by Dick Innes
At age 29, Bill Jones of Arkansas joined an insurance company as a part-time salesman. Within three years he was president of the company and had a personal net worth of $8 million. A year later his world crashed and he lost everything. The night he drove himself to the Federal penitentiary to serve a three-year sentence for violating securities laws was, according to Jones, the cruelest ordeal of his life.
“The worst thing was having to tell my kids goodbye and that I wasn’t going to be coming back home,” he said. In prison he lapsed into despair, but it was here that he picked up a worn Bible and began to read from the New Testament.
“That was the day that changed my life,” Jones recalls.
Today, out of prison, Jones is a changed man. He is back on his feet and is the chief consultant to one of the largest insurance companies in the country. According to Jones, it was faith that turned his life around.
Many years earlier Max Jukes and Jonathan Edwards lived in the same state. Of 1,206 descendants of Juke, it is reported that 300 spent time in prison, 190 were prostitutes, and 680 were alcoholics. Of 929 descendants of Edwards 430 became ministers, 86 were university professors, 13 wrote books, seven became politicians, and one became Vice-President of the nation.
What made the difference? For one thing, Jukes knew nothing of God’s. Edwards not only understood God’s love, but also served God to the best of his ability. Such is the life-changing power of God’s love expressed through the gospel message.
The word gospel simply means God’s good news – news that has the power to change any life. What, then, is the gospel?
First, the gospel is news about God. To try to fully understand God would be like an ant trying to understand man. Nevertheless, in the Bible, God does relate some of his characteristics so we can know something of who he is. For instance, God is all-powerful, all-present, and all-knowing. He has infinite intelligence and intense feeling. He is a God of perfect holiness and justice and, best of all, a God of love. There is no greater power to change a life than discovering the eternal love that God has for all of us. 1
Second, the gospel is God’s warning about sin. The idea of sin (and guilt) makes us uncomfortable, so we try to avoid some of it through fancy name changes. As somebody else put it, “Two unmarried people living and sleeping together used to be called ‘living in sin.’ Now it’s a ‘meaningful relationship.’ ‘Chastity’ has become ‘neurotic inhibition,’ ‘self-indulgence’ ‘self-fulfillment,’ and ‘killing an unborn baby’ has gained the harmless title ‘choice.’”
“The worst thing was having to tell my kids goodbye.”
Even when we do think about sin, we tend to think of it as external acts such as lying, stealing, killing, etc. Son, however, is much more than these. It is primarily our damaged, fallen nature which expresses itself in innumerable ways besides overt acts – such as selfish motives, being emotionally dishonest and immature, manipulating and controlling other people, greed, power struggles, jealousy, pride, defensiveness, rationalization, rigidity, self-righteousness, and anything that is harmful to people or falls short of the perfection God envisioned for us.
The great tragedy of sin is its destructive consequences. We see it at the personal level in self-centered living, certain diseases, suffering, broken lives, divorce, drug and alcohol abuse, suicide, deviant sexuality, and child abuse. At a broader level, we see it in the extreme self-interest of certain groups, in violence, racism, war, the devaluing of human life, the arms race, terrorism, etc.
Sin is totally destructive of human personality.
If there’s one thing we know about sin it is that we are all guilty of committing it. 2 Furthermore, the more we understand sin, the more we can appreciate why God is so opposed to it. It is totally destructive of human personality. It is the cause of both physical and spiritual death, 3 and while physical death may be the end of physical life, it isn’t the end of spiritual life. According to God, man’s spirit lives forever – either with God in heaven or separate from him and his love in what the Bible calls hell. Whatever or wherever hell might be, unforgiven sins consequences are unthinkable.
Third, the gospel is news about Jesus Christ. As already noted, God is a God of love, holiness, and justice. If he weren’t, he wouldn’t be God. Because he is holy, sin in any form cannot exist in God. Moreover, in God’s presence sinful man would be consumed as dross or scum would be in a refiner’s fire.4 And because God is just, he must judge sin and that judgment – or inherent consequence – is death.5
This is where God’s love steps in. Because he loves us with an infinite love, he sent his very own son, Jesus Christ, to come to earth to die on the cross in our place to pay the penalty of our sin. In other words, God’s love made him give his own Son to meet the demands of his holiness and justice. This is why Jesus Christ is God’s only provision for man’s sin and the only way to receive God’s forgiveness and the gift of eternal life.
Finally, the gospel presents a summons to faith, repentance, and commitment. Faith is believing what God says – that although you are a sinner, he loves you unconditionally and has given his Son to die on the cross for your sins. He has done this so that you can be freely pardoned and receive the gift of eternal life. As the Bible says, “God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” 6
Repentance is not only confessing your sins and being sorry for them but, with God’s help, turning from them to serve God.
Commitment is responding to God’s call to invite Jesus Christ into your heart as personal Lord and Savior and determining. Again, with God’s help, to live your life in service and obedience to him.
You can make this commitment today by praying and confessing to God that you are a sinner, by asking him to forgive; you, and by inviting Jesus Christ to come into your heart and life as personal Lord and Savior. In so doing, you can discover the life-changing power of God’s love and begin a journey that can change your life forever.
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