by Mark Slaughter
Sunset over the water. There is nothing like it! Once again, my wife and I had found ourselves on vacation near the ocean, and predictably we HAD to watch the sun setting over the ocean every evening. Despite having seen countless sunsets, and even many over the ocean or large bodies of water, we couldn’t miss it. Especially to those of us living in a land-locked state, it never gets old!
Each night, we would intentionally eat dinner or walk on the beach just before sunset. Gradually, others would gather with expectation, taking endless pictures and trying to capture all of the beauty of that moment. And then, we would watch as the sun disappeared beyond the horizon. Still, we could not fully capture all of the beauty of the sunset.
What is so special about a sunset? Why are we compelled to take hundreds of photos, many of which look the same? Perhaps it is because a sunset is both simple and profound.
Simply put, the sun ‘sets’, or disappears, from view. However, it is also profound. Every sunset is the same, yet different in displaying colors. Meteorologists can explain why the sky is sometimes more colorful. Physicists and astronomers describe scientifically many aspects of a sunset, yet they continue endlessly probing the awe and wonder of… a simple sunset!
So it is with the gospel of Jesus Christ! On the one hand, its message is so simple that it can be understood by a child, and yet so profound that thousands of doctoral theses can never fully define it. Theologian Leon Morris said that the gospel “is a pool that a child can wade and an elephant can swim. It is both simple and profound. I recall someone saying that the gospel is “more simple than I realize & more complex than I can grasp.”
The gospel is simple – God’s love as our Creator… human sin and our broken world… God redeeming us through Jesus Christ’s life, death, resurrection, and ascension… repentance and faith in Jesus alone making us new creations in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17).
However, it is also profound! The Apostle Paul said that by grace he preached “the unsearchable riches of Christ” (Eph. 3:8). Like one diamond with many facets, the gospel has unsearchable riches and depths to pursue over a lifetime – God reconciling us and restoring our relationship, forgiving our sin, setting us free from the chains of sin’s power, raising us to new life, adopting us into his family, sending us as his ambassadors who advance God’s kingdom in the broken places of our world, being reconcilers between people, pursuing justice, as God is making all things new.
We can never comprehend all that it means! We simply bow in awe and wonder.
However, we can be clear and simple without becoming simplistic. Too easily we can treat complex issues as if they were simpler than they really are, resulting in a superficial or oversimplified gospel. Probing the “unsearchable riches” of the gospel deepens our understanding of the gospel, leading us back to the simple truths with profound depth, and enlarging our sense of awe and worship.
Perhaps the most well-known verse summarizing the gospel is John 3:16:
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”
So familiar. So simple… yet so profound.
As Charles Wesley wrote, “Amazing love, how can it be that Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?”
Breathtaking…. Like a sunset!
Mark Slaughter (@MarkASlaughter) is an InterVarsity evangelist and national facilitator of Emerging Generations for the Mission America Coalition. He is a former pastor who is passionate about empowering the next generation of evangelism leaders and raising the evangelism temperature. Learn more: markslaughter.org.