“For you have been saved by grace!” Ephesians 2:8
The “Good News” of the grace of God in Jesus Christ our Lord. That’s the meaning of the word ‘Gospel.’ It is the good news that God is gracious, that God is good and God can be trusted, trusted to do what is good and right for each one of us, for those we love, and for the ultimate destiny of all creation, the Kingdom of God. That, most of all.
The Gospel is not law, not a system of morality. It is not doctrine, a system of belief. It is Good News!
What we hear sometimes from pulpits, and from radio preachers and TV evangelists, doesn't sound like
good news. It speaks of conditions on the grace of Jesus Christ that seem more like bad news and seem more apt to inspire fear in our hearts rather than faith.
The "Gospel" is the good news of God's grace in Jesus Christ the Lord! It is the Good News that "God was in Christ reconciling the world." To reduce it to its simplest expression, I would put it this way: the Gospel, the "Good News," is that "God is gracious." Translated as best I can into the language of today, it says "God is good, and God is just." The Creator of all, the Power behind the wind and the wave, is good, and will be just ultimately in all dealings with humanity.
That may seem a simple statement, but I think it has great implications. If God is good and God is
just, then God will do what is good and right for each one of us. And we can ask no more. It means that I can trust myself and those I love to God's gracious care and keeping.
So the primary Biblical meaning of what we call "faith" is not so much what we believe but in whom we
believe. Because God is good and God is just, we can trust God. We can trust ourselves, our very souls, into God's care. This is "salvation" -- to live in this confidence, that the ultimate nature of nature is benevolent, in spite of the sometimes seeming angry face of the natural world. And this is peace, the peace that passes all understanding. For "You shall keep in perfect peace those whose mind is fixed on You, because they trust in You." (Isaiah 26:3)
This does not mean that "salvation" is an automatic process, that everyone is "saved" no matter what they believe or what they do. The judgment of God is very real. But God's judgment is merciful, its purpose is redemptive, intended not to punish or destroy but to save.
I don't claim to know a great deal about "the furniture of heaven and the temperature of hell," but I do know that I trust in the goodness and justice of God. Other things then seem to fall into their natural place.
The grace of Jesus Christ is the foundation of faith.
It is the grace of Jesus Christ which makes faith possible. Knowing the grace of God in Jesus our Lord means that we can trust ourselves to God, knowing in the light of the cross, that God can work good out of evil and life out of death, even in our lives.
It is no longer a matter of "getting our souls saved," or finding a private escape route from judgment. Rather it is to know and trust the Judge, to know that God's judgment is for our good, and "there's a wideness in Gods mercy." God is good, and God is just. Therefore God will do what is good and right for each one of us. What more can we ask? And [for] those we love. There need be no more the haunting, terrible fear in the heart of the widow or mother whose husband or son has died supposedly "unsaved." We trust those we love into "the grace of Jesus Christ" as well. They are in God's hands, and once again, God will do only what is right and good for them.
And we can ask no more.
The grace of Jesus Christ is the foundation of our freedom
And to trust in the grace of Jesus Christ is the basis of our freedom. It frees us from guilt and subservience to any human power. For instance, we come to church not because we have to, in order to "get in OK," but as a privilege and pleasure, because we want to and know we need to. If we earnestly seek to live through the week in the Spirit of Jesus, we will seek the worship service by Sunday morning and no doubt we will fervently join in the Confession of Sin, not because God demands our confession, but because we need to confess our sin.
The whole of life, the whole of our living, can become a Eucharist, a sacrament of praise and thanksgiving, for the goodness and mercy of God which we know in the grace of Jesus Christ.
The grace of Jesus Christ is the basis of morality
So then, "doing what's right" is not an enforced code of ethics. ( ie; "God will punish you if you do that.") Sin is not just "an offence against God." Sin offends God because it harms the humanity which God has created "in the image of God" and the creation which is God's handiwork. What is "bad" is bad because it's bad, bad for us, bad for others, and bad for God’s creation. Bad for the oceans and the air, and bad for the very earth itself. And we are "good," not to avoid punishment or claim reward, but simply "good for nothing," because what is good is what is good for us and for all.
Accept that you are accepted!
It appears to be so simple, yet so many people find it so difficult. Accept that you are accepted.
It is as if a voice were saying; “You are accepted. You are accepted, accepted by that which is greater than you.
Everything is transformed. In that moment, grace conquers sin and reconciliation bridges the gulf of estrangement.
And nothing is demanded, no religious or moral or intellectual presupposition, nothing but acceptance.(Paul Tillich, “You are accepted,” in The Shaking of the Foundations, p. 162.)