Over the last several weeks we have been reminded about the core of our faith and what the good news, or the gospel, actually is about. Going to church for years, being a good person, celebrating particular customs and rituals are not bad things; they are, however, not at the centre of what Jesus, Paul and the other New Testament writers meant when they invited people to trust the gospel. You don’t move on, grow out of, or supplement the good news of Jesus. Faith in Jesus is how we enter God’s new life in the Holy Spirit and faith in Jesus is how we go on in that life. It begins, continues, and never ends in trusting Jesus Christ.
So this means for Christians that our work places, study, our homes, our social sphere and life in a church community are entered into and sustained by trusting Jesus. God is restoring our own lives and the whole creation in and through faith in Jesus. There is no place, event, experience that is outside of God’s grace. And so we see that our faith is personal, but it is not private. Yes, God responds to us individually, but he draws us up into his wider purposes in restoring humanity and the world. Here’s a recap:
Week 1: God’s Grace Transforms People
There is a one and only true gospel that is the story of Israel – or the OT – being fulfilled in the story of Jesus – his life and teaching, his loving sacrificial death to pay for our sins, and his death-conquering resurrection that gives us the gift of being included in Christ. Any other “gospel” must be utterly rejected.
Week 2: Grace Enables Authentic Community
The gospel and Christian community welcomes people more than the surrounding culture. We all enter through Grace alone, Faith alone, Jesus Christ alone, Scripture alone, to the Glory to God alone. Jesus plus nothing equals everything.
Week 3: The Liberating Power of Faith
Being a Christian has been overlaid with thousands of years of church practice and cultural sediment. So we think we know what we mean when we say the word Christian. But a Christian is someone who trusts Jesus to make them right with God and give them the gift of the Holy Spirit to live a life in and for God.
Week 4: Receiving what God has Promised
God’s plan to restore humanity and the creation began with his promise to Abraham, a Middle Eastern goat herder who lived in Ur (modern day Iraq) around 3500 years ago. God said to Abraham “all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” Paul is saying that we are included in God’s promises and salvation not by obeying the law or trying hard to be good, not by taking on particular religious customs and practices, but by faith in Jesus Christ. Jesus is the fulfilment of God’s promise to Abraham who is an example of someone who was made right with God simply by believing what God said to him and by trusting God.