The Heart Of The Gospel

It was hard to get out of bed this morning. We are on Day 2 of spending 18 straight days in the homes of our grandchildren. Children are exhausting! When you’re old like me, you forget just how exhausting! Great respect goes out to all the moms and dads…you’re not tired because there’s something wrong with you; you’re tired because you’re responsible 24/7 to raise human beings and you likely never get to enjoy more than a few uninterrupted minutes or a good deep sleep!

Yesterday, I played “vet” with my four-year-old granddaughter, Andie. She came to visit me at the vet’s office, bringing her pet (stuffed Pluto). I asked her to describe his symptoms and why he needed the doctor. She began a lengthy list of ailments, but as she went on, she told me that he had a broken heart. He had done something bad, and God was sad, and Jesus wasn’t in His heart anymore.

Both of our daughters and sons-in-law are teaching their children truth. The oldest three are in Christian preschools, where they hear stories from the Bible and are being taught the gospel. They are all part of a local church where they hear truth each week. Those big, theological truths about God, sin, Jesus, and the cross are taking root; the seeds are starting to sprout. In fact, I had just had a conversation with Andie’s mother yesterday that I didn’t think it would long before she comes to faith. Little hearts are tender, and they soak in truth. Jesus loves children, and I know from my own experience and both my girls’ experience, the Holy Spirit can enlighten young minds and hearts to receive salvation at an early age. In our little game of “vet,” I could hear that Andie is already wrestling with these spiritual truths.

I was reminded again of the power of the gospel that can influence the sweetest, softest heart as well as the hardest one, as I read John 19 this morning. This chapter contains the central truth of all we believe. Jesus is standing before Pilate, awaiting sentencing. Twice, Pilate appeals to the crowds for the wrong they are asking: “I find no guilt in Him.” The crowds have been stirred to anger by the lies of the Pharisees, and they will not relent. As Pilate presents Him one last time, announcing to the Jews, “Behold, your King!” they will not relent. “Away with Him! Crucify Him! We have no king but Caesar” is their final answer.

Jesus does what He came to do. He is innocent of all charges. He has led a sinless life – the perfect, holy, God wrapped in a human body that never did one wrong deed or had one wrong thought. He is accused of blasphemy because He claimed to be the Son of God, but it’s not blasphemy if it’s true. He has never broken the Sabbath; He has only fulfilled it, along with every law God had given the Jewish people. Even the unbelieving governor sees that He is guiltless, yet Jesus goes out, bearing His own cross, and is crucified. He suffers the death the law demands for those who transgress God’s law, and all of God’s wrath against humanity’s sin is appeased. Justice was satisfied, and forgiveness and mercy can now be granted to those who believe and follow Jesus, trusting His death as payment in our place.

Jesus did that not just for the hardened criminal who has led a life of rebellion against God, nor did He die only for people who spend their lives doing good deeds trying to earn His favor. He also died for (what we perceive as) little, innocent children like my granddaughter. She has the sweetest, kindest spirit about her, but she’s not innocent. She was born with a broken human nature, and as she grows into an awareness of her own sin, God holds her accountable. She will have to decide one day if she will respond to the gentle conviction of the Holy Spirit we already see happening in her heart. As with all our grandchildren, we’ve prayed fervently since the day she was born for the day she will be born again. That’s only possible because of what we read in John 19.

The gospel is simple enough for a child to understand, yet powerful and effective to transform the oldest among us. Sin makes us feel bad and makes God sad. We need Jesus to fix our broken hearts and take our guilt and shame away. God loves us and sent Jesus to be the perfect, innocent man who would accept the sentence of death in our place. We come to faith by acknowledging our sin and separation from God, asking for His forgiveness, and receiving Christ as our Lord and Savior. It’s simple but spiritually appraised.

I’m so grateful that Jesus was willing to do what He did. I thank God for the Holy Spirit, who is willing to explain it to our hearts, and I pray that everyone reading is willing to respond when He speaks to you.

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