At times, change can be a good thing. I know it was for me. Over a decade ago, I made a change and moved to the DFW metroplex. Growing up, I never thought I would live in Dallas, but when the opportunity presented itself, I took it. I not only took the opportunity because I thought it would help me advance my career faster, but I also made the move because I felt like I needed a fresh start in order to work on my relationship with God.
While attending the University of Georgia I was caught up in the party scene. That scene spilled over into my time in Atlanta because a lot of my friends from college moved to Atlanta when they graduated. I even lived with the same roommate I lived with in college. Having all the same friends meant that it was hard to escape that scene. At times, I tried, but it wasn’t enough. I felt like I needed a fresh start in a new place with new friends. So when the opportunity to move to Dallas presented itself, I took it.
Moving wasn’t the magic bullet I was looking for. You see, if we don’t deal with the underlying sin, things aren’t going to change. We will just end up falling back into what we were doing. That’s what happened to me. But having the mindset of starting afresh caused me to get back into church, where I made new friends. God worked through those relationships to expose the underlying sin and call me back to following Him. And so, for me, changing cities provided to be a good thing.
But change isn’t always for the better. That’s especially true when it comes to the gospel. Paul’s letter to the Galatians tells us that. You see, there were some in the church who had distorted the gospel. Paul didn’t want the church to be deceived by them. So he writes this letter to address the problem. And he addresses that not only by calling out the false teachers, but also by throughly explaining the gospel. Since Paul talked about the gospel a lot, we are going to be talking a lot about the gospel as we work through this book. Which means that by the end you should have a good understanding of the gospel.
Since Galatians is primarily about the gospel, that’s where I’m going to begin our series. I’m are going to begin by talking about: What the gospel is; how it has been changed, and then I’m going to give you five reasons why you shouldn’t change the gospel. But before we to the five reasons, we need to make sure we are all on the same page with what the gospel is. So:
What is the gospel?
The gospel is shorthand for the good news. We have all experienced good news before. When I lived in Fort Worth, I had to have some pre-cancerous skin removed by the Dermatologist. After the surgery, they tested the skin they removed just to make sure they hadn’t missed anything in the initial biopsy. Once the tests were finished, they told me they would call with the results. If you have ever had a surgery that involved a biopsy, you know that you are anxiously awaiting that call. When they finally called, they told me that they didn’t find any cancer and they had removed all the pre-cancerous cells. Hearing that was good news. I’m sure many of you have received good news like that in the past as well.
While it’s always good to hear that we are healthy, the news that Paul writes about is even better news. Really, it’s the best news we could ever hear. Paul says starting in verse 3 of Galatians 1,
“Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.” (Ga 1:3–5)
While these verses serve as an introduction to the letter, they also contain the content of the gospel. The gospel tells us that Jesus gave Himself for our sins. That sacrifice was necessary because we are sinners. If you have been in church for any length of time, you have heard that term. You have probably heard that term defined as one who misses the mark. While that’s not necessarily wrong, I don’t think it gives us a full picture of what it means to be a sinner. Sinners are those who live in rebellion to God. Living in rebellion involves more than just breaking a few rules here and there or missing the mark occasionally. Living in rebellion means that we have rejected God’s way of doing things for our own way of doing things. A rebel, then, isn’t someone who veers off target occasionally, they are someone who has charted their own course. They are someone who lives at odds with God. That’s not a good thing. You see, God is holy and His holiness requires He deal with those who are unholy, with those who have rebelled against Him. Which means that as rebels, as sinners, we are due to face God’s punishment.
But, and here is the good news, because what I just told you is bad news. It’s bad news, whether Hollywood glorifies it or not, that we are rebels. But the good news is that Jesus gave Himself for us. In other words, He took the punishment we deserve. On the cross, the Father’s wrath that was reserved for us was poured out on Jesus. All those who are willing to admit that they are sinners who deserve God’s punishment. All those who would repent — what that means is that we turn from our sin, from living in rebellion to God, to live under His guidance and direction. All those who admit they are sinners, repent, and believe that Jesus took their punishment for them, experience salvation. They experience peace with God, which means that we no longer have to worry about Him punishing us. Instead of being His enemy, we are His children and He is our Father.
Alongside peace with God, we also experience deliverance from the present evil age, which means that we are no longer under the control of Satan. He’s no longer our master. We are freed from his bondage and slavery. And we are able to live for God. That’s the gospel, that’s the good news, that we are saved from God’s punishment by Jesus’ work on our behalf. I want to be clear that it is through Jesus’ work on our behalf that we experience salvation. That means that we don’t contribute anything to our salvation. It’s all Jesus and none of us. That’s the good news. That’s the gospel.
Question for Reflection
- Do you believe the gospel?
- Do you see it as good news?
Post developed from my sermon: Why shouldn’t we change the gospel? You can listen to it here.