Responding to the Gospel
I can remember vividly as a little boy sitting in the classroom we would sit in a circle around the classroom. It was science class and so we would learn about the 7 characteristics of living things and the teacher would make sure everyone knew it well. Movement, respiration, growth, respond to stimuli (sensitivity), reproduction, excretion and nutrition. Everyone had to say it or else no one was going to leave. If you ask me, that’s a pretty good way of ensuring kids learn. But of those 7 characteristics, one stuck with me. The wording fascinated me, and it just stuck: Respond to stimuli. If we touch the burning fire, it hurts. If someone pinches us we scream. We get hit across the head and it’s painful. It all works that way to protect us. So naturally, we stay away from situations and environments that are harmful to the body and for our health.
Can you imagine if we were all built that way to respond to the gospel? The moment any soul comes across the message, the reflexes spring into action and we do what needs to be done. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way. Yet that’s no excuse for us not to heed God’s word and the message that underlies it. Everyone who has an accountable mind has a responsibility to respond to the gospel. The truth is, we were created for relationships (Gen. 2:18-25) but more importantly, we were created to have an intimate relationship with the creator (Ecc. 12:13; Acts 17:24-28). We often refer to the Garden of Eden to observe a picture of naturalistic beauty. It was serene, peaceful and wonderfully fascinating to the imagination (Gen. 2:8-14). Yet these qualities do not make the garden imagery superior.
We are also told that man resided here (Adam and Eve). They were responsible for taking care of everything in it along with the rest of God’s creation. The superior image of the garden is seen in the relationship shared between man and God. God spoke to man directly (Gen. 2:16-17) free from any sin or guilt. That was the good news. That blessing, the privilege of being one with God was lost when man chose to sin. God drove them out of the garden and from His presence and thus the relationship was lost (Gen 3:22-24).
But that was certainly not the end of it. God designed a plan where He would reconcile man back to Him. Consider the image of a bridge as a description of our relationship with God. A bridge is built so we can get from one side to the other. On one side is sin and evil and its consequences. On the other is salvation, peace and a reward. But that bridge was broken in the garden. God created a plan to bring us over from the side of sin to the side of salvation. It began with Noah and it stretches all the way to the Christ. Through men like Noah, Abraham, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Joshua, David etc. God put His plan in motion.
From Genesis to Malachi, the blueprint becomes clearer and clearer for the bridge. God through His prophets delivered the good news (the gospel). He wanted His people to know that there was something bigger and better to look forward to that would solve the issue of sin that plagued generation after generation. That brings us to the story of Jesus. Born of a woman, He lived a sinless life, died a cruel death but rose on the third day. But why is Jesus’ story so important? It’s vital because He did it all so the bridge could be established and opened (Col. 1:13-14). He paid the toll for the bridge. He did it, so we could get from the side of sin and death to the side of life and salvation. The gospel has and always will be more than just a religious feel good message. It’s the fullness of God’s plan coming to fruition for our salvific benefit.
Notice how that from the beginning God’s blueprint for the bridge (the gospel) was rooted in undying love for us. He did it all, so we could walk with Him. This demonstrates not only the importance of our responsibility to the gospel but the urgency with which we ought to respond. This is also seen in the universal command to repent (Matt. 4:17; Acts 17:30-31). Jesus did not die so we could continue to sin and waste our time on this earth. He knows we don’t have a lot of time and we know this to be true as well. We need to respond to the one thing that has the ability to give us life everlasting. The gospel can grant true peace, security, comfort and happiness. If we reject it, what else do we have and what else can we hope for?
We need to understand that the gospel is not discriminating. It is for all men everywhere and it can save any person regardless of what they have done (Rom. 1:16-17). And how wonderful is that? Regardless of what we have done and what others say, Jesus is willing to forgive all and forget all. We need to take advantage of this because there are no other offers like it and there will never be another sacrifice like Christ’s. The gospel is once for all meaning that its power is never ending and it is extended to every single willing, accountable soul.
Responding to the gospel means that we must set aside hindrances and our pride, and we give ourselves to God who can change it. It also means that we understand the value of what’s in the message and therefore we are responsible to teach it to others, so they can be saved. Why wait to respond to this message? Why not spread it to others? May we all respond the God’s great gospel.