What do you think is the most important thing about Christianity? … How would you answer that question?
This would be one way I think we could answer it. The very center of Christianity is an announcement of some historical facts about a man named Jesus Christ. What do you think about that answer? Do you believe that? The truth that holds the Bible all together is some historical facts?
Let’s look at 1 Corinthians 15:3. “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures.”
What does Paul say is “of first importance?” The message that he delivered and that message is “that Christ died for our sins.”
Substitution Is The Heart of Christianity
Have you ever heard or thought about the fact that substitution is the heart and center of the Christian faith. Think about it this way.
What is sin?
It the fact that we have substituted ourselves for God.
What is salvation?
It is the fact that Jesus Christ has substituted himself for us.
What is sin?
It is when we take what God alone deserves.
What is salvation?
It is when Jesus Christ has put himself in our place and he took what we deserve.
The Gospel Is of First Importance
Another way we could say it is that the gospel is of first importance. Paul even uses that word to describe the fact that Christ died for our sins.
Look at verses 1 and 2:
“Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the GOSPEL I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this GOSPEL you are saved.”
But someone tell me what does the word gospel mean? … (Good news)
Isn’t that something? Have you ever thought about the fact that the Bible itself says the most important truth is news? It’s not the 10 commandment. It’s not the golden rule. It’s not to love God and love your neighbor. Oh, they are important, they are the greatest commandments, but they are not of first importance because they are not “gospel.” They are not good news.
The 10 Commandments Are Not Good News?
Whoa!!! Are you saying some of the teachings of Jesus are not good news? Yes! I am saying that. Do they sound like good news to you? When you hear it do you immediately feel liberated? Do you feel your burdens are off?
That is what happens when you hear good news. That is what a gospel is.
The word “gospel” is not a word you and I hear every day, but when the bible was written it was much more common in the secular society. It was a word commonly used to describe the bringing of news for a decisive battle that happened.
Imagine That This Was You…
When the Greeks would fight a great battle and everyone was back in the city-states waiting nervously to find out what was the outcome of the battle, the Greeks would always send a messenger on foot.
What happened whenever they would fight a battle all the people were scared to death that the invading army would come in. So they were all anxiously waiting to hear what happened to the army that was sent out to protect their country. Would they be conquered? Would they become slaves?
And what would happen is that when the Greek army would win the great decisive battle they would send a messenger who would run down on foot down to the people and would say We won! The army triumphed!
That is euangelion. That is “GOSPEL.” That is the kind of news they are talking about when they use this word. News that there has been a victory that has saved you from slavery.
Do you seen why this word is a perfect word picture of the Christian faith? The messenger came with a message that there has been a great victory and it has been fought on your behalf and it is saving you from destruction. It is saving you from slavery.
This is the foundation. You must understand that Christianity is primarily a message of life-changing, world-changing NEWS. Only secondarily does it become a way of life and living.
I wonder how many of you came in here tonight and thought that Christianity was just like every other religion with a code of morality to acribe to a set of rules and list of commands. Obey these things and you will be blessed and maybe go to heaven.
Oh, if that is what you think this religion is you have missed it entirely. The first thing you need to reckon with about the Bible is that its central message is NEWS! Not commands, not advice, not rules, but NEWS!
But There Are Commands In The Bible
Yes! There are rules and commands. It is a way of living.
For example, when you look to the cross and think about the fact that Christ died for sins. Should you be seeing a savior who died for you or should you see an example of someone who laid down his life for others? An example to follow?
The biblical answer should be…BOTH!
We already saw in 1 Corinthians 15:3 that Christ died “for our sins.” He took our place as our substitute. But look at 1 Peter 2:21. It says, “For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps.”
So the answer is both, but you must not confuse the order.
Before Jesus becomes your example, he must first become your substitute.
Consider the way several of the books of in the New Testament were written: Romans, Colossians, Ephesians.
Romans 1-11 = The Gospel
Romans 12-16 = The Application of the Gospel in the life of the Christian
Notice in particular the transition in Romans 12:1.
Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God this is your spiritual act of worship. (Romans 12:1)
Do you see in this verse the way Paul has connected 11 chapters of theology to EVERY detail of your life? He says our entire lives are an act of worship. Worship is not just when pray or read the bible or go to church etc…
I want to be honest with you all. I have growing concerns that so many people on this campus and maybe even some of you in this room have created a world where what you believe about God and the bible has really very little to do with how I live on a daily basis.
It is as if religion has become another book in the library, another subject to be studied, another class that we got to take, but it has really no impact on my moment by moment decisions, thoughts or life.
It’s Like A Summer Thunderstorm
Have you ever seen a thunderstorm in the summer time? The ones where the lighting stayed in the clouds and never touched the ground? I fear that this is how many GW students think about God, faith, and religion. I fear some of you love to talk about, study, sing songs about Jesus, but it has no impact on your daily.
It has no impact on the kind of clothes that you buy or wear. Your attitude toward your school work – whether you make it an idol or you could care less. The kind movies and TV you watch or how much of it you watch. Your eating or drinking. The internet sites you visit. How you spend your time here at school and when your home for breaks. “One of the great uses of Twitter and Facebook will be to prove on the day of judgment that prayerlessness was not from lack of time.” (John Piper) How you spend your money, even if you do not have much at all.
Don’t you see that all of these actions are reflections of where your heart is, what you value and treasure? Finish this phrase: “Out of the overflow of the heart”… (The mouth speaks)
What Is the Relationship Between the Gospel And Our Everyday Lives?
Here is my answer and I will use the rest of our time to unpack this:
Obedience to God’s commands comes through believing God has already obeyed these commands for you in Jesus Christ.
Let me show you a few examples of this teaching in the book of Romans.
“Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.” (Rom. 6:12-14)
Why does sin no longer have dominion? How is that we will be able to present the members of bodies for righteousness? GRACE
“Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ.” (Rom. 16:25)
Where is our strength found?
For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Sonin the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. (Rom. 8:3-4)
What is God’s law? Simply put they are his commands. The rules in the bible.
What is wrong with the law? … It’s weakened by the sinful nature.
So what can’t the law do? … Produce obedience
In other words, the law never gives any power to do what it commands.It shows us what a sanctified life looks like but it has no sanctifying power. So many people think the only way to keep really sinful people in line is by giving them more law. But how does that fit in with what we just read in Romans 8:3-4.
Hey Go Fly!!!
Giving sinful people more law is like me telling one of you right now to go fly back to your dorm. No matter how nice or how mean. How loud or quiet I say it. The reality is that by nature you cannot fly. The law of gravity will always be stronger than my command to fly.
In the same way, the law of our sinful nature is greater than the commands of the bible. Apart from Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit we can do…NOTHING!
This is exactly what John Newton, the author of the hymn “Amazing Grace,” was getting at when he wrote this:
Do this and live, the law demands,
But gives me neither feet nor hands.
A better word the gospel brings,
It bids me fly and gives me wings.
The only way really sinful people start to obey is when they get a taste of God’s radical acceptance of sinners.
The Law = Railroad Tracks
Its like the law of God is a set of railroad tracks. The tracks provide no power for the train but the train must stay on the tracks in order to function. The law never gives any power to do what it commands. Only the gospel has power, as it were, to move the train.
So I hope you now see why Romans 12:1 says what it does? “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God this is your spiritual act of worship.”
There is a profound connection between the truth of the gospel and the offering of our bodies as living sacrifice.
Let’s go back to that picture I painted about those in the cities and town who just heard the news that the army out at battle had won. They were not going to be killed or be sold into slavery. They were free!!!
If you really believe this messenger, then you will not continue to live as if your life is in danger. You will not keep trying to save yourself.
Lay It Down!
So I say to you, lay down your self-salvation efforts. Lay down your worries and fear and anxieties. It is finished! The battle has been won and victory is yours.
Anyone that really understands the situation is not going to be casual or indifferent to this news. Whatever the gospel is we know that the very nature of the message is that it is such good news that you are absolutely thrilled. You feel liberated. Your burdens fall off.
Has this happened to you? Has the gospel changed absolutely everything in your life?
Have you received this message? What gospel have you taken your stand on? Everyone is standing on something? Is the message you are standing on good news?