As I said last Sunday,
understanding the Gospel is a foundational part of our faith.
We use the word Gospel in many ways
and to refer to many things.
We talk about the four Gospels
(Matthew, Mark, Luke and John).
When we believe something to be really true,
we might say it is the Gospel Truth.
But, understanding what it is at its core is important.
Because from this core
comes the whole of life as it was meant to be lived.
The reading from Luke 18:9-14 this week
has Jesus telling a parable about a Pharisee and a tax collector.
They both came to pray at the Temple.
In his prayers, the Pharisee seeks to justify himself before God because of who he is and the things that he has done.
The tax collector cannot even look up to heaven as he confesses before God that he is a sinner in need of God’s mercy.
Jesus makes a statement about one of them.
The tax collector’s humility in understanding himself
put him on the path to be justified before God.
This is the beginning of understanding the Gospel.
We are sinners before God.
We “miss the mark.”
We come up short.
And we cannot make amends for our short comings.
Israel understood this.
They had a system of laws and sacrifices that routinely reminded them of this fact.
The Law was put before them to teach them about themselves.
The Law’s only purpose is to show that we have trespassed it.
My example from Sunday is to ask this question:
When is the last time you got pulled over by a CHP officer for good driving?
That’s because the laws identify when we are in error and not when we are doing what we are supposed to be doing.
Laws are only good for identifying us as violators of the law.
Same with the Law (Old Testament).
And the Jews had the sacrificial system to prove it.
Both for them individually and as a community.
So, the tax collector from Jesus’ parable
understands things correctly.
He is a sinner.
He needs God’s mercy.
Again, the first part of the Gospel is that we are sinners.
Sin impacts our relationships.
Both to God and to one another.
God seeks to redeem us
and reconcile us back into right relationship.
But how do we make amends for ourselves?
This is where Jesus comes into the picture.
Jesus becomes the sacrifice
(harkening to the Old Testament rituals)
to satisfy our relationship with God.
I quoted from 2 Corinthians 5:21 where Paul wrote,
“God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”
Jesus rights the relationship ship, so to speak.
Our part of the deal is to believe in this
And to live this belief out through our faith journey.
Paul says it this way in his letter to the Ephesians, 2:8-9,
“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God not by works, so that no one can boast.”
Many people think of salvation as being saved from something.
But we are really saved to something.
(I am sure I have said this before).
This is the “So, what now?” to our understanding of the Gospel.
If I am a sinner and I can be reconciled back to God through the work of Jesus on the cross through this thing called faith, then what does this expression of faith look like?
This is marked by things like love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control.
(The Fruit of the Spirit)
It reveals itself as we become the hands and feet of Jesus (through service).
It is seen in the process of trying to bring God’s Kingdom living on earth (think the Lord’s Prayer when we are reminded to ask for God’s will to be done on earth as it [already] is in heaven).
It is found in serving “the least of these (Tuesday nights).”
It is found in leading worship through song (choir).
It is found in the giving one’s time, talent and treasure (pledging).
It is manifested best in the community of the redeemed (church).
Be well friends,