The gospel is the good news of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The fact that Jesus Christ is alive from the dead is wonderful for several reasons.
First, it proves all that Jesus said and did were real. He claimed to be God in human flesh and he did mighty miracles, like healing people with incurable diseases, emptying the demons out of people, and altering nature. But ultimately his resurrection that proves Jesus Christ was true.
Second, the resurrection proves that God accepted Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. Jesus wasn’t just at the wrong place at the wrong time and got crucified. He intentionally gave his life in the place of sinners. Jesus took God’s wrath, which sinners deserve, and offers his righteousness to those who repent and believe. The reason you can know that this is a divine deal is that God brought Jesus back to life.
The resurrection also proves that there is more to life than just what happens between our birthday and the day of our death. You too will one day be raised from the dead when Jesus comes back. You will be raised to either to eternal life or eternal destruction.
Finally, Jesus’ resurrection is a sign of victory. If sin leads to death and Jesus defeated death, that means he also conquered sin. That is great news for sinners like you and me. There is hope for victory in your life too.
Sin is hard to conquer. Psychologists have actually created scientific names and labels for certain sins. Now you aren’t someone who doesn’t trust God and worries, you have an anxiety disorder. You aren’t simply enslaved to lust; you are now a sex addict. Instead of being an angry man or woman, you need to be medicated for life.
Don’t get me wrong, I believe sin is addictive, and it has unbelievable side effects and consequences. I don’t blame people for trying to overcome their issues however they can. What the Bible teaches, however, is that Jesus has conquered sin and death and he can give you the power to defeat the sins tangling up your life.
The gospel really is good news—the greatest news of all. I think, however, far too many people get a very wrong message when they hear it. Even though your Christian friend is saying one thing as they share the gospel, you are hearing a different thing. Let me explain.
People are often put into two categories—good and bad. The Bible, however, adds a third category to these common groups.
The word “religion” can be used in a good way in the Bible, like in James 1:26-27 which says: “If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless. Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.”
The vast majority of the time in the Scriptures, however, the word “religion” has negative connotations. It refers to people trying to do religious acts and deeds in order to earn God’s favor. So instead of separating people into good and bad categories, let’s call them irreligious and religious.
Irreligious people could be people that want nothing to do with God. They are just living for the moment—for their own pleasure and pride. Money, sex, and power are major gods of our irreligious friends and family members.
Religious people include sincere followers of other religions like Islam or Buddhism, but the majority of religious people I run into at least occasionally attend Christian churches.
Religious people pray, sometimes read their Bibles, and even give money to the church or other charities. Religious people try to be good, and certainly want to be thought of as good by others around them.
When people hear about Jesus and the resurrection, and the correct response to that news, repentance and faith, what do you think they hear? Sadly, I’ve come to think many people hear: “Be more Religious!” Perhaps you have even thought I have called you to become more religious in this column.
That is sad to me because that is not what I want you to do at all.
The third category of people the Bible describes is hopeless and helpless sinners who are trusting in Jesus. Bible’s call is not to more religious devotion, but to recognize your religion is futile.
Did it ring true to you when I talked about how hard it is to overcome your sins? Turning over a new religious leaf will reveal to you how you can never be good enough to please God. Remember stories of Jesus where the religious leaders of Israel did lots of praying, “church attending,” fasting, and giving of their money. They thought they had pleasing God down to a science.
Instead of commending them, Jesus blasted their religion. He said you’ve got to know you are sick before you even want to go to the doctor. Religion is so dangerous because doing Christiany things can temporarily make you feel like you are healthy. Unfortunately, you are not well.
We are terrible sinners. We sin from earliest childhood. We are enslaved to our sin. We are guilty of big and little sins—and lots of them. God will judge us for our sins.
Here’s where the good news really becomes good. Jesus died for sinners and he really did rise from the dead. I’m not calling you to become more religious at this point. I’m calling you to repent of your sins AND repent of your religion! You need to see your complete spiritual poverty before God and cry out to him for mercy.
Because of Jesus, God will give overflowing mercy to all who call on him like that. How about you? Look at your life. Are you irreligious, religious, or a helpless sinner in need of mercy? If you see yourself in need of a spiritual doctor with a terminal disease of sin, by all means believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved!
By John Crotts