"Christ's Good News"#83-40
Presented on The Lutheran Hour on June 5, 2016
By Rev. Dr. Gregory Seltz, Lutheran Hour Speaker
(Q&A Topic:What is the Gospel? It's the good news of God's forgiving love for us, in Jesus Christ.)
Copyright 2022 Lutheran Hour Ministries
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Text: Galatians 1:11-24
"I, Paul, want you to know, brothers and sisters, that the gospel I preached is not of human origin. I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ. For you have heard of my previous way of life in Judaism, how intensely I persecuted the church of God and tried to destroy it....(But Now)....the report: "The man who formerly persecuted us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy."
Christ is risen! He is risen, indeed! Alleluia.
Be very careful when someone says to you, "Have I got good news for you!" Why, because chances are that it is good news for them and not for you at all.
Let me explain. I want to tell you a story about a guy named Bernard. Bernard started his own business in 1960. He helped people invest their nest egg, and he became very, very good at it. He had real good news for people; at least that's what most people thought. And Bernard assured them that this was the gospel truth, "something you can count on and be sure of!"
But this gospel, his gospel, this good news, began to crumble in 2008. Finally, Bernard admitted that his investing was a scam. He took money from one person to pay another. Along the way, he raked in billions of dollars.
You're thinking now that you may have heard of this Bernard. Yes, he's Bernie Madoff, the man who perpetrated the biggest financial fraud scheme in the history of the United States. His investors were duped out of $18 billion. He lied about nearly $50 billion in gains. He preached good news that was too good to be true. And, like all lies, it was just a matter of time before it all came tumbling down. Madoff is now serving a 150-year prison sentence. His former clients-mostly charitable organizations and elderly people-suffered the terrible loss of trusting Madoff's message.
I wonder if you're putting your faith in something false like that today. It may not be a Bernie Madoff Ponzi scheme, but are you telling yourself that you'll be happy once your health is where you want it to be? Or are you believing that you'll be content once you meet the right person or when you get the house that you really, really want? Are you saying that once you have enough money, then you'll turn your life around and then you'll settle down? Are you putting your faith in the next thing, the next development in life, the next purchase, the next dream realized? Is that the gospel truth you're counting on?
Now listen, I know that there are many things in this life that make us happy for a time. I'm not saying those are necessarily bad, but I do know this, they are not the "Gospel truth," the Good News that is the center of all things! Many blessings and dreams lift us up and boost our spirits. There is so much to be thankful for. But can you really stake your contentment on things that will ultimately pass away? Can you stake your life, your attitude, your direction, even your eternity, on things that will not and cannot last? Are the gospels you hear on television, or read about in social media, or are told by friends, or the one that you tell yourself; are they really true gospels?
Dear friend, I don't want you to be swindled. I hope you see, today, what I am talking about is worth believing in. It's the true Gospel. It is the eternal and enduring truth of God's love for you. It is the certainty of restoration for your soul, renewal for your spirit, and forgiveness for your sins. It is the Gospel of being given a gift-the gift of new life through the work of Jesus Christ for you. That's the true, enduring Gospel.
As human beings, like I've said, we're really good at inventing gospels that make us feel better just for a while. But you don't need something in your life that has no staying power. You don't need to play games with pacifying beliefs and false hopes. You need what's real and what is lasting.
A man named Chuck Colson discovered that. He found the true Gospel; actually the true Gospel found him. He had a brilliant intellect, he was a high-powered New York attorney, became a high-profile political operative in the Nixon administration, and, after he was convicted of obstruction of justice, spent time in prison. But before prison, his life underwent a radical change. Chuck Colson abandoned all the false gospels he was believing because the true Gospel made its way into his life.
It all started when he visited one of his very wealthy and powerful clients. Tom was a president of a major defense contractor. Chuck stepped into Tom's office and recalled how Tom used to have a frantic look with phones ringing, assistants scurrying back and forth, and his desk filled with piles of paperwork. But something had changed. Colson said, "When I entered his office, it was the same old Tom...But the smile was a lot warmer, radiant, in fact, and he looked more relaxed than I had ever seen him before" (92).
The two men visited for about twenty minutes when Colson finally spoke up and asked Tom, "What changed in your life?" Tom said, "I have committed my life to Jesus, and it's the most marvelous experience." He said, "I had gotten to the point where I thought my life was worth nothing. Now everything is changed-attitude, values, the whole bit" (93).
Chuck Colson couldn't believe what he heard. The president of one of the biggest companies in the nation, who owned beautiful homes and drove the finest automobiles, who was married to a wonderful wife, had great kids, thought his life wasn't worth anything. Colson said, "But he had struck a raw nerve-the empty life. It was what I was living with" (93).
Does that strike a nerve in you? Have you veered into an empty life? Are you putting your hope in yourself or in short-term gospels?
Before his conversion to faith in Jesus, the Apostle Paul was on the same track as Chuck Colson; same ambition, different position. Paul was a high-powered church leader. He had the best education. His family had the right bloodline. He had all the connections and was the up-and-coming expert leader lauded by the people all around him. But his life was empty. He bought into false gospels. They felt rewarding. They stoked his ego. They made him look successful in the eyes of the world. But they were poisoning his soul and taking him down the track toward eternal darkness and misery.
That's when God stepped in. Paul said it this way: "But when he who had set me apart before I was born, and who called me by his grace, when he was pleased to reveal his Son to me, in order that I might preach him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately consult with anyone" (Galatians 1:15-16). Paul was pointing out that this was not a human gospel. He said, "For I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ" (Galatians 1:12).
This was the true Gospel of the crucified, risen, and eternal Son of God, Jesus Christ. It was the Good News that Paul didn't have to impress people for his self-worth. He didn't have to try to live perfectly to make it in life, because that life was impossible anyway as sinners no matter how hard you try. No, because of Jesus Christ, he was already loved by God and saved by grace. The real Gospel changed everything, just like it did for Tom and just like it can for you.
It even happened to Chuck Colson. After that initial meeting with Tom, Chuck knew he had to see him again. So on an overcast evening, he drove to Tom's house. The two sat in the kitchen and Chuck said to Tom, "You've changed and I really need to know what happened."
Tom replied, "Something was missing. I felt a terrible emptiness. I would get up in the middle of the night and pace the floor. My life, it just wasn't complete. I would go to the office and do my job, I was trying to make the company succeed, but there was a hole in my life. I began to read the Scriptures, looking for answers. Something made me realize I needed a personal relationship with God" (109).
Colson could relate to Tom. The empty life is not uncommon. He realized, however, that he didn't seek a spiritual answer. He didn't even know a relationship with God was possible. Chuck pressed for more details. Tom said, "I didn't seem to have anything that mattered. It was all on the surface. All the material things in life are meaningless if a [person] hasn't discovered what's underneath them all" (110).
Then Tom shared two moments that changed his life. The first was hearing a preacher share that if you know something is missing, Jesus Christ and faith in Jesus is what you need to fill that emptiness. Instead of a hollow promise, God's promise of new life and of peace that is beyond our understanding is real. God's promise of hope that is unshakable is the true Gospel-the real deal. Because of that Good News....Tom put faith, his faith, in Jesus and everything changed!
What changed first and foremost was pride, the idea that you've got it all covered and there's no one better at it than me. This quote from C.S. Lewis challenged Tom and Chuck Colson. Lewis said it this way, "In God you come up against something which is in every respect immeasurably superior to yourself. Unless you know God as that-and, therefore, know yourself as nothing in comparison-you do not know God at all. As long as you are proud, you cannot know God. A proud man is always looking down on things and people; and, of course, as long as you are looking down, you cannot see something that is above you" (113).
Colson started to sweat when he heard those words. Pride. That's what he was all about. He was about himself. He was stubborn. He didn't need help from anyone, and he sought his way all the time. He was arrogant. And he knew he was lost. He described C.S. Lewis' words on pride as a torpedo that hit him amidships (114). Chuck thought, "Of course, I had not known God. How could I? I had been concerned with myself alone. I had done this and that, I had achieved, I had succeeded, and I had given God none of the credit, never once thanking Him for any of His gifts to me. I had never thought of anything being "immeasurably superior" to myself, or if I had in fleeting moments thought about the infinite power of God, I had not related Him to my life in any way. In those brief moments while Tom read, I saw myself as I never had before. And the picture was ugly" (114).
False gospels. False gospels started to crumble and the true Gospel was beginning to work on Colson. That's what happened to the Apostle Paul as well. He was a religious man, that's for sure. But even there, his confidence was in his spiritual superiority and in his religious fervor. Pride comes in many forms. It can be psychological, physical, spiritual, political, societal; but no matter what, if it depends on you, your effort, your expertise, eventually it will come to nothing. Why, because God created you, God gave you all that you possess, God even redeemed you to live a life forever again with Him in spite of your sin and pride. But, without Him, all of this comes to nothing.
What Tom learned, what Chuck learned, what Paul learned, what you and I can learn together today again is that "Jesus Christ is the living God who promises us a day-to-day living relationship with Him and a personal one at that" (125). Those words from C.S. Lewis, a former atheist, now a prolific writer of the Good News of Jesus, they get at the heart of real good news of God that lasts. In Christ, you can have a relationship with God that lasts forever, founded on His love for us, His death and resurrection for us, and His gift of life with Him now and into eternity.
That's the true Gospel, the very Good News of God in Jesus Christ, one that only He can earn, one that only He can share. It is the true Gospel. It doesn't fade. It doesn't falter. It is no scam. There is no expiration. It is the bedrock of life-it's the only bedrock of life.
Not only does it deal with the ineptitude of human pride, but it offers something that only God can offer and guarantee-eternal life. And, just think about that with me for a moment. Eternal life, it changes everything. It puts everything into perspective.
Listen to what Colson realized for the first time in his life. Again, reading in Lewis, "Immortality makes this other difference...If individuals live only seventy years, then a state, or a nation, or a civilization, which may last for thousands of years, is more important than the individual. But if Christianity is true, then the individual is not only more important but incomparably more important, for he or she is everlasting and the life of a state or a civilization, compared with this, is only but a moment" (128).
The abounding and eternal love of God for us, His children, started to hit Colson with full force. Everything was changing. His perspective was changing. Life was not about selfishness; it was about the selfless love of God in Jesus Christ. In many ways that's what overwhelmed the Apostle Paul too when he met Jesus on the road to Damascus.
In Jesus Christ, then, there is a righteousness that is pure. There is a holiness that is enduring, and He gifts it to all who put their trust in Him. In Jesus Christ, there is a forgiveness and an absolution of guilt that took the death and resurrection of the Son of God to accomplish, and then He gifts it to people like you and me who put their faith in Him. And, in Jesus Christ, there is a life to be lived, each and every day, yes, but a life to be lived eternally too and He guarantees that to all who put their trust in Him.
Maybe you've heard about names like C.S. Lewis or Chuck Colson, maybe not. But the point is not about Lewis, or Colson, or even the Apostle Paul for that matter. The point is about the Good News of Jesus that changed their life. The Good News that can change your life too!
I remember hearing another story about Chuck Colson. As he was leaving prison for the crimes committed in Watergate, one of the prisoners said, "Hey Chuck, I don't think we'll be seeing you here again anymore, will we?" Most prisoners knew that, for people on the outside, even for prisoners who'd been set free, they become afterthoughts; those who are still left behind. Soon out of sight, soon out of mind. Well, the Gospel did more than change Colson's mind about himself, it changed his mind about what he was ultimately here to do too. Maybe you know Colson, not from his Watergate days, but from the ministry Prison Fellowship, a ministry that he started....going back to the cells of other inmates to tell them too about the Good News of Jesus Christ for them!
This true Gospel can change you today. It doesn't matter where you've been. Now is the time to begin your new life in Jesus forever! Pride aside, eternal life guaranteed, and the power to love others the way that God in Christ loves you. That's Good News indeed! Believe it, receive it, and share it; there's nothing else in the world like it! God bless you.
LUTHERAN HOUR MAILBOX (Questions & Answers) for June 5, 2016
Topic: What is the Gospel?
ANNOUNCER: And we are back once again with Pastor Gregory Seltz. I'm Mark Eischer. Today in your sermon you used that word Gospel quite a bit. Let's focus on that word. What is the Gospel? What do we mean by that?
SELTZ: Listeners ask us about this all the time, Mark, and we need to talk about it. I love to talk about this word the Gospel.
ANNOUNCER: Let's start with the actual meaning of the word. It comes to us from the Greek and it means "good news" or "good message."
SELTZ: That's right. It's from that Greek word "euangelion." The "eu" just means "good" and the second part of that word has "angel" in it, which is associated with the "message" or "news." But the Gospel doesn't just refer to any good news, Mark.
ANNOUNCER: Here we're talking about the Good News of God's salvation, the gifts of His forgiveness and new life that comes to us through faith in Jesus.
SELTZ: That is the message. That's the Gospel. It is the true Good News given to our world; a world that is filled with lots of bad news and even some good news that only lasts for a while. The Gospel is the enduring, even over-arching message of God's love for us in Jesus Christ.
ANNOUNCER: But why are the first four books of the New Testament called "Gospels"?
SELTZ: They're accounts of Jesus' life and records of Jesus' words and actions. Jesus is the Gospel in the flesh. In fact, those Gospels; Matthew, Mark, Luke and John; they converge around the core focus and message of the Good News of Jesus' death and His resurrection. This Good News in Christ runs directly in contrast to the bad news that we deal with every day.
ANNOUNCER: Are you talking here about the headlines or our personal struggles?
SELTZ: In a way, both. The terrible things that are happening in our world and the difficult things happening in our lives are symptoms of the really bad news. We have all separated ourselves from God because of our rebellion against Him. Our lives, our world are broken and chaotic because we push God away and we fall away from Him.
ANNOUNCER: And the Bible's name for that is "sin."
SELTZ: Yeah, and even sin is not so much about the bad things that we do, and that's bad enough, the worst thing is our condition is flawed and in total need of repair. The Apostle Paul says it this way, "For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want to do, that's what I keep on doing" (Romans 7:19).
ANNOUNCER: I think we can all relate to that. We try to do the right things, but find ourselves falling over and over again either in thoughts, words, or actions.
SELTZ: Me, too, Mark. Whether it's at home, driving, personal life; sin is evident everywhere. It is true in all of us. Just look in the mirror and ask yourself if you're perfect. Any honest person knows the answer is a resounding "No!" This isn't a shot at our self-esteem either. It's simply telling the truth of what we all struggle with every day.
ANNOUNCER: But along with his outcry of frustration, the Apostle Paul also shows us the answer, doesn't he?
SELTZ: He does. He says in Romans 7: "Wretched man that I am! He's straight up. Who will deliver me from this body of death? I love it. Here he says, "Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!" (Romans 7:24-25)
ANNOUNCER: So, he gives us the bad news, but then along comes the Good News.
SELTZ: Well, Paul says it straight though to make the ultimate point. The answer to real, real bad news is the real good news of the Gospel. So Jesus put all the bad news of our lives on His shoulders. He carries our guilt and brokenness-everything for all people.
ANNOUNCER: And He offered Himself to God on the cross for our punishment and to receive there the consequences of everything that is wrong with us and with our world.
SELTZ: Yes, that's why He died on the cross as in the place of a criminal for us. God the Father punished Him in our place and that's why Paul could say, "There is now no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus" (Romans 8:1).
ANNOUNCER: That IS Good News!
SELTZ: That's the Gospel. In fact, that is the Good News of God. Every listener can be in Christ Jesus by believing in Him today. Every listener can receive the gift of forgiveness in baptism. It's a tangible way God pours His gifts into our lives. Every listener can have hope in Jesus and the certainty of eternal life as they trust in His Good News.
ANNOUNCER: And one more point, the Gospel is not just a message; it also has the power to change lives.
SELTZ: Paul said that too. He said, "For I am not ashamed of the gospel, it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes" (Romans 1:16).
ANNOUNCER: Our prayer is that every listener believes the Gospel that they hear each week on this program.
ANNOUNCER: Thank you, Pastor Seltz. This has been a presentation of Lutheran Hour Ministries.
Action in Ministry for June 5, 2016
ANNOUNCER: You're listening to The Lutheran Hour and this is Action in Ministry. Pastor Seltz, as I think about today's message, I'm reminded of those many Bible stories we learned sitting in Sunday School all those many years.
SELTZ: The Bible is packed with wonderful stories, Mark, many of which we hear from the time we're old enough to sit. Our next resource...we're reminded that there's always something more to learn.
ANNOUNCER: I know. Often we hear these stories but we don't dig deeper so we might be missing out on some important insights.
SELTZ: I agree.
ANNOUNCER: Joining us today is Bruce Wurdeman. He's the former Executive Director of Lutheran Hour Ministries. He is also the author and star of a wonderful video series called, They Didn't Teach Me in Sunday School. Bruce, thanks for joining us.
WURDEMAN: Yeah, star might just be a little over the top.
SELTZ: You wear it well, Bruce. You wear it well.
WURDEMAN: It's good to be here with you all.
SELTZ: Bruce, welcome back. You were at the helm here from 2009 to 2013. So, the first question is how has retirement been treating you and Mj?
WURDEMAN: Really good. It's a lot of fishing, a lot of golf, a lot of volunteering to do the things I want to do and saying no to the things I don't want to do. That's the advantage of retirement.
SELTZ: Sharing the Gospel on the 19th hole.
WURDEMAN: You betcha.
ANNOUNCER: Now during your time here at Lutheran Hour Ministries you produced this video series. Why did you think it was needed?
WURDEMAN: I don't know that it was my idea. I was teaching a Bible class at the time; once a week with some of the staff; and some of the staff said, "We're finding out things we didn't know before about Scripture. We out to try to do a video on this." So we did six videos to start with for a Men's NetWork series. It went from that to 186 videos. It just kept going.
SELTZ: Wow, it's a great resource. Bruce, you were also known for your sense of humor when you were here and that's always helpful too in sharing the Gospel. That's who you are. So tell us a little bit about that. That's in the series as well, right?
WURDEMAN: Yeah, the humor comes out, I think, sometimes. I love what the Scripture represents. I think God has a sense of humor.
SELTZ: You're right.
WURDEMAN: He makes points in ways that we sometimes miss. One of the ways that I think He makes a point in the Scripture, and maybe there is some humor attached to it, is some of the names He gives to people; my favorite Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz, the spoils speeds the prey haste. Every time that Isaiah calls his son to dinner, it's a message for the nation.
SELTZ: It took a long time to call him to dinner.
WURDEMAN: I think they probably called him "Bud," though, don't you think?
ANNOUNCER: All together there are 186 episodes in this series. Are there any favorites?
WURDEMAN: It's the story of Jacob when he's running away from his brother after he's cheated him out of the birthright. He goes to sleep one night and he has a dream. The angels ascending and descending and he's got his head on a rock and he has this dream. And then that's the last you hear of it until you get to the New Testament and then here's Jesus. He encounters a guy named Nathanael and he says to Nathanael, "I saw you when you were under the fig tree" and Nathanael's just got his mind blown because apparently Jesus wasn't anywhere near him. And Jesus says, "Well, in fact, you ain't seen nothing yet. You're going to see the angels ascending and descending on the Son of Man." Well, the rabbis in that day taught that that rock that Jacob had his head on was the foundation stone in the temple where the Ark of the Covenant used to sit. By Jesus' time it wasn't there anymore. And they said, "That's where God touched earth in that foundation stone." And Jesus says, "No, it's in Me that God touches His world."
ANNOUNCER: And a modern reader doesn't understand that...
WURDEMAN: No, because they don't know the history. They don't know the rabbinical creation...
SELTZ: But again, that's the kind of stuff that's brought out in these studies.
SELTZ: And that's the kind of stuff that can actually reconnect the people back to the Bible in a meaningful way.
SELTZ: Well, Bruce, that's incredible because our listeners are going to see there's 186 of these things. How do you suggest one starts working through these things so that they can be a really good resource for them?
WURDEMAN: Some churches have used them for Bible studies or small group Bible studies. Each one is about 5 to 7 minutes long, something like that, and they come with a discussion guide with them. So, if you use the video, you look at the Scripture section itself, and then work through the discussion guide, you've probably got 45 minutes, hour of discussion. Other people have just sat at home and watched them themselves.
SELTZ: Blessed at home.
WURDEMAN: All kinds of ways of being used.
SELTZ: Well, these videos are available right now at our website. In just a moment we'll tell you where to find them. Bruce, it's great to have you back with us and God continue to be with you and Mj.
WURDEMAN: Thanks for having me. It is good to come back home.
SELTZ: There you go.
ANNOUNCER: The title of this resource is: Stuff They Didn't Teach Me in Sunday School. To view or download this content at no cost, go to lutheranhour.org and click on Action in Ministry. For information on ordering a DVD copy, call 1-855-john316. That's 1-855-564-6316.
Music Selections for this program:
"A Mighty Fortress" arranged by Chris Bergmann. Used by permission.
"When in the Hour of Deepest Need" From The Concordia Organist (© 2009 Concordia Publishing House)
"By Grace I'm Saved" From The Concordia Organist (© 2009 Concordia Publishing House)