© 2013 Trinity United Reformed Church - Milton Grove, Wigan, WN1 2PG
© 2013 Trinity United Reformed Church - Milton Grove, Wigan, WN1 2PG
What is the Gospel of Jesus Christ and how does it affect me?
It is impossible to convey the full depth of the love of God in just a few web pages, it took a life to do so, however, John, one of the closest disciples to Jesus summarised the Gospel this way:
“For God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son so that anyone who believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John chapter 3 verse 16)
The Bible tells us that in the beginning mankind enjoyed a perfect relationship with God and that we walked and talked together with Him and enjoyed His close and loving company.
However, God gave mankind freewill and a warning that if we chose to disobey Him, our eyes would be opened and we would experience guilt, a guilty conscience – we would know the difference between good and evil. That guilt would separate us from God and mankind would die spiritually. (Genesis chapter 2 verses 15 to 17)
Despite God’s love and care, mankind chose to disobey God, tempted to do evil by Satan, who lied and made out that it would be a good thing to be able to distinguish between good and evil, for that would make us like God. (Genesis chapter 3 verses 1 to 7)
The immediate result of that disobedience was that we became embarrassed, felt guilty, vulnerable, exposed and tried to hide from God. Love had turned to fear. That trust in God was broken by our disobedience and ‘Sin’ had entered the world – man’s inhumanity to man then became self-evident, love had turned to hatred. Sin had separated us from God’s love and we would surely die. (Genesis chapter 3 verses 8 to 24)
In His love for us, God didn’t want this situation to last forever and He had a long term plan to save us and restore our relationship with Him.
The Apostle Paul, whose life was turned upside down when had a close encounter with God, understood that the whole of mankind was separated from God by sin. He put it this way:
“Yes, all have sinned; all fall short of God’s glorious ideal;” (Romans chapter 3 verse 23)
Paul further emphasised the truth:
“For the wages of sin is death,” (Romans chapter 6 verse 23a)
This was not just the end of this life, yes we will all die but far more seriously we would continue to be separated from a loving God who wants to care for us. To never again experience God’s love would surely be hell!
What is to be done? We can try to build bridges to God by helping others, by supporting charities, by prayer and meditation but however good we think we are “we all fall short of God’s glorious ideal” because of sin and “the wages of sin is death”.
We cannot escape the death penalty however good we are or however hard we try. The ‘good news’ or ‘the Gospel’ is this, that amazingly ‘The Judge’ – who pronounced the death penalty on us, takes the initiative but not in the way that we would expect, by waiving the penalty – that solves nothing and God cannot be corrupted. No, the law has to be upheld – somebody must pay.
No instead, incredibly, The Lord God Himself, the Creator of the Universe, who warned mankind of his fate, if we disobeyed Him, was born into this World as a vulnerable baby human being called ‘Jesus’. This is no idle story or tale but an amazing revelation. Mary was his Mother and God his true Father although Joseph brought him up. As the history books show, Jesus lived at a definite time in history and was brought up by a human family in a very troubled part of the world, under Roman occupation.
Jesus Christ would have to learn to obey his parents as well as His Heavenly Father through what he suffered – yet he remained innocent of all wrongdoing. Amazingly for a human he lived a sinless life – yet he was God. As a man, Jesus had a very important ministry to fulfil.
The Bible and history tells us that Jesus paid the ultimate price. Although Jesus, during his corrupt trial, was pronounced innocent of all charges against him, he was scourged and nailed to a tree; he was tortured and crucified, bearing the full force of Roman law. Although innocent, he paid the death penalty. For whom? What a waste of a life you may say. No the Judge Himself paid the death penalty for us; we who were on death row, are now free, Jesus has paid the price. The requirement of the law has been met.
The Doctor Luke, in his gospel, in the Bible, records this of Jesus’ crucifixion:
By now it was noon, and darkness fell across the whole land for three hours, until three o’clock. The light from the sun was gone – and suddenly the thick veil hanging in the Temple split apart.
Then Jesus shouted, “Father, I commit my spirit to you,” and with those words he died.
When the captain of the Roman military unit handling the executions saw what had happened, he was stricken with awe before God and said, “Surely this man was innocent.” (Luke chapter 23 verses 44 – 47)
The Apostle Paul puts it this way:
“When we were utterly helpless with no way of escape, Christ came just at the right time and died for us sinners who had no use for him. Even if we were good, we really wouldn’t expect anyone to die for us, though, of course, that might be barely possible. But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners”. (Romans chapter 5 verses 6 to 8)
Paul says more:
“Yes, all have sinned; all fall short of God’s glorious ideal; yet now God declares us “not guilty” of offending him if we trust in Jesus Christ, who in his kindness freely takes away our sins”. (Romans chapter 3 verses 23 & 24)
If that wasn’t clear enough Paul emphasises:
“For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord”. (Romans chapter 6 verse 23)
At the moment that Jesus died on that cross it was reported by Matthew in his gospel, that the curtain in the temple at Jerusalem, which separated the Holy of Holies, (the most Holy place in the Temple, the place reserved for God) from the common folk, was torn from top to bottom:
“And behold, the curtain of the Temple was torn in two, from top to bottom;” (Matthew chapter 28 verse 51)
(If it had been torn by human force it could only have been torn from bottom to top – it was too big and thick to do otherwise.) It is symbolic that the way to God is now open through Jesus Christ.
So Jesus has shouldered our sin on himself and paid the death penalty for us. Yet being God, death couldn’t hold Him and miraculously Jesus arose from the dead and was seen at the time by more than 500 people, over a 40 day period, before He was also seen to ascend into heaven. God has lovingly and sacrificially reached out to us and made the way open for us to reach out to him, if we wish to. So we have a choice. Do we accept God’s gift to us of Jesus or not? Jesus has bridged the divide between us and God and granted us mercy.
God has taken the initiative and given us the gift of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ – we can’t earn his forgiveness – it’s His gift to us.
The Bible says: For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God – not because of works, lest any man should boast. (Ephesians chapter 2 verses 8 & 9)
John in his gospel says this about Jesus: The true light that enlightens every man was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world knew him not. He came to his own home, and his own people received him not. But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God; (John chapter 1 verses 9 – 12)
Jesus says this: Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if any one hears my voice and opens the door, I will come into him and eat with him, and he with me. (Revelation chapter 3 verse 20)
The choice is ours, is Jesus standing at the door of your heart? If you hear his voice calling you, will you open the door of your heart and life and invite him in? If you do, he has promised to come in.
This is my story: In 1969 (nearly fifty years ago), I was a student at the University of Sheffield studying Electrical and Electronic Engineering and living in digs with three other students. On 7 March that year my flat mates had gone down to the Students Union for a drink and left me catching up on some seriously late course work. Richard, one of the three had warned me that he had received a letter from a Christian he had met and got chatting to on the train up to Sheffield, at the beginning of the new term at Uni. Apparently this guy had written to say that he would stop off, at Sheffield, on his way back to London, from Manchester and call round to see Richard, at the flat, that evening. Sure enough the doorbell rang and this middle aged guy introduced himself as Roger Anderson and asked if Richard was in. I hadn’t the heart to turn him away and told him that Richard had given his apologies (a lie) and invited him into our rather scruffy student flat for a quick cuppa. Roger wasn’t fazed and simply asked if I would like to talk about Jesus Christ. I said yes (another lie as I thought no way) and I told him that my parents had encouraged me and my brothers to go to Sunday School and join the local Scout Troop and that I had been brought up in a Christian family. I told him that I felt I had ‘grown out of all that’ and now considered myself to be a reasonably upright citizen. (. . . perhaps he would leave now. . .) Still undaunted Roger asked “assuming for the moment that you are a Christian, how can you be absolutely sure?” I mumbled something back like – you can’t be sure about these things, but his question intrigued me. Perhaps you can be sure! He then asked if he could share a few verses from the Bible. I was impressed by his conviction, that he knew his way around the Bible and how he very clearly and patiently explained the Gospel to me (that I had heard many times before but never directed to me personally).
I understood, for the first time, that Jesus loved me, that I was a guilty sinner like everyone else, that Jesus had been crucified and died on the cross to pay the penalty for my sin. That Jesus had miraculously risen from the dead and was alive and that if I repented (turned my back on my sin), I could invite Jesus’ Holy Spirit into my life. The Bible texts Roger showed me informed me that God’s forgiveness was not something I could earn – I would never be good enough no matter how hard I tried – it was God’s gift to all of us.
The Bible says: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (I John chapter 1 verse 9)
My certainty of being a Christian was not dependant on my changeable feelings or on my ‘turning over a new leaf’ but rather on God’s promise:
“And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He who has the Son has life; he who has not the Son of God has not life.” (1 John chapter 5 verses 11 & 12)
Because of God’s promises to us, I could be certain of God’s forgiveness and eternal life if I asked Jesus Christ into my life.
At that moment my flat mates returned from the bar ( the longest in the country at the time), beer bottles in hand, rather the worst for wear, turned up the stereo and made it very obvious that they (including Richard) weren’t pleased to see Roger there. Normally I would have been one of them and I felt embarrassed, sad and awkward. Still undaunted Roger asked me if there was somewhere quieter where we could talk. I asked myself the question: ‘Did I want to ask Jesus into my life or should I ask Roger to leave?’ He gave me the choice – Jesus was offering me the gift of forgiveness and life, it was up to me to respond one way or another. Feeling very guilty, I knew there and then that Jesus was knocking at the door of my heart and I felt, as an engineer, that I had nothing to lose and everything to gain by humbly asking Him to forgive my sinful nature and come into my life. I prayed what I thought was a great prayer but Roger kindly suggested that it would perhaps be better if I followed him in prayer and so I asked Jesus Christ into my life. Lights didn’t flash on or off but I had this certain conviction that something had changed – I had become a Christian and as Roger left by the front door, he said he would arrange (if I wished) for a friend to call round the next day, which he did, and that was the start of my journey of faith and discovery.
As the front door closed, I faced my first test from my now rather hostile and disbelieving flat mates, who thought I had been brainwashed and tried everything (unsuccessfully) over the next few weeks to ‘bring me to my senses’. Something that Mick, Richard and David (Di) my flat mates said to me at the time, has stuck with me over these past 48+ years – “we will know if it’s true if you still believe it in 5 years time!” I discovered later that Roger Anderson was the UK Director of the ‘Navigators’ a Christian organisation working among students to help them ‘To know Christ and make Him known’. Now there was a man doing what he believed in. I thank God that Roger called at the flat, that evening, that he had the courage to talk about Christ to a bearded student – He was instrumental in helping to change my life.
Years later I had this ‘out of the blue’ thought that I should forgive Mick and the others for tormenting me, which I did there and then – amazingly within an hour of that thought, the ‘phone rang, Mick had managed to track me down (we hadn’t corresponded in years) and proudly announced that he too had just become a Christian and had invited Jesus into his life and wanted to tell me, so that I could pray for him, – what a blessing! We just never know the affect our lives have on others or how God works.
Since those early years I have drunk a lot of tea and eaten a lot of cake as I received much needed help by attending Christian conferences, doing Bible studies and discussions with Church friends, learning Bible verses and spending a few quiet moments with Jesus in prayer and meditation. One story comes to mind – during a lunch break on a building site (where I was employed for six months as a labourer) I was sitting on a pile of breeze blocks eating my sandwiches, minding my own business and reviewing a Bible verse (to keep my mind active), when a big burly labourer stood over me and asked what I was doing – I thought here goes – and told him I was trying to learn a verse from the Bible and asked him if he could test me – yes if you want. I couldn't believe my ears and with a little more confidence I handed him a small card with the verse from John 3/19 on it: ‘And this is the judgement, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.’ That his response took me by surprise is an understatement, when he announced ‘I want you to learn me that verse, it’s true, you see my mate and I are thieves and like dark nights, it's good for business – so next time I see my pal who is inside ‘doing time’ I will teach it to him.’ God's Word is like a seed and I learned several lessons that day. I loved my time on site, made several friends and had opportunities to nervously share my faith with others - it's easier when you are working alongside folk. I know that Jesus is my Saviour, Friend and Lord and loves us all, no matter what!
Through all life’s challenges and traumas, He hasn’t let me down (that sounds arrogant); He has always been there for me, even though I have to say that I must have grieved Him many times. I could tell you of instances when I have called out to God, some out of desperation and He has heard me (even before I prayed) and lovingly responded in ways I could not have imagined – we can all be God’s mouth, hands and feet. There is more to this life that meets the eye – there is a whole spiritual dimension. This is my story; my friends and family could tell you theirs.
If you haven’t already, I hope that you too can discover that Jesus loves you. Is He knocking at the door of your heart? Will you let Him in? Why not explore John’s Gospel in the Bible, or, if you live locally, call in at Trinity and make some new friends and discover more about Jesus' life. We want to help you.