Life Eternal - October 21

Almost every week, we recite the Apostle’s Creed.  The last words of that creed state that we believe “in the life everlasting.”  When you say those words, what comes to mind?  What does “life everlasting” mean to you?

This is both a tremendously important part of the gospel, and also a piece that we so often misunderstand or confuse.  Let’s focus on two key ideas around our Life Everlasting.

Part One – The Return of the King

J.R.R. Tolkien’s masterpiece, the Lord of the Rings, is a trilogy that concludes with a book called “The Return of the King.”  The title is a reference to the return of Aragorn (aka Strider) to the human kingdom of Gondor.  His return is marked by a massive military victory against the evil armies of Mordor, the unification of disparate human countries into one fighting force, and, for the first time in ages, the invasion of the lands of the enemy – a reclamation of what was lost to evil.

There is a poem written by Biblo Baggins, years before these events, called “All that is Gold.”

“All that is gold does not glitter; not all who wander are lost.
Old that is strong does not wither; deep roots are not reached by the frost.
From the ashes a fire shall be woken; a light from the shadows shall spring.
Renewed shall be blade that was broken; the crownless again shall be king.”

The central hope for every Christian is that the true king will return.  Everything that we do is staked upon this one conviction; Jesus is coming back. 

Jesus’ return includes three key elements.  Those are:

A) Jesus' appearance in the clouds with power and glory
B) the resurrection of the dead, and
C) the final judgment.

Read 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17


We will see “the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory.  And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect”  (Matthew 24:30-31).  Jesus’ impending return is discussed relentlessly throughout Scripture.  In John 14:1-7, for example, which we often read at funerals, Jesus tells us that he is going to prepare a place for us, and that he will return and take us to where he is.  In Matthew, Mark and Luke, Jesus includes a discussion of his return as part of his final teaching with the disciples, which includes the language of “coming on clouds with power and glory”.  Numerous parables discuss the topic of his return – parables of the ten virigins, and the talents in Matthew 25, for example.  Paul speaks about Jesus’ return and the Day of the Lord often, most memorably in 1 Thessalonians 4.  And of course the book of Revelation tells the story of Jesus as the conquering king, riding at the head of a great army.

Resurrection of the Dead

We believe that as God created us (body and soul), so we shall always be.  There is no “me” that exists entirely separate from my body.  While Christians debate about whether we go to heaven in some transitional sense when we die, or simply “fall asleep” as Paul describes here, we know with certainty that we do not fully reach life everlasting until the resurrection occurs.

Note how different this is from our modern American individualist culture.  I don’t get to heaven on my own – I’m waiting for Jesus, and I’m waiting for everyone else who is waiting for Jesus.  We go together, and Jesus comes back to take us there.  In Hebrews 11 we are told that Moses, and David, and the prophets, and all the heroes of Scripture, are waiting for us.  The author says, “These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised, since God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.”  Imagine – Moses is waiting on you!

The metaphor Paul uses about sleep is very intentional as well – for those who die, the resurrection is instantaneous, just as waking from sleep is from you in the morning.  You might feel well rested, but even if you sleep for 12 hours, from your perspective waking happens immediately after falling asleep.  So too, the resurrection is immediate for us, in the sense that it is the first thing we experience after death.

Final Judgment

We also believe that after the resurrection, there is a final judgment, described in Matthew 25, where Jesus separates us into two categories; those destined for heaven and those destined for hell.


Part 2 – Heaven and Hell

Understanding Hell

Satre once wrote that “Hell is other people.”  Yet the opposite is true; it is the complete absence of relationships and others.  Hell is the fulfillment of our self-centered desires.  It is the place where we are so perfectly focused on ourselves that nothing and no-one could possibly ever matter to us.  Recall the description of God as Three Persons in perfect love with each other, completely selfless.  Hell is the absence of that love and selflessness.

Jesus speaks about hell more than any other person in Scripture.  He uses language that we assume is metaphorical (fire, burning sulfur, outer darkness) to describe this reality of total isolation. 

Hell exists because God loves us enough to allow it.  He loves us enough to allow us to choose to never love him or each other. C.S. Lewis famously wrote that the door to hell is locked from the inside.  In other words, there are no persons in hell who did not chose that destination.  But more importantly, there are no person in hell who would not PREFER to be in hell than be in heaven. 

We should note that, from a Christian perspective, Heaven is being with Jesus, who is totally self-less.  For anyone who refuses to be released from their self-centered desires and lives, one could imagine that being with Jesus might actually be miserable.  

There is no option for wholeness or joy without Jesus and all that he represents; therefore, anyone who does not want Jesus, must experience life without him.  That life is far more horrific than fire, burning sulfur, or outer darkness.  That life is being completely alone.

Understanding Heaven

We struggle to understand Heaven as well!  Too often our images of heaven are drawn from cartoons of fat angels in togas, floating on clouds and playing harps.  Or, we see heaven as a place of self-fulfillment, where we finally get everything we ever wanted and are with everyone we ever loved.

Scripture, however, describes heaven as both a great worship service (see Revelation 4-5) and also very much like normal life (see Isaiah 2:1-5).  Revelation also speaks of a new heaven and a new earth, and a city designed by God.  Part of the core takeaway is that heaven is not a static place where nothing changes.  Work continues in heaven, as work was a gift of God to mortals before sin entered the world (and indeed, Jesus says “My Father is always working.”).  Relationships continue in heaven, but are changed.  The love that we once appropriately reserved for select individuals, such as our spouses, is now love that we share for all of God’s family (this is why Jesus says we will not be married in heaven).  We are the same people we once were, including our bodies, but we no longer grow sick or old and no longer have any desire to sin.

Fundamentally, heaven is the place where we are fully ushered into God’s presence.  It is the privilege of being with God – the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  And because God is infinite, we will spend infinity growing closer to him. 

At the end of the Last Battle, C.S. Lewis’ conclusion to the Chronicles of Narnia, the heroes all finally enter the new Narnia – a beautiful and wondrous place that is similar to the old Narnia, but better in every way.  And as they begin to explore this new world, they begin to run and dance and play, and repeat this refrain: “Further up and further in!”  Further up and further in is the plan for our experience in heaven.  We will grow infinitely closer to an infinite God through our time with Him, each other, and his new world.

Expectations - October 14

Understanding purpose of salvation

Last week we discussed the idea of propitation – how Jesus’ death and resurrection cover over our sins, reconcile us to God, and free us from the powers of evil in this world.

But, we must make a cautionary comment today.  Jesus’ primary purpose was the establishment of the kingdom of heaven.  Jesus did not come to save your soul.  He came to draw you into the Kingdom.  Your salvation is not his end goal but the first step towards his kingdom coming.

The metaphor of a birth is helpful here.  In John 3, Jesus has a conversation with Nicodemus about being “born from above.”  In our second birth, our birth from above, we are just as passive as we were in our first birth.  I offered no help to my parents when they had me!  In the same way, I offered no help to Jesus when he ransomed me.

However, after my birth, as I grew up, I increasingly had a role to play, both individually, and as part of the family.

This is a helpful metaphor for us as Christians.  We have no role to play in our salvation; but, once we are saved, we do have an opportunity and responsibility to respond to Jesus.


Expectation #1 – World transformation

The first expectation is that we will live into, and expand, God’s kingdom on this earth.

So what is the Kingdom of Heaven?  First and foremost, it is a new way of life grounded in a new covenant community.  Read the below for some descriptions of what the kingdom should look like:

Acts 2:42-47

Matthew 5:1-12

Note that this is a social project, not merely an individual one.  Bringing the Kingdom is about more than just individual salvation.  It is about changing the way people relate to one another, to God, and to creation. 

For example, see Isaiah 2:1-5 and 11:6-9.

This kingdom building work means that there are few issues where Christians can ever abdicate responsibility – there are no “secular” issues.  It also means that we must recognize that the church, not the governments of the USA or other nations, has the ability to effect change in this world.

We must also recognize that the greatest errors of the church have always come when we have confused the Kingdom of Heaven with the kingdoms of this world.   So often, we have tried to turn our nations into God’s Kingdom.  This is the root of the Crusades, the Inquisitions, etc.

God’s final plan for everything is his Kingdom.  We must work to see it grow, but also acknowledge that we cannot complete it without the return of Jesus.

Read Matthew 13:24-30.

The Kingdom of God, the wheat, is growing, and we have the privilege of helping it grow.  So too, the weeds, the work of the enemy, is increasing.  The world isn’t getting worse and worse and worse; nor is it steadily progressing.  It is getting better, and worse, at the same time.  Our job is to help the wheat grow!


Expectation #2 – Our transformation

However, although that this is a social project, it is ALSO an individual one.  We are individually called to become more like Jesus.

Scripture has several challenges that say exactly this:  “Be imitators of God”  “Be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.”

We call this process of reshaping our lives into the image of Jesus “Sanctification” and it is the second Expectation; we are called to become people who fit in Christ’s kingdom because we look like the King.

Unlike with salvation (propitiation), in sanctification we co-operate with God.  Specifically, God the Holy Spirit.

Imagine for a moment that we are all drivers in cars with bad alignment.  We have several problems.  First, the bad alignment means that we couldn’t drive in a straight line if we wanted.  Second, we’ve accumulated a lifetime of habits of bad driving because of our alignment.  And third, we live in a society where everyone else is a terrible driver as well.

When we receive the Holy Spirit, after accepting Jesus as Lord and Savior, it’s like having God-in-us fixed our alignment.  We now have the capacity, for the first time, to drive well.  BUT, we still have a lifetime of bad habits to change, and we still live in a society of terrible drivers.

The process of sanctification asking the Holy Spirit in us to help us change our habits, just as the process of expanding the kingdom of God is about creating a society of good drivers.

This is why Scripture says, “If anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come!  The old has gone; the new is here!” (2 Corinthians 5:17).  We are literally something new, now that the Spirit lives within us.  The Holy Spirit within us makes us into Christians, a word that means “little Christs”.  We are no longer human – we are God-and-man.

Here’s the key - God gives us the capacity and the power to change; we must faithfully call upon Him for that power in our times of need. 

Much of this process comes down to habit replacement – exchanging our old patterns for new ones.  (Ephesians 4:22-24)


Two last take aways

Two final points.  Sanctification failings are not salvation failings.  In other words, I’ve been adopted into God’s kingdom not based on my goodness, but his.  If I fail to live as he calls me to live, this no more invalidates my salvation than my children getting in time out means that I no longer love them.


Second, our work of building the kingdom, and becoming like Christ, is eternally significant.  We will pass through the fire on a foundation of Christ, but we may see our life’s work consumed (if it is not of Christ) or we may take it all with us as treasure in heaven.  See, for example, 1 Corinthians 3:10-15.

Payment - October 7

Understanding the effects of sin

There is a tension in the descriptions of God as he relates to our sin; he is portrayed as both merciful and wrathful.

Jesus says – God is like a shepherd looking for his lost sheep, or woman looking for her lost coin, or a father looking for his lost son. (Luke 15)

Jesus says – God is like a harsh master who throws an unworthy servant into the outer darkness, like a bridegroom who leaves the bridesmaids locked outside the party, like a judge who sends some to eternal joy and others to eternal fire. (Matthew 25)

Here is the reveal – God is both the Father of Victims, and the Father of Criminals.  He hates sin because it hurts his children (see Romans 1:18), but he loves all his children, victim and criminal alike.

As the father, what would you do?  How do you make right what they have made wrong, without having to punish them as they deserve?  How would you rescue them from the evil that has captured them, without denying their own involvement in it?

This is precisely God’s situation with us.  Therefore, Scripture uses language of “saving” “ransoming” “buying back” and “reconciling” to describe God’s plan on our behalf.

Jesus said that he came to “seek and save the lost” (Luke 19:10).  We know this is God’s plan; today we have to discuss the “how” of the plan.

God’s Solution, Part One – Paying Back (Substitution)          

God both desires justice as the Father of victims, and desires mercy as the Father of criminals.

This process of payment for our sins is accomplished partly through a radical idea espoused by God throughout Scripture.  That idea is what we call substitutionary atonement.

God’s wrath at our sin is appeased by the death of a worthy substitute, and his mercy is demonstrated by a willingness to accept the substitute in our stead.

Ultimately, this entire system points to Jesus, “The Lamb who takes away the sins of the world.”  Jesus is the only appropriate and effective substitute for us, for the following reasons:

1.     Only a human deserved to pay for humanity's sin.

2.     Only God could pay for our sins.

3.     Only an innocent man could pay for our sin.

4.     Only a willing sacrifice could truly offer his life as a gift on our behalf.

God’s Solution Part Two - Paying Forward (Imputation)

Part of God's payment is the covering up of our sins.  But this word also includes the idea of our reception of Christ’s righteousness, as well as his reception of our sin.

Read 2 Corinthians 5:14-21

The last verse of this passage is overwhelmingly significant.  This reconciliation comes not only through the covering up of our sins by Jesus’ death, but also through the addition of his righteousness into our lives.  “He made him who knew no sin to become sin so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”

He took our place so that we could take his.  Or as the early church fathers said, “God became man so that man might become God.”

More on this idea next week!

God’s Solution Part Three - Paying For (Christus Victor)

Remember that at the beginning of our conversation, we said that God both wanted to right the wrongs we have committed, and also rescue us from the evil that has captured us?  The idea of payment primarily addresses the above idea of substitution, but there is a second, incredibly important aspect of what Jesus does to save us.  This is the idea called “Christus Victor” by the early church.

Jesus’ resurrection, three days after his death, is a critical component of our salvation.

First, his resurrection is a vindication of his life and his message – the greatest proof possible that everything Jesus said was true.  Jesus repeatedly foretold his story to his disciples (for example, Luke 9:22); he would die and be raised from the dead after three days.

But equally importantly, his death, and especially his resurrection, is a victory over the powers of evil in this world. 

Colossians 1:15 states that God, “having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.”  The words “powers and authorities” in the New Testament refers to the personal spiritual forces of evil.   In other words, Satan is the ISIS from whom Jesus came to ransom and rescue us.  And in the cross, and the resurrection, we see Jesus as victorious over his enemies.  We are not the enemy; we are the prize the hero came to reclaim.


Unlike every other religion, our propitiation comes not from our goodness, but the gift of Christ’s life for us.  He took the punishment we deserved; he gave us the righteousness he deserved; and with his death and resurrection he defeated the enemy of our souls.

Our task, then, is not to earn what he has already earned, but to accept his gift by joining with him in faith.

Romans 10:9 says, “If you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”


Sin - September 30

Recognizing the Problem

If God, who is perfect love, made us and the world to be drawn into that perfect love and relationship, what went wrong?  How did we end up like this?

If we are honest, it’s not just the news – our lives are pretty messed up as well.  We hide it or deny it or disguise it, but we’re each pretty broken.

All this brokenness, suffering, and evil, has a root cause. It’s what we call sin.

What is Sin?

First, let’s discuss what sin is NOT.  Sin is not merely breaking the arbitrary rules of a capricious and judgmental God.  It is not merely eating an apple, nor is it merely asserting our independence.   These are all conclusions we can draw from Scripture, but the Reveal of the gospel, the second story, helps us see a different picture entirely.

If God is, at his core, a perfect loving relationship of Three Persons, and if we were made for the purpose of being draw into that relationship, then sin is quite simply a rejection of God. 

The Bible uses different metaphors for this rejection.  Adultery is a common theme.  God is often described as the faithful husband whose wife has run off with other men – not once and in secret, but brazenly and repeatedly. 

My person favorite description of sin is as self-centeredness.  If the core of God’s character is other-centeredness, this beautiful Trinity, and if Jesus’ life was about God’s self-sacrificing love for us, then the opposite of God’s character is self-centeredness.  And yet every one of us can resonate with the recognition of selfishness in our lives.  Robbing a bank is selfish; so is gossip.  Adultery is selfish; so is looking lustfully at a person.  I may not have done the same selfish acts as another, but at the center of my life is the same self-centeredness that I share with all people.

And here’s the final, essential piece of this reveal; sin isn’t primarily about the actions we take, but the source of those actions.  For an alcoholic to finally become sober and whole again, he or she must recognize that alcohol isn’t the problem.  Alcohol is the symptom; I am the problem.

This is true for every person.  We tend to see sin primarily as specific acts and choices and mistakes.  Like any addict, we can deny the reality that is so clear to everyone else; I am self-centered.  I am the adulterous spouse. 

God is a Relationship, and we rejected that relationship.

The Effects of Sin

Read Genesis 3.

This is a story about our rejection of God, and not vice versa.  It is our decision to choose what (we think) will make us happy at the expense of the only request he has ever made of us – to trust him.  It is our choice, after choosing not to trust him, to run and hide when he comes. 

Sadly, in this story there are no signs whatsoever of a desire on our part to return to God.  But, despite this sin, there are still signs of his desire to continue to love and care for us.  He walks towards us … this is huge, because God could have easily walked the other way, and been done with this experiment of humanity.  He seeks us out.  He curses us, yes, but even the curse is a protection – eternal life without him is literally hell.  He provides clothing – meeting us in our needs, even though those needs arose from our sin.

Notice that our relationship with God is broken, almost entirely on our part, and that this is not an easily solvable situation; how do you call someone back to love you who has chosen to reject you?

Notice as well that our rejection of God has a profound affect on our human relationships as well.   Our response to sin is almost always what we see in this story – shame and blame.

Adam and Eve become aware of themselves and their nakedness and are ashamed.  Note that the first result of the broken relationship with God is self-centeredness. 

Adam and Eve were naked before, but too caught up in the beauty of God reflected in creation and in each other to worry about how they were perceived.  Now their eyes are lowered.  Before, they had nothing to hide.  Now, they are ashamed of themselves.

And of course, the blame game at the end of this story should sound overwhelmingly familiar.  Don’t we do this almost every time we’re confronted with our own mistakes?  Rather than owning up to them, we find excuses to pass the responsibility for our actions off to another.

Where do we go from here?

When we finally face the truth about our situation, we tend to have four false hopes in which we try to find for a solution to our sin.

Four False Hopes
1.     Ourselves – I will try harder and be a better person
2.     Others – My friend or loved one will complete me
3.     The World – Money/Power/Fame/Success will satisfy me
4.     Religion – My good actions will outweigh my bad ones

All are an attempt to fix our problem without giving up our self-centeredness, without returning to the Father, Son and Spirit.

We desperately need to recognize that the problem is us, and therefore, beyond us to solve.

It’s not that we broke a rule; its that we fundamentally dislike God at his core.  We don’t want a relationship with the Relationship.  He is pure selflessness, and we have chosen self-centeredness.

This doesn’t sound like good news – but it is.  Because we cannot solve a problem until we diagnose it.  Until we can look at our self-centeredness and own it – not flee in shame or escape with blame – we cannot even hope to change.  Moreover, until we see sin as our rejection of God, and not his anger and rejection of us, then we cannot understand what the good news – that Jesus saves sinners – really means.

Next week, as we turn to the story of how God pursues us and rescues us despite our sin, I hope you remember that Jesus doesn’t just save us from our minor mistakes – i.e. when I was in third grade I used the Lord’s name in vain – he saves us from ourselves.  He saves us from our rebellion and adultery and self-centeredness.  This is why the gospel is such good news.

Ourselves - September 23

Class Notes

What is core to your identity?  So central that to change it makes you no longer you?  If you were suddenly NOT a parent, would you still be you?  If you somehow were born somewhere else, would you be you?  If your values change? 

Obviously, all those questions are somewhat difficult, because who you are is, at some level, in constant flux.  But what about God?  God is not like us; he does not change.  So this is a very different question with God – what is core to God’s identity?

Of course, as we read Scripture we realize that God is also a Person, and therefore revealing his identity is just as complex as revealing our own.  That’s why it took thousands of years to prepare for Jesus, and thousands more to wrestle with what we learned in encountering Jesus.

God is Trinity

But there is one aspect of God’s identity that is emphasized again and again in the Old Testament.  We find it in Deuteronomy 6:4 – The LORD is One.

This idea that there is one God, and that he is a Person with whom we can have a relationship (and want a relationship) is profound.  All of the Old Testament wrestles with this idea – how can we have God’s presence with us?  How can we as a people have a covenant with this ONE God?  How can we as individuals connect to this One God?

But then something dramatic happens in the New Testament.  We begin to hear that God is not ONLY ONE, but that he is also Three. 

Read John 14:6-11, and 16-17.

This is the first part of the reveal – first part of the second narrative – God is One and Three.

Understanding the Trinity

Bad metaphors - Water analogy (solid, liquid, gas), or the idea that God is one guy wearing different hats.  We imagine God is Father, Son and Spirit like I am a father, a son, a friend, etc.  There is a huge problem with this!  When the Son dies on the cross, all of God does not die; if so, everything would have ceased to exist.  I cannot crucify my “friend hat” in any meaningful way.  More importantly, I cannot have a relationship with my other hats.  Traditionally this error is called "Modalism."

There are some metaphors that are useful, such as the perichoresis (Circle-dance), but the best metaphor we have is that of marriage.

Core metaphor – Marriage, Relationship of the co-equal, co-eternal Persons. 

Imagine a marriage where we share all the same interests, do everything together, are completely centered on the other, have no selfish desires, and have been growing closer for billions of years.  Now imagine that we are not separated by physical bodies – what makes us separate?  What makes us one?  This is a very human, but hopefully helpful, explanation of what Trinity means.

Because the Trinity is three Persons who are united as One, like a husband and wife are united and become one, we can speak of them as individual Persons or as one unified whole.

Jesus gives us names for the Persons of the Trinity - Father, Son and Spirit (or Father, Word, Spirit).  Note that these are names, not jobs.



False narrative – Trinity is such a deep theological concept that it’s beyond my understanding.

True narrative – Trinity is part of the key that unlocks the love story of God.

God as Relationship – the First Reveal

When we read the Bible with this lens, this second narrative, we see the evidence of God as relationship all over.  No place in the OT is more obvious, however, than in the story of creation.

Read Genesis 1:26-28.  Note the language – “Let US make man in OUR image, in OUR likeness”.  

What does this tell us about Ourselves?

First – the most important Ourselves is not us Christians but the Ourselves of God – the Father, Son and Spirit.

But this is also the most fundamental insight into our human lives.  John Calvin, the theological father of our Presbyterian tradition, began his most famous book by saying, “true and sound wisdom consists of two parts: the knowledge of God and of ourselves.  But, while joined by many bonds, which one precedes and brings forth the other is not easy to discern.”

In other words, in understanding ourselves we understand God, and in understanding God, we begin to understand ourselves.

This passage in Genesis makes this overwhelmingly clear.  We are in God’s image.  What does this mean?  Fundamentally, we are relational beings.  We can relate to each other, to animals, even to pencils!

And what is our purpose?  Why did God create us?  So that we can be in relationship with Him.  It wasn’t’ because he was lonely – because he is Trinity – and it wasn’t because he was bored – because he is Trinity – but because he wanted be more of who he was – he wanted to draw us into the perfect love he already had.  Because that is what Love does.  Real love loves the unworthy; real love loves without encouragement or motivation beyond love itself.

Any parent knows this. 

Parenting advice – when should you have children?  Having kids is tough – it takes extra love, beyond what is needed just for marriage.  You need to have enough to overflow into the life of an overwhelmingly needy creature who offers you, at least initially, almost nothing in return.  Your marriage is the source of strength and love for your parenting.

When did God create the world and us?  When there was so much love between the persons of the Trinity that they chose to spill over into something new.

Good News - September 16

Class Notes

In many ways we can relate our knowledge of God to a detective story. There is a “first narrative” that includes most of the story where the detective is trying to piece together an incredibly confusing mystery. 

Then, near the very end of the movie or book, there is a “second narrative” told by the detective. It is the shocking “reveal” that suddenly makes the long, winding, confusing first part of the story snap into focus. 

This "reveal" forever changes how we see the entire first narrative. If we re-watch the movie or re-read the book, everything seems so obvious and so clearly confirms the detective’s account. It becomes impossible, actually, to read the story without filtering everything through the reveal of the second narrative. 

Our encounter with God is very similar to the detective story genre. We come to know God through his self-disclosure, or self-revelation, and that comes primarily through the Bible.
The gospel is the Reveal of God’s story. It’s the second narrative that makes sense of the whole story of God and mortals. When we get the gospel, we can no longer read the Old Testament (or the New Testament) without seeing the gospel as the overarching and obvious message throughout. When we get the gospel, we also can no longer see our own lives without filtering everything through the gospel – God’s great reveal.  It’s the box-top that shows us how the pieces (of the Bible, and of our lives) come together.

"Gospel" comes from the Greek word meaning "good news". 

Tim Keller makes three excellent points about this “good news.”
1. The gospel is Good News, not Good Advice. News is about what has already happened, not what we have to do to make something happen.
2. The gospel is Good News announcing that we have been rescued or saved. Of course, we must discuss what we have been rescued FROM. The normal answer is “sin”, but we will spend an entire class discussing what that really means.
3. The gospel is news about what has been done by Jesus Christ to put right our relationship with God. The gospel is ALL about Jesus. There is no good news without Jesus. 

A great summary of the Gospel: Jesus saves sinners!

The Gospel has two equal and opposite enemies. They are religion, and irreligion. Or moralism and relativitism.

Religion, or moralism, says we must be good to earn our own reward. This is the core of all religions except Christianity. At the heart of religion is repetition of our greatest sin – trying to make it in life without needing God – and a rejection of the gospel, the good news that Jesus saves sinners.

Irreligion, or relativitism, says we are rewarded because of our intrinsic goodness, regardless of what choices we make in life. At the heart of irreligion is a rejection of justice and accountability for our own choices, and more fundamentally, of the concepts of good and evil. Relativitism says that sinners don’t need to be saved.  (Note - we called this "Moral Therapeutic Deism" on Sunday).

The gospel stands against both religion and irreligion, against moralism and relativitism. We believe our choices matter, and that real good and evil exists in the world. We also believe that we need Jesus to rescue us; we cannot fix our situation on our own.

Questions (Comment here or reflect on your own):

Have you experienced that first narrative confusion, either in your life or in the Bible?  Think about what it is like to try and navigate through those situations without a clear, overarching story to bring clarity to your suffering, or the Bible's commandments.

Why are we tempted to change the gospel from good news to good advice?

Have you ever been a part of a church community that preached either "religion" or "relativism" instead of gospel?  Did you notice at the time that it was different, or it it seem normal to you then?  

G.O.S.P.E.L. of Grace - Class Outline and Objectives

Course Objectives:

1.     Equip participants with the ability to clearly articulate the gospel
2.     Equip participants to utilize the Gospel as a lens through which both life and Scripture can be read
3.     Establish new and meaningful relationships between participants in the class

Typical Format:

20-30 minutes of teaching
30-40 minutes of discussion (potentially in multiple small groups)

Course Outline:

G.O.S.P.E.L. is an acronym to help us understand and remember the gospel, the central message of God throughout time delivered fully in Jesus Christ.  One letter of that acronym will be discussed each week.

September 16th – G – Good News
September 23rd – O – Ourselves
September 30th – S – Sin
October 7th        – P – Payment
October 14th      – E – Expectations
October 21st       – L – Life Eternal

Blog Use and Participation:

Each week after class, a class summary will be posted on this blog, along with a discussion question.  We hope you will take time to visit the site occasionally engage in some ongoing conversations there.


Attendance.  Of course you may need to miss the occasional class; however, we ask that you attempt to be as regular as possible, as the course is designed as a logical progression; classes will typically build upon prior material.  Of course, if you do miss a class, you can visit the class blog to see an overview of the previous week’s material.

Fearlessness.  This course is designed to tackle huge topics; please don’t hesitate to ask questions, challenge what you hear, or be open about challenges.  The more you engage, the more you will benefit!