The gospel of Jesus was written by Paul in 1 Corinthians 15: through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. “By this gospel, you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.” This event was witnessed by hundreds of people living during the time of Christ. It is not a feel-good story; it is reality, history.
The Apostle Paul, who wrote most of the New Testament, was a Jew who hated Christians and had many executed. By God’s grace, he became a Christen by believing in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It utterly changed his life. Paul eventually became the voice for Christ to the Gentiles throughout the known world.
“I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose” (Galatians 2:20-21).
The cornerstone of the Christian church is the gospel. Christianity would be nothing more than a lying heap of rubble without it. It would be no different from any other false religion or cult. The good news is that it did happen! It is a part of human history that Jesus willingly died a gruesome death on a cross for all humankind. It changed the world forever. Imagine; The Creator of the Universe came to earth to rescue the lost from the penalty of their sins and restore His relationship with all humanity. God knew that humans could not save themselves, no matter how religious they tried to be. Only Jesus could make deceitfully evil hearts righteous. God saved us so we could join Him in reaching out to others with the gospel’s good news.
At the end of His earthly ministry, Jesus stood on a hillside in Galilee and gave his disciples his final command: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations…” (Matthew 28:19).
Jesus did not leave us with suggestions. He commanded it. We are called to disciple, not to have someone repeat a prayer or memorize some scripture, but to spend time teaching, encouraging, and befriending those whom God puts on our earthly journey. Eighty-five million people in the United States identify as atheists or agnostics. We are to be Jesus’ hands to do, His feet to go, His ears to listen, and His mouth to speak the truth. God, through the work of the Holy Spirit, calls the shots, not us. Jesus gave us the charge to go and teach what he taught, be witnesses of his life, preach repentance and the forgiveness of sin, “feed” the “sheep,” and baptize believers in his name.
I Peter 3:15: “but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.”
Until we wrestle with and come to grips with the offensiveness of the cross, we cannot understand what happened on the cross. God, who is always humble and righteous, loved those whom He created to the point of leaving Heaven and coming to earth. He was born sinless and grew to walk with men and women and teach them how to live and love others. He had few followers and was hated by many of those He came to save. He taught many that He was the awaited Messiah, which angered the religious Jews. As a result, He was sentenced to die in a gruesome and painful way, crucifixion. If you have watched “The Passion of the Christ,” you no doubt remember the scene where the Romans were whipping Jesus with lead balls to severely bruise him and followed by whips with steel claws designed to rip the skin off the victim. By the time the whipping stopped, Jesus was unrecognizable. He was nailed to a cross and hung to suffer and die. All this because He loves us.
What Christ did for us takes us to a level of commitment to Christ we could never attain in our effort.
Matthew 16:24-26, “Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul?”
It is not about what we do, how nice we try to be, or how caring we are; it is about understanding what Christ did for us on the cross. When we truly believe, we no longer live for ourselves but now for Christ our Savior, who gave us a new life to live in Him. When we trust Christ daily, we are free from the pressure to become someone we are not! We don’t have to try to appease God because we are forgiven, and the guilt of the past is gone. Believing in Jesus frees us to love others well as we share from our heart what He has done for us.
When we understand the reality of the sufficiency of God’s work on the cross, we die to our pride and schemes of self-salvation. We must stop attempting to save ourselves and others in our strength and instead trust that Jesus’ way is sufficient. In grace and love, He paid the price for our sin and has equipped us to go into the world and disciple all who will listen.
“He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed” (1 Peter 2:24).