At Lakeview Baptist Church we are a people who are defined by the Gospel (or the good news) of Jesus Christ. This good news is the news about how a person can come to be in a relationship with God and fulfill the true purpose for which God has created him or her. According to the Apostle Paul in Romans 1:16, God has chosen to forgive and reconcile to himself (or make peace with) everyone who believes this Gospel. If you are unfamiliar with the Gospel I would urge you to take the time to consider what is presented here. Considering the Gospel of Jesus Christ and how it applies to you is the most important thing that you could ever do.
If you have grown up here in Kentucky (in the Bible Belt) undoubtedly you have heard people refer to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. But, just what exactly is the Gospel? At its core, what is the major focus of the Gospel?
We could summarize it this way:
The Gospel is about the glory of God in the reconciliation of sinners to himself, through Christ, so that those sinners might live in communion with him and worship him in this life and for all of eternity.
In the explanation that follows, I hope that each part of the above statement will become more clear and make sense to you. To understand this we need to think about 5 key points to the Gospel.
The Gospel begins with God. So, in order to understand it, we have to understand the God who is revealed to us in the Bible.
In the Bible we find a God who has always been God, who knows everything, who can do anything, who has created everything, who is a righteous judge, and who is holy. Consider this sampling of verses where we get a glimpse of some of the characteristics of the God of the Bible.
"Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God."
There has never been and there never will be a time when God doesn't exist. He was not created and he will not cease to be. God has always been God.
"for whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything."
We are all constantly learning new things. Nothing is new to God, nothing catches him off guard. God knows and has always known everything.
"Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases."
Even though we often run up against our own limitations and are unable to do all that we would like to do, that is not the case with God. There are no limitations with him. Everything that he wants to do, he is able to do.
"I made the earth and created man on it; it was my hands that stretched out the heavens, and I commanded all their host."
According to the Bible, God is the creator of everything that exists. In other words, nothing is independent of God. God himself is independent but everyone else and everything else is dependent on God for its existence.
"God is a righteous judge, and a God who feels indignation every day."
In different cultures over the years there have been many ideas expressed about God. Some of these cultures had a pantheon of Gods who, by any standard, were immoral. That is not so with the God that we find in the Bible. He is righteous, indeed the very definition of what is righteous flows from his righteous character. But more than that, God is not just righteous, but he is also a righteous judge. He will hold all of mankind accountable for his actions and he will make a right pronouncement or judgment of each person.
"since it is written,"You shall be holy, for I am holy."
To be "holy" is first and foremost to be separate. In one sense, God is holy in a way that no human being can be. God is absolutely distinct from everyone and everything else. We all belong to a category of being (we are human beings and there are billions of other people like us). That is not so with God. There is only one God. However, in another sense, to say that God is holy is to say that he is morally pure, uncorrupted, and separated from sin. In that sense, in the verse above, human beings are called to strive to mimic him.
In order to understand the Gospel, we not only need to understand who God is but also why he created everything. Contrary to the popularly accepted notion that everything exists as a result of time plus chance plus matter, the Bible teaches that God created everything with a very specific purpose in mind.
"I will say to the north, Give up, and to the south, Do not withhold; bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the end of the earth, everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made."
To say that God created people and the world for his own glory means that he did it to exalt himself. Even as a statue or a trophy is intended to call to mind some great triumph by a particular person, so everything that exists is intended to draw attention to the fact that God is glorious and worthy of admiration and devotion.
This idea might run contrary to our natural sentiments. Even the Bible itself teaches that selfishness and wanting to put oneself forward is wrong. So, if it is wrong for us, why is it right for God? Well, it is right for God because God (and God alone) is truly worthy of worship and devotion. It is right that people seek to honor him. In fact it is wrong not to do so.
"For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities-all things were created through him and for him."
The God whom we find in the Bible is a Triune God. He exists (and always has) as three persons; Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Within the Trinity we see that Jesus desired to honor and glorify his Father, while the Father also desires to honor and exalt Jesus Christ (John 5:23). Accordingly, God the Father created everything through Jesus Christ(God the Son) and for Jesus Christ. In other words, everything that exists, exists for Jesus' enjoyment but also for his exaltation.
Another way of saying this is to say that God's purpose in creating people is for them to love and to worship him. In fact, this is what we find stated explicitly in the Bible.
Loving God - Matthew 22:37-38
"And he said to him, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment."
In this verse, Jesus replied to a question about which was the most important commandment in the Old Testament.
"But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him."
In this verse, Jesus was saying that God was seeking a certain kind of worshipper. But, don't miss the fact that Jesus said that God was seeking worshippers. Again, this is not wrong on God's part because he (and only he) is truly worthy of being worshipped.
Having understood something about God and his purpose for humanity, we are now in a position to understand something about man.
Mankind's greatest problem does not have to do with any social issue (poverty, world hunger, racism, war, corporate greed, etc.), nor does it have to do with any physical need (health, job, home, family, etc.), rather it has to do with his estrangement from God.
According to the Bible, the first man that ever lived, Adam, acted as a representative of all of humanity before God. In Genesis 3 we read that Adam sinned against God. Consequently, every human being since Adam has been considered (in Adam) to be guilty before God of sin and likewise every human being has been a sinner.
"Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned"
We need to understand about the essence of sin. Although it is true that we can and do sin against other people, what makes sin, sin, is that it is rebellion against God and it is consequently offensive to God.
-Consider this quote from D.A. Carson:
"That is what a lot of people think that "sin" is: just breaking a rule. What is at stake here is something deeper, bigger, sadder, uglier, more heinous. It is a revolution. It makes me god and thus de-gods God."
-From his book The God Who Is There: Finding Your Place in God's Story
There are many consequences to mankind's sin, but we will look at just three of them.
"For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord."
Some people think that the reality of sickness, suffering, and death means that there must not be a God. Actually, the Bible has a very good explanation for the origin of death. Prior to mankind's sin there was no death. Death is the consequence of man's sin. God had warned Adam that if he sinned that he would die. He sinned and later died. Likewise, everyone who has ever lived has sinned and been deserving of death.
"And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience- among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind"
If everyone was created to love and to give glory to God, why is it that most people are not doing that and do not want to do that? The answer is that, because of their sin, they are spiritually dead. Spiritual death involves being controlled by the ungodly influences of the world and the devil. It also means to be subject to our sinful passions and worst of all to be deserving of God's punishment (to be "children of wrath.")
"Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God."
"Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him."
The word "condemn" is a legal term. It means that God, as a judge, has declared every person, because of his sin, guilty and worthy of eternal punishment in hell. It is worth noting that in these two verses, the person who does not believe is condemned already and the wrath of God remains on him. In other words, this is his present condition. Most people seem to have the assumption that we begin with a neutral standing before God. They believe that if we do good that we can earn eternal life and that if we do bad that we may end up in hell. However, the Bible teaches that we do not begin in a neutral position but already in a negative position (having been condemned and being designated as objects of God's wrath).
If you were to ask 100 people on the street what his or her greatest need was, most of the answers would probably center on some material concern: the need for a job, more money, a home, a car, or some kind of a health concern. According to Bible, man's greatest need does not have to do with any social issue or any physical need. Rather, he most desperately needs to be reconciled to God.
Even if you were to obtain everything that you wanted in this world, it would not truly satisfy you and, even if it did, if would only satisfy you for a short time. In the end, you would still have to appear before God to be judged. Consequently, your greatest need is to be reconciled (to make peace) to God before you get to that day of judgment.
In addition to being the creator of everything and to being the one for whom everything exists (Colossians 1:16), Jesus Christ is also the solution to man's problem.
Without talking too much about the Trinity, we need to understand that, according to the Bible, Jesus Christ is God incarnate. In other words, he always existed as God the Son and at a fixed moment in history, he became a man. Consider these verses for example:
John 1:1, 14:
"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God."
"And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth."
So, in verse 14 we understand that the person whom John has been describing as "the Word" is Jesus Christ. According to verse 1 then, Jesus Christ already existed when everything else began. He was not only with God (the Father) at that time, but he is also described as being God. So here, we see hints of the Trinity. The Bible clearly affirms that there is only one God (for example 1 Timothy 2:5) and yet here we have two "people" called God (the Father and the Son).
Why does this matter? Why does it matter that Jesus Christ was/is God and was not just an ordinary man? It matters because, in seeing that Jesus was God, we are able to understand how the death of one man can cover the sins of many people. The reason is because of the value and the dignity of the person who died.
Jesus lived, as a man, without ever sinning. He then died a sacrificial death in the place of sinners. The verse that best explains the meaning of the death of Christ is 2 Corinthians 5:21
2 Corinthians 5:21:
"For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God."
Jesus did not die for his own sins (he had none). Rather, he was punished on behalf of those who would trust and believe in him.
God the Father treated Jesus (gave to Jesus the punishment) as if he were a sinner. In fact, he punished him for all of the sins of everyone who would ever believe in him.
There are a couple of verses in Isaiah chapter 53 that help us to corroborate the idea that, when Jesus died, he died under the punishment of God in the place of others.
"All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned-every one-to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all."
"Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him; he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for guilt, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the LORD shall prosper in his hand."
Notice that it says that the LORD (God the Father) laid on Jesus our sin. Then, in verse 10, we see that it was the will of the LORD (God the Father) to crush him (Jesus) and to put him to grief. So, on the cross, Jesus suffered punishment at the hands of God the Father on behalf of those sinners who would later trust in him.
To say that Jesus "knew no sin" means that he never sinned. In other words, he never did anything that was displeasing to God the Father (remember that the primary focus of sin is that it is something that offends God). Although many people took offense and him(at who he was and at his message), he never wrongfully offended anyone.
So, Jesus never sinned and did not deserve to be punished for his own sins. This is why he was able to die in the place of others. Everyone else before or after Jesus deserved to die for his or her own sins. Jesus, since he did not sin, did not deserve to die and consequently could offer himself as a substitute in the place of others.
The Bible does not teach universalism. The death of Jesus did not save every single human being. Rather, it saved those who come to be "in him" by faith. Every single person is in one of two categories. Either he is "in Adam" and consequently still in his sins and still designated as deserving God's judgment. Or, he is "in Christ" and is considered to be free of guilt and positively to be righteous and worthy of being in a relationship with God. Jesus' death on the cross did not automatically transfer everyone to the category of "in Christ." We will see in a moment that a person must consciously respond to the good news about Jesus in order to come to be "in Christ."
When a sinner comes to be "in Christ," God clothes him with the perfect righteousness of Jesus, so that he now has a right standing before God. So, coming to be "in Christ" is not just having our sins forgiven or wiped away, but on the positive side of the equation, it involves God giving us credit for having the perfect righteousness of Jesus. God views us as being entirely acceptable and pleasing to him, because of the righteousness of Jesus Christ that covers us.
When someone believes in Christ or comes to be "in Christ," God undoes or cancels out each of the consequences of sin.
"For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ."
Even though our sin makes us worthy of death, and even though we all will die (unless Christ returns first), the story does not end there for the person who is "in Christ." The person who is "in Christ" is promised the hope of resurrection. Yes, he will in all likelihood die, but after death, when Christ returns, he will be raised from the dead and his body will be transformed into a new body that will never get sick or die and in which he will live for all of eternity.
"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come."
When a person comes to be "in Christ", he or she experiences a new birth (see also John 3:3, 5). This "birth" is a spiritual birth. Whereas, in his sins, a person is spiritually dead, with no appetite for spiritual things and no ability to live for God, when that person is born again, God produces in him the desire and the ability to live for him.
"yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified."
Justification, like condemnation, is also a legal word. To say that God justifies someone means that he declares that person to be "not guilty" and consequently to be worthy of eternal life. This justification is not based on the merits of that person but on the merits of Jesus Christ that are given to that person as a gift when the person trusts in Christ.
God demands a response to the Gospel. He calls on men to repent and to believe in Christ (to believe the Gospel).
"The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel."
"The times of ignorance God overlooked, but know he commands all people everywhere to repent,"
"testifying both to Jews and to Greeks of repentance toward God and of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ."
Repentance involves a person recognizing his sin and changing his attitude toward sin. It involves coming to hate the sin that he once loved and warring against it, turning from it and turning toward and submitting to the rule (authority) of God.
Saving faith is believing God and his promises that are held out to us in the Gospel. The best example of this is found in the life Abraham.
"No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised."
Saving faith is, by definition, a turning away from trusting in self and an abandonment to God, a trusting only in God.
"For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast."
Where do you stand in relationship to God? According to what we have seen, the one factor that divides all of humanity is whether or not a person has repented of his or her sins and trusted in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of those sins. If you have not done this, you are still in your sins and the wrath of God is still directed toward you. God has provided a way for you to be saved through Christ. If you have not turned to him, I urge you to do so.
If you have any questions about the gospel and your relationship with God, please feel free to call us, email us, or visit us and we would be glad to share with you more.