In a series called Represent. Living and Giving the Gospel.
Review: Last week we talked about how the gospel is something that we live and it's also something we communicate. And those 2 pieces of the gospel must always work together.
We live in a culture where more and more Christians are saying their faith is something they live, but not something they communicate and boy is that ever a huge mistake.
Sharing our faith with other people is a core part of what it means to be a follower of Jesus.
Throughout the centuries Christians have endured unbelievable persecution, not because we feed the poor and cloth the sick (which we must ALWAYS do) but specifically because Christians historically have not been able to keep their mouths shut about the gospel of Jesus.
Last week I gave you some homework. Do you remember? Aw you were hoping I forgot! Last week's homework was to try and casually mention Jesus in an everyday conversation. How did you do?
I heard from multiple people who were able to do this and quite successfully actually.
One quick example of that is our very own Pastor Cindi who was in Dallas this past week and she texted me on how doing the homework went for her. She said she was getting fitted for glasses at a place called Warby Parker. And the guy who was helping her asked "What do you love about your life?" (Which he was probably trained to do.) And so she brings up how she loves having Jesus in her life. Which started this lengthy conversation when the guy asked her if she was sure God was a man and not a woman. To which she of course correctly replied that God is spirit, and has deposited his qualities in both men and women. But I thought that was an awesome job on the homework.
Story - Chess
When I was probably 11 or 12, I went through this season of being very into board games. Whenever I had friends over, I wanted to play board games. I loved board games. Well eventually I set my eye on the king of board games: Chess. I didn't know how to play chess, but my dad did. Do I asked him to teach me how to play chess, and he agreed. So I learned that about the knight and the rook and the bishop, and the king, and the queen, and the pawns. And what a checkmate was.
So at that point, I thought: Man, I've got this thing down. Time to pay the piper dad!!! So I ask him to play me a real game.
So my dad and the gentle parent that he is, agrees and he plays at my level. So I'm doing ok. Eventually he lets me widdle him down to just his king. And I have, I don't know, a rook and a bishop or something. And for the life of me, I could not figure out how to make a stupid check mate. I could do a check, but then he'd move and I'd have to start all over!!! - It like every time you get him in your crosshairs, you have to warn him "check" and then he moves and you're back at the beginning.
I actually bought chess books to learn how to play chess and figure out how to checkmate my dad. But it never worked! I could not figure out how to do a stupid check-mate.
There's a big difference between "knowing how to play chess" and actually knowing how to play chess.
And I think in the same way, there's lots of Christian who "understand the Christian faith" but don't REALLY understand the Christian faith.
And Christians, by definition, are messengers. We're people who have a message.
And so it's very, very important for us to get that message right.
So that's what we're talking about today: Getting the Gospel right.
Athiest Bus Campaign
First off, let me remind you one thing we talked about last week and that's this: The Gospel is Good News. I don't know how many of you saw the "Atheist Bus Campaign" - It was put on by famous atheist Richard Dawkins and some other people.
Here's one example of a bus in London. (Pic)
There's Probably No God. Now Stop Worrying. And Enjoy your life.
Here's what I want to focus on. For these people, the supposition is this: The existence of God is something to WORRY about. And the antidote to this anxiety is atheism. For them atheism is actually a more enjoyable life than there being a God. And believe it or not, Christians share some of the blame for that perception. So we need to learn to do a better job at communicating the GOOD News of Jesus.
Imagine - downtown -- "What - good news?"
So imagine you've gone downtown to see a concert lets say. And while waiting in line, you strike up a conversation with a 25 year old male, covered in tattoos and piercings. Now let's say you decide to do last weeks homework and casually mention Jesus in an everyday conversation. And he immediately stops you and says "Are you a Christian?" And you say "Yes I am" and then he says "I've always found Christianity confusing. What is this good news that you guys talk about?"
This is a not a new question. Christian has tried over the years to answer this question concisely and it's not that easy to do.
Here's a few examples. All have 4 points, and all have strengths and all have weaknesses.
For me, the best, most concise explanation that I have ever heard of what the core of the gospel is is from the book Reunion by Bruxy Cavey in Canada, it's one of the books I recommended to you last week.
1 word / 3 words / 30 words
And what he does, just to be clear this is 100% Bruxy Cavey and 0% David, he shows us the gospel in 1 word, in 3 words, and in 30 words.
The Gospel is the news, not of an event, but of a person.
The Bible is all about Jesus. Even the Old Testament serves as a shadow of Jesus, and a finger pointing to Jesus. The NT begins with 4 "Gospels" which is to say biographies of Jesus.
The Gospel of Mark which is likely the first written of the 4 gospels starts like this:
The beginning of the good news about Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God, (Mark 1:1)
So Mark just comes right out and says it, that this gospel that he's referring to is the story of Jesus.
Later in Mark 14 - Jesus is at the home of Simon the Leper and a woman comes and pours perfume on Jesus's head. The religious people of course took issue with this and Jesus defended her saying :
Truly I tell you, wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.” (Mark 14:9)
That's amazing. Jesus said that the gospel includes this woman's story. So if we just think the gospel is "We're sinners, God's mad, but if you ask Jesus to help, God will chill out." - That doesn't include this story. And Jesus says the gospel includes this story. But if the gospel is the story of Jesus, well than this woman is absolutely part of it. B/C she's a part of his story.
It's not Jesus PLUS this religion. Or Jesus PLUS this philosophy. Or Jesus PLUS with political affiliation. Or Jesus PLUS this nationality. No, it's Jesus ALONE.
So to answer our original question: What is this good news that you Christians keep talking about? If you were to reply like this: "Jesus." - You would be absolutely right.
"Jesus is Lord"
The Christian faith has MANY different creeds. We of course recite our Believers Center Creed every time we're together. But we also have :
But the earliest ancient Christian creed is something you can memorize right here and right now. 3 words: "Jesus is Lord."
If you want to sum up the the gospel according to apostles - Peter, James, Paul, - Can find it in the book of acts.
It would be this: "Jesus is Lord." Not GOING TO BE. "IS".
For most of us, that phrase has been so overused that it has become a cliche, but in the early church, this was something that was life changing.
If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. (Romans 10:9)
Don't you find it interesting that he didn't encourage us to say 'Jesus is Savior' - which is of course true. No, it's not just about trusting him to save you, it's about recognizing him as your Lord.
"Emperor." Cesar WAS Lord.
"Jesus is Lord" is to say "Jesus is Lord and nothing else is."
More controversial : Whatever it is that's in the world's system that you hold dear, well the Apostles is saying this "Jesus is Lord and that is not." "Ok. How is that good news?"
Jesus is the final and ultimate picture of what God is like.
Jesus is the exact imprint of who God is.
No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known. (John 1:18)
A lot going on there.
1. Before Jesus, no one had really seen God.
Sure there's times in the OT where people see God with their eyes, but not until Jesus are we able to see what God is LIKE.
2. Jesus has made God known.
The word here is Exegeo which means to explain. So Jesus is God's ultimate explanation of himself.
The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. (Colossians 1:15)
"If you've seen me, you've seen the father." (John 14:9)
"Well maybe it was just one side of him."
For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form. (Colossians 2:9)
The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, (Hebrews 1:3)
So to answer our original question: What is this good news that you Christians keep talking about? : "God is like Jesus"
Jesus is God with Us, come to:
Show Us God's Love
Save Us From Sin
Set Up God's Kingdom and
Shut Down Religion,
So we can share in God's life.
Now you might be thinking: "I hope you're not suggesting I memorize that." No I'm not. I want you to get the heart of it, and then you'll be able to use your own words. And actually, any of these 4 is a correct explanation of what the gospel is.
But I'm going to do 30 seconds on each point here.
First off, notice, that all the definitions: 1 word, 3 words, 30 words - all start with Jesus. That's not an accident.
Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. (1 John 4:8)
There's lots of characteristics of God. His love and his righteousness and his mercy, and his power, and even his wrath. But there is only one essence of God. And that's love.
This is God speaking to Israel, and by extension, you.
“Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you! (Isaiah 49:15)
Sin is a concept that tends to be abused and misunderstood. Sin in it's original greek is an archery term, it means to miss the mark. Which is something that we all do. Every single one of us, no matter how long we've been following God misses the mark all the time.
It's the human dilemma. We are fractured species. We have moments of great beauty and strength, and we have moments of great weakness and failure. So what does this sin thing do?
Surely the arm of the Lord is not too short to save, nor his ear too dull to hear. (Isaiah 59:1)
But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you. (Isaiah 59:2)
So listen, it's just a fact that sin separates us from God. That's true. But I need you to understand how that works.
We run from God, God doesn't run from us.
You can see this is the story of the OT. Time and time again, we turn from God and God pursues us. Think about the first sin in the garden. We eat the apple, become self-conscious and hide. And God pursues us. Cain kills his brother Abel. And God pursues him. Israel turns it's back on God, and God still pursues us and gives us laws to keep us from killing ourselves and each other. But we say no, we want the golden calf, so God comes and gives us prophets and teachers, and we say no and we keep running and running and running. Until finally he comes in the form of Jesus pursuing us, and we kill him. And then Jesus rises from the dead, and certainly at that point he's gonna be mad! But no, even then he comes and he pursues us. And so the cross is God saying I love you too much to let sin be the final word in your story.
We don't talk about "Kingdoms" much anymore, today we talk about nations. So what is the Kingdom of God?
Heaven? Many Christians will tell you that the Kingdom of God, or the Kingdom of Heaven (same thing) is referring only to heaven. But the kingdom of God is not just about getting to heaven, it's also about bringing heaven to earth.
“The gospel is less about how to get into the Kingdom of Heaven after you die, and more about how to live in the Kingdom of Heaven before you die.” (Dallas Willard) Dallas Willard
Well first off "King" - so it centers around a person. And "dom" - domain.
The Kingdom of God is the society that centers around the will of God.
It's where we participate in what God is doing in the world. It's the purpose of life for the Christian. Main job as followers of Christ. - We see what's coming, and we live that way now.
‘Religion is a loser, a strictly fallen activity. It has a failed past and a bankrupt future. There was no religion in Eden and there won’t be any in heaven; and in the meantime Jesus has died and risen to persuade us to knock it all off right now." (Robert Farrar Capon)
He's a priest who died a few years back
The people that Jesus consistently opposed were the religious people.
Semantics People use words to mean different things. SOME people use religion as a way of describing their relationship with God. That's not what we're talking about here. Here when we're talking about 'religion', we're talking about is a system through which we get to God. Nearly all the religions of the world have that same goal: To get to God.
But in Christianity, there's not a system between us and God, there's a person. And that's Jesus.
Garden Think about the beginning of the Bible - Adam and Eve in the garden. The was no religion. There were no special PLACES they had to go to meet with God. There were no special RITUALS they had to perform.
End of Bible And then if you skip to the very end of the Bible. The final chapters of Revelation, there's just relationship like there was in the garden.
It's this beautiful bible word and the word is "Faith" Faith is something that gets misunderstood, often. Often times we think that faith is just having some mental concept of God that has zero doubt in it. That's not what faith is.
Faith is believing enough to follow.
Driving -- Lost Let's say you're driving somewhere and you just get horribly lost, so lost that you just pull over on the side of the road and sit there. You have no idea where to go. And now let's imagine that a car comes by and stops and asks you if everything is alright. You tell him you're lost and he says "Where are you going?" And you tell him and he says "Oh wow. That's exactly where I'm going, it's just right down this hill. Follow me." - Now let's say you have faith that this man is telling the truth. What do you do? You follow him. In this situation, having faith in this man IS to follow him.
Having faith IS to follow.
This is actually built into the word Faith.
Greek : "Pistis" The greek word for faith is this word "Pistis" - Great word. Not a great name for your kids, but a great word.
Here's what's amazing: Pistis in the NT is sometimes translated "Faith" and other times it's translated "Faithfulness". Being faithful. It's not about having zero doubt in your head, it's about believing enough to follow. And that's the response to the gospel. To believe Jesus enough to follow him.
The Gospel in one Word: Jesus
The Gospel in 3 Words: Jesus is Lord
The Gospel in 30 Words:
Jesus is God with Us, come to:
We respond to the gospel with faith. Faith is not some mental trick where we eliminate all doubt, Faith is believing enough to follow him.
As we close service today, we're going to receive our offering.
We have lots of different ways to give, and we just want to say that the money you give here goes to do a lot of great things in our city. We're constantly working on getting better at communicating the gospel to our city, and that's in both word and deed.
Individually we can all make a small difference, but together we can make a huge difference in the world.
As you prepare you gift, two quick announcements:
Ok so we're gonna pray over our offering, will you stand real quick.