There is much undeniable beauty in this world seen both in the physical world and in the people and animals that fill it. Unfortunately, however, this not the fullness of human experience. There are breathtaking natural landscapes yet there are those ravaged by environmental degradation and disaster. There are nations at peace and there are nations at war. There are communities living in comfort and there are those living in extreme poverty. There are children loved by their parents and there are those sold into slavery. There are the well-fed and the hungry. There are healthy marriages and there are broken homes, divorces, and abuse. There is cross cultural community and there is hateful bigotry. There are those being saved by medical advancement and there are those dying of incurable disease. Our world is broken and in need of saving. It is sick and the Gospel is the remedy.
What if this is how the world is meant to be? What if there is no creator and ultimate reality is just the physical, observable universe? What if a survival of the fittest model is how the world should work? What if societal and physical entropy is our doom? What if there is no God? If there is no God then this experience of brokenness is simply a reality we need to live with. Is there hope in such a world? Human experience would tell us that generation after generation will continue to rise up against one another, that disease and disaster will continue to afflict mankind, and that the lowly and downcast will continue to remain with us and be exploited by those in power. But what if instead we were created by a loving God who desires to be in relationship with us - a God who grieves over the world’s suffering and desires to bring healing to all broken places? In contrast to the bleak god-less vision, the Gospel offers hope through the person Jesus.
Our world is broken and so are we. Who of us has not taken part in giving or receiving this sickness of a broken world? What is this sickness? The bible calls it “sin”. Sin is a word to encapsulate all the facets of brokenness seen in our world, whether it is disease and disaster, injustice and intolerance, or broken communities and broken hearts. We all have this “sin disease.” Man has recognized this and throughout history has sought salvation. Traditional “religions” offer means of seeking solace in this broken world through ritual and good works. Secular “religions” such as the pursuit of wealth, career, and power also seek these same ends. But all means of our own doing fall short and leave us unsatisfied and empty. The Gospel offends us by saying that it is not our striving for God or comfort that will save us, it is the work of Jesus, who came to us, that will cure the sin disease.
If God wants the best for the world He created, then why does this brokenness exist? The truth is, God loved us enough to give us choices that matter, including the choice to obey Him or not. When man chose the latter, sin infected the world. Because God is perfect, He cannot exist with imperfection, an idea the bible calls being “holy”. This may sound harsh but just like a glass of pure water into which the tiniest drop of poison is placed renders the water undrinkable, so God cannot be sullied by any amount of sin, lest He cease to be all good. And so we are separated from God because of our disease of sin. Thus, here is the “bad news” of the “good news”: if we continue in this state of brokenness with God, we will not only miss out on fullness of life now, but in death we will be separated from Him forever, never to experience that which is good in this world and ever to experience that which is evil. This is “spiritual death.” Worse, as just shown, there is nothing we can do of ourselves to heal this wound.
The “bad news” of the “good news” does not reflect a God who takes pleasure in our misery, in fact God is grieved by His children who remain outside relationship with Him and wants for all to be restored. It is because of His justice that He does not mix with sin. Our conscience bears witness to our sense of a need for justice: when we hear of tyrants who oppress, of fathers who beat their families, of criminals who cheat the system, even of close friends who mistreat us, we desire to see justice brought about. If God did not carry out divine justice it would, again, sully His image as a pure and perfect being. And the payment for such sin, which we all carry to some degree, is death.
But the amazing truth of the gospel is that God, the perfect creator, in great love devised a plan to rescue His children from this punishment. The problem was that the punishment must be paid lest God’s justice be offended. And so in love He sent His only son, Jesus, to live a sinless life and to bear our punishment, unto death, the historically documented execution on a Roman cross two millennia ago. But the pinnacle of the good news is in another historical event: three days after his execution, Jesus, the remedy for salvation, conquered death and appeared resurrected before hundreds. Because he won this fight with death, we have hope to be restored to God, our creator and father.
When Jesus rose He didn’t begin another religion, rather He came to inaugurate His spiritual kingdom, a kingdom through which comes access to relationship with God and all its benefits. These benefits bless all mankind, however, access to God comes only through Jesus. And how is this access granted? It is not of our own work. Jesus has paid the penalty of death. There is no ritual and no striving that can bring about salvation from the sin disease...only an acknowledgment of our sinful state, and a trust in Jesus that He indeed paid the penalty, a trust we call “faith.” This is a radical idea, that we do not have to strive to get right with God and put on our best show of worthiness...only in the story of Jesus does God come down to us and meet us in our brokenness and mess, offering healing, not by our works but by his amazing grace.
...Good News for All
Before Jesus left Earth to dwell with God He commanded all those who follow Him to tell the world of this good news. It is God’s desire that the world be saved from eternal separation from Him, something we call hell, and to be restored to fullness of relationship with him eternally, something we call paradise. And all mankind means young and old, rich and poor, men and women, slave and free, and those from every cultural group the world over. This is the good news...will you receive it?