Tuesday, October 28, 2014
What the Gospel isn’t
The Mackinac Straits bridge that links Michigan’s upper and lower peninsulas across five miles of water.
Ephesians 2:8 NIV
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God...
YESTERDAY we explored why the relatively small 6,000-strong Pharisee sect just could not see the Good News that Jesus represented. They couldn’t see it as good, and couldn’t recognise the Messiah they longed for, when He was right in front of them!
We have prejudices, filters, judgments and strongholds – or maybe these are all words for the same thing – which pre-process what we see and hear. Sometimes we don’t see or hear much of it. Or we may actually hear or see something different – a perception shift.
There is a chasm between the holiness and pure intention of heaven, and the craftiness and selfishness of man. However, God has provided a unique bridge which connects Him to us. There are other civil engineering projects which all sorts of people have been trying to complete. These work the other way – they attempt to connect us to Him. It seems that everyone wants to construct their own bridge, to avoid paying the toll. We like to do things on our own terms!
If only it worked that way! But it doesn’t. Our efforts to get to a heavenly encounter only get so far. It’s against the flow of God’s design, and we can’t go that way.
Various faith systems have arisen to try to answer the question: “How are going to reach a holy God? “. Every attempt has been a little different, but they have all started building out from man’s side of the chasm.
Bill Hybels puts it like this: “Everyone seemed to agree that all people had to do to reach God was to fly a little straighter, pray a little harder, live more nobly, become more religious and perform more charitable deeds. The idea was that a person’s massive construction efforts amassed during the course of a lifetime could somehow entitle them to proximity with God… Study the religions for yourself. See if you don’t agree – not only does every major world religion suggest you attempt to bridge the gap through your own efforts. There is also no evidence or assurance that you will actually get it done before you die.
One faith approach stands out from all the rest, because uniquely its starting point is not with man, but with God. That is biblical Christianity, and that is why it is not a religion or religious system, although it is usually lumped together with others under that heading. What is confusing is that too much broadly Christian belief and practice does start on man’s side. It is of that ‘live better, try harder, observe more closely’ genre. But that is a caricature of what God sent Jesus to establish.
God laid the foundation, and built a bridge that went to where sinful man could be reached. No special card was necessary to operate the barrier because there wasn’t a barrier. No special rules applied because there are no special rules. This bridge could be found and accessed by absolutely anybody, at which point they would find God coming towards them.
This is God’s story of redeeming and restoring those He has made in His image. Of choosing to see people the way He made them, and not the way a messed-up, selfish world has formed them.
To be carriers of this message, to be guides to the bridge that extends from God to us, is surely the highest calling there is.