The One True Only Gospel
Topic: Default Passage: 2 Corinthians 15:1–15:4
"Now I would remind you, brothers,(1) of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand,  and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.  For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures,  that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures..." 1 Corinthians 15:1-4
We're kicking off a new series with an eye on reintroducing ourselves to this city later this year. Our new building offers a chance to reach our neighbors so we'll be doing some remodelling upstairs and some equipping of the saints (that'd be you people). Consider this series the beginning of that equipping.
Over the next I-don't-know-how-many weeks we'll be looking at how the gospel multiplies. Since we are gospel people we too need to multiply in response to the gospel. We are here to create disciples who create disciples.
To accomplish that (on top of sermons) we'll be establishing a co-hort of emerging leaders by creating a clear, accessible path from first-time visitor to growing disciple, to lay leader, to missional community leader, to church planter.
We'll also begin to look at the systems in our church and see how we need to grow in order to better reach this city. In February we'll meet with a Ministry Associates consultatnt to create that plan.
Later this year we'll launch more missional community "City Groups" and will establish a youth ministry.
And all of this is shaped by, centered on and grown from the gospel.
If you've ever played the "telephone" game you know how quickly a message can become corrupted. In that case, it's just a game so when the message gets messed up we all laugh and hilarity ensues. As curators of the gospel message, the church is charged with "holding fast", "remembering" and "believing" because any other versions than the original is just words.
But what makes this gospel message different from any other message?
Power & Purpose
Ask any 20 people on the street or in our church to describe the gospel message and you'll hear 20 different versions. Today we'll begin to get at least our new, growing church on the same page on this message. So here's a way of summing up the gospel message based on the totality of scripture: God Himself has come to rescue and renew all of creation through the work of Jesus Christ.
Along the way I hope we can develop what our friends at SOMA Communities call "Gospel Fluency". Like learning a new language, the more you practice and are immersed in the new language the faster you become fluent. This sermon series will help you become fluent in the gospe..
As our scripture tells us today, the message is about something that happened: "that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures..."
It's in past-tense because it's the news of what Jesus accomplished. On a specific and pre-appointed time 2,000 years ago. It's done.
How we get this wrong can be summed up in Santa Claus. That man is a very powerful method for behavior modification. Just ask the parent of any young child. Be good, get on the "nice list". Be bad, get on the "naughy list". Be good, get presents. Be bad, get coal.
Many people (even some Christians) treat God like Santa. In order to get on His "nice list" we think we have to be good. The beautiful thing about the gospel message is that it's in past-tense because it's the news of what Jesus accomplished. On a specific and pre-appointed time 2,000 years ago. It's done.
Did you catch that? The "being good" work is finished. Jesus lived the perfect, holy life we have failed to live. When we believe He is Who He says He is, we inherit His righteousness and perfect record of living up to God's law.
We often look over our shoulders, thinking God is going to be angry at us for screwing up. We think He is curses us with sickness or hardship because we've ignored Him. But God is not Santa. If we believe Jesus is Who He says He is, then there is nothing we can ever do to change the way God looks at us. Christ's work on the cross paid the penalty on our behalf. We deserved the "naughty list" but Jesus took the punishment for us. Now there is no more "naughty list" for us.
When we turn this message of what Jesud did into a method of what we need to do, we get the gospel wrong. We've altered the message into a method of behavior.
When we let this message remain a message of Christ's finished work we can begin to experience the saving power of the gospel (verse 2). While Christ's work is is finished, it's continues to work itself out in our lives AND it offers us a hope that one day we'll be saved from sin's presence. The way SOMA breaks this down is as follows:
Ephesians 2:8-9 We have been saved from the penalty of sin (Justification)
Colossians 1:27-29; 2:6 We are being saved from the power of sin (Sancitifcation)
Revelation 21:4 We will be saved from the presence of sin (Glorification)
The power of the gospel message is based on what happened yet it still is saving us today and promises to save us in the future. This message has power! Power to change you! Power that comes from seeing what He did, what He is doing and based on how He came through on those promises, what He will do.
The more we "stand" (verse 1) on this the more it will change us. When it takes root in our hearts we'll want to respond to it out of gratitude--we get to do this; it's a privilege! We don't "have to"--if that's how we feel about it then I wonder if the message has really sunk in yet. We get to.
The response to the gospel will look a lot like us being the awesome God wants to see in the world: Loving Him, loving His kids, caring for the weak and the outcast, showing mercy, pursuing justice and sharing the message.
It's not like this is a surprise to God to see this happen either. It's actually the plan that's been in place since before the foundation of time: "For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them" (Ephesians 2:10)
If you take a step back (way back--like 50,000 feet back) you'll see the bigger picture of the gospel message. If the power comes from the personal aspect of your salvation, the purpose of the message is revealed when you look at the cosmic aspect of it: "All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation." (2 Corinthians 5:18-19)
Our ministry is one of "reconciliation". That obviously includes seeing others reconciled to the Father through belief in the finished work of God the Son: Jesus Christ. But not the next line that points to the larger, cosmic scope of our ministry: "in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself". The "world" in this case is talking about all of creation. Somehow, God has decided that we "jars of clay" (2 Corinthians 4:7) get to be His chosen agent to carry this "message of reconciliation" and participate in His establishment of a Kingdom here on earth as He makes "all things new" (Revelation 21:5).
This blows my mind. Seriously, I don't think I can get my head around the scope of this. But before you get lost in the vastness of this renewal of all creation, focus back in on the point: That the message of the gospel gives you a purpose!
Why am I here? What's the point of all this? Why do I have to suffer the way I suffer? If you are a Christian then the answer to that is God's glory: "Blessed be His glorious name forever; may the whole earth be filled with His glory! Amen and Amen!" (Psalm 72:19). God is for His glory! "For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea." (Habakkuk 2:14)
We exist to glorify God (Isaiah 43:1–7). As image bearers of His glory, when we go and fill the earth with His presence He is glorified! And we get to do this! It's our purpose.
I still find it hard to believe that the God Who knows me inside and out would choose me for this job. But He did! Thankfully, He didn't draft one player but an entire team: The Church. We're all in on this mission. That means the message of the gospel with its power and purpose are to result in love. That's the test. If we are living with the power of the message and pressing into the purpose of the message we'll be growing in affection for the Father and pouring out our lives into other people.
As it says in John 15:16-17, "You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, He may give it to you. These things I command you, so that you will love one another."
Christian, do you believe this message? That Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that He was buried, that He was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures? If so, are you growing in your affection for God and for His children?
Maybe you're not a Christian but you're hearing this and your heart it tugging at you. Do you believe this message? If so, say it out loud. No matter your story, wherever you've been, this message means there is reconciliation for you! Reach out and grab it through faith in Jesus Christ. You will never be able to do enough "good" to reconcile the debt for your sins apart from simply believing that Jesus did that for you.
God Himself has come to rescue and renew all of creation through the work of Jesus Christ.
This message give you power and your purpose. Do you believe it?