What Is The Message Of The Gospel?
Intro: In July of 1961, 38 members of the Green Bay Packers had gathered for the first day of training camp. Just 6 months earlier, this group of players played in the NFL championship game, coming up short at the end of the game. They had the lead in the 4th quarter but squandered it away to the Philadelphia Eagles. To call it heartbreaking would be an understatement. It was a devastating loss. The players had been thinking about the brutal defeat all offseason, and now they were ready to get back to work. They were ready to take their game to the next level and start working on the details that would help them win a championship. When their coach, Vince Lombardi walked onto the practice field, the players expected his usual pep talk. He would scream and stomp and yell, and then tell them to practice like they were the Green Bay Packers. But much to their surprise, Coach Lombardi took a different approach. That day, he began a tradition of starting from scratch. He would treat his players like blank slates who carried over no football knowledge from the previous season. He glared at each player deliberately for several seconds and then he held up one of those oblong pigskins and said, “Gentlemen…this is a football.” Did I mention these were professional players who had made it to the zenith of their sport the previous season? 120 days earlier, they had come within minutes of winning the biggest prize their sport could offer. And yet, the legendary coach started from the very beginning. They would drill the fundamentals of football all training camp long. Each player reviewed how to block and tackle. They opened the playbook and started on page one. At one point, their all-pro WR, Max McGee, joked, “Uh, Coach, could you slow down a little? You’re going too fast for us!” Lombardi cracked a smile but carried on with his methodical plan of doing the little things perfectly. His team would become the best in the league at the tasks everyone else took for granted. Six months later, the Green Bay Packers defeated the New York Giants 37-0 to win the NFL Championship. The 1961 season was the beginning of Vince Lombardi’s reign as one of the greatest coaches of all time. He would never lose another playoff game. Today, the Vince Lombardi Trophy is awarded to the winner of the Super Bowl. A commitment to review the basics made all the difference. How does this apply to the church? We should take a similar approach. Every Christian has already obeyed the basic demands of the Gospel. But we should embrace reviewing the fundamentals of the faith on a regular basis. It is one of the keys to having a successful ministry for the glory of God. Today, we take a page out of Vince Lombardi’s playbook. Ladies and gentlemen…this is a Bible. In it is the only message of hope that can save a soul. Let’s review it with open ears and eager hearts.
Gen 1:26 Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”
When God created mankind, He made them in His own image and likeness. He modeled them after Himself. But we must be careful not to read more into those phrases than what is there.
The immediate context defines part of the image of God has having His same authority in the earth. He gave those whom He created in His image dominion over all living things.
Rather than telling us what God looks like, Moses tells us what God is like. He is a ruler. He is the essence of authority. And He has deputized His humans to govern His world. Both of them.
Gen 1:27 So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.
Both genders made up the image of God. Male and female He created them. Also, we must notice that no single human being has ever been made in God’s image. No one can accurately say, “I was made in the image of God.”
Because God Himself is a plurality in unity. “Let Us” make man in “Our image.” From the beginning it has taken a group to be the image of God.
Adam was not made in the image of God…Adam and Eve were.
HOW LONG DID THE IMAGE OF GOD LAST?
Gen 3:6 So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate.
Bible scholars call this verse “the Fall of Man.”
Both people who were created in the image of God broke His law. They disobeyed His direct command. He said, “but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, you shall not eat.”
Here in Gen 3:6, they both ate the fruit of the forbidden tree. The pristine image of God in them was now fatally ruined.
It would never be the same. It would never return. But first they must be held accountable.
Gen 3:8 And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden.
Gen 3:9 Then the Lord God called to Adam and said to him, “Where are you?”
Since the first sin, mankind has fled from God’s presence. But God has pursued them. God came looking for rebellious Adam and Eve.
The pattern has never changed. We sin. We run. God comes to us.
Every believer was lost in their own sins, running away from God, when He came to rescue us.
God is the seeker. We were what was lost.
Gen 3:11 And He said, “…Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you that you should not eat?”
God’s accountability for sin was specific, and His judgment was severe.
Gen 3:24 So He drove out the man; and He placed cherubim at the east of the garden of Eden, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to guard the way to the tree of life.
All of humanity was specially created by God and placed in paradise for His glory. When they disregarded His holiness and disobeyed Him, He rebuked them and locked them out of that same paradise.
His image and likeness in them had been destroyed.
SOMETHING HAS GONE TERRIBLY WRONG
These so called image-bearers reproduce, and the results are disastrous.
Gen 4:8 Now Cain talked with Abel his brother; and it came to pass, when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother and killed him.
God’s image did not even make it one generation. The Fall in the Garden was an unmitigated catastrophe.
The relationship between the first two siblings ended in unprovoked murder.
No one can argue from the text that there was any discernible image of Holy God left in humanity by Genesis 4.
Genesis 5 confirms it.
Gen 5:1 This is the book of the genealogy of Adam. In the day that God created man, He made him in the likeness of God.
Gen 5:2 He created them male and female, and blessed them and called them Mankind in the day they were created.
This is the second time in Genesis that Moses has stated that both Adam and Eve were created in God’s image and likeness.
We now expect the same note when Adam’s descendants are listed in the generations to come. But what will it say about Adam’s lineage?
Gen 5:3 And Adam lived one hundred and thirty years, and begot a son in his own likeness, after his image, and named him Seth.
Moses is very explicit that Seth, the son carries Adam’s bloodline to the following generations, is made in Adam’s image and likeness, but not God’s.
This is an incalculable loss. Humanity used to reflect the glory of their Creator by carrying His image. But sin is such a fast-spreading cancer, that God’s image is no longer said to be in a man after only one single generation.
It didn’t even make it to Adam and Eve’s children.
Things only got worse from there.
Gen 6:5 Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.
Gen 6:6 And the Lord was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart.
Gen 6:7 So the Lord said, “I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth, both man and beast, creeping thing and birds of the air, for I am sorry that I have made them.”
Humanity went from losing God’s image to losing the privilege to even live on His earth in fewer than four chapters in the Bible.
The devastation caused by sin was far more serious than most sermons dare to describe.
IS THERE YET ANY HOPE?
Gen 6:8 But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord.
No one can be made right with God without finding grace in His eyes.
Rom 5:12 Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned —
No one escapes the sinful nature passed down from Adam.
We needed someone without Adam’s inherited sin to stand in our place.
Phil 2:7 but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men.
Phil 2:8 And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.
These verses teach what Bible scholars have labeled the kenosis, or the “self-emptying” of Jesus when He came from heaven to earth.
He veiled His heavenly glory, His divine nature, while He lived on earth to redeem us.
Don’t miss the “likeness” language.
Jesus came “in the likeness of men” to make it possible for us to regain the “likeness/image of God.”
He was “found in appearance as a man,” meaning He looked like any regular guy.
We needed a man to die for us. We needed Him to give us a priceless gift.
Eph 2:8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God,
Eph 2:9 not of works, lest anyone should boast.
WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO “RECEIVE” JESUS?
John 1:11 He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him.
John 1:12 But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name:
John 1:13 who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.
“Receiving Jesus” is another way to say, “born again.” It involves believing the message and gaining the new birth.
No one can be born again for you. It is a real decision. It is a personal decision. It is not a private decision.
call His name
Rom 10:13 For “whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”
I can only find two “sinners’ prayers” in the Bible:
Luke 18:13 And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, “God, be merciful to me a sinner!”
Luke 23:42 Then he said to Jesus, “Lord remember me when You come into Your kingdom.”
take His yoke
Matt 11:28 Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
Matt 11:29 Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.
Matt 11:30 For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.
A yoke is a farming apparatus. It is a harness that fit around the necks of the oxen to bring them in tandem to work together to plow the soil. Jesus says His yoke is not even a burden. It doesn’t feel like conscripted labor. It is easy.
To take His yoke means to plow His field, to work for His harvest. It means to be subdued by Christ’s will and go where He leads.
He is a gentle, humble master. Taking His yoke is counter-intuitive – instead of back-breaking work, it results in rest.
Learning is involved.
Matt 28:20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." Amen.
Where do the redeemed learn to observe all the things that Christ has commanded? In the gathering of the church…
Acts 2:42 And they continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers.
Do you ever wonder about the thief on the cross who believed at the last moment? What if Heaven really does have a registration process? What if Apostle Peter is in charge of the clearing house?
Peter: “Sir, how did you get here?”
Thief: “I’m not sure”
Peter: “How did you die?”
Thief: “They crucified me.”
Peter: “What did you do?”
Thief: “I stole from many people.”
Peter: “So, what are you doing here, then?”
Thief: “I don’t really know, sir.”
Peter: “Did you make sacrifices at the temple?”
Thief: “Not that I can remember.”
Peter: “Did you ever observe the Passover?”
Thief: “My parents did when I was little, but ever since I moved out on my own, I stopped.”
Peter: “Wow. It’s puzzling that you’re here today.”
Thief: “I know, right?”
Peter: “Did you ever read the Scriptures or pray?”
Thief: “Not really.”
Peter: “Let’s try this – did you ever give to the poor?”
Thief: “Can’t say that I have – I’m a thief, remember?”
Peter: “Were you baptized?”
Thief: “What does that mean?”
Peter: “Nevermind.” “Okay, sir, can you think of any reason at all that you should be here?”
Thief: “Well, all I know is…the Man on the middle cross said I could come.”