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Saturday, July 07, 2007

What's It To You?

The Gospel. The "Message." The "Good News." Whatever you want to call it, it is considered the basic information of evangelism. Most people agree that whatever it is, it's surely a good thing to share with people, and many believe that it's even better to take to those people who have not heard it before. Christians talk about it and practice passing it on. Most would say that it is the core of the Christian faith. The problem, in my opinion, is that few of us really agree on what the gospel is and why it's so important.

To me, the gospel is God's story. It is the summary of who God is and how He normally interacts with people. It is the knowledge that evokes our response to salvation. But to me, the gospel is much more than information. It is a person. Life in Him is beautiful and terrible at once. It has a power and a profundity that goes beyond just the notion. I believe it must be experienced to be believed.

This means that despite what our training, evangelistic materials, and denominational leaders say, the gospel is not always "Good News." Sure, in the grand scheme of things, the fact that God made a way to relationship with Him through Jesus is good news indeed. But for many people, the gospel isn't "Good News" at all. For them, it is bad news; that they might not have everything figured out, that all that they've struggled to accumulate and achieve is worthless.

The gospel is not, in my opinion, the "minimum" that must be believed in order for someone to be saved. It is not a set of principles, concepts, laws, or "truths." The gospel does not save, it is only a description of the possibility of salvation. It is not something that we can ever finish sharing; there is no end to mark the completeness of it's presentation.

So the questions remain: "What is the gospel?" and "Are we talking about the same thing? In an age where we've reduced our faith to an objective soundbite summary of supposedly life-changing information, what are we talking about?

What's the gospel to you?


Jeff Whitfield said...

You're right, Stephchild. The Gospel is one of those bad news/good news things. Or actually THE bad news/good news. It is indeed the core of reality, the reason for our existence and the whole point of God's story, recorded in the Bible from beginning to end. God is a Person and wants to be in relationship with you and me. That's amazing! The good news is that Jesus provides THE way to restore the broken relationship with Him. We've all sinned, we all try to be our own god, we are born with a nature predisposed to rebel against God. Without Jesus, we are all doomed to spend eternity in a miserable separation from God. But if we humble ourselves and admit that we have gone our own way apart from God and ask for God's forgiveness, God will forgive us and restore that broken relationship with Him. All this is possible because Jesus took on our punishment when he was nailed to the cross and died. Because he also rose from the dead--defeating death--we also can live for ever with God when this temporal life is over. Without Jesus we're doomed, with Him we will live for ever in Paradise.
This is why we do what we do as missionaries. That is the old, old story that we must tell in a way that it can be understood by the people in the cultures we've been called to. Anything is just a distraction from the Main Thing!

shorty said...

Stepchild - I must say, I'm surprised by the lack of comments.

This is something I've thought through recently as well, I just think you do a better job of asking the question than I do. I've grown up thinking that "the gospel" was the plan of salvation. It was almost as if I had this programmed tract in my mind that when someone said "share the gospel" I was ready to tell the plan of salvation. I don't think it's that simplistic anymore. I think the salvation is part of the gospel, but it doesn't make up the whole gospel.

I would define "the gospel" with one word: relationship. God desires a relationship with his creation. Better yet, he's provided a way to have relationship, through his son. Everything we find in scripture points to God's desire for relationship.

My hope is that in the relationships I have with others I'm able to live out, or show, what that relationship looks like, and why it's so important.

And thanks again for asking good questions.


shorty said...

Here is how Bob Roberts defined the gospel...if you're interested.


Publius said...

I'm not really surprised at the lack of comments. The kind of people who think this question is easily answerable probably don't read this blog much.

The image in my mind when I approach the question is a clip from a favorite movie. I'll tweak the script just a little...

Trinity: Please just listen. I know why you're here, Neo. I
know what you've been doing. I know why you hardly sleep, why you live alone, and why night after night you sit at your computer. You're looking for him. I know, because I was once looking for the same thing. And when he found me, he told me I wasn't really looking for him. I was looking for an answer. It's the question that drives us mad. It's the question
that brought you here. You know the question just as I did.

Neo: What is the Gospel.

Trinity: The answer is out there, Neo. It's looking for you. And it will find you, if you want it to.

In a real sense, the power of the Gospel is less the answer than it is the question. The reality of God making Himself man for our sake is incomprehensible, and remains so no matter how much we learn about Him. In sharing the Gospel, then, we are not so much giving the answer, as we are simply helping people reframe the question.

Ben said...

"But for many people, the gospel isn't "Good News" at all. For them, it is bad news; that they might not have everything figured out, that all that they've struggled to accumulate and achieve is worthless."

Really interesting point, Stepchild. Just like the rich ruler that was asked by Jesus to sell his possessions and give it all to the poor. To him, the good news was bad news.

Debbie Kaufman said...

Romans 1:16

Dwight S. said...

I think it is the evangelical habit to see the gospel straight to the Systematic Theology categories of "Sin, Christ, Faith" before seeing it cheifly news about Jesus.

Or let me say it in another way, The implications of the gospel has bad news, "you are a sinner... and God has a boot aimed at your head... but Jesus..."

But the actual NEWS of the gospel is not about systematic implications. Rather it is all about Jesus' life, suffering, glory, and the message of remission of sins. That is all and all good news.

The implications are an essential part of understanding what the gospel means. But it is not the NEWS in and of itself. It is what the news means to you.

Going full circle i would also say that i doubt if i articulated the gospel as Jesus life, death, resurection and glory i would not be appointed a "missionary". This just to point out again that we are so well coached in Gospel implications, that we forget that it is first the story of Jesus.