Last week’s sermon from Pastor Larry (August 16) contained crucial elements of “understanding the Gospel” that are worthy of being read, read again, and submitted to prayer and Holy Spirit-led meditation.
“Most of us are taught that sin separated us from God. We think of that separation being like a fence separates us from the place we’d like to be. Or perhaps, like a jail cell door separates us from freedom. But it doesn’t. Sin separates us from God a lot more like a mental ward separates us from freedom, than it does a prison. I’m not saying it’s all in our head…I’m not saying that it’s a figment of our imagination. Sin is real. Sin does violate the nature of God…but what sin does, as a separator, is that it caused Adam to hide from the God-the same God he had loving fellowship with every day of his life. Sin caused Adam to transmit to God, to project to God, something he had never experienced, and did not have a single reference point for-that was a fear of judgment; of punishment. (1 John 4:18) He was afraid of God. He had never been afraid of God, and he never had had a reason to be afraid of God. Fear came as a result of this distortion that took place in the heart of Adam when he sinned…the separation was the creation out of Adam’s blindness and distortion. How do we know that the separation was on Adams part and not God’s? Because, God showed up in the Garden just as He had the day before and said, ‘Adam, where are you?’ Adam was already hiding. I believe the Gospel was designed to overcome that sense of distortion and fear and running and hiding that we all inherited from Adam. When you hear the Gospel, you hear good news. What’s the good news? Sin is no longer the central issue to overcome. Sin no longer has the power to separate you from God. Jesus has broken that power. (Romans 6:4-7) The Gospel, the good news, says this: God has done what had to be done so that you could know His love. Not just know it in an abstract way, but feel Him hugging you. So the good news is: In spite of the fact we have been afraid (because of expectations of punishment) to be confronted by God, in spite of the fact we’ve been afraid to see His face or to look at His face, when we actually do (in Jesus), we see that He loves us. We see that He’s smiling.
Part Two – Focusing on Jesus as “The One who was sent”
“I have come to a point where I realize I need to look at Jesus as ‘the One Who was sent.’
This qualifier, that Jesus was sent by the Father, is really, really important. It has to do with ‘doing the work of God.’ (John 6:29) It’s central to the Gospel. Part of the good news, then, must be that Jesus was central. I had thought the primary point-the central point-of good news was that Jesus had died…and there are a lot of people who spend a lot of time studying the Gospel focusing on the death of Jesus. But the more important thing, is that He was sent, according to Him. Now He did say He was going to have to die…but the pivot point of the universe was that the Father sent the Son. That’s the reality. So we’re called to believe that God sent Him. Now He did a bunch of things as a result of being sent. He healed the sick and demonstrated the Kingdom…so, the declaration of the Kingdom happened through healing the sick, through casting out devils, and certainly Jesus’ work on the Cross was a manifestation of Kingdom authority. Absolutely. Because of His righteous Kingdom authority, God could and did put all of the sin that had plagued mankind, and all of the sin that had caused mankind to run and hide and fear God and be afraid of judgment, legitimately, on Jesus. He bore is in his own body. He said, ‘If I be lifted up’ talking about the Cross, His manner of death. ‘If I be lifted up, I will draw all men to Myself.’ It’s broader than just men. It’s, ‘I will draw all (everything) to Myself.’
“So what did happen on the Cross was monumental in importance, but it was a step in the journey of the One Who was sent. And it was a step that overcame any legitimate reason for me to keep hiding in the bushes. So the cross is super-important, but since the cross is a finished, historical work-He did it a long time ago-and it was completed. (Romans 6:10, 1 Peter 3:18) Then He rose from the dead. Then He ascended to the Father. And now He is seated on the throne, ruling and reigning-reigning still as the sent One. Since the work on the Cross is a finished work, that can’t be, in my opinion, that can’t be the “central” work of Jesus, or the central reference point of Jesus that I relate to in the Gospel. To do so would mean I would ignore the fact that He rose. Or I would ignore the fact that He ascended, or I would ignore the fact that He’s seated at the right hand of the Father. We simply cannot do so. He was sent to do and receive it all.
Part Three: What Saves Us?
“What does the good news say about what saves us? In Romans 5:10 Paul says, ‘…we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.’ His life is what was manifested through His resurrection. His death is what was manifested on the Cross. So-we’re reconciled-in personal terms, you and I are reconciled-to the Father, and the Father to us, by Jesus’ death on the cross. Can you agree with that? It is simple enough to see, but the hard part to agree with is that everybody else is, too. Everybody else is. Every person that we bump into is standing in a fully reconciled position before the Father. Why, because of Jesus’ reconciling death. He did it, He died, He reconciled the whole cosmos to the Father! (2 Corinthians 5:18-19)
“I was recently asked a very good question. This person asked, ‘What is it that saves us? Is it what Jesus did on the Cross, or is it our believing in it?’ That’s a good question. It’s a question everybody should ask. We all start with some version of the Gospel. Most of us believe in a version of the gospel in which you have to believe what I’m saying the Bible says, you have to believe it like I believe, and you have to respond to it the right way-say this prayer. Well, then that makes that agreement the causative action of our salvation. Unfortunately, this sort of gospel diminishes Jesus’ work on the Cross to the foundation that makes that causative action (our agreement and belief) turn into our salvation. Meaning, what Jesus did on the Cross makes it possible to get saved, but we’re not really saved until we come into alignment and pray the right prayer. So this person asked a legitimate question, and we talked about it…We finally got to the point where I said, the sin is not the big deal…I want you to understand that. It’s the relationship that the sin kept you from that Jesus restored. What we have done, is that we have bundled up all of the acts that are a part of the good news, like Jesus’ death, we’ve bundled them all into one thing when we talk about the Gospel, and we don’t discriminate between the process that the Gospel represents and the steps that it gives us access to in Christ, and then the conclusion-the end of it-our salvation.”