Summary: The gospel is not only completely true, but also completely sufficient.
My favorite button on the computer is the "undo" button. It’s like a little time machine. Have you ever wished you could turn back the clock - wipe the slate clean and start over?
In fact, this is a universal human urge, one that’s reflected in our popular culture. [Examples: ¨ "Back to the Future" movies, or the old "Quantum Leap" TV series, in which the theme of time travel is linked with the desire to change the course of history for the better.]
This universal urge to make a clean break with the past and start over is also reflected in our legal system. [Bankruptcy; Divorce] And in golf, we have the honored tradition of the "mulligan". All of these reflect our common recognition of the fact that we make mistakes. We do and say things that we regret. And so we try to come up with ways to undo what was done. But the problem is that they don’t really work. Life has no "undo" key.
But there is one thing that can give a completely fresh start. One thing that can lift the burden of our guilt; one thing that can remake our lives and make them new again; one thing that can change us, transform us, into new creatures. And that is the gospel of Jesus Christ. The gospel is the ultimate Mulligan. The gospel is the ultimate Second Chance, the ultimate "Do-over." [Illustration: Clip from the end of the film City Slickers, where the Billy Crystal character encourages the Daniel Stern character to take a "do-over" with his life]
This morning, our topic is "A Reliance on the Gospel." I’m going to discuss three things. First, just what the gospel is. Second, why it is central to the life of this church. And finally, why it should be central to our lives as well.
What is the gospel?
"Gospel" means "good news". But it is "good news" only in contrast to something else which is "bad news." [Example: Finding you don’t have cancer is only good news if you are waiting for the results of a biopsy. Learning that your house is still standing is only good news after you hear on the radio that a tornado has gone through. Finding out that your teenage daughter is safe and sound is only good news after you hear she’s been in an auto accident].
So what is the bad news? Simply this, that all men are sinners, and that the consequences of our sin are (1) being separated from God, and (2) suffering His judgment and wrath, both now and forever.
What is sin? Sin is any failure to give to God the worship and obedience that He deserves. It involves both heart attitudes and actions. It includes not only explicit rebellion, but also passively ignoring God and His Word, going our own way, giving no thought to what God would have us to do. Sin isn’t just doing the don’t’s; it’s failing to do the do’s.
How hard is it to "do the do’s"? The Bible tells us that we are to love God with all our "heart, soul, mind, and strength" and that we are to love our neighbor as ourselves [Mark 12:30-31]. It’s so hard that no one except Jesus Christ has ever succeeded at it. It hard because our inclination toward sin is universal; it’s common to everyone who ever lived. Not a single person in human history, except Jesus Christ, has ever kept this commandment fully.
As it is written: "There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one . . . . All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." -- Romans 3:10-12, 23 (NIV)
Paul couldn’t be clearer ["no one," etc.]. We all fall short in one way or another.
What are the consequences of our sin? First, separation from God. God is completely holy and righteous. He cannot tolerate sin in His presence; He cannot have a relationship with us in our natural, sinful condition. [We would be destroyed as surely as darkness is destroyed by light.]
This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. - 1 John 1:5 (NIV)
For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? -- 2 Corinthians 6:14 (NIV)
But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you. - Isaiah 59:2 (NIV)
People try various ways to bridge the gap between themselves and God. For instance, by the things they do. They hope that their good works will outweigh the bad on the scales of life.