The Glorious Gospel

If a friend asked you to explain what it means to be a Christian, what would you say? Over the years, I have asked dozens of people that very question, and the answer I get usually runs something like this: “Well, I would say that a Christian is someone who believes in God and keeps the Ten Commandments (or ‘tries to live a good life’), tries to help other people, and goes to church (or ‘reads the Bible’ or ‘prays’).” Matthew Arnold, the agnostic English poet, defined religion as “morality tinged with emotion.” For many, many people, Christianity is little more than that . . . plus “church.”

Dorothy Sayers, another English writer, once observed that if Christian faith is nothing more than telling us to do better and go to church, then the “gospel”—which means “good news"—isn’t good news at all. It’s boring. Or maybe even depressing. We’ve all tried to “do better,” and we’ve all failed.

But the real gospel is something very, very different. It begins with God. Not the generic cosmic superpower of comparative religion, but the one true and living God, the God of holiness and love, the God who made us in His image and made us for fellowship with Himself. The God who loves and cares for us, even though—in the words of the Prophet Isaiah—“all we like sheep have gone astray [and] turned every one to his own way” (Is. 53:6).

And here’s where it really gets interesting. For God’s holiness demands justice, and all of us “have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23). But God’s love longs to restore, as a loving father longs for a wayward son. What is God to do? He must punish sin because He is just; but He can’t let us go because He is love. So God does the unthinkable, the unimaginable, the unbelievable. He takes on human flesh to take our place in judgment. In holiness, He pours out His wrath against all and every sin (Rom. 1:18); and in love, he bears that wrath as the only perfect sacrifice for sinners. In the words of Anselm, almost 1000 years ago, God came in Christ to do what only man should do, and to do what only God could do!

This is the glorious life-transforming gospel we have to proclaim at Christ Church—that “in Christ, God was reconciling the world to himself” (2 Cor. 5:19). That the unalterable holiness of God and the unfathomable love of God have met in the wonderful cross of Jesus Christ. And that nothing remains for us but to accept by faith God’s gracious gift of love and all that comes with it of forgiveness, and reconciliation, and life, and hope, now and forever.

The gospel is not boring. It is the greatest drama in the history of the universe—and in Christ God invites us to become part of His family (1 John 3:1) and share in all that He is doing in the world. And at Christ Church, we urge you on behalf of Christ (2 Cor. 5:20) to hear “the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation” (Eph. 1:13).