The Gospel is actually so simple.
It’s this: God loves you. Period.
Anything and everything that you think prevented you from approaching God has been dealt with by Jesus on the Cross.
You are now free to live your life free of any worry that God doesn’t like you, that God will never forgive you, that God cannot love you the way you are, that you’re all on your own, that maybe after you die you’ll go to that terrible place you’ve heard of that’s called ‘hell’.
No more of that. Jesus loves you and He wants to walk alongside you, and bring the presence of the Kingdom into your life in all its power, peace, love and joy!
That’s the Gospel.
It’s not about obeying Rules; it’s not about obeying the Law.
It’s not about Law at all, in fact. It’s about faith. Faith in Jesus Christ.
You see, the Law, for example in the Ten Commandments, was only ever given in order to show us our sinfulness, that is, our tendency towards doing things that will harm us, and/or harm others (Romans 3:20).
But Jesus took all that sinfulness into Himself on the Cross and destroyed it. (Rom 6:6)
Humanity’s natural tendency is to try to please God by obeying Rules; we call this ‘legalism’. Jesus said in Mark 7:6-7 (quoting Isaiah 29:13),
“These people honour me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.
They worship me in vain; their teachings are merely human rules.”
This dependence on our own works – the ‘human rules’ that Jesus mentions – is completely futile, as we will see below. But in Jesus, a new way to please God has been given: the way of Grace. Here’s what Paul says in Romans 3:21-22:
“Therefore no one will be justified in His sight by works of the Law. For the Law merely brings awareness of sin. But now, apart from the Law, the righteousness of God has been revealed… And this righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe”
Did you see that? No-one will be justified by the Law (in other words, the Law makes no-one righteous), but now, apart from Law, our righteousness comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe! (See also Gal 2:16). That is all that is required! And it’s all God’s free gift, through His Grace, that is, His favour and His approval, that even though we may not deserve it, He gives us it anyway!
Righteousness comes, by faith in Jesus Christ, to all who believe. And it comes from God, not from us!
Jesus came to set us free from the Law of sin and death. Jesus did not come to change the Law, but to fulfil it. Every Law we were supposed to keep, that we have broken, He has fulfilled on our behalf, and this is what makes us free. There is no longer any need for us to believe that we have to ‘do’ certain things in order to please God, because it’s all been done!
When Jesus came, He chided the Pharisees for making up loads of layers of laws for people to keep (Mt 23:4). It’s the same today. Legalists just like modern-day Pharisees love to add layer upon layer of Rules and Laws – Moses’s law, Jesus’s law, Paul’s law, Peter’s law. They say that Jesus only came to give us more Rules, oh look at the Sermon on the Mount, look at the Beatitudes! Then after Jesus comes Paul, apparently saying things like ‘Do not get drunk on wine’, Don’t this, Don’t that. Legalists love this sort of thing. So that even though Jesus has already made it completely unnecessary to obey religious Rules once and for all, still even then they persist in trying to add on these layers of Rules in order to try to please God through their own works, which, as we have seen, is futile. These Rules are drawn from an incorrect application of Scriptures portraying events even later than those in the Gospels, and of course the Legalists look for more Rules to follow, find passages they think are Rules, and add those new Rules to the list they already follow, and that’s no way to live! (And of course the Rules are there only as part of a complete misunderstanding of Grace….)
I’d like to ask them what they think they can add to Jesus’s already completed work?
Nothing. Absolutely nothing. All we have to do is to accept what Jesus has done for us. ‘Surely’, some may say, ‘there’s more to it than that? Surely there is something we have to do?’ No. Nothing at all. What you do is simply to have faith in Christ; simply to believe in Him. What this looks like is that you let Jesus live in you, to let Him live His Life out through yours, to let Him lead you by His Spirit. This is real freedom. This is the Freedom in the Spirit!
So I will say to you along with St. Paul, “Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day” (Col 2:16) [Emphasis mine] – or by what clothes you wear, what games you play, what sort of music you listen to, what books you read, whether or not you go to the cinema (that’s the movies for our American friends!), what sexuality you have (which is none of their business anyway), whom you marry – anything! Your walk with Jesus has absolutely nothing to do with anyone else; it’s none of their business! (Jn 21:22)
Let me tell you something. Today’s Pharisees will do all this and more, but they will claim that they are not Pharisees because they do ‘lift a finger to help’ – and they’ll claim that they are trying to help you towards ‘holiness’. But Jesus has already given us everything that we need for life and godliness. Everything! (2Pet1:3) No, what they are actually doing is to judge you, clothe it in pseudo-‘love’, and tell you they’re only noseying into your life because it’s ‘for your own good’; so that they can keep you away from ‘sin’. But Jesus already does that by His Spirit – so, to reiterate, do not let anyone judge you by [anything]. You are free in Christ to be whom He made you to be, free from others’ opinions, free from others’ influence.
This is your freedom. Live in it!
Let me leave you with one final Scripture: Micah 6:8. Jesus has set us free to live like this:
He has told you, O man, what is good;
and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
and to walk humbly with your God?
– Micah 6:8