I was recently part of a great discussion. It was thought provoking and centered around different religious beliefs and practices. We had a variety of backgrounds in our gathering, so it was part exploring the various beliefs and part debating the value, or lack thereof, of these practices.
Here’s where I currently land.
Much – dare I say, all – of our man-made religion has the POTENTIAL of clouding the simplicity of the Gospel. The question is, which of these discussions are profitable and which ones only build walls between us.
It reminds me of how they would train bank tellers to spot counterfeit dollar bills. Rather than attempt to find all of the different ways one could create a fake and show them examples – they would have them study and learn every detail of the real deal. Once you know what the real thing looks like, spotting the fake becomes much easier.
Maybe we need to do the same with the Gospel. Rather than attempting to figure out which practices, beliefs, and rituals lead toward or distract from the Gospel, I propose it would be better to focus on the real deal – the power and simplicity of the true Gospel.
I believe the true Gospel has the power to clear any fog we create with our religious thinking.
Today’s good news is the Gospel is pretty simple, and in it’s simplicity we will find the heart of God.
Here’s the Gospel –
God created perfection – within the perfect creation there was unity in every relationship. Man’s relationship with God. Man’s relationship with creation. Man’s relationship with each other.
Man rebelled – Adam and Eve (being perfect representations of you and me) desired to be in the place of power. They wanted to be their own gods. This rebellion shattered all of the relationships.
Man attempts to fix it – Man has attempted to get back into right relationship with God through our own good works. We try to live up to God’s standards (as revealed by the Law) only to find time and time again that we cannot do it.
God provides the cure – God knows we cannot keep the Law and His plan from the beginning was to come Himself, to walk among us as one of us, and to live a life that did fulfill God’s standard. This is Jesus’ purpose.
The great exchange – Then something almost unbelievable happens. Jesus trades places with us. He takes upon Himself the consequences of our rebellion and inability to live up to God’s standard. Not only that, but He gives to us His perfection.
The truth is we are far worse than we know, and God’s love for us is far better than we can imagine. He proves this through this Great Exchange Jesus offers.
Not sure we’re all that bad?
Just consider our motives for even the “good” things we do. Do we find them to ultimately be about ourselves? In other words, are our motives ultimately tainted by wanting to feel better about ourself, or looking good in front of others, etc.? If so, doesn’t that really make us self-centered… even when doing “good”? Again, we are far worse than we know, and God loves us far more than we can imagine.
The choice – Yet, true love requires that we have the choice to accept or reject it. Without choice we’d simple be puppets – and you cannot have an authentic relationship with a puppet. So, in God’s sovereign will, He gives us the choice. We can continue in our rebellion, or we can accept the Great Exchange Jesus has made possible. We can accept or reject His love.
Perfection being restored – For those who choose to believe and accept the gift, we enter back into a perfect relationship with God – based completely upon what Jesus accomplished, not on our merit. We begin to experience the peace and the power of His love, in part now, and in full in days to come.
Thankfully, our restored relationship with God is not dependent upon our ability to keep our promises to God (we won’t); it is based on the fact that God will always keep His promises to us. And His promises to us are numerous.
That’s the Gospel. From this truth there are many many places we can go. The affect of the Gospel penetrates every area of life, but the Gospel itself is straightforward – God has made a way back to the perfection He desires for all of us to know and experience. Our only part is to believe.
Want to dig deeper? Check out Alan Wright’s You Got an A+.
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