What Is the Gospel?
Bob Lepine gives a theological, Bible-based description of the gospel. Tracy Lane shares how the gospel applies to her life as a mom.
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Bob Lepine gives a theological, Bible-based description of the gospel. Tracy Lane shares how the gospel applies to her life as a mom.
What Is the Gospel?
Michelle: What do people really think and really know about the gospel and about Jesus Christ? In today’s post-modern/post-Christian world, not very much.
Man #1: [Speaking in foreign language]
Interpreter: I think Jesus Christ was a magician. He studied in the Far East. He’s kind of like David Blaine, but he has way cooler tricks.
Man #2: [Speaking in foreign language]
Interpreter: To me, he’s a guy that started a thing with some people. Yes, I guess it turned into something he didn’t intend—and that’s too bad—but he meant well.
Michelle: Wow! They don’t even know who Jesus is. Well, today, we’re going to talk about the gospel on FamilyLife This Week.
Welcome to FamilyLife This Week. I'm Michelle Hill. Those answers that you just heard came from people, who live in the same country. It’s a country with over
176 languages and several hundred million people. I grew up in that country; I guess you could say on the mission field. Missionaries have been going there for centuries, and the landscape is dotted with quite a few church buildings. A vast number of the oldest and largest cathedrals are empty on Sundays, except maybe for tourists and some faithful elderly. More that 60 percent of the citizens have virtually no awareness of Jesus and no real understanding of the Bible or even its key gospel message.
Researchers have studied this country and they’ve estimated that less that one in ten people are actually Christians. Now, this really bothers me. I’ve seen the reality of a culture, where so many are devoid of the gospel and, like I said, it just grieves my heart. The country that we’re talking about—it’s the United States of America—yes, a country founded on Christian principles. In many ways, it seems to have lost its way and its grip on the gospel.
That got me to thinking, “What exactly is the gospel that we seem to have forgotten or don’t understand?” You know Bob Lepine; right? He’s [the former] cohost of FamilyLife Today, buthe’s also a pastor at Redeemer Community Church in Little Rock. He explains the gospel this way—
Bob: Well, simply, it’s this: it is that we have rebelled against God; we’ve said, “We want to run our own lives.” The penalty for that kind of rebellion, according to Scripture, is death/that we would be separated from God. When you rebel against the Creator of the universe, the One who created you, He has the right to say, “If you want to run your own life, this is the penalty you will receive for that…”
Now the good news is that God doesn’t leave us in this helpless estate that we’re in, facing eternal death. He sends His Son Jesus, who lives a perfect life—the life that we should have lived—Jesus lives on our behalf. And then Jesus goes to the cross; He dies. In His death, He pays the penalty that we deserve for having offended the holiness of God/for having rebelled against Him.
He lives the life we should have lived; He dies the death that we deserve in our place; and then He demonstrates that He has power over sin, and hell, and death by being raised from the dead/by coming to life again with resurrection power; and then He makes this offer/He says, “If any man would come after Me—be My disciple, follow Me, take up his cross—that man will inherit eternal life [Excerpts from various Scripture references]”
The good news is, when you turn from sin and turn to Christ, your relationship with God is reconciled. The relationship that was broken by our sin is healed by Jesus’ life of perfect obedience, His death on the cross, and His resurrection. As a result of that, we have forgiveness for our sins; we have the promise of a transformed life. Jesus says, “I’m not just going to leave you in the shape you’re in. I’m going to help you get better/more Christ-like. I’m going to help you deal with the sin problem in your life,”—that’s sanctification—and He says, “I’m going to give you a hope and a future.”
The promise of the gospel for us is: “Sin is forgiven; no condemnation. We’re not going to live in the same helpless estate we’re in, but we can be more like Christ; and we have a hope and a future as adopted sons and daughters of God.”
Michelle: Understanding the gospel rightly is so important. Yes, we might live in a country, where a lot of people haven’t heard the message; but for some of us, [who] have heard it and understand it, we’ve heard it so many times that we have kind of forgotten how important it really is. Here’s David Platt, Matt Chandler, and J. D. Greear to help remind us.
[Excerpts from Various Messages]
David Platt: There’s no more important question that we will face in this life: “How can I find forgiveness? Do I need to find forgiveness?”
Matt Chandler: The heart of the problem is the problem of the heart. Your heart is the problem.
J. D. Greear: That’s why Paul, the guy who wrote Galatians, said in another place, “There’s no one righteous, no one who does good, not even one [Romans 3:10].”
Matt Chandler: “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” That verse makes you, not a victim of Adam’s rebellion, but a participant in his rebellion. You tracking with me?
J. D. Greear: We are all doomed for destruction—damned, cursed, afflicted—this is not a good thing.
Matt Chandler: In our active rebellion against God: “While we were enemies, Christ died for us.”
David Platt: Because, with Him, forgiveness is possible before God, no matter who you are/no matter what you’ve done.
J. D. Greear: Because God gives His love and acceptance, as a gift, in Christ. Christ did the work for you, and He gives it to you as a gift.
Matt Chandler: God imputes to me the righteousness of Jesus Christ, absorbs all of my sin on the cross.
J. D. Greear: It means that there are none of you, not one, who is beyond the reach of God’s grace.
David Platt: The beauty of the cross is, at that place, He took on and covered your guilt. He endured your condemnation; He suffered your separation at the cross.
Matt Chandler: It’s not that you earned God’s love; it’s that you believed that it’s been given to you.
David Platt: The One, who is cursed of God and hung on a tree, is now exalted—the glory of God/the risen King—and He has conquered death. That changes everything! That’s huge! That is revolutionary!
Michelle: Okay, so now we should be getting a clearer picture of what the gospel is and what Christ accomplished for us on the cross; because He went through a lot to show us love. For some of us, we think that simply means that we get to go to heaven—it’s like that Get-out-of-jail-free card or something—that’s true; but coming up, I’m going to ask Bob what it means for us, now, in our daily lives.
We’re going to take a break, but we’ll be back in two minutes. Stay tuned.
[Radio Station Spot Break]
Michelle: Welcome back to FamilyLife This Week. I’m Michelle Hill. We’re talking about the gospel today. Just a little bit earlier before the break, we heard from Bob Lepine. He helped to clarify for us a bit on what the gospel is. I also wanted to get his take on what that means for our regular daily life, as in not just Sundays. Here’s more of my conversation with Bob Lepine.
Michelle: If you really believe the gospel, it’s changed your life. How do you break it down to how you live out the gospel in your marriage?—or in your family, working with a rebellious 13-year-old? How does the gospel play out then?
Bob: Okay, I’m going to go back to three words that I used before: one is “forgiveness”; the second is “transformation”; and the third is “hope.”
I can think of all kinds of situations—in marriage, in raising rebellious 13-year-olds, and in all kinds of family relationships—where forgiveness is an issue. Now, I’m not just talking about the forgiveness in our horizontal relationships. When I offend my wife, I’m offending God at the same time—so I need forgiveness from Him for my sin—I also need forgiveness [from] her. But the promise of the gospel is: God forgives, and He gives me the grace to forgive others.
“How does the gospel play out in a marriage and in a family?” We learn how to be good forgivers. We also learn how to be good repenters/how to confess our sins to one another and to forgive one another.
The second way it plays out is this idea of transformation. We are spurring one another on in marriage and in family to be better than we are/to live lives that are more honoring to God. Because every day, I’m making progress in my journey to be more like Christ. But every day, I’ve got a long way to go. In marriage and family relationships, we get a chance to say, “You know, I noticed this…Maybe that’s not the way that ought to be, pleasing to the Lord. I know I’ve messed up in that area before.” We can encourage one another; we can cheer one another on: “Way to go! That was so/you did a great job here.” Those are the kinds of things that we can be doing.
Then hope—the word, “hope”—a marriage and a family, where the gospel is central, whatever you’re dealing with today—because the gospel is true—there’s a reason for hope. Whatever the dark situation going on in your marriage today is, or in your family today is—where you are tempted to give up and lose hope—the gospel says: “Remember Jesus was dead and then He came alive again. If God can raise a dead Jesus back to life, can He deal with your rebellious 13-year-old or your angry husband?” We believe there’s hope.
Michelle: There’s hope even though it might take a long time?
Bob: Well, yes; I’m mean, hope is not one of those—“Let’s flip the switch,” and now, “Oh, look, that got fixed,”—we’re all in process. This goes back to grace and transformation/goes back to forgiveness and transformation. Yes, it takes a while for stubborn sin patterns to get worked out in our lives. We have to give one another grace in the midst of that journey.
Our road to sanctification—there’s a lot going on there—but if both of us in marriage believe the gospel/both of us are wanting our lives to be conformed to the image of Christ—then we’ve got a common ground to be able to:
- address the reality of our sin/to confess: “We are sinners—we know it—I married a sinner; you are married to a sinner,”
- to forgive one another,
- and to find the common ground, where we can move forward and we can make progress on our journey.
Michelle: What about the woman, who says, “But I’m not married to a Christian”?
Bob: Well, that’s a tough assignment; it’s a tough assignment for a man, who’s not married to a believing spouse. Because here, what is most important in your life, it’s not something you have in common with the person, who’s the most important person in your life—
Bob: —the person with whom you’re supposed to be one—and this is an area where the two of you are not one. That’s a tough situation to be in.
I would say a number of things. The first thing I’d say is, if you went into marriage knowing you’re a believer and he’s not, you probably need to spend some time confessing to God that sin. You intentionally became unequally yoked against what the Scripture teaches. You’re experiencing some of the fruit of that; you just need to acknowledge to God the reality of you making a willful choice against what His Word says.
Maybe you weren’t a believer when you got married—or maybe your spouse acted or said he or she was a believer, but now they’ve lapsed/there’s nothing going on—
1 Peter 3 gives wives direction on what to do, which is to have the kind of conduct, the kind of behavior, the kind of joy in your life that becomes irresistible and unmistakable to your unbelieving spouse to cause that person to go, “What is it with you that it just seems like things that ought to knock you down don’t knock you down? What is it with you that it just seems like there is joy; there’s peace in your life?” They see the fruit of the Spirit. First Peter says you win them without a word—you don’t have to say anything—because they’re going to come to you, at some point, and go: “What gives?” “What’s going on?”; or they’ll know.
I’ve talked to wives, who have been married for decades to unbelieving husbands—and they’re divided on this [with their husband]—these wives just say, “You know what? I persevere and find my joy in knowing I’m doing exactly what Jesus would have me do in this situation, and I leave the rest up to Him.”
Michelle: My friend, Tracy Lane, has been on this program several times this past year. She’s a writer here at FamilyLife®; but more importantly, she’s a mom. She and her husband Matt have two precious little girls. When we last talked, they were one-and-a-half and three years old. Tracy shared with me how they do simple and practical things to make sure that the message of the gospel becomes an everyday reality for their girls.
Tracy: Every single night, when I put Audrey to bed, we read two stories out of The Jesus Storybook Bible. Then we say our prayers, and then I leave, and she’s supposed to go to bed on her own. [Laughter] That’s like a magic world.
Michelle: Does she?
Tracy: Not usually. [Child’s Laughter]
Michelle: Okay, that seems simple enough: read your kids gospel-centered stories at night before you say your prayers. They’re also doing something a little bit more difficult like memorizing Bible verses—at least, with their three-year-old—which might sound hard; but as you’ll see, that’s actually not really an issue.
Tracy: One of our verses is about “God can help us do hard things.” That’s one of the times, when we pray some of our Scripture, is: “God can help us do hard things like sleep in our bed on our own. It’s okay; you can do this, because God is with you wherever you go [Joshua 1:9 paraphrased].” Just teaching her to hide that Scripture in her heart, and then how to use it in everyday situations, is something that’s valuable to us.
Michelle: That last part’s the biggie. Reading a Bible story before bed; okay, good. Memorizing Bible verses—a little bit tougher—but: “Okay, we can do it”; right?
But where understanding the gospel comes together for children, or really anyone, is showing them how the gospel plays out in everyday life; that’s where it gets tricky.
Tracy: Okay; she’d been sick for several days, so we went to the doctor last week. She was complaining that she didn’t want to go potty. She’s been potty trained for a long time, so that’s usually not an issue. The doctor wanted to get a urine sample—which is hard enough for someone who’s 31, to catch your own pee in a cup—much less catch your 3-year-old daughter’s pee in a cup, who does not want to pee.
She was just not going to do it. She said, “I won’t,” “I can’t.” We went to the potty multiple times; ended in tears for both us multiple times. The nurses were waiting outside the door, with a sticker that was supposed to bribe her. I’m like, “Yes, she gets stickers without peeing; so that’s probably not going to help.” [Laughter]
Finally, it was like the Holy Spirit just said to me, “I can help you do hard things.” This is feeling like a really hard, overwhelming situation for me as a mom/for Audrey. So while she’s sitting there on the potty—refusing to pee, saying she can’t and won’t—I’m crying, out of frustration. I said, “Audrey, let’s just pray about this. God cares about this moment too. Remember, He can help us do hard things. This feels really hard right now, so let’s just pray:
God, I know You can help us do hard things. This is hard. Would You just be our provider? You can be here with us; we know You are. Can you just show Audrey You can help us in this moment, and comfort me and give me the energy?
Wouldn’t you know it, a couple of minutes after, we heard the little tinkle. I tried to get the cup under there really quick; I caught it. He helped me do something hard and Audrey was able to go.
I thought back to what I’ve seen from the gospel:
- How God sent His Son. If He can do that—imagine how hard that would be, as a Dad, to send Your Son and to give that up—and just to love us that much.
- Then He was able to raise Him from the dead—that defeated any hard thing; death is the hardest thing that we would ever face—and separation from God that He endured.
If He can do that, as a hard thing, then that reminds me and my daughter that: peeing in a cup/catching that pee in a cup—enduring this is difficult, yes—but because of the power that we’ve seen God demonstrate, we can trust Him to be the provider of what we need in that situation too.
Michelle: Peeing in a cup isn’t the only hard thing that gospel has gotten Tracy through. It was about two years before the cup incident, Tracy was at the doctor’s for what was supposed to be really exciting.
Tracy: From the beginning, when we went that day for the ultrasound to see if we were going to have a boy or girl as our second baby, we heard that day, “You’re having another girl!”—which we were so excited about. I wanted to have two girls, so they could be sisters. It’s so wonderful.
Michelle: But that’s when things got really hard.
Tracy: But we also heard that day, “Something’s not right with her heart, and you need to find out more. Honestly, at this point,” the doctor said, “we don’t know what that means.”
As we found out more, we did confirm that Annie, the next day, that something was wrong with her heart. We didn’t have a diagnosis yet, but the specialist told us that she most likely wouldn’t live to be born. After he said that, as we’re watching her up on the ultrasound screen, he suggested, as they say, “terminating the pregnancy.”
Again, that’s a moment where your world just really comes crashing down. I mean, that’s not something you ever expect to be faced with. But we were able to cling to hope that day and cling to truth that “God did create her life; He has a good plan.”
We didn’t know she was going to live—we had no idea—but termination could not be an option for us, because God knew what He was doing. Whatever His story was for our family was the right story. Because if His story was a story of redemption—whatever that looked like, playing out in our baby’s life—was going to be a story of redemption somehow.
Michelle: In case we’re tempted to think that the gospel is some abstract idea, or something that we believed once and now we’ve moved on, Tracy reminds us that the gospel/it sustains us through the challenge of a three-year-old peeing in a cup. It’s the same gospel that helps us move through finding out that you’re having a little girl, but that she might not live to see the light of day. The gospel is good news no matter what today or tomorrow might bring.
Tracy: We could have questioned—because He’s the Creator; He’s the author of Annie’s life—and He could make her and form her any way He chose to. We knew who was responsible for what was going on. We could have questioned why a good God would do that or if He was still good. But I didn’t have to, because I knew He was good—because what I could look back on was—“If He loves me enough to send His Son to rescue me from my sin to allow me to have a relationship with God again/to restore that, then He is good.”
Because of knowing that, I never questioned if He was good. I questioned what was going on—“Why would He do this?”; all of those things—but just knowing the fact of who Jesus is—what He did to save me—was just our foundation of hope through that time.
Michelle: The reason we call ourselves Christian is Christ and what He did for us. Jesus is more than a great historical hero. Christ conquered death so that we could have hope/hope and a future. That should give us great joy; and we should want to live out the gospel in every part of our life, even in the mundane things of life, like getting your three-year-old to pee in a cup.
[Excerpt from The Gospel]
Coming up next week, we’re going to learn about how to blend stepfamilies. It takes some special ingredients and time. Ron Deal is going to join us and talk about crock pots and stepfamilies on FamilyLife This Week next time.
Hey, thanks for listening! I want to thank the president of FamilyLife®, David Robbins; our cofounder, Dennis Rainey; along with our station partners around the country. A big “Thank you!” to our engineer today, Keith Lynch; our producers, Marques Holt and Bruce Goff. Justin Adams is our mastering engineer, and Megan Martin is our production coordinator.
The man on the street clips at the beginning of the program came from and/or were based on the video, Frontline: Who Is Jesus?, posted on YouTube by Frontline DC.
Our program is a production of FamilyLife Today, and our mission is to effectively develop godly families who change the world one home at a time.
I'm Michelle Hill, inviting you to join us again next time for another edition of FamilyLife This Week.
©Song: The Gospel
Artist: Ryan Stevenson
Album: No Matter What, (p) 2017 by Bryan Fowler
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