The whole gospel is the gospel of grace. It is Christ alone. But which Christ are we talking about? Which Jesus are you trusting in?
- Is it baby Jesus who appears each Christmas?
- Is it the tolerant teacher who was friendly to sinners?
- Is it Jesus on the cross dying for the sins of the world?
Hopefully, it is none of the above.
This may shock you but none of these Jesuses is particularly good news. There is only one Jesus that saves, delivers, heals, rescues, and gives new life, and that is the Risen Jesus, seated at the right hand of God.
The resurrection is not simply an Easter sermon. It is the reason the good news is good news.
- Baby Jesus is good news but it is not good enough.
- Jesus the friend of sinners is good news but it is not good enough.
- Jesus dying on the cross is certainly very good news but it is not good enough. A dead Jesus saves no one.
If Jesus had not been raised to new life, then everything he did was for nought.
Consider the evangelist who tells sinners, “Jesus died on the cross for your sins.”
That’s wonderful but how do we know Jesus’ death was a sufficient sacrifice? How do we know that all our sins – past, present, and future – have been eternally forgiven? Answer: Because Jesus was raised from the dead.
He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification. (Romans 4:25)
It is because Jesus has been raised that you have been justified and made wholly righteous by God. This is the good news.
The resurrection’s the thing
A gospel which proclaims the cross but not the resurrection is not the whole gospel. A gospel which proclaims a dead Jesus but not a living, all-conquering, ruling and reigning King Jesus, is not the whole gospel.
If you would preach the whole gospel, then tell the whole story, not the one that ends at Calvary.
Why am I telling you this?
I recently heard a story about a man called Stan who battled with alcoholism for more than 40 years. (The story is told by Bob George in his book Classic Christianity.) Stan had given his life to Jesus but nothing changed. The drinking continued as before.
One night the man came home in such a state that his wife called Bob George. “Please come and talk to him.” Bob went around and was inspired to ask the following question:
Stan, when you accepted Christ, which Jesus did you believe in? Did you have in mind an honorable man who lived 2000 years ago before and died on a cross? Stan, did you accept Jesus the man? Or did you accept Jesus Christ the God who became a man and was raised from the dead? The Lord Jesus who is alive today and offers his life to you?
Stan replied that he had put his faith in Jesus the man. Bob asked if he was willing to put his trust in Jesus the living God. Stan said he was, and he was delivered from alcoholism that very night.
What you believe determines what you see
If you don’t believe that Jesus heals, guess what, you won’t get healed. If you don’t believe that Jesus conquered death in order that we might enjoy new life here and now, guess what. You won’t experience new life here and now. Your life will be no different from your unsaved neighbor’s, except that you might dress up and go to church on Sundays.
The outcome of the gospel is not merely the forgiveness of sins, as wonderful as that is. It is literally new life – his life.
What does this new life look like? It looks like freedom. It is the prisoner freed from her captivity and the alcoholic liberated from his dependency.
This doesn’t mean that if you are sick or struggling with addiction, you are not fully saved. If you believe Jesus is Lord and that God raised him from the dead, then you are saved! One-hundred percent saved. Rest in God’s promise and let nothing move you.
But at the same time, don’t befriend your enemies.
If you’re battling with illness, work out in your experience that awesome gift of salvation that you have already received. Talk to your problems about your mighty God and what he has done for you.
My point is this: many Christians settle at the cross. They are so grateful for grace and forgiveness that they camp at Calvary and miss the resurrection. They lead others to the cross and no further and the result is powerless, fruitless Christianity.
God saved us so that we might live, really live here and now. Eternal life is knowing God in your present circumstances and trials (John 17:3). It’s a whole new reality.
The gospel of grace reveals a certain Jesus and it is this one:
This good news is about his Son, our Lord Jesus Christ! As a human, he was from the family of David. But the Holy Spirit proved that Jesus is the powerful Son of God, because he was raised from death. (Romans 1:3-4, CEV)
Confess Jesus as Lord and you shall be saved, but do you know what the word “Lord” means? It means Jesus has power and authority. It means he is the living king (not a dead martyr); he is on the throne (not on the cross).
When you proclaim the Lord Jesus over your addictions and failings, you are making a bold declaration of faith. You’re saying:
Addiction (or illness), you have a strong grip on me but the Lord Jesus is stronger still. I cannot defeat you in my strength, but let me tell you about Jesus my God at whose name every knee shall bow, including yours.
What does James say? Does he say, “Submit yourselves to Jesus the tolerant teacher”? “Submit yourselves to Jesus the dead Messiah”? No!
Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. (James 4:7)
As Stan’s story illustrates, the devil doesn’t flee from those who know Jesus as man. But those who know their God shall be strong and do exploits.
They shall walk through the fires of life and not be burned (Isaiah 43:2).
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