The Gospel of Jesus Christ has been defined and redefined by theologians over the years. Some focus on the death of Christ on the cross as the atonement. Some focus on the death and resurrection of Christ. Still others will add the 2nd coming to that list. These definitions, while certainly true, are still incomplete definitions. The Gospel is the total coming and ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is the incarnation, the righteous life, the atoning death, the death conquering resurrection, the heavenly ascension, and the 2nd coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. The first statement of faith the church produced, the Apostles Creed, reads this way,
I believe in God, the Father Almighty, the Maker of heaven and earth,
and in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord:
Who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried;
He descended into hell. The third day He arose again from the dead;
He ascended into heaven, and sitteth on the right hand of God the Father Almighty; from thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Ghost; the holy catholic church; the communion of saints; the forgiveness of sins; the resurrection of the body; and the life everlasting.
The Gospel of Jesus is the only and greatest hope of men. Without the Gospel we have absolutely no standing before God the Father. Because of th Gospel we need not fear the Justice of God, nor do we need to fear the fast approaching day when we ourselves will fall asleep in the Lord. Yet, these two truths are not all the Gospel has to teach us. Many people teach the Gospel in such a way that all it is seems to be is a pain free (on our part not Jesus’ obviously) way of having our legal problems with God removed, thus producing a warm feeling inside about the future day of our death. But that is an incomplete teaching of the Gospel as well. Not only do we often neglect the whole Gospel, but sometimes, even when we do get it in it’s totality, we do not teach one of THE principle things it was meant to teach us. It was meant not just to clear us of our crimes and remove the fear of death, but also to teach us an entire new way to live.
For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus, who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds.
Jesus is not just saving us from our sin, the sting of the law, fear, shame, and death, but he is also providing for us a new pattern of life, one that is not according to the same pattern that the world teaches. Jesus wanted us to have an abundant life. When Jesus said in John 14:6,
“I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.”
He didn’t mean that in only an academic sense. In other words, it’s not something we are to just think, but something we are to experience. Jesus didn’t just want us to know God in an informational way but in a real experiential way. By the way, this is the will of both the Father and the Son. In fact, one could argue that the entire Gospel was planned to bring about the ability for God and man to live in the same space and place again. What does the angel say at the introduction of Jesus’ birth?
“Peace on earth and good will to man”
“If you love Me, you will keep My commandments. “I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you. “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. “After a little while the world will no longer see Me, but you will see Me; because I live, you will live also. “In that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you. “He who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me; and he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and will disclose Myself to him.” Judas (not Iscariot) *said to Him, “Lord, what then has happened that You are going to disclose Yourself to us and not to the world?” Jesus answered and said to him, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him.
The Gospel has come to deliver us from our sins, assure us of the Father’s extravagant love, remove from us the fear of death, and teach us a completely new way to live. What shouldn’t be missed here is that the experience of God comes through our imitation by faith of the Son (the Gospel).
If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him.
Often I counsel with people who are living in willful disobedience, and correspondently, they are not experiencing an abundant life full of the presence and experience of God. Blinded by their sin, they often are unable to connect the dots. My place as a shepherd is merely to point them back to the Great Shepherd of the sheep, Jesus Christ, and bring them back to a wholistic understanding of the Gospel and how it applies to their day to day existence in this World.
So if the imitation of Jesus is so important for our experience of God, what then does the incarnation of God the Son teach us about how we should live? How should the incarnation of Jesus shape our discipleship? That will be the topic of my next article in this series on Gospel-Shaped Discipleship. Grace and peace to all