I know…odd title for a post on a blog called “Gospel Community Culture”, but it is something that is hard to get around. The gospel is a theological, philosophical, moral, logical conundrum to say the least. Western thought has taught us to be rugged individuals, Eastern thought has taught us to make ourselves spiritually whole, Medieval thought has taught us rituals bring us to a state of grace, and Scientology has taught us aliens are real . All kidding aside, even the conservative religious in America have taught a doctrine penance and self actualization. Which all (minus maybe the scientologists) appeal to us as people, they seem to be in some sync with our nature. These schools of thought and those like them are where the human mind goes when it realizes there’s a disconnect with how the world should be and how the world is. Sounds about right, right? Well, the Bible actually says otherwise.
The bible doesn’t let us off the hook so easily. The Bible addresses the screwed up world as it is…. screwed up. But, unlike other religious texts, philosophies, modernity, pre-modernity, and postmodernity, Maslow and self-help guides, the Bible says there’s no way out on our own. The Bible is harsh on the human condition, calling it “Rebellion” (Hebrews 5:8), “Wicked” (Proverbs 10:20), and “Evil” (Psalm 51:4). Even going as far as comparing our “righteous deeds” to soiled clothes (Isaiah 64:6). As far as heaven goes, forget it. That is unless you can hold completely to God’s 636 command Mosaic law without breaking a single command ever…
Okay, that at least rings with us on a logical, moral level. It makes sense that IF the human condition is ubiquitously, inherently evil THEN condemnation would rightfully ensue. Then why do Christian study God, worship God and go so far as martyrdom in some cases? It would make sense that it is religious penance, guilt and a begging for an unsure grace. But that isn’t the Gospel. The Bible ( the same one that calls us all of those bad names) says this:
 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it—  the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction:  for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,  and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,  whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. (Romans 3:21-25 ESV)
This is not religious penance, but what we know as the Gospel. The Gospel is that Jesus of Nazareth was born of a virgin, as God incarnate on earth(1). He then lived 33 years of a sinless, righteous existence where he taught about himself and his Father(2). Then he was false accused of blasphemy, and executed on a Roman cross(3). Here, God punished the sinless Jesus for the sins of God’s chosen people and His righteousness was exchanged with His people’s sin(4). He then rose again three days later now reigns in heaven(5) and is reconciling all things to himself(6).*
(1) John 1 (2)Hebrews 4:14-16 (3)Matthew 27,Mark 15,
(4)2 Corinthians 5:21, Ephesians 2 (5) Luke 24, Hebrews 12:2 (6)Colossians 1 **
*I wanted to cite some biblical passages here so you could be sure I am not making this stuff up.
**These verses not cited in Index for sake of redundancy
It’s so counterintuitive, it seems unbelievable, even to the spiritual. It is offensive and only understood by faith. Which I do not have time now to completely unpack, that is an entire other blog post. Believing the gospel takes a childlike faith, according to Jesus (Matthew 18:4). This faith is trusting that you really do suck and Jesus really did what the bible says he did. Childlike, but so complex. Soren Kierkegaard says of it that “The dialectic of faith is the most refined and most remarkable of all dialectics, it has an elevation that I can form a conception of but no more”. It’s hard, but it is remarkably joyous. The Gospel is remarkably honest about who we are as broken people, and it is remarkably gracious about what Jesus did for those who will have faith that the Gospel is true. It is liberation, it is a joy that religious ritual and secular indulgence have never even touched on. One must only have faith in the Gospel to enjoy that Gospel.
It is no one time faith, no prayer prayed, but a lifetime of repenting of false faiths and realigning our faith in the Gospel. The funny thing is that the Christian life is one not of earning new grace and new forgiveness, but simply remembering the truth that forgiveness and grace have already been applied abundantly. This is countercultural. Not just now, but it has always been. Joan of Arc was burned at the stake for this faith by the Roman Catholic Church, countless churches have excommunicated countless people for this faith, 11 of 12 Apostles were martyred for this faith, there must be something to it. Despite the fact that it doesn’t make sense in any way within the world we live in.