Why Am I Here? (The Gospel)
“It’s not about you.”
That is the opening sentence of Rick Warren’s best-selling book, The Purpose Driven Life. Our culture constantly tells us that life is all about us, our wants and our desires.
It feels counter-intuitive, but the most freeing and reassuring thing we can know is that life never was, and is not ultimately about us but about God, and joining Him in what He is up to on earth--His purpose.
“When I started my journey as a believer in Christ at first it seemed like so much had to focus on me: forgiveness, eternal life, peace with God, peace inside. It was like putting the oxygen mask on myself first so I could live and breathe. But it didn’t take long to notice there were others around me. And some looked like they needed help. I think that was God’s Spirit opening my eyes and longing to use me to help them discover this new life.”
Does God love you? Absolutely! Did Christ die for you? Yes! Will we as believers spend eternity with Him? For sure! But that still does not make life about us.
Someone observed, "The gospel came to you on it's way to someone else."
The life God is creating in you is meant to be reproduced in others. Disciples make disciples. That's what this Essentials study is really all about. First, get solidly grounded and growing in your own life, then join God on the journey to help reproduce it in others.
That's why this study is designed to be totally transferable, and accessible anywhere in the world, for free. Once you go through it, you can use it with anyone, (click link for ideas) or any group, any time to help pass long that life!
It's only as you join God in the journey, in his purpose, that you will truly experience the abundant, fruitful life He promises.
Take David for example...
David was one of the greatest men of faith in the Old Testament (giant killer, king, Psalm writer), but what would you say was the real measure of his life based on Acts 13:36?
“For David, after he had served the purpose of God in his own generation, fell asleep [died]…."
- What would have not happened if David has just stayed in the field all his life, tending those sheep, if he had not pursued God's calling and purpose for his life?
The same is true for you!
That brings us to the question, what exactly is God’s purpose on earth?
- What is God’s purpose and our purpose from this passage?
That word committed is also translated entrusted. God has entrusted us, placed in our hands, “the word of reconciliation” the message that can literally save the world!
If you’ve ever seen the old sci-fi movie, The Day the Earth Stood Still you probably remember the friendly but misunderstood (and arrested) alien telling a woman she must say three strange words to his robot (“klaatu barata nikto”) or in a few hours it will start destroying the world. Thankfully she doesn’t blow it, or the world would have ended in 1951! Click the link above to see a short, funny mash-up clip.
So let’s start getting prepared to pass along the message that can save the world!
- According to Peter, what goes into being “prepared” to share the good news with others? How many can you list?
“But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15).
Passing along that hope, that life, is why we are still here on earth. It’s why God doesn’t just “beam us up” the moment we believe.
- Reflect: Where would you say you are on the “journey” with God described above? Excited? Terrified? Confused? Other?
Here are some questions that this Unit will address:
- Why does the world need to be reconciled to God anyway? What happened?
- Why did Jesus need to die? Couldn’t God have figured out another way?
- Is faith in Jesus Christ the only way to be saved?
- What exactly is the gospel message, the essentials?
- Can I know for sure that I’m saved and going to heaven? What about if I have doubts?
Teaching / Study
Let’s start at the very beginning. In the beginning everything God created, including mankind, was “very good” (Genesis 1:31). Adam and Eve had perfect fellowship with God. Sin (click for more) had not entered the world.
So when Adam and Eve broke the one command, to not eat the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 2:17), it had devastating consequences (Genesis 3). Fellowship with God was broken, and both physical and spiritual death resulted not just for them, but for all their descendants.
God embarked on the mission to restore mankind to a perfect relationship - a mission that would cost Him the life of His only Son.
He foreshadowed the cost in Genesis 3:15. It wasn’t a “last-minute plan.” Reconciliation through the gospel has been God’s plan from the beginning. Check this out:
“And I will put enmity between you [the serpent] and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he [Jesus] will crush your head, and you will strike his heel” (Genesis 3:15).
The major theme of the Bible, the Big Story, is God’s redemption (click for more) of mankind from the penalty and power of sin through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is the one big story that runs through of all of scripture from Genesis to Revelation.
What was the big deal? It was just a piece of fruit!
Sin is easy to minimize. We look at sin and try to grade our behavior on a curve.
Why were the consequences of their sin so devastating and the cure so costly? To answer let’s look at God’s nature versus man’s nature:
“He is the Rock, his works are perfect, and all his ways are just. A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is he” (Deuteronomy 32:4).
- What all do you learn about God’s nature from this one verse?
“But your iniquities [sins] have made a separation between you and your God…” (Isaiah 59:2)
- What can we learn about our nature and the result from this one verse?
Because God’s unchanging nature is perfect holiness, our sin separates us from Him. Jesus said that even the smallest sin, calling your brother a fool, makes you guilty enough to go to the fires of hell (Matthew 5:22). We could blow that on a single morning commute!
Couldn’t God just forgive them?
God did do just that - but forgiveness is costly. Adam and Eve didn’t just hurt God’s feelings. They disrupted the entire nature of creation. Doing this caused damage and a debt that had to be paid by someone.
If your house is damaged because your neighbor cuts down a tree that falls on your garage and crushes your car, eventually someone has to cover the cost of that damage. You can force your neighbor to pay the cost or you can forgive your neighbor and pay for the repairs yourself, but either way, damage was done and repairs must be made and paid for.
The damage Adam caused has spread throughout the entire human race, so each of us need someone to pay the penalty on our behalf or we will be stuck with the bill. Without Christ, all of us face condemnation. To make that point, Paul contrasts the sin of Adam to the sacrifice of Christ:
“Yes, Adam’s one sin brings condemnation for everyone, but Christ’s one act of righteousness brings a right relationship with God and new life for everyone” (Romans 5:18, NLT).
- What contrasts and comparisons do you see in Romans 5:18?
The condemnation from Adam we get by birth as a part of the human race. By contrast new life in Christ is not automatic. It comes only by being “born again” by placing our faith in Jesus as our Savior,
“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:16).
God’s word also teaches that we are sinful not only because of being Adam’s offspring, but also because of our own individual sinful choices:
“…death spread to all men, because all sinned” (Romans 5:12).
“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).
“All” is a very inclusive word. It includes all the good people we know. We all fall short of God’s own perfection.
In fact, the Bible is very honest in recording the sins of even the greatest heroes of the faith. The apostle Paul said of himself, “I know no good thing dwells within me…” (Romans 7:18). He persecuted the church and called himself “the chief of sinners.” David was an adulterer. Moses was a murderer. Peter denied Christ three times, and even years later had to be called out for hypocrisy (Galatians 2:11-14).
- Who is the godliest person you’ve ever known? If you asked them, do you think they would say they were perfect and had never sinned? Why?
Only one Person in history ever lived a perfect life without sinning, Jesus Christ!
“For God made Christ who never sinned to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ” (2 Corinthians 5:21 NLT).
The above passage teaches that Jesus Christ, who alone was without sin, died as an offering for sin on our behalf. He paid our penalty for sin. This was so that we, when we believe, could be made right with God through Him.
Let’s Get Grounded in the Gospel.
We already saw that sin separated humankind from God. It also made us dead to God. We weren’t just a little sick, we were spiritually dead. Romans 6:23 says,
“For the wages of sin is death…”
Wages are what I have earned. Sin earned us death, eternal separation from God. When did this happen?
Born this way.
How do we start life? Aren’t we born basically good?
After all, what’s cuter than a little baby, right? However, every parent knows that no one has to teach that cute little baby how to say no or be selfish when they turn two. Here’s what God’s word says about our nature:
“As for you, you were dead in your trans-gressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air [Satan], the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient.
All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath.” (Ephesians 2:1-3, emphasis added)
- According to the passage above, how do we start off life, what’s our “nature?”
- Paul switched to “we” in v. 3. What does that tell you about how Paul (who had a very religious upbringing) viewed his own nature?
- Growing up, were a “wild child," or more like Paul?
- How are the truths from this passage similar or different from those that have influenced you (from family, culture, school, church, etc.)?
God’s provision: the solution of salvation
Ephesians 2:1-3 is the “bad news.,” but thankfully, just when all is literally lost we read, “But God…” The good news is God Himself provided the solution for us (Ephesians 2:4-5):
“But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved).”
- What motivated God to provide the payment for sin?
- What was our condition at the time? Was God impressed with us?
The moment we put our faith in Christ (v. 8) God forgave us all our sins and gave us eternal life as a free gift. But notice what else it says God did,
“And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:6).
Notice the past tense! This is an accomplished fact for you now, not just when you die.
- In God’s eyes where and with whom are you currently “seated” according to this verse?
When God raised us up with Christ He just kept going, all the way to heaven. In God’s eyes you are already sitting down with Jesus in the heavenly realm. Remember that the next time you roll out of bed on a Monday morning!
- How does the truth of Ephesian 2:6 impact your confidence that God hears you when you pray?
Unfortunately, many sincere believers are unaware of their spiritual heritage. In their mind it’s as if God is in the top floor office of a giant skyscraper while they are out on the street, and can’t even get past the doorman.
But Ephesians 2:6 teaches that as believers we are not only past the doorman, but up the elevator, past the waiting room and already seated next to Christ right in God’s very presence! Do we deserve this? Not at all. It’s 100% by God’s grace. Ephesians 2:8-9 says,
“For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.”
- If you gave someone special a gift, but then they said, "Let me pay you for it," how would you feel?
Grace (click for more) means something given freely; a gift. Salvation is God’s gracious gift. We cannot earn or ever deserve it by any amount of good works. When someone offers you a gift you reach out and receive it. We receive God’s gift of salvation in Christ “by faith.”
Faith in what exactly? 1 Corinthians 15:3-4 summarizes the key points of the gospel message we must believe and share with others. Paul wrote,
“For I delivered 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.”
- From this passage, what are the essential elements of the gospel? Jot them below:
Faith is more than just intellectual agreement that Jesus is the Son of God and Savior (James 2:19). We must place our trust in Him as Savior. It is a matter of the heart, not just the head.
I might know an airplane could safely carry me across the country. But until I board it I am not really trusting it. Becoming a believer means saying to God, “Yes, I trust in what Jesus did on the cross, and that alone for my salvation.”
1 John 5:13 says,
“These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life.” (emphasis added)
- According to this verse what’s the basis for “knowing” we have eternal life?
Notice the present tense, you have, not will have.
- Do you believe in Jesus Christ as the Son of God and your Savior? If so, when did you make that decision?
This promise of God’s word assures us that if we have put our faith in Christ then we have eternal life (see also John 5:24). We don’t have to hope or guess. We can know!
Is Jesus the Only Way? Are we narrow minded?
If it were just a matter of viewpoints, or a set of moral principles, then perhaps. But Christianity is not based on ideas. It is based on an event in history: the death and resurrection of God’s only Son, Jesus Christ for the sins of the entire world.
Because there is only One without sin, and only One who is God’s Son, there is also only One who was qualified to pay for the sins of the world. By His resurrection from the dead Jesus was declared to be that one Person (Romans 1:4). Consequently, Jesus is also the only way of salvation for the human race,
“Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me” (John 14:6).
- On a scale of 0-100% how certain are you that you have eternal life?
What If I have Doubts, or Have Never Trusted Christ? If it’s unclear, or if you have never trusted Christ as your Savior, we encourage you to do so right now. The following is a prayer to help guide you.
Remember, the words of the prayer do not save you but your faith in Christ does. (Just as you put “faith” in the chair you are sitting in to keep you from falling to the floor, you put faith in Jesus Christ to pay the penalty of your sin on your behalf and reconcile you back to God.)
The words are not as important as the attitude of your heart:
“Lord Jesus, I need you. Nothing I can do in my own strength or power can heal the rift that is between me and God. Thank you for dying on the cross and paying the penalty for my sins. I believe that you have done all that is needed to restore me to a full relationship with God. I receive you as my Savior and Lord. Thank you for forgiving my sins and giving me eternal life.”
Did you put your faith in Christ just now? If so, you can rest in God’s promise that you have eternal life. Your salvation is secure because it depends totally on Christ’s finished work on the cross, not our effort or “good works.” There is nothing else you have to do to be confident in your place in the family of God.
Next step: Tell someone about the decision you made. This is a day to celebrate!
Saved for a Purpose
There are two elements of being saved you need to know about. You have been saved from an eternity separated from God. That will never change because it’s based on God’s grace in Christ.
But, you have also been saved to God’s purpose and mission of making disciples. You have a new purpose, a new calling. Good works can’t save you. Instead, they are actually the result of being saved:
“For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Ephesians 2:10)
Now we come full circle to where we started. God has saved us, and now we're His ambassadors to the world!
Read 2 Corinthians 5:19-20:
“ … He has committed to us the word of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.” (emphasis added)
- How does an ambassador have to prepare? What obstacles do they face?
- “Beg” is a strong word. Why such an urgent appeal for reconciliation?
An ambassador has to start where people are, then patiently encourage them to where they need to be. Likewise, as Christ’s representatives we love people where they are and encourage them to begin a relationship with Jesus Christ. It's their only hope. And God has entrusted us with it!
- Who do you know who needs to hear this message?
Pray for that person and for God to give you opportunities to share the good news. (We will address this more in Unit 6, but start praying today!)
Your Spiritual Growth Plan
We grow by taking a next step!
Below are some ways to apply what you’ve learned.
We hope over the course of the entire Anchored study, you will choose one to two “next steps” to apply what you’ve learned! You can always come back later to do additional steps.
Parents: you can help reproduce this new life in your children by using the Parent Action Steps.
Next Steps - Choose one of the areas below and then either a “walk,” “jog,” or “run” step. The walk steps are beginning or short term steps, the jog steps intermediate, and the run steps more challenging.
Grounded in the Gospel
Write out the basic gospel message in 50 words or less. Leave out anything that it not essential according to the Bible. But also leave nothing out that is crucial. Shorter is better. Share it with a friend.
Begin reading the gospel of John, a chapter a day for the next 21 days. Underline what seem to be important words or phrases. Put a question mark in the margin by things you don’t understand. Find someone at church, a pastor or a mature believer, who can help you understand. Look for every occurrence of the word “believe” or similar words and underline them as you read. There are over 80 of them!
Often we learn the best by teaching what we’ve learned to someone else. Identify someone in your life you would like to lead through this Essentials study and schedule some time in the coming weeks to study this together.
Parent Action Steps
Choose one or more of the Next Steps below based on the ages of your children.
Talk to your preschooler about the wonderful ways God made him/her.
“I love that God gave you brown eyes, he made you super funny, and you are really good at playing ‘I Spy’!”
Does your child understand how you came to know Jesus?
In an age-appropriate way, SHARE YOUR STORY with them!
- God’s creation was “very good” when He created it and was without sin (Gen. 1:31)
- Sin entered the world through Adam and Eve’s disobedience and separated mankind from God.
- God planned for redemption in Christ alone, even before He created anything (Rev. 13:8; Acts 2:23)
- Our purpose is to join God in this work by sharing the good news of Jesus Christ with the world.
Snap Shot Summary
- We are here to join God in his mission of “reconciling the world to Himself in Christ” by sharing the gospel (2 Corinthians 5:19-20).
- So we must be fully grounded in the gospel ourselves:
- At creation, the world it was “very good” (Genesis 1-2)
- Adam and Eve’s one act of rebellion(Genesis 3) resulted in death and separation from God for everyone.
- But Christ’s “one act of righteousness” as the sacrifice for sin made the gift of salvation and reconciliation with God possible.
- Each of us is born spiritually “dead” (Ephesians 2:1-3).
- But by God’s grace we can be saved through faith in Christ (Ephesians 2:4-9)anchored4://#!section=20641642&item=33643440
- Now, we are entrusted with the gospel message so others be reconciled to God in Christ (Ephesians 2:10)
How Good Is Good Enough? - Andy Stanley
The Purpose Driven Life - Rick Warren
The Complexity of Purpose --Andy Stanley podcast
FAQ’s and Hard Questions (click for articles)
Five Marks or pursuits of a growing disciple:
1. Live obediently (know God, know His word, remain in Him)
2. Connect intentionally with others in community
3. Serve selflessly by using our gifts, talents and resources
5. Give generously to God who gave us everything
4. Share willingly about the hope we have in Jesus Christ
What you have learned in this Essentials Study we encourage you to pass along to others by taking them through this study! You can access all the materials online free anytime, anywhere.