More than anything else, Jesus rebuked hypocrites. He despised it when people claimed one thing and did another. He hated it when people who claimed the light in speech, sought the darkness in action. God is not a god of fences. He hates the fence. Our God is a god of extremity, of complete and utter obsession, of wisdom that seems like foolishness to the world. I’ve been thinking about the gospel lately, and whether or not I truly believe it. If I say I believe it, I should be living life radically different. Something needs to separate me from the world more than just kindness and a good-natured heart. That has to be the power of the gospel. The gospel is absolute truth: I can’t believe some of it, part of it, or even have a slight inclination towards it. Either I’m fully addicted to it or I oppose it. Either I accept it or I reject it. I either believe it or I don’t. If we truly believe that the creator God of the universe came in the form of man, Christ Jesus, and taught us, ministered to us, and paid the ransom for our souls, we would be completely abandoned to it and its cause. I heard a quote recently that goes something like this: “If your life makes sense to the people around you, you haven’t experienced the gospel.”
I think one of problems in western Christianity is that we move on from the gospel. We get past the cross and move to the compromised Christian life, one of balance, one that mixes worldly wisdom with Godly wisdom and calls it the will of God. We move on from the Book and go buy a hundred and one books at the local Christian bookstore because we’re too lazy and hasty to search the actual words of our Creator to find the answers. We buy nice cars, we build nice houses, make beautiful churches, and go to small group and then go out and snap at the cashier or waitress, bicker and complain about the government, and gossip about the neighbor who had their third kid from a one-night stand.
I’m so sick of this fence. I’m so sick of playing church. Either we know the gospel or we don’t. I’m scared that we don’t. If we did, America would be on fire from the passion of Christ’s bride. If we view the gospel as only a mission to pay the debt of sin and give us a ticket into heaven, we miss it. The gospel is about reconciling man with God, and reconciliation means that God would walk with man, and when God walks with you, you live differently.
Is God walking with you?
St. Augustine said, “If you believe what you like in the gospels, and reject what you don’t like, it is not the gospel you believe, but yourself.”
In other words, you either have the whole gospel or you have nothing at all.
But what is the whole gospel?
Considering that Jesus began proclaiming the gospel and telling people to believe in it before he even went to the cross, I cannot come to the conclusion that the cross is the complete gospel. It is the finest point, the anchor for it, the solid foundation by which everything else stands, but it is not the whole gospel.
I believe the whole gospel can be summed up by this: bringing Heaven to earth.
What do I mean by this?
In the beginning of his ministry, Jesus taught in a synagogue. He read from Isaiah and then declared that he was the fulfillment of those words.
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives
and recovering of sight to the blind,
to set at liberty those who are oppressed,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
All of these things were a part of Jesus’ ministry. He undid everything that wasn’t part of the Kingdom of Heaven. Sickness fled, demons were banished, and truth was preached. Chains fell loose. Heaven invaded earth. And his death secured for us not only right relationship with him once again, but gave us the opportunity to become lie him, in action and in truth. The gospel not only makes a believers, but gives us power to become doers. If we believe.
Let’s walk this through.
If I believe in God, then I believe in truth.
If I believe in truth, then I believe in sin.
If I believe in sin, then I believe I’m lost.
If I believe I’m lost, then I believe I need a savior.
If I believe I need a savior, then I believe I can’t do it on my own.
If I believe that Jesus was God, then I believe that when he died, it was sufficient to completely cover my sins and give me relationship with the Father.
If I believe that Jesus was God, then I believe that everything he said was true.
If I believe that everything he said was true, then I believe that I can become like him, love like him, and walk in power like him.
If I believe that Jesus was God, then I believe he loves me.
If I believe he loves me, I am left with no reason to not love others.
If I believe that that Jesus was God, everything he said was true, he loves me, he died for me and saved me from hell and the grave, and gave me power to do the things he did on this earth and bring heaven into the world around me, then I WILL DO JUST THAT.
If I’m not doing it, I don’t believe the gospel.
Either you’re changed or you’re not.
Either you understand the reality of Jesus, or you don’t.
God doesn’t want admirers, he wants believers.
He doesn’t want people to accept him, he wants people to adore him.
He doesn’t want people who like him, he wants people who become addicted to him.
He doesn’t want followers, he want sons and daughters who know the sound of his voice and walk completely abandoned to the world, and completely addicted to the gospel, who are conduits of his presence that spread the his love wherever they go, walk in the truth of his death, and the complete power of his resurrection.
Either we believe the gospel or we don’t.
Either we believe that people are truly lost and the gospel can save them or we don’t.
Either we believe that God loves them and we in turn love them too, or we don’t.
Either we believe that Jesus is the only thing worth living for or we don’t.
As Pastor Bryce would say, “Changed lives change lives.”
I guess the question is then, are we changed?
“For the Kingdom of God is not in word, but in power.”
“When the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.”
“[Jesus] committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.”
“And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”