You might have heard of The Gospel before. “Oh yeah, the four gospels. Aren’t they in the Bible somewhere?” But the Gospel is so much more than a section in a book…
It’s the Good News, not the Good Advice.
The Gospel is simply “The Good News”. When we read or watch news – we understand that it’s news about someone else, and what happened to them or what they did. Sure, if we have a new Prime Minister, for instance – it effects us and we may want to change a few things, but we don’t have to do anything for the news to effect us. It already did. It’s effects are already in motion.
Contrary to popular belief, the Gospel is not the good advice, the good commandments, or the good to do list. The Gospel is the good news of what God has done for us. If it were advice, or about what we had to do, or behave or achieve – it wouldn’t be news about what God did, it would be a good recipe book;
A cup of church, two prayers, a bible reading, a tablespoon of ‘lift your hands in worship’, 1/10 of a cup of tithe, some evangelism, a slice of service to God and don’t forget your journal – praise it together and bake in a passionately hot oven. Serve with other Christians. Be positive too. Don’t forget to believe for the impossible. And the five P’s of faith. The three T’s of generosity. The Seven W’s of influence.
It ends up being exhausting and deflating… Sending groans through our being as we look at all the things we have to do in our already busy lives. This isn’t the life that was promised in the brochure, and it ends up being more like karma, than Christianity.
The man who broke ‘Karma’
You see, we understand karma because it makes sense. “If I do good things, I’ll be repaid with good things”. We assume, of course that the good we do will outweigh the bad and it’s consequences – so that makes us good right? Surely my charitable gifts and being a good friend and son or daughter outweigh my bad temper or my selfishness? Surely, the argument goes, I’ll be repaid for my good but my bad will just be forgotten about?
God says and shows us through Jesus, that sin is not simply an action. It’s not just the failure to do the right thing – or to do good when faced with needs or the evil of humanity. It’s a state of being – it’s in our thoughts, our hearts and penetrates us through and through. We squirm because God places the bar of “what is good” higher than Mother Theresa, higher than Ghandi. He places it at perfection. It’s a to do list impossible to fill, a karma bridge too far. A recipe not even the finest chef would be able to follow. It’s not polite nor popular to talk about how we are not as good as we think we are; it’s rather awkward in fact – but we can’t deny that this is what the Christian God says.
But this is why we need good news; and we have some very good news indeed!
When Jesus lived on this earth – he lived the perfect life. A life devoid of sin. A life filled with love (even to his enemies), compassion, humility, kindness, forgiveness, patience, joy, generosity and miracles. The ONE man who deserved favour with God, the one man who earned every reward and deserved every good thing to happen to him. Jesus, the only one who truly deserved to end up in heaven – broke Karma. What he actually got was separation from God, betrayal, hatred, jealousy, lashes, whipping, loneliness, pain, suffering and death. He got the cross. He received humanity’s karma – what we deserved for failing to do good when we could have, for doing evil when we should have done good – for our sin. But what did we get in this karma exchange?
EVERYTHING.We get everything Jesus earned.
We get his perfect performance record. We get his CV, as it were. The flawless resume that leaves employers clamouring to be chosen. A clean sheet. A new start. But ultimately, most beautifully; we get to be family with God – we get all the benefits of being God’s son. God’s daughter.
Brewing Gospel ale
Dave Harvey says, “The Gospel is the heart of the Bible. Everything in Scripture is either preparation for the Gospel, presentation of the Gospel, or participation in the Gospel.” Many Christians act as if that this good news is merely the entry into the faith – and are ready to load you up with another to do list once you get in. But the Gospel is the lens for how we view all of scripture. It makes sense of the troubling bits in the Old Testament… it helps us live without having to be overwhelmed by impossible moral or spiritual to do lists.
The Gospel is about heart transformation, not about behaviour modification. To-do lists modify behaviour, while the good news begins to modify our hearts. God’s ultimate gift for us, his ultimate sacrifice – is what motivates us into life, and impacts how we behave. The Gospel melts our hearts, and moves our hands. It’s the beautiful melody that captures our imagination, delights our heart, and we can’t help our feet start tapping to its rhythm… So if we see that our behaviour needs changing, we don’t just simply just try harder to change – we realise how sad the world has become without that amazing song; how did it go again? We need to get the Gospel down deep into our hearts and minds so that we can’t help but start moving to a different beat. This gives us both greater faculties to assist change than guilt and to-do lists ever could – but the strength and the desire to do so.
The Gospel needs time to brew. It needs to ferment, permeate and change. It needs to be mulled over, talked about, talked through and celebrated. And sometimes by dancing long into the night. Good beer takes time to create, and refine. And it gets better with age – but when it’s done, it’s a beautiful thing that makes parties come alive, celebrations complete and lazy Sunday afternoons all that much better.
Come join with us in brewing, drinking, and dancing to this wonderful news.
The Gospel of Jesus Christ.