This is an adaptation of a message I preached for St Peter’s Baptist Church Worcester over Zoom last Sunday.
The gospel literally means good spiel. Good news.
The reason why I’m able to write this to you today is that my sister sowed the seed of the gospel into my life. I heard it, and eventually got it and believed in Faith that what I heard was real and true.
The reason why you’re reading this is that presumably there was a day when you ‘got’ what it meant to be a follower of Jesus and it all made sense. You found that what you had heard, read and seen and felt meant and in faith you decided to make Jesus your Lord and Saviour over your life.
In Colossians Paul describes the gospel like seeds that has now born fruit and is growing throughout the whole world. (Col 1.6)
While you and I have benefited from the good news there is a problem. Most people havent and while we know that faith in this news comes through hearing about it, most poeple remain clueless as to what t is about and whether it should or could have any relevenvce to their lives.
How can anyone believe of they haven’t heard, Paul asked the Church in Rome. Somehow, the good news has been brilliantly good for us but somewhere along the way we have lost confidence in passing it on and we’ve believed the lie that while it’s good for me it won’t be good for them.
We’ve reaped the benefit of the gospel but can’t pass it on.
I want to remind you of the all-encompassing nature of the gospel and the pursuit of others getting it. Nowhere in the bible do we see this absolute pre-occupation with the importance of the gospel then in the letter to the Church in Philippi written by Paul. The gospel is His priority. The passion of what he believes about it and that others too should know it drips through the opening chapter:
- He starts his letter by addressing the church as partners in the Gospel (vs7)
- He talks about his circumstances locked up in a prison as an opportunity to advance the gospel (vs12).
- He encouraged the church and says because he is literally in chains Christians are doing more to let other people know the gospel and are proclaiming it without fear! (Vs 14)
- He talks about his purpose to defend the gospel. (vs) He extols the church to live their lives worthy of the gospel (vs 27) to have faith in the gospel (vs 27) and later on he talks of Timothy he describes him as a son with a father in the family business serving together in the work of the gospel!
This letter shows us that the sharing and proclamation of the gospel isn’t an optional extra. It’s not an odd ball activity for the extroverts of the church. This isn’t a project on the periphery of the church life. For Paul, this is the purpose and reason for living, that the gospel would be furthered throughout the world.
So, what are the good news ingredients of the Gospel?
You will be pleased to know that the gospel isn’t a pitch or patter a presentation that I can teach you. The gospel, I believe has 4 main attributes and these each have a myriad of ways of expressing and showing others what the good news is. But here are 4 good news ingredients to the gospel that I hope will encourage you to pass on what you know:
1) The Good news of the gospel is found in Jesus.
No Jesus, no gospel. The message of the gospel is Jesus. It sounds obvious I know, but increasingly I have heard Christians explain their faith without sharing the very person that is the embodiment of the good news. There's much talk about God and His love but less about the one who is the means to His love. "If I love the Father why do I need the Son?" asked a man on a train a few years ago. I humbly spoke about the One who alone can rescue us and bring us to God.
He alone is the good news. He is God’s saving plan for a broken world. He lives, was crucified and buried and the third day rose again and lives today, right now.
Jesus was proclaimed as good news from day 1: Year 0 AD. To the shepherds on the day Jesus was born the angel announced: ‘I bring good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.’ (Luke 2.11)
In Matthew’s gospel before Jesus was born there is a story of Joseph who was considering divorcing Mary due to an unexpected pregnancy. Joseph has a dream and in it he is told that Mary will give birth to a son and that he shall name him Jesus ‘because he will save his people from their sins.’ (Matthew 1.22)
Jesus is the saviour, the one who brings us to God.
Jesus, the focus and subject of the good news of the gospel is ‘the absolute interruption in eth seeming continuity of the historical process. He is the “breaking in” that offers true life by giving voice to the voiceless, face to the faceless, and identity to the marginalised and oppressed of this world. He is the “scandal” that challenges every culture and every society throughout history. Ultimately Jesus of Nazareth, a person, is Emmanuel, God with us. He is a gift to be received, and that gift is the ultimate source of all hope.” Steven Voth Christianity Today Feb 7th 2000
Recently a workman came to look around the house to quote for a job. After he had measured up we sat in the garden two metres apart and I offered him some of my art work, a picture with a prayer on the back. ‘I’ve been doing a bit of that.’ He humbly said. I asked him what he meant and he explained that before going to sleep he would pray for his children to be safe, Borris Johnson not to be ill and then he said that he prayed something that he wasn’t too sure if it was right. The heavily tattooed man looked around him a bit embarrassed and said, “what I ask is that God would draw me closer to him.”
I responded and said what a powerful prayer that was and gently asked him if I could tell him how I was drawn close to God.
He nodded so I explained that it was through Jesus and his life for me and him laying down his life for me on the cross that I have been brought near to God. I spoke about how Jesus had given me a new start in life and that he was in the business of exchanging old hearts for new.
You see the gospel is the good news that God is at work in Jesus Christ, reconciling the world to himself.
“The greatest day in all of human history is the true story of the one, powerful, holy, great and invisible God, who made everything in the heavens and on the earth, who chose to take on human flesh and enter as Jesus of Nazereth.”
Steven Voth Christianity Today Feb 7th 2000
2) Secondly, the good news of the gospel is that Jesus is alive.
Jesus rose from the dead and is alive today. He is the only person in this world for that to have happened to. In Acts the first friends of Jesus proclaim this: “We tell you the good news: what God promised our ancestors he has fulfilled for us; their children, by raising up Jesus.” (Acts 13.32)
Because God raised Jesus from the dead, we too in believing in faith in Him will one day be raised to life in new resurrected bodies. I have spoken these words many times by a graveside: ‘I am the resurrection and the life,’ says Jesus. ‘Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.’ John 11.25,26I also declare: God our creator and redeemer, by your power Christ conquered death and entered into glory. Confident of his victory and claiming his promises, we entrust (and then I say teh name of the person!) to your mercy in the name of Jesus our Lord, who died and is alive and reigns with you, now and forever.
God has placed eternity in our hearts and the good news is that this life isn’t it! Yes, eternity remains much of a mystery for us but we shall live forever, raised to eternal life because Jesus lives.
The resurrection of Jesus is central to the good news in the gospel: 1 Corinthians 15. 3-4 declares that the gospel is the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus as God’s appointed means of salvation to those who believe.’
Paul writes in 2 Timothy 2.8: Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, descended from David. This is my gospel.
Jesus rising from the dead proves that what he said was true. It’s not just a good news philosophy, a nice ideas kind of gospel. This is a real tangible ‘get your hands on it’ good news because Jesus lives today.
3) The Good news of the Gospel is that you and I are made clean.
By faith we can believe that what Jesus has done for us makes us right and clean. Whatever we have done, whatever mess ups, the good news of the gospel is a new start. Jesus is in the business of exchanging old hearts for new, weakness to strength, despair to hope, death to life.
Jesus has provided atonement, to be made at-one- ment with God.
Atonement is most often-used in the Old Testament meaning a sacrifice for sin. Leviticus 16 in the Hebrew Scriptures describes atonement in lots of different ways for different levels of sinfulness but for the gospel it is Jesus who is the ultimate sacrifice.
He became the ‘spotless lamb’ an expression that was familiar with many in the culture of the day, people would have known that a spotless lamb was given once a year to make a way for the forgiveness of sins.
Jesus is the ultimate atonement: “Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life. And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement.” (Romans 5:9-11)
I have seen this new life in people as they’ve believed in the gift of Jesus. Perhaps the most dramatic time was when a lady called Sarah approached me in the street. She was confident and carried shopping bags in each hand. I didn’t realize it at the time that hidden in one of her bags was everything she needed to end her life that evening. ‘Excuse me!’ she said boldly, ‘what church do you represent.’ I looked at her and mumbled that I represented lots of different churches in the city Centre. ‘Would I be welcome?’ she challenged.
I looked at her and thought, this woman needs to talk. ‘Want to get a cuppa?’ I asked. ‘Yes please’ she gently replied and we went and sat in Nero’s coffee where she poured out her heart, all the mess and pain she had recently gone through, poured out. She cried and sobbed as she described what had happened in her life. Tragically her little girl had been taken into care. It was hopeless. She then explained the contents of her bag and now we were crying. Please, we said holding her hand, it doesn’t have to be this way.
“I know.” She replied, because I’ve met you. “What do you mean?” I asked. “I’ve never approached anyone before in my life to talk to them, but I saw you and just felt I could talk to you. I’m not even meant to be in town!” She quipped.
We shared with her about God being with her and we prayed with her too. The following Easter this woman was baptised in a local Baptist Church. Her little girl has been reunited with her and while things haven’t been easy, she entered into life from death.
4) Lastly, what makes the good news of the gospel is when it becomes news.
It’s only good, with the news bit. The telling, showing, explaining, painting, dancing, rapping… or however you do it, demonstration of the gospel is good when it is shared.
In other words, when we share the good news the life and goodness of the news becomes, … well it becomes strangely alive!
When it comes to sharing the gospel it’s vital for us to consider what we have. Its then that the good new flows like a river rather than a paper or proposition.
‘We cannot give what we don’t have’ needs to be appreciated with ‘We cannot have unless we give.’ Or as Pope Francis put it so beautifully:
“Here we discover a profound law of reality: that life is attained and matures in the measure that it is offered up in order to give life to others. This is certainly what mission means.”
Pope Francis (2016) Evangelii-gaudium’ retrieved from http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/apost_exhortations/documents/papa-francesco_esortazione-ap_20131124_evangelii-gaudium.html
The more we demonstrate what we have the more we have!
We give and in so doing receive fresh bread. The good news of the gospel is that we get to share it and in so doing receive again the wonder and power from God who gave his very best for this world so they may know that they are loved and brought into a living relationship with the Father.
Loving God, you gave your very best for each one of us. Thank you for the gift of Jesus for this world. Please help us to speak the name of Jesus with a new passion and power for those who need to know that he was given for this world. Help us to explain the simplicity of this and have confidence that you long for everyone to know of life in all it’s fullness!
I pray for divine appointments for every one who longs to share the good news but is uncertain about how. Please bring people to us, even in these difficult times, that we may have opportunities to tell others what you have done. Amen.