What is the gospel? What is the Good News? Here is an explanation...Confucius say, "Picture Worth Thousand Words!" ☺ 一畫勝千言. Well, actually Confucius didn't say it, and Bonaparte did say, «Un bon croquis vaut mieux qu'un long discours» ["A good sketch is better than a long speech"] but maybe this "Chinese proverb" about a picture comes from some ancient audio-visual learner, such as myself. This is an illustration of the Good News as my mother and dad taught me, from which I first understood it, at age six, but still learning it after almost a half century—but reader beware...this is much a much ad libbed version.The Bridge Illustration
55th anniversary edition*
(drawings and commentary by Lenny Robertson)
|This man is trying to build his own bridge to God.|
Originally God made man in His own image and placed the first man and first woman in a garden as their home in a world created especially for them. But then God's rebellious enemy (the devil) tricked the first man and first woman into doubting God's words and eating a forbidden fruit. So the man and his wife found themselves naked and in trouble with God. However, God killed animals in their place, and clothed them with these hides for their now-mortal bodies and gave a promise that the seed of the woman would one day crush God's enemy who tricked them. But their first-born son killed their second-born son, so God gave them a third son, Seth, meaning "appointed replacement." Adam and Eve, the names of the first man and woman died in hope of a son to be born to the human race from a woman (without a man's seed) as a second Adam. God let the days of their lives be almost a thousand years. But as time went on, no one in the human race was able to crush the head of God's enemy. In fact, the children of the family of Adam got to be so bad that God destroyed the surface of the ground which he had cursed instead of mankind, even though he loved people. God destroyed the land with a world-wide flood that took all life, except what was on a boat which God had one certain holy man named Noah build for his family, the birds, the land animals, and the crawling creatures during the tenth generation after Adam—and the creatures that lived in water survived as well. Today people are not yet as bad as that time, generally, but people still find that they are not good enough to be that promised one to undo what God's enemy did to them or to be able to get back together in peace with God as they were made to be. Every single person we know dies; everyone turns out to be not perfect enough to overcome death.
The Bible says, "For there is no distinction, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." The Bible also says, "For by grace you are saved through faith, and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God; it is not from works, so that no one can boast."
After God's enemy tricked people, they gained a sense of right and wrong as a premature gift from that fruit, and also inherited death from Adam. Not only do all humans die like Adam and Eve did, because we go against our inner sense of right and wrong, but we die to await evaluation by God. If anybody belongs to the lies of God's enemy, that person gets to accompany God's enemy to hell forever. Instead of God being Our Father in heaven, we may find we are at war with Him, even without realizing it. Can there be any hope? Will anyone help us?
The Bible uses the phrase "And just as people are appointed to die once, and then to face judgment," which means death is not the end of it all and that God will hold court on humanity.
In the first picture we see that this poor fellow has trouble crossing the gap of separation between himself and God. His way is blocked because he has done wrong. Nothing he does can let him be at peace with God, such as like the first Adam was, to start out with. He tries to do the best he can and have the best morals he can, or solve his problems with education, or even try a bit of religion—going to church or worship—but he still is a stranger to God. How will he build a bridge to God? Have a look at this next picture:
|This poor guy is helpless and hopeless, trying to reach God...nothing seems to work.|
The Bible also says, "But to the cowards, unbelievers, detestable persons, murderers, the sexually immoral, and those who practice magic spells, idol worshipers, and all those who lie, their place will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur." But there is hope for us, a way God made for us, through a man He sent to us. See this next picture:
|God sent someone to rescue you and me, someone who actually became human, a middleman between us and God.|
There was such a man to give us hope. A second Adam. He was born of the seed of a woman named Mary in the Roman province of Judea about two thousand years ago, by a work of God's Spirit without a man's help. She was a virgin that conceived. Just like God promised to the first mother, Eve. This man born to Mary was totally God, having previously been with God and actually one with God and sent to earth by God's plan. He became a full human being, without getting mixed up about who He was. He never did anything bad and never was at war with God but called God his Father. He said he and his Father are one. His life was good but it was his death in the place of Adam and all of Adam's family that gives us hope. A hope for life forever with our Father, the same Father Jesus called Father.
Someone came to crush and undo what God's enemy had done to mankind and to even overcome death—because you can't keep a good man down! His body was changed into a better body and he stood back up from the dead by dawn of the third day. He said, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." [New English Translation, John chapter 14 verse 6, Holy Bible] His name is Jesus, which means [in Hebrew] that God (literally, the "I am" or I always be) is the one who saves us.
The Bible also says, through one of God's spokespersons, the apostle Paul, "For I passed on to you as of first importance what I also received)—that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures, and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day according to the scriptures,...."
This last picture shows there is only one more thing we need in order to get connected with God:
|Don't just stand there...DO something...admit you are out of other options...it's a deal you have to not refuse.|
Long before, God had prepared a childless couple who thought their family line had come to an end. God gave them a son in their old age, and this couple, renamed Abraham and Sarah, became the parents of the Israelis and Jewish people. Before God renamed them, Abram (later Abraham) did take another woman at his wife Sarai's urging, and a son, Ishmael, the father of the Arabs, was born to Sarai's servant named Hagar. Later, Abraham also married again after Sarah died, but that is another story.
Israel, Abraham and Sarah's only son, was the particular family God planned to make a new race of people from. The virgin Mary had a special son 46 generations after Israel was born to Abraham and Sarah.
God gave the Jewish people the Bible but most of them would not listen to it with understanding. So God decided, according to His plan, to make a huge offer to all the other families in the world, too, to make the Jewish people jealous and make them wake up soon to who the real Messiah is. Another way to say Messiah is "Christ," and it means the one who has oil poured on his head, like someone who is to become a prophet, a king or a priest, and whom God promised would have God's Spirit. A former Jesus-hating Jew that we call Paul had a vision of Jesus looking down at him from heaven and calling his Hebrew name of Saul, and then putting him in his place—and the rest is history. Then this Saul became a new man known as Paul, the Greek name he was known by to the non-Jews he preached to. His traumatic vision made Paul a grateful Jesus-slave for the rest of his life. While traveling in service of God he wrote a letter to some non-Jews (that is, Gentiles) in Galatia who started out well in following Jesus but then got mixed up about whether or not to join the Israelite tribe of Judah, who are the Jews. Actually, Paul was of Israel's Benjamin tribe that joined up with Judah along with some Levi tribe, some of whom were priests, and other tribespeople, hundreds of years before that. Paul told them, “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us (because it is written, 'Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree') in order that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham would come to the Gentiles, so that we could receive the promise of the Spirit by faith.” [New English Translation, Galatians chapter 3 verses 13 and 14, Holy Bible]
Here's a good Bible verse for us to remember the rest of our mortal lives, where Jesus talks about us, himself and his Father who sent Him:
“I tell you the solemn truth, the one who hears my message and believes the one who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned, but has crossed over from death to life."
God does not play favorites with people. He is so bent on making the Jews jealous in order to drive them back to being His reconciled children, that He'll take anyone into His family, even someone as bad as Paul was. That is a blessing for the rest of us who may not happen to be from Israel's Judah tribe or one of the tribes of Judah's brothers, twelve sons in all. You have never heard such good news as this! God wants to sign a peace treaty with us and put us in the book that says we're “in.” If we join Jesus and Father God, we cannot lose. We may have setbacks in this life, but that's nothing new. A renewed earth is coming after Jesus again places his foot on planet earth. If we miss this offer, we've really missed it! Jesus will still be good, but God will find we off target, even if we think we're some of the best people in the world. The tennis ball has been hit back into our court: our future is now in our own hands. Decide well, my friend. Are you with Jesus or against Him? He is the original Son of God and can make us His brothers and sisters, our only hope in this life and the next. Reign with Him. Have no more fear of God's enemy, the devil. Laugh at death, now defeated, if we're on the right side. It's springtime and time for life to come from the dead.
Live! Look to Jesus!
*My father, Rev. Lee Roy Robertson, a missionary for 59 years to the Orient, originally developed The Bridge illustration, along with another missionary, Doug Sparks, in the mid 1950s in Taipei, Taiwan, by roughly basing it on the first eight chapters of the epistle of Paul to the Romans and by using six basic salvation Bible verses that their Bible teacher Dawson Trotman taught them to use in evangelism (or 18 verses in the full set of evangelism verses), and by using a modification of a picture that my father's senior missionary colleague (Dick Hillis) used for preaching with farmer-evangelists to Chinese people in Henan province of mainland China.