kingdom will never end and eventually the glory of God will cover the earth like the waters cover the sea.

The King and the Kingdom come to those who choose to believe.  Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ and Son of God – the Messiah, the Rescuer, God come in the flesh and now the King, enters his Kingdom and will have life.  Because Jesus is King, anyone can start over.  Anyone can be unconditionally accepted.  Anyone can be forgiven of all their wrongs.  Anyone can have their deepest thirsts quenched, their inner pain and brokenness healed.  Anyone can become partners with the King building the Kingdom and bringing life to others.  Anyone can be restored to God’s original purpose: made in his image, his partners overseeing the creation and representing him in the creation forever.