Our Need & the Gospel
What is the big issue that faces all human beings, and what is the Gospel of Jesus?
1. What is the big problem that faces all people? Not money, not my feelings...
It is the reality of sin and death together. These bring about all other problems we see in the world and in ourselves. People weren't meant to die. This came into being for the whole creation as a result of our first parents' disobedience and rebellion against God, after being enticed to this by Satan, a fallen angel, originally created good by God. (Satan rebelled against God out of jealousy.)
2. What do you mean by "sin"? I don't hear this word in society.
Sin means "lawlessness" or violating the commandments of God and His design for His creation. Sin is disobedience and lack of fear, love, and trust toward God that is properly due Him. Sin leads to both physical and spiritual death and condemnation by God who justly judges us for our rebellion. We know sin in two ways, by our conscience, our basic in-built sense of right and wrong, as well as from Scripture in the Ten Commandments.
3. Does this mean that we then need to improve ourselves to make ourselves right with God by a method or discipline of spirituality?
No, because we cannot do this by our own strength or ability. It is insufficient, since God's standard is perfect in thought, word, and deed. And we have rebelled against an infinite God, not merely against other human beings. We do not have the ability or the pure desire to redeem ourselves. Our rescue must come from outside of ourselves. It isn't just a matter of feeling better.
4. Is there any hope then? If I cannot save myself, then how can I live?
In God's mercy, while He rightly condemns sin, He also made the promise to send a Savior, a rescuer, to make us right with Him again, as a pure gift and not something that we achieve or accomplish.
5. What rescue comes from outside of me? What is my hope?
Many millennia ago God made the promise and repeated it many times over to send a Savior, a rescuer, to cover the debt we incur by our sin and to save us from death, both physical and spiritual, so that we are not condemned to hell.
God fulfilled this promise in one who is known to be Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ (anointed one). He covered the debt of our sin and fulfilled the demands of God's perfect law in His righteous life. He died as our substitute to rescue us.
6. But how could a man save the whole world? Nobody's perfect.
Ah, but there you see, Jesus is both truly God and truly man, and because of that, He is without sin. He was conceived as part of God's plan of a young Hebrew virgin woman and was sent into this world. The eternal Son of God the Father was sent in love from the Father to fulfill God's promises in the Old Testament Scriptures to be our rescuer. Because He is God Himself in the flesh, He is without sin and could fulfill the law of God perfectly in every way for us. And because He is God and man in one person He is our perfect substitute to redeem us (buy us back) from sin, death, and hell. And not only this, but according to God's promise, on the third day from His death, God the Father raised up Jesus bodily from the grave to vindicate Him and show acceptance of Jesus' sacrifice as payment in full for all sin. Death no longer has dominion over Jesus. And for those who believe in Jesus, death and sin no longer have lordship over them either, as those who believe in Jesus are united with Him.
Matthew 1:21; Romans 9:5; Matthew 9:6; 1 Timothy 2:5; Colossians 2:9; 1 Peter 1:18-19; Hebrews 7:26-27; 1 John 2:1; Luke 1:35; Isaiah 53:4-5; Romans 5:19; Galatians 3:13; 2 Corinthians 5:21; 1 John 2:2
7. How could Jesus save the whole world?
He is the very creator of the world in the flesh. What He did applies for all people. And He took up all our sin upon Himself. When He was baptized at the hands of John the Baptizer, He received a baptism that was for sinners. So, now, for us, when we receive the mystery of Holy Baptism, the washing of water with the word of God's holy name (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit), we have the forgiveness of our sins applied to us freely as Jesus has done all for us already.
8. You mean, I don't have to do anything to go to heaven? It's a gift?!
Yes, that's right. God gives these gifts through means. Jesus gave the command to the Church, His body of believers, to go forth into the world to make followers of Him by means of baptizing with water into the name of God (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) and teaching fully all that He gave the Church to teach and practice in this world. But this is all a gift, and forgiveness of our sins before God, rescue from death and hell, and eternal life. We do not and cannot earn it. Any good works that we do are a response to this but aren't the cause or reason why we are saved or made right with God. God declares us perfect and holy in His sight because of Jesus alone and not anything within ourselves.
Even believing in Jesus is a gift. It isn't just that Jesus' sacrifice on Good Friday and His resurrection that we celebrate as "Easter" are a gift to us, but also the very fact that we come to believe this (faith) and trust in His work to rescue us is all completely by grace alone. It is a work of the Holy Spirit, the third person, of the divine unity. God is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This is a tremendous mystery of the Christian faith - that God is three persons, and yet there is only one indivisible God, one Lord, and yet the persons are not thirds of God.
9. So, you mean Christ really came back to life from the dead, physically?
Yes. He conquered death and the grave for us all. God wants us to have eternal life with Him.
10. Wow! That's heavy stuff.
Yes. We don't claim to understand it all in intellectual terms, but it is what God has said of Himself in the Scriptures (the Bible).
11. So you take the Bible to be more than just a regular book or as something more than just men's opinions or feelings about God?
Yes. We believe that God the Holy Spirit inspired the prophets, apostles, and evangelists to write the Scriptures so that even as the words are men's words and the ways of expressing things are human, the words are God's own words to us of Himself, specificially for our salvation in Christ. The Scriptures are all about Jesus and His work of saving us. So we call the various writings together as they are collected into the Old Testament (before Christ) and the New Testament (since Christ) the "Holy Scriptures" or the "Holy Bible" since they truly belong to God and are His words.
12. This is a radically different perspective than what I have heard before!
No doubt. This isn't something we naturally know, especially not the good news of Jesus saving us. This is why the church has this mission to spread this good news to others, but first they have to realize what the real problem is that humanity faces.
13. I see. So this is why Christian churches want other people to come to join them?
Yes. Different churches have various ways of going about that. But that's the motive behind it, or that's what it should be.
14. So, I see that happens differently out there sometimes.
That's right. Some want to do things to attract a crowd others might have programs or dynamic speakers or similar things.
15. But you seem to be a little different that way.
Well, yes. We like to stick with the traditional Christian way of simply being straight forward about what we believe and to try to keep our members informed and instructed in these things so that anyone can speak to the basics out where they live, work, shop, and so forth.
16. That seems a bit more straight forward and honest. We are manipulated and advertised so much today already on tv and the internet. Where do we go from here to continue this? I'm being convinced by what you are saying.
Like I mentioned in passing earlier, we follow what Jesus commanded the church to do in making followers of His, disciples is the biblical word, and we have instruction and the administration of Holy Baptism, the washing of water with the Word of God. We'd be glad to have you join in for an instruction (catechism) class to go over in more detail all the basics of what we've been talking about and as this takes root in what you believe, we go to Holy Baptism and to prepare you to receive another sacrament, called, the Lord's Supper, which is given to the church for the ongoing strength, forgiveness and peace of baptized believers who hold to the unity of the truth in Christ among us. That is covered during the catechism class as well.
All this is to fulfill the joy of John 3:16, "For God so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life." We rejoice that through Jesus Christ we have the hope of eternal life and even the resurrection of the body to perfection and immortality on the last day. We give thanks to God eternally that death and sin do not have the last word with us but we shall worship before the throne of God and of Christ the sacrificial Lamb forever in heaven.
Jesus will come on the Last Day of the world, appearing openly in glory and will judge the living and the dead. We must be ready for our own death and for judgement day. The only way we are ready is through repentance and trust in Christ's saving work for us. It is a gift and we cannot earn it.
Romans 10:17; 1 Corinthians 2:14; Ephesians 2:8-9; Titus 3:4-7; John 3:5; Acts 2:38-39; Revelation 22:20; Matthew 24:27; Luke 21:27; 2 Peter 3:10; Revelation 1:7; Matthew 25:31-32; John 18:36; Matthew 24:44; Acts 17:31; 1 Timothy 4:1