What’s the best news you ever heard?
Maybe it was a disease healed, a relationship restored, a child born. Whatever it was, something happened, that something was told to you, and that something changed everything.
Would it surprise you to learn that the heart of Christianity is good news?
Not good advice—good news. Good advice would be me telling you to stick to your budget, save every month, and invest wisely. Good news would be me telling you that someone opened up a bank account for you with 10 million dollars in it—and all you need to do is sign the papers.
The news at the heart of Christianity is good because it is a message of salvation. Specifically, the good news of Christianity tells us what we’re saved from, how we’re saved, and what we’re saved to.
What We’re Saved From
Where would you say most of the problems in your life begin? With other people? The government? The economy? Messed-up family members?
Most of us tend to think that our problems start outside of us and the solution is within us. But the Bible teaches that our fundamental problem is within us and the solution must come from the outside.1
Think with me for a moment. Are all the problems in your life 100 percent someone else’s fault? Have you ever caused problems for yourself or others by doing something that benefited you at another’s expense?
The Bible teaches that God created us to love him.2 But instead, from the very first man and woman God created right down to you and me, we’ve all spurned God. We’ve rejected his rule and sought to establish our own. We’ve chosen to make much of ourselves instead of making much of God. God created this world to be good, but we’ve made a mess of it.3
This is what the Bible calls “sin.” Sin rejects God’s right to be God—that is, to command our lives, to tell us what’s right and wrong, to set boundaries for our desires. Sin strikes at the heart of what it means for God to be God. Sin is not merely a trivial trifling with harmless pleasures; it’s cosmic treason.4
And God is a righteous and just ruler.5 God is not an unscrupulous cosmic janitor who simply sweeps sin under the rug.6 In the Christian understanding, God is Lord of all, and he will not let evil have its way. Instead, God promises to one day give humanity what we deserve—and what all of us deserve is nothing other than eternal punishment.7
If you’re thinking that this doesn’t sound like good news, you’re right. Christians believe that in order to understand the good news the Bible proclaims, we need to understand the bad news first. A drowning man who thinks he’s fine will reject the life preserver that’s his only hope.
How We’re Saved
Here’s how the Apostle Paul summarized the gospel:
Now, brothers and sisters, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve.8
So, then, what is the good news? It is that Christ died for our sins, was buried, and rose again on the third day.
Why is this good? Because, to put it most basically (though seemingly paradoxically), Jesus got what we deserved so that we could get what he deserved. Jesus was cursed so that we could be blessed. Our sin was put on Jesus so that his righteousness would be counted to us. Jesus was forsaken by God so that we would be embraced by God.9
For three hours on a Friday almost two thousand years ago, Jesus suffered hell on a Roman cross outside Jerusalem so that all who believe in him could inherit heaven. On the third day, that same Jesus rose from the grave, conquering sin and death. Jesus thus began God’s work of new creation and entered into his reign as Lord and Savior.
Notice how Paul insists that this good news must be received, stood upon, and held to. Salvation in Jesus is not automatic; it is offered to those who believe.
For the Christian, to believe in Jesus is to embrace him, rely on him, trust in him. To believe the gospel is to admit that you can’t save yourself and to choose to rely totally on Jesus to save you.
According to Scripture, the other side of this coin is repentance.10 To repent means to turn away. Repenting of sin means turning away from attempting to rule everything in your own life—from attempting to be God—and turning back to God himself. It is to give up the futile project of trying to make yourself king and instead gladly bowing before Jesus, the one true king of all.
The gospel is good news because it proclaims a salvation that Jesus has already accomplished and that we need only embrace. In the Christian view, all you must do to be saved is turn from sin and trust in Jesus.
What We’re Saved For
The Bible teaches that all those who accept Jesus as their savior are declared righteous by God. They have peace with and intimate access to God. They are adopted by God as sons and daughters. They’re given a new family—the church—to help them grow in faith and love. They’re promised an eternal inheritance: the new heaven and earth, which God will create when Christ returns to complete all things.11
Believers in Jesus are delivered from the penalty of sin. They’re also delivered from sin’s power—in part in the present life and perfectly in the life to come. When a believer accepts Jesus, the Holy Spirit lives in them and enables them to live righteously, even though they still struggle against sin. Upon Christ’s return, believers will be made every bit as perfect as the new creation God has promised as their eternal home.12
Come as You Are
Perhaps most importantly, Christians believe you don’t need to get your life in order or try to “get right with God,” before coming to Jesus. Instead, coming to Jesus as you are is the only way to get right with God, the only way to truly get your life in order.
Following Jesus will cost you. It will cost you surrender, sacrifice, submission. It may cost you your reputation, or relationships, or earthly pleasures. But, for Christians, following Jesus is worth it. Only in Jesus is there forgiveness and freedom from sin. Only in Jesus can you freely receive the eternal, fully fulfilled life God intended us to live.
This news is good for you only if you believe it. But if you believe this good news, it will change everything.
- The Holy Bible, New International Version © 2011, Mark 7:20–23.
- Ibid., Matthew 22:37.
- Ibid., Romans 1:18–32, 3:9–20.
- R. C. Sproul, The Holiness of God (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House, 1985), 115–116.
- The Holy Bible, Psalm 89:14.
- Greg Gilbert, What Is the Gospel? (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2010), 42–44.
- The Holy Bible, Romans 2:1–5, 2 Thessalonians 1:9, Revelation 14:11.
- Ibid., 1 Corinthians 15:1–5.
- Ibid., Galatians 3:13–14; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Matthew 27:46.
- Ibid., Mark 1:15, Acts 3:19–20.
- Ibid., Romans 5:1–11; Hebrews 4:14–16; Galatians 4:4–7; Ephesians 4:1–16; Romans 8:14–25.
- Ibid., Romans 6:1–23; Ephesians 4:17–32; 1 John 3:1–2.
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