What is the Gospel?
The gospel is the news of what God has done to accomplish salvation through Jesus Christ in history. Our relationship with God was broken as a result of disobedience and the chasm that exists between God and Man is too vast for us to overcome. Because of Adam's sin, we have been found sinners by nature. Willfully, we have turned our back on God, becoming guilty by choice as we seek to answer questions of identity, purpose, and truth apart from Him. In that pursuit, we are miserable but try to convince ourselves otherwise. Enslaved to Sin, we seek our own glory and fall short of God's. We find we are indebted to God, sentenced to die, unwilling and unable to pay the wages required to save ourselves.
By His grace, God reaches out to those who refused to listen and loves them. By grace, He sacrifices His Son, the perfect sinless one, crucifying Him on a cross for the sins of man, paying the price that we could not. Through His willing sacrifice, Jesus redeems us, atoning for our sins, and through His resurrection frees us from the slavery of darkness and sin. In Christ, we are justified, deemed innocent before God, and declared righteous, as Jesus' own righteousness is imputed to our account. No longer under the wrath of God, all our sins covered, evil is defeated death is conquered, as we who were once dead in our sins are made alive through the resurrection Christ.
By trusting in what Jesus alone has done on the cross for our salvation, not in anything we can achieve or earn, God makes us holy and blameless without stain or wrinkle or any blemish. We are reconciled to God and enter into relationship with Him once again, having been freed from guilt and shame and freed to serve Jesus out of a heart of love and thankfulness.
The GOSPEL'S CENTRALITY
The Gospel is the 'good news' of God's redemption of mankind. Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and death. (Romans 8:1-2)
The gospel is not just the A-B-C's, but the A to Z of Christianity. The gospel is not just the minimum required doctrine necessary to enter the kingdom, but the way we see the kingdom manifest in our lives here on earth. We are not saved by the gospel and then changed by obedience, but the gospel itself transforms us (II Cor. 5.17), is the way we grow (Gal. 3:1-3) and are renewed (Col. 1:6). It is the solution to each problem, the key to each closed door, the power through every barrier (Rom. 1:16-17).
The Gospel's core meaning
The gospel is not that we develop a righteousness apart from God so that we're deemed "good" and then he owes and accepts us, rather, that he develops a righteousness through Jesus Christ and gives it to us (II Cor. 5:21). The gospel is not that "it doesn't matter what you believe, as long as you've been good," but that "it doesn't matter if you've been good, as long as you believe in Christ as your Savior". The gospel is not that we go from being irreligious to being religious, it's that we realize that our reasons for both our religiosity and our irreligiously were essentially the same and essentially wrong. We were seeking to be our own saviors, develop our own righteousness, and thereby keep control of our own life. When we trust in Christ as our Savior, we turn from trusting either self-determination or self-denial for our salvation - from either moralism or hedonism.
The Gospel avoids legalism or liberalism, moralism or relativism. Yet, the gospel does not produce "something in the middle". Instead, it produces something different from both. By critiquing both religion and irreligion (Matt. 21:31), the gospel shows us a God far more holy than the legalist can bear (He had to die because we could not satisfy His holy demand), and yet, far more merciful than a humanist can conceive (He had to die because he loves us). Often both religion and irreligion are attempts to work their way to God's acceptance. Much of our feelings despair, guilt, fear, and anger emerge in our life when we adopt a works-based mentality and allow something other than Jesus (career, family, moral performance, romance) operate as our functional savior.
The gospel should affect everything we do at Damascus Road. We assume that most people have not heard or thoughtfully considered the deeper implications of the gospel. We exist to bring things "in line with the Gospel" (Gal. 2:14) which renews us spiritually, psychologically, corporately, and socially.
New way with God
We move from an impersonal "boss-employee" relationship to a personal "Father-child" relationship; from a fear-based self-interested way to be moral to a love-based desire to delight in our God.
New way with Lordship
We are saved by His grace at such an infinite cost to him. He can, therefore, ask anything of us and we can serve Him joyfully.
New way with the self
We no longer take our identity from what we or others think of us but from what God thinks of us in Christ (I Cor. 4:3-4). The gospel produces neither an inferiority complex (since we are a treasure in Christ), nor a superiority complex (since we are sinners standing only by grace). This unique boldness and humility at once is a sign of the transforming power of the Gospel.
New way with problems
We approach problems honestly. The moralist says: "repent, you are not living right". The Psychologist says: "you must accept yourself just as you are". The Gospel says: "only Jesus can be your functional savior and give meaning to our reality."
Gospel reconciliation between individuals
In the gospel, Christians become a new people of God, united to Christ and to each other. As the gospel humbles us and assures us of God's love, we are freed from either envy or pride, either inferiority or superiority. We no longer receive our sense of worth through the approval or power of men. Our relationships become things of beauty, driven by love (Gal. 5:6) in which we are neither using people nor overly "needy" of them. Instead we are freed to serve, affirm, or confront - whatever is best for the moment.
Gospel reconciliation between people
The gospel calls us to repent of ALL of our prejudices big and small. It removes cultural pride and brings down racial identity as a component of identity, making it possible to avoid idolizing one's cultural strengths and appreciating those of others. Essentially, the gospel makes us humble - which heals the racial/nationality brokenness (Gal. 2:14; Acts 2:1-12). We no longer use our culture's strengths for self-justification (racism). We now can look at others who are not like us and who are not even Christians and know that we can learn from them (since we are not saved because of our wisdom or performance, but because of Christ). Christianity becomes the greatest basis for civil relationships in a pluralistic society.
Gospel centered worship in the community
Worship is the process by which we continually attribute the most worth to Jesus. Many other things compete with Christ for this place of worthiness, and the Bible calls them idols. John Calvin referred to our hearts as "idol factories", constantly manufacturing new objects of worship. As individuals and as a unified body, we highly value the identification of idols that compete with the one true God. Once these idols are identified, they are exposed (repentance) as unworthy and unfulfilling and then destroyed. Driven by faith in Jesus, our Worship declares Jesus as more worthy, more valuable, and more fulfilling than anything else.
Through an emphasis on the gospel, we seek to promote this ongoing process in the private lives of those we serve. On the corporate level we hope to see people go through this process as we gather to celebrate the "good news". If there is no personal transformation occurring in the body, then corporate worship will be like a lifeless committee meeting instead of an encounter with the living God. If, on the other hand, we are being personally transformed, then our worship will be alive and outsiders will be attracted to what is happening (1 Cor. 14:24,25).
The gospel teaches us to have deep respect for non-Christians. Since we are saved only by grace, it is our responsibility to humbly demonstrate our reliance on Christ, and live out our security and peace as we boldly tell His story.
The gospel teaches us to have hope for non-Christians. No one is ever seen as "too far away", since every conversion, including your own, is a supernatural miracle of the heart.
The gospel keeps us from over-dependence on appearances and in the approval of others. This clears the way for speaking God's truth directly. The gospel should also prevent us from speaking arrogantly as we remember our own redemption.
The gospel prevents us from defensiveness and the need to win arguments and prove ourselves through witnessing. We no longer need take things personally. We do not love people now in order to evangelize; we evangelize only because we love them.
Paul says that the gospel does not just have power, but rather it is the power of God (Rom. 1:16-17). We see this power in the gradual of inexorable growth of the kingdom of God (Matt. 11:12, 13:1-23).
A movement of priests
Every believer is a prophet, priest and king - we are a "royal priesthood" (I Pet. 2:9). At Damascus Road the laity is released to pastor, nurture and minister.
A movement of churches
We aim to plant churches with the same gospel based core values into every neighborhood and people group of the city. It will take, not a church, but a movement, to transform our city more on this subject in lesson 10).
A movement of giving
The gospel makes us generous - which heals the social brokenness. For people with means, it gives us a model of sacrificial giving in Christ (II Cor. 8:2) which we now owe to others (Matt. 18:21-35), even to those who are undeserving, like we were (Is. 64:6; Luke 6:32-35). One of the marks of a heart truly touched by grace is a life poured out in deeds of mercy and justice (Is. 1:10-17; Matt. 25:35-36; Jms. 2:12-14). At the same time, the gospel empowers the poor to self-sufficiency through its hope (Luke 1:52).
All of our work matters to God
The institutionalized church has made religion and the Christian establishment into an idol. The gospel clears out religiosity and makes so called "secular" work as valuable and God-honoring as Christian ministry. When you use your gifts in work - whether by practicing law, tilling the field, mending broken bodies, or nurturing children - you are answering God's calling to serve the human community.
God matters to all our work
We also believe that the gospel shapes and affects the motives and methods we use in our work. We encourage Christians to offer up their work to the God who saved them, transforming their vocational lives by working in line with the gospel. We do not want Christians to privatize their faith away from their work, nor to express it in terms of subculture. We desire to see growing Christians working in their vocations both with excellence and Christian distinctiveness, thus transforming the culture from the inside out.