I still remember doing a survey of the church building we erected in Japan. The foundation had just been laid and the supervisor walked the perimeter with me and got down on the ground to show me how perfect the angles were. He said, “Get the foundation perfect and you’ll have a stable building. But make a small mistake here, and you’ll always have problems.” Thankfully, they did get the foundation perfect. And we were very happy with the finished product. Over the years, I’ve seen again and again that getting the foundation of Christianity straight is crucial to a healthy relationship with God. The problem is that you can’t get everything straight. There is too much to know in the Bible to know it all equally. So you need to be able to discern what the foundation is and get that straight and then over time do your best to add to it. Do you have the foundation straight? Have you helped your children get the foundation straight? When people ask you about your faith, do you get the foundation straight?
The foundation of Christianity is the gospel, a word which simply means “good news.” It’s an announcement of something that God has done. If someone knew nothing of the Bible, I’d want them to know that it’s a book that reveals something amazing that God has done for humanity. I want little children to realize that the starting point of Christianity is something great God has done for them. Christianity doesn’t start with morality, rituals, rules, traditions, or buildings. It starts with an announcement. And the announcement is good! If you have children, ask them what Christianity is about. Listen to what comes out of their mouth next. Is it “good news?” It is focused on what Jesus has done? If not, you may need to help straighten their foundation.
There are dozens of ways to remember, summarize or boil down the gospel. None of these is perfect because they try to distill something that is too big to contain. But if we don’t have a way of remembering the essence of this great announcement, we’ll likely never fully grasp it for ourselves or be able to pass it along. The shortest summary of the gospel I know is “God made it, we broke it, Jesus fixed it, by faith I receive it.” Each of these statements tries to summarize an important part of the good news announcement of the gospel. Even more basic are the following four words: “God, we, Jesus, me.” In order to get the gospel straight, you have to grasp at least four essential truths.
1. God (God made it.) The good news starts with God: a good, holy and all-powerful God who created us, loves us and desires to know us. He created paradise and put us in the centre of it.
2. We (We broke it.) The good news is good because it addresses something that is bad. The gospel says that the problem with the world is that we’ve made a mess of paradise by turning from God and His will for our lives. Our sin cursed paradise and put us under a death penalty, separated from God and destined for an eternity of consequence and punishment.
3. Jesus (Jesus fixed it.) The announcement of the gospel hits its climax in Jesus coming to fix what we broke. He lived the perfect life we should have lived and then died the death that we deserved, and in so doing opened up a way for sinful people to make peace with a holy God. After dying as a criminal, He rose from the dead to show that the death penalty would indeed be reversed for all who turn to Him.
4. Me (By faith I receive it.) The gospel ends with an invitation. What Jesus did to fix what we broke isn’t automatic. You and I must personally turn from our sins and put our full trust in Jesus as our Saviour and Lord. We broke paradise by turning our backs on God and going our own way. Without Jesus’ death on our behalf, nothing could have fixed this. But because of what He did at the cross, we can know peace with God, forgiveness for all our sins and the hope of a renewed paradise in eternity with all true believers.
Are you certain that you’ve understood and responded to this good news? Could you repeat this good news message from memory? Do your children know this good news? And do they know that this is the very centre of our faith and the only hope for forgiveness before a holy God? If not, take the time to learn it. Let’s take the time to get the foundation straight and pass it along faithfully and carefully.
In awe of Him,