I am happy to post a guest blog from my friend Matt McMichen. Matt and I were talking over lunch one day and he used the phrase “the beauty of the gospel.” I asked Matt why he specifically used the word “beauty” to describe the gospel, and here’s what he said. Enjoy Matt’s heart for “the beauty of the gospel.” Matt attends our church and is an accountant in Austin. Here’s a great picture of Matt and his wife Paige.
Christians use a myriad of words to describe the gospel, and considering the magnitude of the gospel this is no surprise. But if asked to sum up the gospel with one word, I wouldn’t hesitate in replying with … beautiful.
A popular cliché tells us that “beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” which suggests that beauty is a subjective, touchy-feely descriptor. What’s beautiful to one person may not be beautiful to another person. While it’s true that beauty is subjective in some superficial instances, beauty cannot be subjective only.
A husband of 50 years sacrifices all to care for his wife who has Alzheimer’s and who doesn’t even recognize him anymore – that’s beautiful. A married couple who has attempted for years to conceive finally give birth to a healthy baby girl – that’s beautiful. These examples are living, real, and manifest, and they prove that beauty can be objective.
Still, you may find it strange to hear the gospel described as beautiful. How can a story with the gruesome and horrific details of the crucifixion, the hideous murder of the Son of God, be beautiful? And if one dare describe such an event as beautiful, surely it would only be a subjective opinion, right?
On the contrary, I believe the gospel is objectively beautiful. And to appreciate its beauty we must recognize that an infinitely wise God created the world in its entirety and then created us in His image. He alone is completely holy, completely pure, completely good, and completely righteous. He is the very definition and embodiment of goodness. And from His love for us, He chose to create humanity so that we would glorify Him by enjoying Him forever.
Since He is the One who shaped our being with His own hands and breathed the very life into our nostrils, He alone is our ultimate source of joy and goodness, and the only one worthy of our praise. As His image bearers, we exist to magnify and exalt His name – to accurately reflect His glory and goodness. This command from God, far from egotistical, is ultimately for our highest joy and goodwill, because no source outside of our creator-God can satisfy our souls. We were made to worship Him above everything. And when we do, we experience true satisfaction and fulfillment.
But you know the rest of the story. Instead of obeying Him, mankind rebelled and sought its own fame and pleasure outside of God’s bounds. Instead of portraying God’s image and reflecting His glory, we all turned aside and pursued our own power and renown. We traded God’s offer of everlasting joy for the perceived happiness we could find in ourselves. Therefore, we have brought rightful condemnation upon our own heads – an everlasting punishment for our rebellion.
But many object at this point and say, “If God is good and so full of love, He would never punish me eternally for my sin.” The unfortunate irony about such a statement is that it’s mostly true. God is full of love, and He is a good God – so good in fact that He must, without exception, punish sin.
To illustrate this, consider a horrendous crime committed against another human being. Use your imagination and think about a crime of the worst extreme, a crime for which the very thought makes your insides recoil and your blood boil. Now consider that the man was caught in the act with numerous eyewitnesses and sufficient evidence to prove his guilt in court. And, consider that this case was assigned to a judge recognized as the most righteous and just of all. I think I’m right in speaking for most everyone when I say we would expect the judge to find the man guilty and punish him for his crime. But, what if … what if instead of declaring him guilty, the judge declared him innocent and set him free? Would we not be outraged and declare the judge unjust and incompetent? Deep within, we know that justice demands payment for wrong.
In order to address the claim that God is too good and loving to punish sin, we must see our rebellion for what it is. Our sin is a gross offense to God. It is the ultimate treason to our maker and King. This is not hyperbole. We don’t fully grasp the seriousness of our sin and its offense to God. He created us to mirror His image and reflect His glory. He created us to obey commands for our ultimate good and joy, but we ran in the opposite direction. Therefore, it’s no exaggeration to say we’ve committed a crime more gross and detestable than the guilty man’s crime you imagined earlier. And God, being the righteous, just Judge, demands payment for our sins. God would be unjust to require anything less than total payment for our wrongs, and if God is unjust then He is not only a bad judge, but He is not God.
What a desperate situation in which we find ourselves.
God’s justice demands payment for our sins, a payment we are incapable of making. We are therefore faced with the most terrible punishment imaginable, eternal separation from God Himself. It’s no secret we all live with an insatiable desire for something more. We are constantly longing for something that will truly satisfy our souls, and one day we will come before God and finally get it. We’ll finally see that our deepest craving has always been for God. He is the only one who could truly complete us. And yet, to finally come before our ultimate Joy and Satisfaction, only to be told, “I never knew you; depart from Me” – that would be the greatest tragedy of all. Eternal separation from God is the worst imaginable sentence, yet it’s the sentence we’re all under apart from Christ.
But, that’s where the beauty of the gospel begins.
God does not leave us under that hopeless sentence. The Bible tells us that God is both the just Judge and the Justifier. He is what the critics can’t seem to understand – both loving and just. And it’s not that He simply forgets about our sins. Payment is demanded. It’s that, for those that place their faith in Christ, the penalty is paid by Jesus Himself. God, in His infinite love, offered His own Son to be the sacrifice for our sins, to pay our penalty. On Jesus was laid all of our sins, and God poured out the wrath we deserved onto His Son, therefore satisfying His justice and offering us forgiveness at the same time.
That is the beauty of the gospel! Justice and love at the same time. Oh the richness and depth of His love and wisdom! And oh, the beauty!
The dictionary defines beauty as “possessing qualities that give great pleasure or satisfaction to see, hear, and think about.”
What could give more pleasure to hear and think about than this gospel? When we understand the length to which God pursued us, when we grasp the depth of His love, and when we see how desperate our situation really was and is apart from Christ, then we will see the true beauty of the gospel.