(in Jan's* words)
"Gospel" means "good news". Everyone likes to hear good news. But, there's always good news and bad news, isn't there!? I'd rather get the Bad News out of the way first. Then I can enjoy the good news. So, here we go...
The Bad News
You do bad things. I do bad things. All God's children do bad things. That's called sin. God can't stand to be around sin. Sin actually separates us from God.
But, God put a whole lot of care and attention into creating this universe. He certainly will not ignore what He made. In fact, He loves us all. Tremendously!!
God wants all people to be the best that they can be and, finally, to come live with Him in Heaven. But sin is in the way, keeping us from God.
How can we solve this dilemma??
God did it in a way that we would NEVER have thought of. He sent His son to earth as a baby... Jesus.
How did that help?
Well, Jesus didn't stay a baby. He grew up, but not quite the way you and I grew up. He managed to grow up without sinning. Wow! What a difference!
Now, don't get the wrong idea. Jesus was tempted to do wrong, just like we are. But He resisted and did the right things instead. Every time!
When Jesus was grown up, He started telling people how God wanted them to change, to turn away from the bad things they did, to repent. He told them to love each other - no matter what- even their enemies!
Jesus said that God loves each and every one of us as a person. You see, God knows your name, the color of your eyes, the number of hairs on your head, what you really thought about your friend's new hair cut, and whether you really meant to keep your promises. He knows you inside and out - every thought, every emotion, every action. He knows you better than you know yourself. And He STILL loves you. Jesus said so.
Jesus proved that he knew what he was talking about. He did some very special things, which we call miracles. He healed all kinds of sick people. He fed thousands with just one boy's lunch. He stopped a storm. He raised dead people back to life! It doesn't get more powerful than this!
Jesus told people that they had to change. But just trying to do better is not enough. Somehow all those bad things you and I and everyone have done have to be paid for.
Jesus volunteered to pay for all of the bad deeds (the sins) that everyone on earth had ever done. How big a bill is that!? Big! REALLY BIG!!
How did he pay the bill? Jesus died - by being crucified on a cross. That means that soldiers hammered nails through his feet and wrists into wood. Then they hoisted him up on two crossed poles and left Him there, up in the air, until he died... even though He had done nothing wrong. It was OUR wrongs that He suffered for. He paid the price for each of us.
The Good News
Now comes the good news: Jesus did not stay dead! God brought Him back to life after 3 days and nights. Jesus showed himself to many people at many different times. He even ate dinner with some of them. He was really alive again!
Jesus said He was going back to God to prepare a wonderful place for all who would follow Him and His teachings, who would turn away from their bad deeds and bad attitudes, and who would accept God's forgiveness and be immersed in water (be baptized).
It's an amazing thing! Jesus suffered a terrible death because he loved you so much. God has accepted Jesus' sacrifice as a replacement for the punishment that your sins and mine have earned us. If we follow Jesus, we are free; we are clean; we are saved.
How to follow Jesus
The best news of all is that you don't have to earn your way to heaven. Jesus paid the price. But, you do have to believe that! You need to confess that you need saving from your sins and repent (turn away from those sins). Then you need to be baptized (immersed in water) to wash those sins away.
It's that simple.
Jesus promises another piece of good news. He will send the Holy Spirit, who is another part of God, to live in you. The Holy Spirit will help you grow to be more like Jesus every day. The Holy Spirit will comfort you and will help you talk to God, especially when you just don't know what to say.
You will be changed - sometimes in a minute and sometimes over the years - from a selfish, unloving person to a caring, loving, and Christ-like person. Change is always a bit scary, but this kind of change is like getting out of prison. You are more free in Jesus than you can possibly be in any other way!
So now it's your turn. Do you believe that Jesus is the son of God? Do you confess that you sin? Do you want to turn from your sins (repent) and walk with Jesus toward heaven?
First, you need to tell God those very things. You don't need special words. Just talk! He hears what you say and what your heart says, too.
Then you need to find a Christian and tell that person these things. Then you must be baptized to wash those sins away... forever!
After you have become a Christian in this way, it is important that you get a Bible and read it, starting with the New Testament, to learn more about Jesus and how to live as a Christian. You will need the friendship and support of other Christians. Some Christians will be older and stronger in the faith and some will be new and weak and confused, like you. It's OK. God takes every new Christian into the family like a new baby. Babies have to grow up. It will take time and you will fall down a lot, just like a baby learning to walk. But, it will be worth it!
Combined list of scriptures referenced in popups