Christianity 101 (Part 1)

The Bad News and the Good News

A Fresh Look At Christian Transformation

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the bad & good news

Key Text: Ephesians 2:1-10

Why are there so many problems in this world? Every religion, scientist, philosopher, and politician has tried to answer this question and offer solutions. While there are massive disagreements about what is the real problem on this planet, there is little disagreement that there is a big problem. We all know things are not the way they are supposed to be, both in the whole universe and in our own lives.

People know they are not supposed to break the law, and yet they do. We know we should not be mean to the people we love, and yet we are. We may know we are not supposed to be addicted to anything, but the addiction remains despite our best efforts. We know there shouldn’t be hungry people on the streets with nowhere to live, but despite societies continued hard word, there always has been a problem of homelessness.

The Bible gives us a clear answer about humanities problem and a clear solution that has transformed the lives of millions of people. God is on the move. He desires to save people. He loves you. He wants to help you through this world. And most of all he wants to transform you for his glory.

But before we can truly appreciate his solution found in Jesus Christ, the one solution that can change everything, we first need to understand the real problem we face on this planet. In one word, the primary problem every human faces on this planet is “sin.”

What Is the Bad News?

Everything is messed up in this world because of human sin. From individual problems to problems we as a whole society face, it all eventually comes back to the problem of sin. Sin has corrupted everything and made this world very different than the way God first made it and wanted it to be. So what is human sin, when did it start, and what problems has it caused?

Sin is a word that can be defined in many ways, but at its core, sin is not loving God. This lack of love is also known as disobeying God (John 14:23-24). Sin causes our relationship with God to be broken.

In the beginning, God created Adam and Eve to be in an intimate relationship with himself and to rule over creation as they reflected his image. God loved humans from the start, and because he loved them he gave them commands that were for their protection and that would benefit their relationship with him. In Genesis 2:16-17 it reads:

And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; 17 but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.”

Sadly, Adam and Eve did not listen to God, they did not love him, and thus they sinned by disobeying him (Genesis 3). Now every human ever born (besides Jesus) has inherited Adam and Eve’s sinful nature. The sinful nature is the source of all the evil desires and corruption within humans. Unlike humankind’s first parents (Adam and Eve) who sinned and then became sinful, now the Bible explains that we all sin because we are born sinful (Psalm 51:5, Romans 5:19, Romans 3:23).

The penalty for sin is death (Romans 6:23). Because sin has corrupted the entire human race, death, chaos, and all kinds of evil are all around us.

We were created to be born into a perfect world, but because of sin we are born into a corrupted world. We were created to have perfect parents, families, and health, but because of sin we have flawed parents, families, and fading health at best. We were created to have purpose and meaning, but because of sin we are lost and aimlessly drifting in our lives. We were created to worship God in an intimate relationship, but now because of sin, from the moment we are born we do not know God and we live for ourselves rather than for him.

We all know there’s a problem, and so throughout our whole lives we will be looking for a solution, looking for ways to feel better. You may have thought a relationship, money, fame, drugs, gambling, a healthy body, sex, or numerous other things could fill the hole inside of you. None of it has worked because the source of our problems is that our relationship with God is broken. Only when this relationship is restored will the rest of our life make any sense.

In summary, humans are designed to be loved by God and to love God. Sin ruined this relationship. We have all searched for wholeness in many places, but until we find God nothing will work. We will always feel empty until we regain what we lost through sin – a right relationship with God.

What Is the Good News?

The gospel is God’s solution to the problem of sin. The word gospel means “good news.” It is a word that summarizes God’s solution to the “bad news” caused by sin that we see all around us. Through the gospel, all our sins are wiped away (forgiveness), our relationship with God is restored, we are filled with God’s love, and we are given power to love God (expressed in obedience) as he originally wanted.

This is the gospel: God sent his one and only Son to die on the cross for our sins. God raised Jesus from the dead, conquering death, and has now given everyone the opportunity to receive a new life in Christ.We receive this forgiveness and newness by grace and through faith in Jesus. (1 Corinthians 15:1-4, Ephesians 2:8-9)

We were born sinful and throughout our lives we sinned in many ways; therefore we all need to be “born again” so we can have the ability to love, obey, and reflect God as he originally wanted. The gospel is the solution to the world’s problems and to our individual issues as well. Only through the gospel can true and lasting transformation take place.

Why Is the Gospel So Important?

Imagine walking into a classroom where the kids are running around, throwing paper, and pushing one another. The sound from screaming kids is deafening. Tables and desks are rocking as kids jump and dance on them. “What is going on here?” you wonder. Suddenly you realize there is no teacher in the room. The kids have gone completely bonkers because they have been left to their own devices. Would you really expect kids to act any different without adult supervision?

In a much more serious and fatal way, this is what our world has become when humans ignore God. But our Teacher has not left us, rather we as the students have ignored God (sin) and therefore our world and our individual lives are in chaos. When we do not follow God and his instructions, everything gets out of order.

The gospel is key for transformation because through the gospel our connection with God is restored. Like a teacher to a classroom, God brings order, direction, and counsel to our lives. Perhaps more accurately, like parents to a child, when our relationship with God is restored we receive the love, comfort, direction, and strength we’ve been looking for our whole lives.

When God is not in control of our lives, Ephesians 2:1-3 explains that there are three very bad influences that try to control our lives in place of God:

As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, 2 in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. 3 All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath.

Every human has three enemies working against them: the sinful nature (the flesh), the world, and the devil.

  • The sinful nature is the sin living in us that leads us away from God through evil desires. Every human inherited this from Adam and Eve.
  • The “world” is the sinful systems and evil ways of living the masses participate in. “Worldliness” is similar to “godlessness.” If we disobey God, we are living a “worldly” life. When we follow the masses who do not love God, we are dragged away by the world.
  • Satan is a fallen angel who leads legions of demons who have the power to tempt us into sin and away from God.

Although we are responsible for our own choices, all three of these evil influences lead us into sin. The result of sin is death because sin cuts us off from the source of life (God). Without God, our behavior is shaped by these three evil influences. If we are left in our sins without the help of God, we are doomed. Thankfully God does offer help to us. Ephesians 2:4-6 states:

But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5 made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. 6 And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, 7 in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace,expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.

We were dead in our sins, but God sent Jesus to die on the cross and be raised from the dead so that we could be forgiven and alive with him. Transformation can now take place because the source of our problems is now defeated. God defeated these three enemies by making us alive with Christ.

God gives us a new nature through Christ with new desires so we can please God rather than our sinful nature (Ephesians 4:20-24). God has made us a member of his family so we no longer need to be a part of the world (Ephesians 2:6). Through the gospel God has given us power to resist the devil so he will flee from us (Ephesians 6:10-11).

Through the gospel transformation is now possible. We use to be dead in our sins as we followed our flesh, the world, and the devil (Ephesians 2:1-3). But now we have the opportunity to follow God. Because he loves us he sent his Son, Jesus Christ, to free us from all evil and to give us the ability to love and follow him (Ephesians 2:4-7).

In summary, God designed us to live for him. The flesh, the world, and the devil tempt us to live for ourselves and worship false gods (drugs, lust, greed, gluttony, selfishness, etc.). Our sin has broken our relationship with God and thus chaos has occurred in our lives and in the world. Only through the gospel is our sin wiped away, we are given a new nature eager to please God, and thus our relationship with God is restored. Only when we are reconnected with God will we find transformation and happiness. C.S. Lewis put it like this:

God made us: invented us as a man invents an engine. A car is made to run on gas, and it would not run properly on anything else. Now God designed the human machine to run on Himself. He Himself is the fuel our spirits were designed to burn, or the food our spirits were designed to feed on. There is no other. That is why it is just no good asking God to make us happy in our own way without bothering about religion. God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from Himself, because it is not there.”

How Can You Receive the Gospel?

Have you ever seen the movie Saving Private Ryan? It’s a story that takes place during World War II, right as the US is trying to take back France from German control.A group of valiant soldiers are sent by a General to find one man, Private Ryan, who is behind enemy lines. The US soldiers struggle through traps set by the enemy, land mines are everywhere, enemy snipers are picking them off, and some of the soldiers die in their search for Private Ryan.

Eventually these mighty men find him after a grueling, sacrificial search. But rather than leave his post, Private Ryan wants to stay in the fight and help win the war. The US soldiers sent to save him decide to stay and help him complete his mission.

In much the same way, this story is reminiscent of how God sent Jesus for us. God sent Jesus to come and save us as we are trapped behind enemy lines. But unlike the General who wanted Private Ryan to leave the fight and come home, God expects us to do what Private Ryan did. God did not just send Jesus so we can live the same life now but go to heaven one day. God sent Jesus so we could be successful in the fight now and spend eternity with him forever. God has a mission for each of us, and only through the power God sends to us through Jesus will we be able to successfully accomplish it.

But what if when the US soldiers found Private Ryan, he told them to go away, that he did not need their help? What if he refused to accept the General’s offer of future safety from the war and thesoldier’s offer of additional help during the battle? Sadly, this is often what humans do when we refuse to receive the gift of the gospel that God has sent to us through Jesus Christ.

So how can we receive the gospel? How can we make sure we will live forever with God when this war is over while also living with power now as we complete the mission he has given us on earth? Ephesians 2:8-10 gives us the answer:

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

Grace is a gift we don’t deserve. It is God’s offer of salvation, redemption, and transformation through the power of Jesus Christ. If you receive something that you earned through your own character, good choices, or hard work, this is not grace. Grace is totally dependent on God’s love for us and not our love for God. The Bible says we are saved “by grace” and “not by works.” To receive the gospel, we must first accept that everything God offers us is “by grace.”

Faith is believing God so much that you live differently because of your trust in him. Hebrews 11:1 says, “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” Even though we can’t see God right now, even though we did not see Jesus die and rise from the dead, God still expects us to have faith in these truths. When we have faith in God, it is like cashing the check God has already written for us. To receive the gospel we must accept that everything God offers us is “by grace” and received “through faith.”

Good works are the deeds God wants us to do for him. We are not saved by doing good works. But when we are saved “by grace” and “through faith” our “good works” will be a sign of our salvation (James 2:14-18). When we truly put our faith in God, our lives will look different as we are empowered by his grace. We will not live a perfect life, but we will have “good works” present in our lives as the evidence of our conversion. To receive the gospel we must accept that everything God offers is “by grace,” “through faith,” and now we must live for God as his “handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

God is offering you the chance to be transformed. He sent his Son to save us from our sins, to give us a new nature, and help us live for God now and forever. God desires for your relationship with him to be restored. Nothing will bring wholeness, healing, love, or transformation except a restored relationship with God.

Perhaps you have never put your faith in Jesus Christ. Or perhaps you once put your faith in Jesus Christ in the past, but since that time you have backslidden and have not followed God with all your heart. Do you want your sins to be forgiven? Do you want a new nature? Would you like a restored relationship with God?

You can have all of this by God’s grace if you put your faith in Jesus Christ, repent of your sin, and dedicate the rest of your life to following him. If you would like to receive God’s offer of salvation and transformation, or if you would like to rededicate your life to God, here is a prayer to help guide you. This prayer is not magical. You can pray your own words to God. But if you don’t know what to say but want to be in a relationship with God, this prayer is meant to help guide you:

Dear God,
Thank you for sending your Son, Jesus Christ. I believe he died on the cross for my sins and was raised from the dead on the third day. I put my faith in Jesus and ask you to save me, restore my relationship with you, and transform me completely. I confess all of my sins and I thank you for cleansing me completely through the blood of Jesus. I repent of my former way of life and choose to now live for you. I believe your gift of salvation is all by grace. Thank you for saving me. Please help me to now grow in my relationship with you, follow you for my whole life, to always repent and ask for forgiveness when I sin, and help me to seek to please you in everything I do. In Jesus name I pray, amen.