Perhaps the gospel isn't so much that Christ paid the debt for our sins so we can be with Him in heaven. Yes, its definitely that, but I've always had trouble connecting with that picture. Honestly, it doesn't make me want to follow Him. Why would a spiritual being leave heaven 2,000 years ago & come to earth as a baby so He can grow up in human skin in order to "save" me from some invisible, inevitable consequence of an eternal damnation whose origin I personally didn't have anything to do with? (Phew!) Sounds a little sci-fi to me. Then He let Himself be nailed to a cross & killed after just 30 some odd years on the earth. I'd be expecting some sort of dramatic finish... lightening bolts & chariots of fire, maybe a legion of angels to thwart His enemies... that is, if He really was Who He said he was. That was the reaction of the witnesses gathered around Him that day as well... “If You're the Son of God, save yourself!” As if His dying wasn't enough, His resurrection 3 days later was even more disturbing. He conquered sin & death & the power of the grave & hung out on earth for another month or so before ascending back into heaven. Just as the Israelites called the bread God gave them “Manna” (meaning 'what is it?), so I have to wonder, who is this guy? Or, in slightly more biblical language, “what manner of man is this?!”
But the simple gospel message boils down to the fact that I would indeed be trapped by the inevitable consequence of sin if God didn't send His Son into this mess of a world after me. He had a plan all along & at just the right time... Christ. God had no intention of leaving me alone on this earth to rot. Why? Because I was made in His image. He breathed His own breath of life into me, just has He had done for Adam & Eve & every other human being on this earth. He was invested in me. He loved me & He knew I wasn't going to be able to get through this life on my own. He knew that sin would entice me & the consequences would swallow me up if He didn't step in. I'm not a disciple because Jesus paid the debt created by my sins. I'm a disciple because He anticipated my vulnerability & came to protect me. I believe because He saw my lack & came to fill it. I confess Jesus is Lord because He is the only thing that makes my life liveable & worth living.