Monday, March 3, 2014

What is the gospel?


What is the gospel?

Let me start with what it's not.

The gospel is not "God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life."

This statement focuses on the wrong person. It has "you" as the center. "You" is the object in both parts of the phase. The phrase "wonderful plan" also implicitly sets an expectation that, after becoming a Christian, your life will be blessed and without problems.

But the gospel is not about you.

And God's wonderful plan is not to make your life trouble free.

When Jesus uses the word "gospel" it is frequently followed by "of the kingdom." When other New Testament writers use the term, it is followed by "of God" or "of Jesus." The focus is not on personal salvation and eternal life, although these are certainly by-products of it.

The gospel is closer to the line of thought that: This world is badly broken by the effects of sin. God is going to invade it to remove the effects of sin and make things right. If you are living in sin (and everyone is), this means you're part of the problem and are going to be removed too. But God loves you enough to pay for your sins Himself and offers salvation from the removal process as a gift. Once you accept His gift, He also loves you enough not to leave you wallowing in your mess. He will work in your life to remove the things that keep you from wholeheartedly loving Him and being a fit citizen of His kingdom.

The focus is on God and what He has done and will do. It's on His kingdom and Him preparing us to live in it. Because of the effects of being born into a sin filled world, He has a lot of work to do in us to make us ready for His kingdom. This work is frequently associated with pain and hardship. Sanding off our rough edges skins our egos. Cutting out the cancerous sin from our souls leaves scars. The end result is wonderful, but we may not appreciate the result in our mortal life.

Yes, "God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life" is part of the gospel. But it's a whole lot bigger than just you and the time-line is from the standpoint of eternity, not today, tomorrow or even your lifetime.