This article appeared in the Winter 2008 issue of Texoma Living.
by Pastor Garner Simpkins
Legacy Bible Church
Services at Texoma Christian School starting at 9:30am on Sunday.
I am continually amazed at how distorted and misunderstood the gospel of Jesus Christ has become in our community. Professing Christians and non-Christians alike can give you bits of information about Christ’s life. They can tell about the God of the Bible, but they do not know the God of the Bible. They can tell you about Christ, but they do not really know Christ.
Most know Christ died on a cross and rose three days later, but very few know why. Very few know why the gospel—which means good news—is actually good news at all. How could someone’s death nealy 2000 years ago be good news to you and me, today?
Many saw Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ and were astounded by the gruesome and violent nature of His death. Christian or not, your heart cannot watch that kind of suffering without being moved. Why did this nice man die? Why was He so hated? If He never hurt anyone, then why did so many hate Jesus? What could He possibly have said or done to deserve such torture and cruelty? That movie stirred up many discussions and questions throughout the world, but the one question The Passion of the Christ could not answer was—why Christ died. Yet the answer to that question changes everything.
Many of us celebrate Christmas and Easter and remember the stories, but many will never stop and think about the true meaning of those holidays. Even though we know Christmas is more than Santa Claus, mistletoe, presents, and roasting chestnuts by the fire, we get distracted from the true meaning of the season. By the same token, Easter has nothing to do with a cute white bunny rabbit hiding eggs and chocolate for children, but has the resurrection, the real “Easter” story, changed my life? Do you see what I mean? What does Jesus being born in a manger or Him dying on a cross really mean to me today?
Christmas and Easter define the gospel for me as good news—if, and only if, I understand and believe the truth about myself and what I need. It is only good news that Christ has come to take away the sins of the world, if I understand that I, with all my efforts and good deeds cannot save myself. It is only good news if I realize that no amount of good works can pay the penalty for my sins. I cannot be good enough to please God on my own merit, meaning that I am a guilty, condemned criminal who cannot earn heaven by any acts of kindness, or good deeds or being a person who is “good enough”. Whatever that means.
Ah-ha! Now we are arriving at the gospel of grace and why Christ’s death and resurrection is such good news! If I cannot save myself, then who will save me? Great question. It is Christ Jesus who comes to take away the sins of the world.
The Bible tell of a loving God who has been pursuing a sinful, rebellious people from the very beginning. And if that’s true, then what is the proper response to that kind of love? Is it not to surrender my life and love Him with all my heart, soul, mind and strength? Many do not understand the basic message of the Bible. They misunderstand it because most never take the time to read it. So, they rely on tradition or their own experience in life or on what someone told them the Bible said, yet they have never examined it for themselves.
What is grace? Justice is getting what you deserve, good or bad. Mercy is not getting what bad you deserve. But grace is receiving something good you do not deserve. Grace is the idea of God handing us something that we didn’t earn and we don’t deserve. God gives us His love and His mercy and His grace—His salvation, despite our sin. Ephesians 2:4-9 says, “But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ. For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.”
But man rejects God’s offer. Mankind turns its nose up and says, “I don’t want Jesus for I refuse to think that I am a sinner in need of a Savior. I refuse to think I cannot save myself.”
Many will trust in their own intelligence, money, efforts, success, looks, and human wisdom because they will not acknowledge their sinful hearts. They are truly self-righteous and arrogant. To them Jesus’ death and resurrection is not good news, but rather it is foolishness. This is why the world hated Christ. For if I cannot see the wickedness of my own heart, then I will never see Christ’s pursuit of me at Christmas and Easter as God’s love for me. Not until I am humbled by life or struggles too great to handle alone will I come to the end of myself and cry out and confessing my need of a forgiving, gracious, loving God.
Every human being desires to be loved, forgiven, and valued. Everyone desires purpose, direction, and joy. Only in Christ, are these needs met. Only in the gospel of Jesus Christ do we see a God who, despite my disobedience and sin, loves me and is pursuing me, and has provided His grace and forgiveness by sending His Son to die in my place. As the holiday season approaches, might we all stop and consider the gospel, the good news, and what it means!