How does the Gospel apply to... (Introduction)

I'm going to write a series of blogs on how the Gospel applies to various aspects of life, but first, I want to define what the Gospel is.

The Gospel, or good news, starts with, and is all about, God.  It stems from who God is.  He is Holy, Perfect, Good, Loving, Just, and Mighty, to name a few of his characteristics.  From God, we get creation, which includes us.  The Gospel, then, is also intimately connected to us.

God created us as image bearers of himself, which means, among other things, that we image forth God's attributes into his creation.  We are a reflection of divinity, but are not divine.  Far from being a static, stiff, simplistic, and impersonal creation, God's creation is vastly dynamic, diverse, complicated, and personal.  We are not just robotic creatures just following some preordained plan, but are in control of our own choices.  What I'm trying to say is, we have free will (obviously, right?).  This means we don't have to choose to follow God's will, which is to live in a way that most glorifies him.  We can choose to live contrary to the will of God, and pursue folly, destruction, and death.  As God's image bearers, this is sin because it sharply goes against God's nature, and disgraces his name.  It destroys the personal relationship God desires to have with us, and leaves us looking towards other things as gods (for we have to worship something).  This is what is known as the Fall.

Along with being physical beings on the earth, there are also spiritual beings in the heavens, or angels.  These angels were also given free will, and some chose to rebel against God.  One in particular, Satan, set himself up as God and challenged God's authority.  For this, he was banished from heaven and was sent to the earth to rule over it.  Satan is a pawn of God, and is only allowed to do what God allows him to do.  In saying this, God is in no way responsible for any of the evil of Satan or any of us, but uses evil to bring about greater good.  Genesis 50:20 "As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive."  Romans 8:28 "And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to his purpose."  But Satan, nonetheless, is an enemy of God and his people, and it was he who deceived humanity into setting themselves up against God.  People who are deceived by Satan are still responsible for their own sin, and are cursed as a result.

After we fell from relationship and intimacy with God, humans have sought after many gods, and have single-handedly (as a species, that is... so should it be single-speciedly?) destroyed countless societies and the entire planet.  The world is so full of evil, that people deny that God can even be good.  How can God allow all this evil to happen without doing anything?  That question is only half true.  Yes, God does allow evil into the world, but he has done infinitely more for this world than all of us put together.  First he created it.  Then he was grieved seeing his beloved people rebel against him and fill his creation with evil.  What happened next, is astonishing.  Instead of wiping out evil by just destroying all of us (for we are all a part of the problem and the wages of sin is death), he entered into creation during a literal time in history.  This is what is known as the Incarnation (God became flesh).

Yes, this is about Jesus, but before he came, God had to prepare for his long-awaited entry into humanity.  God did this by calling one man, Abraham, to become a father of many nations, included one specially chosen by God for the divine purpose of being a blessing to all peoples of the earth (Genesis 12:3).  This is Israel.  From Abraham came Isaac, and from Isaac came Jacob, who is called Israel.  Israel had 12 sons, who became the 12 tribes of Israel.  Before Israel was a nation, the Jewish people were enslaved in Egypt under Pharaoh.  It was not until God raised up Moses that God redeemed his people from Pharaoh, and led them into a land flowing with milk and honey (the promise land).  God redeemed them by having all God's people slaughter a lamb and put some blood on the tops and sides of their door frames.  When God's judgement against Egypt came that night, God killed all the firstborn of every household, but passed over all the houses with the blood on their door frames.  This was a future picture and preparation for Jesus.  After the Jews escaped from Egypt, they crossed over the Red Sea when Moses parted the waters (but Pharaoh was destroyed when he tried to follow them because the waters returned as he was crossing over).  Moses received from God the law that the people were to follow (only Jesus followed this law perfectly).  While he was receiving the law, though, the Israelites started making other gods to worship, sinning against the one true God.  Their hardness of hearts (unbelief) prevented them from entering the promise land, so God led them to wander in the desert for 40 years.  When a new generation came, God finally led them into the promise land, driving out all the nations that were before them and bringing his judgement on them.  For awhile, judges ruled the people until they asked for a king.  Originally, they were not supposed to have a king, for God was to be their king.  This is another foreshadow of Jesus, who is the king of kings and will alone rule upon his second returning.  Nonetheless, God gave them a king, Saul.  When Saul disobeyed God, the kingdom was given to David, who was a man after God's own heart.  It was promised to David that one from his line would reign in his place and have an everlasting kingdom.  This, of course, is the messiah, Jesus.  David's son, Solomon, was the one who built the temple of God, which was the special place on earth where the presence of God dwelt.  It was also a place where the people had to make animal sacrifices to cover their sins.  These animal sacrifices were a foreshadowing of Jesus as the lamb of God, whose blood alone can cover our sins.  Many prophesies were made concerning the messiah, some of which were concerning him as a suffering servant, and others as him as a conquering king.  Jesus' first coming fulfilled the suffering servant prophesies, and his second coming will fulfill the conquering king prophesies.  After David, there were a series of kings, most of whom who were evil and chased after other gods, thus rejected the true God.  Because of this idolatry, Israel was taken over by Assyria and Babylon, and exiled into Babylon.  After 70 years, they were brought back into their land, for this would be the land that the messiah would be revealed to the Jewish people ( and spread to the ends of the earth).  It is after all of this preparation that Jesus, the savior, is born.

Jesus is the image of the invisible God, where the fullness of God dwelt on the earth. Jesus was born in the same way we are, except for the fact that his mother, Mary, conceived Jesus by the Spirit of God (for Jesus had no earthly father).  Jesus is unique, in containing both humanity and divinity.  He is the son of God, but always refers to himself as the son of man.  This God-man did not, however, take advantage of his divinity, but instead lived a humble life of a common peasant.  He had the same abilities that each of us possess, and relied upon the Spirit of God throughout his life and ministry.  In no way did he ever sin, for he was the spotless, blameless, and perfect lamb of God.  He demonstrated for us how to live a life that fully glorified God in every way.  However, because the world is evil, Jesus was not accepted by most, especially the religious leaders.  It was these religious leaders who conspired to put him to death for blasphemy, because he claimed to be God (John 10:33).  After being found guilty by the Sanhedrin, these religious leaders brought him to the Roman authorities, where he was crucified under Pontius Pilate.   It was God's will to crush him though, for he is the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.  After Jesus' death, he was buried in a tomb where he laid for three days.  On the third day Jesus, the son of God, was Resurrected from death, where he continued to teach his students for 40 days, at which point he ascended into heaven and is now seated at the right hand of God, the Father.

The Cross
God is a judge, and for every sin we commit against God and people, we must pay a penalty. Unfortunately, our sins are so many, that there is no way that we could ever pay our debt, for we sinned against an eternal God.  Therefore, the just penalty for our sin is eternal separation from God in the eternal, conscious torments of Hell.  However, because God is love, he made a way for us to be freed from the bondage of sin.  He did this through the cross.  On the cross, the miraculous occurred. Jesus took our sin (all of their sin) upon himself, thereby paying the penalty for our sin and forgiving us for all our debt to God.  Jesus took our place, and died as our substitute.  He died the death we should have died.  In doing this, God's wrath was diverted from us to Jesus on the cross.  Furthermore, the righteous, sinless life of Jesus was then imputed to his people, thereby justifying sinners before God.  By taking God's wrath away and dying for our sin, our account was evened out (or brought to zero), and by giving us his righteousness, our account became positive.  Jesus took all our sin away from us (removing it as far as the east is from the west), thereby cleansing us from all the sin we committed, and all the sin committed against us.  This also means that we are free from the bondage of Satan (who we previously followed because Satan is the god of this world), and completely belong to and follow God.

The Church
After Jesus ascended into heaven, the disciples were told to wait in Jerusalem until the Holy Spirit came upon them in power.  This was fulfilled during the festival of Pentecost, when they were filled with the Spirit and spoke in tongues, or languages, and prophesied.  Jews from around the world who gathered for the festival heard them speaking in their native languages.  During this time Peter preached to these Jews about the works of Jesus, telling the people to repent and trust in Jesus for the forgiveness of their sins (and everything that happened on the cross in the previous section would be fully applied to them).  The people who believed in Jesus were eventually called Christians, and collectively formed the body of Christ, also known as the Church.  They were sent out with the power of the Spirit into the world to tell everyone about Jesus, and to turn people from their idols to trust in the living God.

This invitation is still offered to each of us, for their is a day when Jesus is coming back to judge the living and the dead.  Their will be a resurrection of the righteous and the unrighteous, and we will all stand before the judgement seat of God to give account for how we lived our lives.  Those who are worthy will enter into the glorious kingdom of the king of kings, Jesus, and all who are wicked will be forever banished into the 'lake of fire', "where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched" Mark 9:48.  It is by Jesus alone that we can enter into his kingdom and live in relationship with God forever.  "[Jesus] is the way, the truth, and the life.  No one goes to the Father, except through [Jesus]" John 14:6.

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