Why the Gospel will always be both offensive and necessary
Author: Steve AdamsPubished: Tuesday 07th February 04:44pm
In 1969, Thomas Harris wrote the self-help book, "I'm OK, You're OK". Even for those who have never read the book, the phrase, "I'm OK, You're OK", became widely accepted and popular. After all, is it not the general self-perception of most of us that we're all OK?
I grew up in a home with two Christian parents. I went to church every week - only to keep my parents happy. I certainly was not there because I wanted to be there. I looked forward to the two Sundays that I was given reprieve from church. These were the Rugby League (now NRL) Grand Final and the Bathurst car race. Even when I lost interest in Rugby League, I still milked it for all it was worth.
The message of the Christian Gospel, as I understood it, was that we're not all OK and that there was something wrong with me that needed fixing. Even the suggestion that there was something wrong with me seemed laughable. My life was grand! I did what I wanted, when I wanted and never hurt a single person - other than my parents and their grand hopes for me to share their Christian religious views. Isn't that living the dream? Doing whatever I feel like whenever I want? My upbringing didn't accommodate for that view. It told me that I could not do whatever I wanted when I wanted. As a result, my view of Christianity, (and all religions), was that it was a killjoy fairytale for the weak and insecure, who had no life and sought after something other than their miserable life to make them feel good about themselves.
We live in a world that has a multiplicity of religions. Some people might put that down to people simply hoping for something that is bigger than themselves. I am now convinced that there is something deeper going on. Deeply embedded in the conscience of every human being is a sense that there is a God and that we do not stand in right relation to that God. This is evident in the two big questions that all religions seek to answer:
1. Who is God?
2. How do I get myself into a right relationship with God so that I am acceptable to him and gain his favourable blessings?
The answers to these questions varies. All religions provide a different answer to the question of "Who is God?". However most religions, (Christianity excepted), seek to answer the second question in terms of "what do I need to do to earn God's favour?". When I say that Christianity is the exception to the rule, this is because the Bible speaks of our natural condition as being incapable of pleasing God - even with the greatest of effort. If attaining the acceptance of God was something achieved by our effort we would be constantly asking the question, "Have I done enough?" The message of Christianity, called the Gospel or "Good News", says that our right standing with God is not obtained by our human efforts (which leave us wondering if we've done enough), but that our right standing with God is only possible by trusting in what Jesus Christ has done for us. This trusting is not merely the intellectual ascent to certain facts about Jesus. This is an active trusting that Jesus (who was both completely God and completely man), has satisfied the demands of God's good justice by taking the penalty of death due to us, upon himself and that he was raised again to show that a) His offering was accepted by God, b) He has power and authority over sin and death and 3) That he is able to also raise us to newness of life as he promised. If our debt has been paid in full by God himself and if he has declared us right in his sight by our trusting in Jesus, we don't need to worry if enough has been done to satisfy God. As we turn from trusting in ourselves to trusting Jesus, there is also a change of priorities - from simply seeking "what pleases me" to "what pleases God? - who created me, whom I belong to, and who provided the way of salvation in Jesus Christ".
It is no surprise that all people have a sense that there is an all powerful God. After all, God has said so in the Bible.
Romans 1:20-21 (ESV)
20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they did not honour him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.
What does not sit well with us are the implications for us if there actually is an almighty God. If there really is an all-powerful God who created us, then essentially we belong to him and owe our allegiance to him. The reason this does not sit will with us is that we all deeply want to do whatever we want. We want to be the ultimate authority on all things in our lives. ie. We want to be our own god. However, this is not what we deeply need. At best, all pursuits to this end can only provide a temporary gratification with no lasting (and certainly not eternal) joy. After all, a world full of people who deem themselves to be "ultimate authorities" will necessarily lead to conflict as one person's ultimate authority is sure to clash with another's ultimate authority.
The second aspect that does not sit well with us is that the Gospel tells us that we cannot save ourselves. We live in a culture that says "you can do anything", but the Gospel says that every one of us is hopelessly incapable of making ourselves good enough or acceptable to God.
One of the better illustrations of the dual offensiveness and necessity of the Gospel is the analogy of receiving a life-threatening medical diagnosis from your doctor. Nobody enjoys hearing that something is happening within their body that could potentially be deadly. Even despite being presented with the facts of their condition, many go into denial and refuse the treatment (cure), that will completely reverse the diagnosis and its effects. However, most are thankful that the doctor brought their true condition to their attention so that they can commit themselves to the treatment (cure) offered by the physician. The Bible's diagnosis says that we're not good enough, can't make ourselves good enough, and are guilty before God. This is not palatable or easy to accept - especially if we've lived a pretty good life. In like manner, a life-threatening medical diagnosis is never easy to hear or accept from a doctor, but that deep despair turns to hope when the diagnosis is accompanied with news that the cure is readily available. The Bible does not just leave us with the shock announcement about our true condition and consequential implications. The Bible also tells us what Jesus has done to smash the former diagnosis of our condition before God and all associated implications. What was once a frightful diagnosis is replaced with the joy of forgiveness, reconciliation and an eternal life with God where there will be no more suffering, pain, sadness or death. All of these wonderful blessings are promised to everyone who accepts the diagnosis of their true condition and trusts in the cure (salvation) that Jesus Christ has provided.
Without the offensiveness of the diagnosis, nobody would look to find the wonderful solution that Jesus has provided. The diagnosis is true of every person ever born. Likewise, the wonderful cure is also equally needed by every person ever born. This is why the Gospel is, (and will always be), both unpopular and necessary.
The presentation below by Red Grace Media is a helpful reminder of why the Gospel will always be unpopular yet necessary for all mankind.