The Gospel in Plain English

“I have said these things to you in figures of speech. The hour is coming when I will no longer speak to you in figures of speech but will tell you plainly about the Father. In that day you will ask in my name, and I do not say to you that I will ask the Father on your behalf; for the Father himself loves you, because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God. I came from the Father and have come into the world, and now I am leaving the world and going to the Father.” His disciples said, “Ah, now you are speaking plainly and not using figurative speech! Now we know that you know all things and do not need anyone to question you; this is why we believe that you came from God.” Jesus answered them, “Do you now believe? Behold, the hour is coming, indeed it has come, when you will be scattered, each to his own home, and will leave me alone. Yet I am not alone, for the Father is with me. I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:25-33 ESV)

I’m an avid reader and have been since I was quite young. I actually learned to read before I turned five and went to kindergarten. At that age, I even read portions of the newspaper each morning. While I must admit to enjoying the daily comic strips most, I also enjoyed reading the local and national news. I suspect my love of reading probably originated with my parents and my maternal grandmother reading books to me and Aesop’s Fables were some of my favorites.

Aesop was a slave from Ancient Greece (about 600 BCE) to whom many ancient fables are attributed. A fable is basically an extended proverb told in story form and are still used worldwide to teach moral lessons to young children. Jesus used a similar teaching method that employed parables. While fables are obviously fictional stories used to relate moral truths, parables are generally “true-to-life” events that are used to relate heavenly reality or truths or, as I’ve heard it said, earthly stories that reveal heavenly truth. We use stories to relate truths when the truth is difficult to grasp or beyond our present understanding or beliefs.

However, Jesus says that the “hour is coming” when He will no longer need to relate these deep truths using “figures of speech.” There are two reasons why: 1) the revealing presence of the Holy Spirit’s arrival; 2) and the need to avoid conflict with the Jewish leaders is past. Jesus has already related to the disciples that when the Holy Spirit comes He will bring all the things Jesus had taught them back into their memory and He will guide them into all the truth. So, figures of speech to aid understanding would be less needed and being cautious to avoid direct conflict with the religious leaders would be past.

Why is this important and what does it have to do with you and me? In the early church, the Apostles dealt with a heresy called Gnosticism that tried to infiltrate and destroy the truth of the gospel and it has been reborn in our own day. Gnosticism is all about discovering a “hidden truth” that is only known or revealed to those who are a part of the group. It is a little bit like having a secret handshake or code word to be able to get into the church fellowship. Only those who “know” (gnosis in Greek is our word knowledge) the secret can join.

However, the Gospel is no secret and the mystery of Jesus’ words has been fully revealed. Admittedly, not everyone grasps the truth or eternal significance of the Gospel message but it is not relayed from one believer to another using “coded messages” that require a secret decoder ring to translate for outsiders. At least, it shouldn’t be… yes, we use illustrations or stories to help us explain but our message should be plain.

Gospel in Plain English: We have all failed in being the people God desires. Our desires and ambitions are really selfish when we look closely and honestly at them. We were made by God and for God and we are really and truly empty without Him. Even though we attempt to make up for it, our actions are still basically selfish or self-centered/focused. How can I be so sure? We still want recognition for our kindness and sacrifices. <press pause button> I’m going to pause here, because you need to hear this next part in Jesus own words…

“In that day, you will ask in my name, and I do not say to you that I will ask the Father on your behalf; for the Father himself loves you…”

Pay attention to that statement… IT IS HUGE! Let me explain why. In both Mark and Luke’s accounts of the crucifixion they note that at the moment of Jesus’ death the Temple veil/curtain was torn in two from top to bottom.

“And Jesus uttered a loud cry and breathed his last. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. And when the centurion, who stood facing him, saw that in this way he breathed his last, he said, “Truly this man was the Son of God!” (Mark 15:37-39 ESV see also Luke 23:44-47)

Up to this point in the Biblical story, the only payment for the sins of the people is the annual sacrifice on the Day of Atonement. (Payment or propitiation – to propitiate means more than payment, it really means to completely satisfy or meet the demands of God’s righteous judgment on sin. We will revisit this a bit later.) But “in that day” you will ask and Jesus won’t need to ask the Father “on your behalf.” Why? What changed? Isn’t Jesus our great High Priest? Doesn’t He always intercede for us? Yes… but the sacrifice is complete. His work of redemption is finished. The veil of sin that separates the people of God from the presence of God has been torn from top to bottom by the death of the innocent and spotless Lamb of God.

Gospel in Plain English, continued: <press play button> If we are really honest with ourselves, we know that our actions, even the so-called good ones, are still generally selfish. We might occasionally do something from a pure and good motive, but not often. So, we need help. Lots and lots of it. Enter Jesus, stage left. He is the holy and innocent Son of God. He voluntarily dies in our place, for our failures, and because of that we now have unhindered access to God for “the Father himself loves you.” Well, there is one caveat… one requirement. In Jesus’ own words: “because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God.” <press pause button, again>

Faith is really not about doing something, it is about trusting SOMEONE! You don’t work yourself up to a level of trust, the one you trust has shown himself worthy of your trust. He has been trustworthy and kept His promises. Perhaps it is best to understand the concept of trust from a negative illustration. If you’ve ever lost trust in someone was it because of something you did or something they did? A loss of trust is always due to the other person doing something that causes you to lose trust in them. So, if a LOSS of trust is their fault then HAVING trust in them is also their fault. So, faith is not something you do but something you get, it is a gift of God’s faithfulness.

Some folks believe that faith is blind trust, based only in religious belief and superstition. However, nothing could be farther from the truth. My faith in God is based on evidence just like the disciples faith was based on evidence. They had witnessed the miracles, heard the truth spoken with uncanny authority, and would soon witness the power of the resurrection. They believed because they had seen…

“That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us— that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.” (1 John 1:1-4 ESV)

Gospel in Plain English, continued: <press play button> You might have heard church people talk about “being saved” and wondered “saved from what?” In some ways, saved from ourselves. The biggest lie we usually believe is that we don’t need anyone else. We can do this ourselves. Have you ever said, “don’t worry, I’ve got this.” Did it turn out the way you had hoped? Usually not. That’s the part that gets us. We are fooled into thinking we can get things right with God on our own. That’s where faith comes into play. Are you willing to acknowledge the love that God has for you by trusting that He has done everything necessary to restore your relationship with Him through Jesus. It isn’t about doing enough good to outweigh the bad things you’ve done, it’s about trusting that Jesus has done everything for you. He says love me, trust me, follow me and I’ll take you with me. Where? To the place I’ve prepared for you, in God’s house. <press pause button, again>

We usually get this part backwards and it makes a big mess out of things. Kinda like cooking with a recipe and steps that are out of order. We aren’t loved by God because we are good people, we are loved by God and, if we will fully trust Him, He gives us new hearts and lives. He makes us into new people. (See Ezekiel 36:26; and 1 Cor. 5:17) THEN we strive to be like Him because He loves us and we are now able to love Him the way He desires and deserves. When you get the steps in the right order the results are much better. Here’s a verse that helps explain it…

“God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice (or propitiation) to take away our sins. Dear friends, since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other.” (1 John 4:9-11 NLT)

Gospel in Plain English, conclusion: God loved you SO much that He gave… Everything. Even. Jesus. So. You. Can. Know. Him. And. Have. Life. With. Him. FOREVER!

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