What is the heart of the good news?

By Vernon E . Hurles - Religion Columnist

Like others before me and many who will follow after, I agree with Michael Green that you could sum up the essence of the Gospel in four propositions.

FIRST, WE BELIEVE IN A GOD WHO SPEAKS. He has revealed himself in many ways: in nature, in human personality, in the history of Israel, and above all Jesus Christ. The Bible is all about a God who refuses to hide himself. It is about revelation. And on the bases of that revelation, we have something to say.

SECOND, WE BELIEVE IN A GOD WHO RESCUES. Scripture and experience join in convincing us that all is not well with ‘homo sapiens.’ Our words, deeds and thoughts, inclinations, attitudes and characters are all affected by the ‘human disease’ of self-centeredness and sin. It is very dangerous and lethal. And there is nothing we can do alone to rescue ourselves from its clutches. As with AIDS there is no cure. Religious questing and moral behavior are both admirable but inadequate. They cannot get us to God. They cannot make us fit to be seen in his presence. And they cannot deal with the virus of sin in our lives. But the amazing testimony of the Bible is that God has stepped in, in the person of Jesus, to do for us what we could never do for ourselves. If we look hard enough we will see that God was in Christ reconciling the word to himself. And the cross was where it happened. On that cross God took full responsibility for our failures and sins. He burdened himself with them. They crushed him. But that was not the end of the story. He rose from the grave, offering forgiveness and the power of the Holy Spirit to those who will turn to him and ask for them. This again is one of the central themes of the whole Bible. The God who reveals himself is the same God who rescues mankind. He is the God who acquits the ungodly, and he can do so with perfect propriety because he has himself shouldered our debts and drank the poison of our sins to the very last dregs.

THIRD WE BELIEVE IN A GOD WHO GIVES LIFE. He puts his Spirit within us, and that makes the real difference. It is marked in the Hebrew, where ‘nephesh’ is used for our human spirit, while ‘ruach’ is used for God’s Spirit which he offers to instill. Things are not the same as they were before. When the Spirit comes to us there is new understanding, new liberty in prayer, a new sense in belonging, a new power over evil habits, a new desire to tell others, a new love for Christian fellowship, a new humility, boldness and desire to learn. That is the result, variously and gradually evidenced , of the new birth which God brings about in those who ‘convert’ or turn to him in repentance and faith.

FOURTH, WE BELIEVE IN A GOD WHO SENDS. All through the scripture, and all through history, people who have found—-or rather been found by this living, triune, redemptive god have had something to declare. They cannot keep quiet. They do it because they must. They have found treasure: they want others to know. The Lord loved them and gave himself for them. The least they can do is seek with all their power to introduce others to him. And that what lies at the heart of evangelism: The God whom says, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? The evangelist replies, humbly, but with love and wholeheartedness, ‘Lord. Here am I, send me.’

The good news of the Gospel contains a lot more than that. But I submit to you that those four propositions lie very near its center.

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By Vernon E . Hurles

Religion Columnist

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