Clarifying the Gospel Part 1

I have been off writing for quite a while now; thanks to all my peeps that have been encouraging me to get back to it. School is now done so I am back in the saddle.  I want to tackle something big and rather than write an epistle that will take three hours to read I am going to write about eight or so little blogs that unpack this idea: Living a Christ Centered Gospel Message.

Matthias Media in Australia has a media product for use in churches called, “Two Ways to Live,” that is an evangelistic tool.  It talks about two ways to live: God’s Way and Man’s Way.  You can either do it God’s way and find life, or you can go your own way and go to hell.

While this is partially true it can be misinterpreted and become an illusion that can cast an image of the Gospel that leaves Jesus as an accessory to salvation instead of being core and central to salvation.  It is more clarifying for the Gospel to speak of three ways of living, not two.

Tim Keller, in his book The Prodigal God, talks about the story in Luke 15: 11-32 that we call the story of Prodigal Son.  In that story there are two lost sons, not one.  The younger son is obviously alienated from the Father: wasting his inheritance on prostitutes, wild living and so on.  The older son on the other hand is compliant and obedient, but just as alienated.  You can be lost while obeying God and lost while not obeying God!

You can live your life trying to be your own Saviour and Lord by rejecting God, doing whatever you want and making your appetites your own god.  You will construct your own meaning and purpose in life.  In that way you are your own Saviour.  On the other hand, you can be your own Saviour by defining yourself as totally obedient and compliant, making yourself entitled to God’s grace.  You make yourself your own Saviour by, in your own mind, putting God in your debt.  Since you have obeyed, He owes you. Unfortunately God is obliged to no one.   You cannot put Him in your debt.

It could be that Jesus is your example, your model; He may be your inspiration, but if you feel entitled to eternal life in heaven because of what you have done, He isn’t your Saviour. You are your own Saviour.  If you are working to demonstrate that you are worthy of the love of Jesus then you are actively trying to achieve your own salvation.

You can be lost by being very very bad or by being very very good; by never darkening the door of a church or by being the first one there every Sunday.  Both can be ways of being lost: trying to be your own Saviour.

The Gospel is a third option: through no merit of our own, we are redeemed from a destiny apart from God by the wrath absorbing death of Jesus Christ on the Cross.  The Gospel in practice is not an exchange of goods or services, ( my compliance in exchange for eternal life ) but is instead a whole new way of seeing Jesus.  There is compliance, but it does not earn you participation in the Gospel.  Compliance is my response to completed work of salvation in Jesus Christ, it is not the means of acquiring it.

Don`t get me wrong, being a believer in Jesus does mean that you are going to try to do what is right, but your motivation is what is transformed.  In Religion, “You obey therefore you are accepted.”  In Christianity, “You are accepted, therefore you obey.”  In religion the chief motivating influence is fear.  In Christianity the chief motivating influence is love.  These ideas are such deep waters, it is impossible to say that you totally understand this idea.  I am helplessly lost when contemplating the depth of God’s love but I rest in the thought that God is wise enough for the two of us … there is much more to say.

Next I want to illustrate what this Gospel looks like when it is preached from a typical Bible story.  When we look for the Gospel in the Bible text we see that Jesus is the Hero of every story.

(Inspired by this talk by Tim Keller)

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