WHAT IS THE GOSPEL?
                                    By: Jerry S. Maneker

The Gospel means "good news."  What is this good news?  The Apostle Paul is so intent on disciples and all people
having a right understanding of the Gospel that he says, "But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other
gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed." (Galatians 1:8)  He feels so strongly
about this matter that he repeats himself in the very next verse, "As we said before, so say I now again, If any man
preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed." (Galatians 1:9)  

The term "accursed" means to be "damned by God."  In other words, “God damn them!”  That's how strongly Paul felt
about people having a correct understanding of the Gospel.   
  
The Gospel is nothing more or less than God's grace, or unmerited favor, toward people, all of whom are unworthy of
salvation.  "But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." (Romans 5:8)

We were sinners when He saved us and, although we struggle against sin so as to please God, we are currently sinners
and we'll always be sinners.  Yet He promises to save and keep us until we see Him face to face in heaven.  That's good
news.

The way we appropriate God's grace into our lives, now and forever, is by trusting Him to save and keep us.  "...we have
access by faith into this grace wherein we stand...." (Romans 5:2)  All we have to do is have faith in the Lord Jesus in
order to appropriate God's grace.  And as a result of that abiding faith, we seek to do good, fight for social justice, and
seek to remove yokes of oppression from others.
 
Jesus saves us unconditionally, without our having to do anything except call on His name through our act of trusting in
Him now and in all of life's circumstances.  This is good news!

Unfortunately, many professing Christians feel that there is more to it than that.  They feel that you have to do such
things as abstain from alcohol, not smoke, or behave in any number of ways deemed appropriate by them and/or by the
culture-bound and time-bound expectations of what is conventionally viewed as constituting a “moral” life in order to be
a Christian.  

However, you can be a coke snorting alcoholic and be a Christian!  God is alive and I therefore trust Him to deal with
you as he deals with me and all His children so that we are able to fulfill the ministry or ministries He has ordained for us
from the foundation of the world.

How many people have been turned away from church, or even turned off from Christianity, because many professing
Christians didn't have a right understanding of the Gospel?  As I’ve mentioned before, in one church we attended the
pastor's wife called my daughter "a tool of Satan" because she listened to rock music.  My daughter was sixteen years
old at the time.  Can you imagine the animus and perverseness behind such a statement and its effect on anyone, let
alone a sixteen year old child?

You can listen to any music you want and be a Christian; you can drink alcohol and be a Christian; you can smoke and
be a Christian; you can do anything, except blaspheme the Holy Ghost, and be a Christian.  If what you are doing is
displeasing to God, He will work on you and change you in His time; it's nobody's business to attempt to change you or
to reject you.  Moreover, as an acquaintance once reminded me, "God is married to a backslider."

We're all flawed.  We all have sin in us.  We are to recognize that our relationship with God is a done deal and that, by
committing our lives to Christ, our salvation is not at issue or at stake!  That's why the Gospel means "good news."  
Otherwise, why not be Pharisees?

If we have to obey the dictates of self-appointed Pharisees, or man-made traditions that frequently conform to the
ideologies and prejudices of those who originated and promulgate them, and thereby make void the Word of God
(Matthew 15:3) to be Christians, what good news is that?  The necessity to behave in ways deemed "appropriate" by
some Christians frequently leads to sanctimonious attitudes and behaviors that can really turn off both Christians and
non-Christians alike; give an erroneous impression of the Christian life.  Moreover, such a mind-set nullifies the reason
for Jesus' sacrifice for our sins in the first place!

Jesus' sacrifice has once and for all freed us from the consequences of our past, present, and future sins!  We are
certainly not to use this freedom as a license to willfully disobey God or in any way hurt the cause of the Gospel.  Yet,
just as we trust God to save and keep us, we trust God to help us live according to His precepts as He wills them for us,
recognizing that He's not through with any of us yet. And, we are to cut the same slack for other people as well.

We're all sinners, though we manifest sins in different ways.  We're all struggling, each in our own way, with sin.  
However, if we weren't Christians, we wouldn't be likely to "struggle" with sin, or even recognize certain behaviors,
thoughts, words, and feelings as sins. That's why we're to love one another.  We're all in this together!  

However, even given our sin nature and the sins we commit on a daily basis, Jesus, through His finished work on the
Cross two-thousand years ago, has unconditionally saved us, sticking closer to us than a brother (Proverbs 18:24) to do
a mighty work in our lives and in this world; prodding us to be agents of His grace, love, reconciliation, peace, and
inclusiveness. That's the good news!  

That's the Gospel!   
   


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