The Good News!
“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith …it is the gift of God”
Getting Into Heaven
Mr. Jones goes to his Sunday School class and asks the children this question:
“If I sold my house and my car, had a big garage sale and gave all my money to the church, would that get me into Heaven?”
All the children yell out in unison, “NO!”
So he asks them a second question.
“If I cleaned the church every day, mowed the yard, and kept everything neat and tidy, would that get me into Heaven?”
Again, then children yell out, “NO!”
So he challenges them with a third question.
“Well, then, if I was kind to animals and gave candy to all the children, and loved my wife, would that get me into Heaven?”
Again, they all yell out, “NO!”
“Well,” he continued, “then how can I get into Heaven?”
A five-year-old raises his hand and answers, “YOU GOTTA BE DEAD!”
Only from the mouth of kids! Right? Today we are beginning a series on The Gospel and the difference it makes in our life and in our church. Today, we will start by looking at the gift of the Gospel and we will read Ephesians 2:8-10. If you are able, please stand as we read God’s Word.
Read Passage – Ephesians 2:8-10
“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”
The World’s Misconception
How do you get to heaven? I could tell you accept Jesus and our going to heaven and most of you will probably agree with me and probably believe that. And that is the message of the Christian church. Even though that is our message, the world still has this misconception about going to heaven and what a right relationship with God looks like. Here are a few examples:
Muslims – 8 laws to follow, i.e. respect and obey your parent’s, don’t kill innocent people, do charity because it reduces your sin, etc.
Mormonism, everyone gets to go to Heaven, but it is divided into different neighborhoods. Only good Mormons who followed all the rules and paid all their tithes get to go to the Celestial Kingdom, the first class of Heaven. Good people from other religions and Jack Mormons go to the Terrestrial Kingdom, which is the middle class Heaven. Bad people like serial killers, smokers, atheists, and coffee drinkers go to the Telestial Kingdom, the slums of Heaven.
Jehovah Witness – teach that salvation is possible only through Christ’s ransom sacrifice and that individuals cannot be saved until they repent of their sins and call on the name of Jehovah. Salvation is described as a free gift from God, but is said to be unattainable without good works that are prompted by faith. The works prove faith is genuine. Preaching is said to be one of the works necessary for salvation. They believe that baptism as a member of Jehovah’s Witnesses is “a vital step toward gaining salvation”, and that people can be “saved” by identifying God’s organization and serving God as a part of it. They believe in different forms of resurrection for two groups of Christians. One group, the anointed, go to heaven while the other group, “the other sheep” or “the great crowd” will live forever on earth.
General thought: If you do enough good and your good outweighs your bad, you get in.
Christian – Believe in Jesus Christ and declare him Lord.
Thought: I know that to be true but I still add stuff to it, like: read your Bible daily, go to church, pray, treat people well.
Ex. Lately I have been visiting someone who is in a convalescent hospital and dying of cancer. I have to be careful that I don’t think I am better than anyone else or even doing it because it might somehow get me in better standing with God.
Good News Not Good Advice
See the misconception creeps into the church too even though we supposedly know better. The reason I bring this up is because we need to realize that we are to bring the Good News of Jesus Christ to the world. Getting good advice can be helpful in getting through life. We get financial advice, relationship advice, childrearing advice, work advice, even religious advice. But what is our real calling? We ate called to follow Jesus example which we see in Luke 8:1:
“Jesus traveled about from one town and village to another, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God.” Luke 8:1
Here’s the point; we are called to proclaim the Good News and the Good News is to tell others what Jesus did for us and that salvation is found in him.
The Gospel’s Good News
But what are the essential elements of Gospel’s Good News? In the Bible, the Good News is the declaration of what Jesus has done to save us. Timothy Keller in Center Church defines the gospel in 4 chapters. Let’s look at the 4 chapters of the Gospel.
- Where Did We Come From? Answer:__God____
Chapter 1 answers the question: Where did we come from? The answer: God. There is one God and he created us. We believe the Bible is God’s Word to us and in Genesis 1:27 it says:
“So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” Genesis 1:27
The world is not an accident. You and I are not accidents. God, one God in three persons the trinity God, God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, created all that we see. He always has been and always will be. We see this again in John 1:1-4:
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind.”
So, where did we come from. God. He created us to share in his love and service. God is triune, therefore love, friendship, and community are intrinsic to him. He created us to share in that love, friendship and community.
Ill. Lately I have had a more real sense that I am God’s creation and that I am his child. When I sense that and feel it deeply, I realize that I am loved, God’s child, and in community with him so I feel a greater sense of self-worth and sense of purpose.
2. Why Did Things Go Wrong? Answer:__Sin____
The second chapter answers the question: Where did things go wrong? The answer: Sin. We were all created with freewill and have choice. We can choose to accept God’s love and purpose for our lives or we can reject it. Part of that freewill is that we all at some point choose sin, something that separates us from God. We rebelled against his authority. Romans 3:23 says:
“…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God…” Romans 3:23
Instead of living for God and in love, we basically choose self-centeredness. We have broken that relationship with God and the result is spiritual, psychological, social, and physical decay and breakdown. We strive to live for ourselves and instead of making God our hope and object of our love, we have put other things in his place; things like money, career, family, fame, romance, sex, power, comfort, social or political causes, or anything else we put as the object of our love. This brokenness has a result, Rom. 6:24:
“For the wages of sin is death…” Romans 6:24
The ultimate result of sin is death. We are not just suffering because of sin, we are guilty because or sin. Notice it says wages. Because we have sinned against God we have a debt.
Ex. I hurt my wife and I try to make it up by apologizing and giving her a gift. It’s like I try to buy my way out of it.
But no gift or anything we can buy or do can repay the debt we owe for our sin.
3. What Will Put things Right? Answer:_Christ____
The third chapter is to answer the question: What will put things right? The answer: Christ. Jesus puts things right by leaving heaven and coming to earth, showing us God in flesh, and being crucified and dying for our sins, and then raising again to show us that death is not the end of the story but the beginning of eternal life. 1 John 2:2 says:
“He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.” 1 John 2:2
Notice the verb “atoning.” Jesus takes the wrong and puts it right. The first time Jesus came to earth was to suffer for our sins. But he rose again and when he returns for the second time, it will be to judge the world and put an end to evil, suffering, decay and death. The real work of Christ is to renew and restore our souls and our bodies. And why did God put things right? Romans 5:8:
“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8
Because he loves us. He loves us so much that even in our sinful state He wants to prove his love and demonstrate that by having his son pay the price for our sin. So I am transformed because of Christs’ work, not because of what I do.
Ill. The Choice: to live in God’s love and not in sin through confession and getting rid of the sin.
4. How Can I Be Put Right? Answer:_Faith_____
The fourth answers the question; How can I be put right? The answer: Faith. (Switch verses) Galatians 2:16 says:
“…know that a person is not justified by the works of the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ.” Gal. 2:16
What this verse is saying is that our works don’t put us right, faith does.
Faith – putting our trust or confidence in the work of Christ.
This is more than saying I’ve sinned, I’ve confessed it, and I am going to try harder. That is still putting faith in yourself. Real faith is not about what we do or even will do, it’s about putting our trust and confidence in Jesus. See it’s not about trying harder, it’s about living in. No one lives a perfect life. Even our best is like filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6)
Ex. It doesn’t matter how many times I read through the Bible, how many times I visit someone in the hospital, if I pray before each meal, etc. Those are all good things and I want to do them but not because they will save me or give me better standing with God.
This goes to the motive behind what we do. Many people still try to earn their salvation even though they have accepted Jesus Christ as Savior. We don’t do good works because it will somehow put us in good standing with God, we do it because of what God has done for us and in response to his love and forgiveness. Eph. 2:10:
“For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” vs. 10
What’s The Difference?
So what is the difference. Let me explain by comparing what “religion” says compared to what Jesus proclaimed in the Good News.
Religion, which is adherence to a set of ethics and rules says that you believe, and then you obey, and then you are saved. Jesus says it in a different way. He says you believe, then you are saved and then you obey in response to your salvation.
The source of this material is taken from Center Church by Timothy Keller.