The Real Gospel
by Norm Du Val
What is the gospel?
If you asked several people, you would probably get several different answers. Some would say the word gospel means "good news", and it does, but that's just a definition. You want to know, "What is the good news, and where does it come from?"
Some will say that the gospel is the story about Jesus, as written by the New Testament writers, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. After all, these stories are often called the "Four Gospels". Others will tell you the good news is that God sent His son to earth as a sacrifice, to die, and to rise again, in order to atone for the sins of mankind. Still others say that Jesus' death on the cross was a ransom paid by God to redeem mankind from the Devil, and so on.
The New Testament says that Jesus and the apostles went from city to city, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God to the multitude.
"And Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people." (Matthew 9:35)
"And it came to pass...that Jesus went throughout every city and village, preaching and showing the glad tidings of the kingdom of God: and the twelve were with him..." (Luke 8:1) (Also see Matthew 4:23, Mark 1:14, and Luke 4:43.)
From these verses we can tell that the gospel was something that Jesus actually preached and taught. Thus, the question of where the gospel comes from is answered. It comes from Jesus.
The word gospel means "good news" and "glad tidings", but what exactly was Jesus telling the people? What was his message? And has the essence of it, the actual gospel, the teachings of Jesus, been partly lost to us today and replaced by another message, the teachings about Jesus?
On these preaching tours, Jesus gave the people very important information (the good news!), and it was a positive, powerful message, focused on a few specific ideas. The gospel that Jesus taught was that information which would satisfy our deepest spiritual hopes, needs and desires: to better know our Father in heaven and our relationship with mankind, to be of the Spirit and to show the fruits of the Spirit, and to have eternal life with God.
We can tell from his teachings that the gospel of Jesus, even what we may call the "religion of Jesus", was and still is, this: God is our loving spiritual Father and we are all His children, sons and daughters in His family. If we love God and love one another, we will have eternal life in heaven.
Have you heard the expression, "I got it straight from the horse's mouth"? When people say this, they mean they got some information right from the source, and therefore it is true. It is like a gold miner who finds the mother lode. The actual teachings of Jesus are from the true source, the mother lode, from God Himself, as personified by His son.
Here then are the high spiritual teachings of Jesus, the information that he was giving to the crowds, - the real gospel:
Jesus teaches us about doing the Father's will and entering the kingdom of heaven.
- "Not every one who says to me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven." (Matthew 7:21)
- Doing the Father's will is the key to entering the kingdom of heaven. And what is the Father's will? It is simply loving God, and loving and serving our brothers and sisters on earth, our brothers and sisters in God's family.
Jesus tells us how we can have eternal life.
- "And, behold, a certain lawyer stood up, and tested him, saying, 'Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?' Jesus said to him, 'What is written in the law? How do you read it?' And he answered saying, 'Thou shall love God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbor as thyself.' And Jesus said to him, 'Thou has answered right: this do, and thou shall live.'" (Luke 10:25-28)
- Do this and you will have eternal life! Love God, and love your neighbor. Could it be any clearer or simpler? Jesus knows that loving all of our fellow humans may not be easy for us, but he expects trend and effort.
Jesus tells us why he came to earth.
- "And he said unto them, 'I must preach the kingdom of God to other cities also: for therefore was I sent.'" (Luke 4:43)
- Many have differing views as to the purpose of Jesus' incarnation on earth. Here, Jesus himself tells us that he came to earth to preach the gospel, the good news of the kingdom of God.
Jesus teaches a new and very personal idea about the kingdom of God.
- "And when he was asked by the Pharisees, when the kingdom of God would come, he answered them and said, 'The kingdom of God will come not with observation: Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you.'" (Luke 17:21)
- Imagine! The kingdom of God is within you. This is a stunning but misunderstood teaching of Jesus. There are several aspects of the kingdom of God. One is spiritual, - the kingdom is not a material realm. Another is the outward kingdom, - the Father and His angels off in heaven somewhere. And then there is the kingdom within. Jesus is talking about this inner kingdom when he says that the kingdom of God is within you, actually a part of the Father himself, sharing your life, going through your ups and downs with you, and if you desire it, guiding you like a compass back to Him. This is not a nebulous spirituality wafting through you, as might be imagined for a spirit being, and as might be the case in some situations, but rather a definite focalization of the Father, in you.
If we have become separated from God, Jesus tells us what the Father requires in order for us to come home to Him, to rejoin His family, our spiritual family.
- "The Parable of the Prodigal Son." (Luke 15:11-32)
- Many people do not give much thought to the parables that Jesus taught. They are often quoted but seldom explained. Parables are simple stories with a single, clear message. You don't have to be a theologian or a rocket scientist to understand them. In this parable, Jesus says that our spiritual Father will welcome us home just as soon as we sincerely want to return to Him. Even though the repentant son was still a long way off, the moment his father saw him coming down the road he ran to him to greet him in love and welcome him back into the family. This is how our Father in heaven responds to us, His children, always with an attitude of love and forgiveness. No matter how far down the road away from the Father you think you are, if you want to return home, the door is open.
Jesus tells us how we can have our sins forgiven.
- "For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you." (Matthew 6:14)
- Forgiving others is a difficult thing for us to do. In reality, the Father's forgiveness is always available to us. By forgiving others, we tap into that forgiveness, we open the door to it.
In a conversation with a man named Nicodemus, Jesus teaches us about being "born again".
- "Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water [physical birth], and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God." (John 3:5)
- God is spirit. When we love God and desire to do His will, we are born again, born of the Spirit. It's that simple.
Jesus tells us to be perfect.
- "Be you therefore perfect, even as your Father who is in heaven is perfect." (Matthew 5:48)
- Nobody's perfect, as the saying goes. Perfection is not our condition, but it is our goal. The Father knows that we have been created with a "human nature", after all, He created us. It will take effort on our part to become more perfect, more spiritual, more like God. There's no time like the present to start. In the words of Lao-tzu, "A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step."
Jesus tells us about God's family.
- Jesus says, "Our Father..." (Matthew 6:9, Luke 11:2)
- When Jesus uses the term Father, he is talking about his Father and our Father. Above all else God is a loving Father and we are his children. If we know that we are sons and daughters of God, we will naturally want to act like one.
Jesus tells us that God knows what we need.
- "...for your Father knows what things you have need of, before you ask him." (Matthew 6:8)
- God knows our real needs. His kingdom is a spiritual one and our real needs are mostly spiritual in nature. When we pray, we should not pray overmuch for material things, but should pray for spiritual insight, pray for others, and pray for help to know and do the Father's will. When Jesus says, "Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and you shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you..." (Matthew 7:7, Luke 11:9), he is talking about spiritual gifts, spiritual truths, and spiritual doors.
Jesus teaches us about tolerance, one of the fruits of the Spirit, and beyond mere tolerance, even love for other people and groups which may be different from our own.
- "For if you only love those who love you, what reward have you? do not even the publicans do the same? And if you salute your brethren only, what do you do more than others? do not even the publicans do so?" (Matthew 5:46-47, Luke 6:32-33)
Jesus talks about sharing the good news, - his teachings.
- "...freely you have received, freely give." (Matthew 10:8)
- The good news is not something to be hidden under a rock. It should be shared with everyone in God's family.
Many religions are complex, but the real gospel of Jesus is simple: Love God your Father, and love your fellow man. If you do this you will be doing the Father's will, and you will have an eternal life of love and service with God. This real gospel of Jesus will also be acceptable to all of God's children on earth who love Him, whether they be Christian, Moslem, Jew, Buddhist, or Hindu.
And finally, as would be expected from the Son of a loving God, comforting words from Jesus to all of us: "Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom." (Luke 12:32)
All Bible quotations excerpted or adapted from the King James Version.