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The Gospel

Mar 11, 2018

Passage: John 3:16

Preacher: Rev. Dr. Alfonso Espinosa

Category: Sunday, Lent

Detail:

In the Name of Jesus! Amen. The Gospel is what makes the Christian faith the Christian faith. It is the Good News, it is the reason we are rescued and saved form sin, death, and the devil; it is the reason we have the forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation. Every Christian who is truly a Christian must know what guarantees God’s love and mercy towards them, one answer: The Gospel. There is nothing else in the entire universe more important than the Gospel, because it is the reason we can have and do have eternal life. In the Name of Jesus! Amen. The Gospel is what makes the Christian faith the Christian faith. It is the Good News, it is the reason we are rescued and saved form sin, death, and the devil; it is the reason we have the forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation. Every Christian who is truly a Christian must know what guarantees God’s love and mercy towards them, one answer: The Gospel. There is nothing else in the entire universe more important than the Gospel, because it is the reason we can have and do have eternal life.

So, what is this good news? To express it, to speak of it is to put forth Jesus Christ. He came – came into our world and into our lives – to live for us; to die for us; and to rise for us. His life saves us because He kept God’s Law for us and when you trust in Jesus, His perfect life is counted as your perfect life. He also died for us, taking your sin and my sin upon Himself to cover our sin with His cleansing blood. Your sin and my sin has been paid for and we are no longer condemned as we trust in His death for us, in our place!

He also rose for us. As our perfect substitute He defeated death for us. That is, the only thing that could have possibility raised any doubt that we are truly redeemed, purchased back to God, restored to life; in possession of God on our side is this: that Jesus -- in His real human body -- defeated the grave and beat our death. Because Jesus lives, there is no remaining doubt: you have truly been declared by God to be His righteous, holy, loved, accepted, welcomed into the Kingdom of God-child. All on-account of what Jesus has already done; what He has already absolutely accomplished for you. It is finished, it is completed; He has won for you the victory that guarantees that you are clean and loved and filled with life that never ends. This dear Christians is the Gospel. This is the saving Good News: Jesus FOR you! This is the message that the Holy Spirit works through to create and form saving faith in the hearts of people. This IS the Gospel.

And given the fact that this Gospel is so important, we should not be surprised that the LORD has made it so accessible. The Holy Bible is the all-time most disseminated book in human history and in this Holy Bible is what is most likely the single most familiar summary of the Gospel: John 3:16.

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”

Now, in all my experience as a pastor dear Christians, this verse brings out two things that I want to share with you today that help us to address two humongous misunderstandings about the Gospel I’ve just described. In- spite of this wonderful Good News, so many people block themselves off from the power of this liberating and saving message of God (that is so powerful that it literally changes hearts and affects a transformation in the lives of people). But there are sin-generated and Satanic-originated blockades against the Gospel and here are the two I need to address today: 1) that somehow, someway, and for some reason in-spite of the glorious and freeing message of the Gospel, somehow, someway and for some reason is the belief when a person thinks and/or says to themselves: I AM NOT INCLUDED; and 2) that if one does finally understand that they ARE included, that they treat this Gospel has a religious idea; an intellectual particle; a concept that has no bearing upon one’s life; that is faith – actual faith – is neglected and forsaken. Now, in all my experience as a pastor dear Christians, this verse brings out two things that I want to share with you today that help us to address two humongous misunderstandings about the Gospel I’ve just described. In- spite of this wonderful Good News, so many people block themselves off from the power of this liberating and saving message of God (that is so powerful that it literally changes hearts and affects a transformation in the lives of people). But there are sin-generated and Satanic-originated blockades against the Gospel and here are the two I need to address today: 1) that somehow, someway, and for some reason in-spite of the glorious and freeing message of the Gospel, somehow, someway and for some reason is the belief when a person thinks and/or says to themselves: I AM NOT INCLUDED; and 2) that if one does finally understand that they ARE included, that they treat this Gospel has a religious idea; an intellectual particle; a concept that has no bearing upon one’s life; that is faith – actual faith – is neglected and forsaken.

And this is not to turn the Gospel back to man as if to say that man must “do” His part to complete the Gospel. Not at all, because the Gospel – when it saves – creates and sustains faith and this faith must be present if one is to personally benefit from the saving Gospel. And what is more, a Christian can indeed clearly know as to whether-or-not they have faith. It’s simple; and it brings the two points together: when we know that we are INCLUDED it makes us so joyful, so relieved, so consoled, so comforted, so glad (even if these things lie deep in the soul and perhaps not so evident even alongside the sinful stuff from our old man)…that a living faith leads us to actually want to follow Jesus! Faith follows. That’s what it does.

Let me put it simply: faith knows that Jesus is the friend of sinners and that this truth makes us glad that He is! And then we just want to follow Him even in the face of our sinful nature that does not. This is the sign that faith is living. Faith lives when you want to be comforted because you know of your sin. Faith lives when you want to eat His body and drink His blood because you know you need His forgiveness. Faith lives when you know that it is good to follow Jesus.

Otherwise, so-called “faith” is just head-knowledge and there is no real interest for following Jesus. You could take Him or leave Him, and it would make no real difference to you. If you really don’t care (and our sinful man does not but remember Christian that is not all you are), then you have no faith and a huge blockage stands between you and the saving Gospel. But even if we have faith the size of a mustard seed, in which we only wish we could follow better – even as we mourn our failures and our compulsion to go the other way – then we can take heart Christians, because such a faith is faith. So, these two must be known so that we do not cut off the Gospel:

  • You are INCLUDED. What Jesus did, He did also FOR YOU!⦁ You are INCLUDED. What Jesus did, He did also FOR YOU!
  • You have FAITH. The Gospel has made you want to follow Jesus even in the face of your sin that doesn’t.

These two things must be known for the Good News to be not just for the world, but for you as if you were the only person in the world. And even though you were the ONLY PERSON in the world, Jesus still came to live and die and rise FOR YOU! AND, since Christ has absolutely, positively done this FOR YOU, now faith comes flowing forth: it is NOT just head knowledge. It is distinguishable: faith that is known, just like you know – in-spite of all your sins – that you love your family members or your best friends. Does your sin interfere with these? Of course, it does. But are you still nevertheless drawn to those you love? Of course, you are. Likewise, this is the sign of faith: you are drawn to Jesus!

Everything I’ve said aligns with John 3:16 that can be known in two parts:

  • For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son…
  • that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

Systematic theologians refer to the first part as “objective justification,” while the second part is known as “subjective justification.” Both are necessary to know how it is this Gospel saves us:

  • The Gospel guarantees in its proclamation that Jesus was given for ALL.
  • And this very Gospel is what is powerful – as the Holy Spirit works through it – to create and generate saving faith.

Both are necessary according to John 3:16.

As I was going through my own journey of faith as a
young man, I was very interested in sharing my journey with a family member who was extremely dear to me, my father of blessed memory. There were some things that he shared with me along the way. He was like other people. He carried some guilt and shame in his heart. No one understood exactly what was going on in his soul. As a young man he had a basic faith and he believed that God’s commandments were sacred. There was no doubt in his mind. For example, he had been taught the fifth commandment: “You shall not kill.”

Then the day came when the world was once again at war and this was the time of the military draft for World War II. He tells the story of going to the processing center with his best friend. My dad was aware that the Marines were often the first ones to be called upon and he very much wanted to survive this war. He told his friend, Nick, that when the Marine sergeant asked for volunteers for the Marine Corps that under no circumstances was Nick to step forward. My dad was also very interested in seeing Nick – who was not the toughest guy around -- survive the war.

Sure enough, it was time for the Marine sergeant to tell those drafted what made the Corps special, and then of course as they were lined up, the invitation came forth: if you want to join, step forward. Nick was so nervous that he had completely lost his ability to think and instead of holding back, he stepped forward, and my dad knew that because he could not leave Nick’s side, that he – my dad – had to step forward as well. They were now both Marines!

But my dad went into war with the fifth commandment enveloping his conscience. He was unprepared for the apparent ethical dilemma. God said, “don’t kill,” but my dad was on an amphibian. When they hit the beach, the Marines were trained to do what they do. And my dad throughout the war, considered the impossible position he had put in on this earth: “don’t kill,” but… But my dad went into war with the fifth commandment enveloping his conscience. He was unprepared for the apparent ethical dilemma. God said, “don’t kill,” but my dad was on an amphibian. When they hit the beach, the Marines were trained to do what they do. And my dad throughout the war, considered the impossible position he had put in on this earth: “don’t kill,” but…

I found out as a young man that my dad had carried this burden with him for about 40 years. Then one day when we talked about it. I shared with him why the better translation of the 5th commandment is “You shall not murder.” The word “kill” was insufficient, especially considering Romans chapter 13: the LORD has established the governmental authorities and the LORD has established that the “sword” should be feared. There is a place for “kill, that is not in violation of the 5th commandment. No, this did not remove the horrific memories from my dad’s psyche, but it did relieve his soul to the extent that it then opened a door for me to begin – and it was a process – to share the Gospel with my dad.

Fast forward another 20+ years and after a fall, my dad entered a hospital in San Diego. When I came to see him that very first night he was there – one of the last moments of his life that he was still fully cognizant – I asked him if there were any burdens upon his soul (and we were alone). He told me…he choked it out. I asked him if he desired to be absolved. He did, and so without hesitation I absolved him with the saving Gospel of the LORD Jesus Christ…and the power of that absolution is this: that my dad – like you dear Christian – are included in the blood that covers ALL sin…every single sin on every single person. Everyone is included. My dad was included. You are included: “For God so loved the world...”.

For my dad, the Gospel drew him in and it is a reminder of what the LORD has clearly taught in John 3:16 “that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” Faith also comes from the Gospel, but it wasn’t clear to someone I had come to love very much, a young man who had a tender heart, and he was also a sincere intellectual. He was searching big time for answers about the faith. He wanted to be a Christian but had begun to suspect that the Christian faith just wasn’t for him. But as we spoke, I discovered the reason as to why he was struggling.

As we enjoyed our lunch and some quality conversation, he said, “Pastor, don’t get me wrong, I want to have faith; I wish I had faith, but I just can’t. I am just being honest. I have listened and observed Christians and I have tried to be like them: I have tried to open my heart; I’ve prayed; I’ve tried to trust even in the face of my doubts; I’ve tried to be sincere and true and invite Christ into me, but I have to be honest pastor…I CAN’T do it! It doesn’t work! I just cannot make myself believe!”

When he had finally let the cat out of the bag and shared this with me, I could tell by the expression of his faith that he was both relieved that he had finally spit it out (that he had the courage to be open and honest about what was true, and about what also raised a grave concern in his soul), but there was another expression. It was almost the look of finality. What else could be said? What possible answer could there be, especially from a pastor? Would he tell me to pray harder? Would he tell me that my method of opening my heart to Jesus was off? Would he question my sincerity? I could tell he couldn’t wait to hear what I was going to say.

And then I said it, “You’re right, you can’t make yourself believe!” He looked shocked. How could the pastor agree? It was easy for me to agree, because the man was simply describing what the Word of God reveals. Then I told Him: “Take heart my friend! The Gospel and the Gospel alone gives faith. Not you, not me, but only the Holy Spirit through the Gospel. The Gospel does for you what you cannot do. The Gospel forms faith. The Gospel gives faith. The Gospel makes faith come from nothing. The Gospel is what God uses to give you to Jesus. The Gospel is what God uses to draw you to Jesus. The Gospel is what God uses to enable you to come to Jesus (Jn 6:37, 39, 44 & 65).” The man was beside himself and…he was overjoyed! Before my eyes, I saw this man have spiritual chains fall from him. He was relieved! He was released! He shared His joy with me. The LORD through the Gospel was doing it all for Him: not only was He included in Jesus’ saving ministry, but this very Gospel of Jesus was creating faith in him. The Gospel was God doing it all, covering it all, and blessing us in ways we cannot fully put into words:

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”