Summary of the Gospel F.A.C.T.S.

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Faith in God

You’ve got to believe something. There is simply no getting around it. There is no other choice. It is how humans function. There is no such thing as objectivity, as some believe, no neutral position from which we can determine the existence of God. We cannot judge God, who is ultimate reality, by any lessor reality.
Even scientists work in the pursuit of truth on the basis of assumptions to which the scientific community are jointly committed. They presume the rationality of the universe, the uniformity of the laws that govern it (that experiments will always yield the same results under the same conditions), and the validity of reasoning. Scientists write up their findings in peer reviewed journals for assessment by the scientific community to ensure their findings are in conformity with commonly held scientific beliefs. Facts require theories to explain them.
When it comes to believing in God, there is nothing more important. Our destiny is at stake. We must resolve doubt and uncertainty. The God in whom our faith rests, is faithful. When it comes to values, meaning and purpose to life we have no alternative but to make a faith commitment to what we accept as true. The sceptic will find this unsatisfactory. But we are justified in being sceptical of scepticism. Doubt is simply a state of mind, the attitude to our belief in ourselves as the arbitrator of truth. Scepticism offers no evidence for its own truth. However, the object of Christian faith is not within the human mind. Faith in God rests, not in our own confidence, but on a sure foundation outside of us. The myth of faith being subjective and therefore a personal matter, deliberately overlooks the reality of God to whom we are accountable. Human freedom extends to allowing us to disbelieve in God. But to do so means we have chosen to believe in ourselves, our own ability to determine what is truth. 

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Adam or Abraham

Adam and Abraham related to God in two contrasting ways. It is significant that the name “Adam” means mankind because he is representative of all of us. Adam believed he knew best in how to relate to God. The result hasn’t been good. Just look at the world today: wars, immorality, sickness, suffering and death. Some people even try to blame God for making the world this way, as if humans have nothing to do with it.
Abram, on the other hand, was a man of faith. He was renamed by God as Abraham, which means “ancestor to many people”. He was still sinful like everyone else, but unlike those the other descendants of Adam, he placed his faith in God who promised Abraham, and all people of faith who the Bible calls his spiritual descendants, that they would be blessed. God had a plan to reconcile with sinful humanity. Now imperfect people cannot come into the presence of a perfect and holy God. They would be destroyed because of the presence of evil in them.
How does God save people from destruction? God made people for relationships with each other. We are social beings. Even our offences against one another can be repaired through forgiveness. Humans can befriend other humans in spite of their imperfections and sin, even when that sin directed towards themselves. This is because human existence does not depend on another human, unlike with a holy God who cannot sustain evil. God’s plan to use this human capacity involved the Son of God taking on human form so that we could relate to Christ through faith. But the plan did not guarantee the salvation of everyone. It involved a choice. Will we believe in God like Abraham and place our faith in Jesus as our saviour? 

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Christ Jesus

The word Christ, (which was the Greek translation of the Hebrew word “Messiah”), is a title, not a name. It means God’s anointed, or chosen one. Jesus is God in human form. In Scripture, he is called the second Adam. He has faith like Abraham, but is without sin, unlike both Adam and Abraham. Christ sacrificed his life to save humanity (the name Jesus means “the Lord is salvation”). Jesus could have appealed to his Father to save him from death on the cross (Matt 26:53), but if he had done so, he would not accomplish his mission of salvation.
Jesus’ death on the cross was a great miscarriage of justice. He was an innocent man, entirely sinless, and as God, worthy of worship. Jesus’ gracious sacrifice for his friends, moved God to overcome the evil done to Jesus by raising him from the dead and making reparation by exalting him to the highest place in God’s kingdom. When God raised Jesus, he was also locked in to raise all those Jesus sacrificed his life to save.
This is why our salvation has nothing to do with us. Even our faith in Jesus does not win God’s approval, our justification is by faith alone in Christ alone. The empty tomb is our confirmation, not only of Jesus’ resurrection, but the promise of our future resurrection. 

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A Transformed People

Those who believe in Jesus, he calls his disciples and friends, are transformed from being a citizen of the world into a citizen of God’s kingdom. The Bible also uses other images such as being adopted into God’s family and becoming God’s own people. This transformation is obtained through no action or merit of our own. We cannot do good things to get God to accept us. Nothing we do can undo our sins. We are saved as Christ’s reward. Salvation for Jesus’ friends means we are transformed from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of light, from being no people to being God’s people. We seek to live in accordance with our new status. Christians do not have to live perfectly, for salvation does not depend upon how we live. Christians are free to live in the way God’s family members who are set free from condemnation would live. It is just the way God’s people behave.
God transforms us from the futile drudge of trying to justify ourselves before God, to joyous freedom in Christ who has won our salvation. This is one of the most misunderstood facts of the gospel. The devil spends a lot of time promoting the view that Christianity requires people to please God by obeying his laws. This would be nothing but dull hard work with no prospect of success. The devil has overplayed his hand. The pay in the kingdom of darkness is nothing to get excited about The truth sets people free from Satan’s lies. The good news is that the kingdom of God is full of joy because we are forgiven, accepted, and loved by God. 

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The Holy Spirit

God in the person of the Holy Spirit, also called the Spirit of the Son of God (Gal 4:6), comes to abide in Christ’s followers. No longer do we have to conduct our lives by a set of rules to satisfy either society’s standards or God’s commandments (which were given to help God’s people prior to the coming of Christ). Christians walk by the Spirit and follow his guidance. The Spirit of God who inspired the writing of Scripture will lead us so we can live as citizens of God’s kingdom.
Jesus commissioned his followers and gave them authority to heal the sick, deliver the captives, and release the oppressed as the Spirit leads them. Obedience is not a matter of duty or obligation, but it is the way of life of God’s family. This is only the first instalment of the adventure of eternal life (John 3:16). Resurrection to life everlasting without sin is yet to come. This is why Christians say, “Death has lost its sting.” (1 Corinthians 15:55). 

The Risk of Faith

So what are you going to do about the gospel facts?
We all have to believe something.
What do you believe?
Another religion?
What do they have to offer? What if they are wrong?
Jesus said he is the truth and He will give you abundant life.

Why believe in Jesus? Why not! The gospel is based in historical facts: Jesus was crucified, dead and buried and rose from the dead. His followers were prepared to die rather than say it wasn’t true. Jesus has had committed followers ever since, committed to believing in him.
Our confidence does not rest in our decisions, but in the faithfulness of God.
Reason doesn’t lead you to faith, we reason from faith.
God doesn’t want you to agonize over a decision. The gospel is not just about accepting facts. Faith involves us in commitment. Jesus is the one who saves you. Jesus said "Come, follow me" (Matthew 4:19).  

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Some Questions and Answers

You know God exists, the same way you know anything exists, by faith. People believe the world exists. We can see it and touch it. Believing the world exists makes life a whole lot easier. After all, we can’t divorce ourselves from reality for a moment, or step outside the universe, to see if it’s really there.
Descartes tried to prove that he existed. He decided that because he was thinking about existence, therefore, he must exist. But he might just be a dream in someone else’s existence. You can’t get out of it that easily. We accept that we exist, that the world exists, and that God exists, all by faith.
You drive your car by faith, not knowing what is around the next corner, believing there will be a clear road. You believe what you want to believe. Some people don’t believe in God because it would restrict their freedom. Although if they were wrong, it wouldn’t be a restriction to their freedom that they wanted but freedom to indulge in irrational, immoral, evil, sinful behaviour. No-one wants to be condemned, but avoiding the truth or trusting in alternatives is not a solution. This is why God took on human form to save the world so we can say, "there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus" (Rom 8:1).

Do you need your family, your friends? Do you need human support and social contact? In the spiritual world, it is the same. But who are you going to fellowship with if you are a Christian? If not with Christians, then who? Where are you going to meet with Christians? The church is God's family, and every Christian is a member. Would you ignore your family? Do you want to minister to others and be ministered to by them? Do you want to talk about God, the Bible, and your faith? Where are you going to do these things? Where Christians meet together to do these things, at church.
Other things that people often think of as being the church, are not really the church. They are the institutions, the organisational arrangements, and the buildings that serve the church. The church is the people, the family of God.

The gospel was proclaimed by Jesus who told his followers to make disciples of all the world. The news of Jesus' resurrection could not be suppressed. There were too many witnesses prepared to die for what they knew to be true. The commitment of faith displayed in God's people is persuasive of the truth of the gospel. The changed lives tell a story that is consistent with the truth of the gospel. The only way to judge the truth of the gospel is by submitting to its truth. We are judged by the gospel and not the other way around. 

If you read the gospels you will find it is a reasonable account of what God did through Jesus. All the New Testament documents were written in the first century, and probably before 70 A.D. since none of them mentions the fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of the Temple which occurred on that date. The time gap between the original writings and the earliest surviving copies is comparatively short compared to other ancient documents. The Bible has an internal consistency as well as being consistent with outside supporting evidence from historical documents and archaeology. Many of the first Christians were martyred for their faith, which only makes their testimony more reliable.

Lesslie Newbigin on certainty:
“Here is the heart of the matter. A kind of 'indubitable certainty' which claims to possess knowledge is all part of our alienation from God. The reality is a gracious God who leads us into a knowledge of Him by a love which calls forth the commitment of faith. Faith is not a claim to indubitable and irreformable certainty. It is a personal and total personal commitment to the One who is able to lead us into truth in its fullness. I do not know of any better statement of the matter than the following words of Dietrich Bonhoeffer: 'Faith alone is certain. Everything but faith is subject to doubt. Jesus Christ alone is the certainty of faith'.””
Certain Faith: What Kind Of Certainty? Tyndale Bulletin 44.2 (1993) 

 Faith is sometimes called a psychological crutch, but if it is true, you would expect God to be able to meet people's psychological needs. One might ask how do you know that God doesn't exist? The atheist would have to know everything or else God might exist outside his area of knowledge. This leads the agnostic to think we can't know whether God exists or not. Of course, the agnostic really needs to know God. The atheist and the agnostic have placed their faith in themselves. The Christian believes in God and from a position of faith learns to know how things really are.

The God that we learn about from the Bible is actively involved in eradicating evil and suffering. God's work of atonement in creation is an ongoing work. Some  point to God's decision to create humanity with free will as the reason for there being so much suffering in the world. The incarnation of God in human flesh reveals God's determination to bring about atonement. The atheist cannot deny God's existence because of the evil in the world because to do so requires an absolute standard of judgement beyond this world. Christians fight against evil and suffering knowing it is God's will to do so. If God was to eliminate evil immediately, it would be the end for all of us. 

The judgement of those who have never heard the gospel is a matter for God, who we know is good and just. The Apostle Paul was of the opinion that God would judge such people on the basis of what they do know (Romans 1:18-23). Remember that Abraham, who had never heard of Christ, is saved through him because of his faith. Remember that God does not condemn innocent people, but guilty people. The Holy Spirit continually reminds us of our sin and need of forgiveness and prompts us to place our faith in God. 

The gospel was proclaimed by Jesus who told his followers to make disciples of all the world. The news of Jesus' resurrection could not be suppressed. There were too many witnesses prepared to die for what they knew to be true. The commitment of faith displayed in God's people is persuasive of the truth of the gospel. The changed lives tell a story that is consistent with the truth of the gospel. The only way to judge the truth of the gospel is by submitting to its truth. We are judged by the gospel and not the other way around. 

By the grace of God, there is truth to be found in other religions, too. Unfortunately, all the other religions call us to live good lives in order to please their god/s (Buddhism's Noble Eightfold Path, the Pillars of Islam, lead a virtuous life to escape Hinduism's reincarnation). The fundamental difference with Christianity is that Christ has won salvation for all those who will follow him and accept his sacrifice for them. The Christian seeks to live a good life because he has been saved into God's family, not in order to get adopted.

The problem is that no one is good, except God (Mark 10:18). Besides, we are not good because of our good deeds (as if anyone could do good deeds all the time in their flesh) but goodness flows from God. It is those who are made good by God, who will be with him in heaven. Hence Christians "eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness" (Galatians 5:5). 

Lesslie Newbigin responded to the charge of fideism as follows, and I quote.
"(1) The charge appears to rest on the illusion that there is available to us a kind of knowledge which does not rest on faith commitments.
(2) We are not talking … of a 'blind leap of faith'. We are speaking of a rational response to a personal calling. If the ultimate reality with which we have to do is, in some sense, personal, then the only way to knowledge will be through such a personal response to a personal calling. To exclude this possibility is to make a fundamental decision before the argument has started and is therefore irrational.
(3) The charge implies that the rational arguments of philosophy are more to be relied upon than the testimony of the apostolic witnesses to the events of the Gospel. This was certainly the view of Descartes. ... It is of course absolutely right that the testimony of the apostles should be brought into the thinking of the philosophers and that rational thought should exercise itself in the task of relating that testimony to all the rest of human experience. But to suppose that this testimony cannot be trusted unless it is corroborated by philosophical argument which is … based on evidence other than this testimony, is already to have made a decision against that testimony.
(4) I think it is worth pointing out that (as Michael Buckley has argued in At the Origins of Modern Atheism) it is precisely the 'God of the Philosophers' who is rejected by modern consciousness and is probably the main source of the specifically modern form of atheism."
Certain Faith: What Kind Of Certainty? Tyndale Bulletin 44.2 (1993) 

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