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The Gospel in Four Words

By Erik Dunkin

theRiver college ministry recently used this four word journey for a worship night.  We hope these meditations encourage your heart and strengthen your faith.

1. Honor
To regard with great respect; to hold in highest esteem.

If we are going to approach God, we must begin with honor.

For it is honor that recognizes the inherent worth of another as greater than ourselves.

Indeed, giving honor to another requires personal humility.  The willingness to bow your head and bend your knees in the presence of another because you are not worthy.  

We give honor to many people.

We honor our parents.
We honor our police force and our military.
We honor accomplished athletes.
We grant awards for outstanding achievements.  

In all of these situations, we place the honored individual in front of the crowd.  We single them out.  We enthrone them on podiums, we adorn them with medals, we lend them thundering applause.

How much more, then, should we give honor to God, who is no mere person, but the Creator of all persons. 

God, whose greatest accomplishment is not found in something he did, but simply in who he is.  

You who fear the Lord, praise him! All you descendants of Jacob, honor him! Revere him, all you descendants of Israel! Psalm 22:23

So let us, then, do what is fitting for a God as wonderful as ours.  Let us single him out.  Let us bring him to the front of the room and to the forefront of our minds.  Let us lift him high in our midst, and exalt his name in our hearts.  Let us adore him with our words, and honor him with our songs. 

2. Guilty
Justly charged with a particular error or fault; responsible for a specific wrongdoing.

We are all guilty.

But what is the nature of our guilt?  Have we innocently broken some arbitrary rule?  Have we merely exercised our preferences, and in doing so violated some invisible force that determines right and wrong, good and evil?

No.  Our guilt is much deeper than this.

Our guilt is a failure to honor.

For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him. Romans 1:21

God’s worth is obvious..  We see it all around us.  In every blade of grass, in every sun rise, in every human face we are reminded that a good Creator exists, and that he deserves our honor.

But where honor is due, we ignore.
Though his name should be exalted, we exalt ourselves.
Though thoughts about him should fill our heads and dazzle our imaginations, we spend our days thinking of him as little as possible.  We think only of ourselves.

Even we, who call ourselves Christ followers, who claim that we are children of God, even we make excuses for our persistent failure to spend just ten minutes a day focused only on him.  

We claim to honor God, but our schedules and our thoughts betray our true loves.  

We are all guilty.  

Let us sing our confession together.

3. Forgiveness
The cancellation of a debt owed.
The reconciliation of two parties formerly at odds.  

Jesus Christ comes to offer forgiveness.

Because of our guilt, we are desperately in need of it.

Yet forgiveness comes in the most surprising of ways.

In light our failure to give honor where it is due, you would think that God’s means of setting the record straight would be by forcing us to bend our knees.  He is the awesome and powerful God.  We are weak and feeble creatures.  All he needed to do was to crush us, to humble us, and just like that, the proper order of honor in the universe would have been restored.

This pattern is the way of men.  

Kings and rulers of nations display their superiority by show of force.  They command honor through military might.  Corporate executives and business giants flex their monetary muscles and make the world bend to their will.

This pattern is the way of men.  

But not of God.

Instead of forcing us to be humble, God humbled himself.  Instead of crushing us, Jesus Christ was crushed in our placed.

He, being in very nature God,
    did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
 rather, he made himself nothing
    by taking the very nature of a servant,
Philippians 2:6-7

Why did God do things this way?  Why not merely crush us and cast us aside?  Why not bend our knees through a display of his might?

Because God did not want the new, restored order to be held together by force, but by love.

Yes, God is concerned with honor, but he is also concerned with love.  

And forgiveness is the astounding, unexpected result of God’s restoring his honor through an act of sacrificial love.  

Let us sing to him in celebration of his love; and of our forgiveness.

4. Close
Nearness.  
A state of intimacy, or of friendship.  

Jesus rose from the dead so we could be close to him.  

I no longer call you servants..,Instead, I have called you friends. John 15:15

But if you read the resurrection accounts of Jesus, it won’t take you long to realize just how marvelous of a proposition this is.  

To be close to a person who rose from the dead.  Close to a person who is now clothed in glory for the rest of eternity.  Close to a person who is so holy that he is described in the book of Hebrews as being the full radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being.

In other words, nearness to the resurrected Jesus is the equivalent of nearness to God.  

Jesus makes it possible for tiny little honor-hungry, thoroughly guilty creatures like us not only to continue to live on the face of the earth, but also to live in close proximity and relationship to a holy God.  

This is astonishing.  

We have the relationship of a father with his child.  Not a worldly father, not an absent father, not an abrasive father; a tender, perfect, protecting and heavenly father.  

And when there is a good relationship between a father and his children, the children get to enjoy the physical embrace of the father.

We are close to God.  We get to live with him, and he with us.  We are in his presence, and he is in ours.  

Let us sing to remember our nearness to God.