What did the disciples of Jesus preach in the early church? What was the good news they were sent out to spread to all nations? Isn’t that the message we should be spreading to our family members, friends, co-workers, and others we meet? Would it surprise you if the gospel that is preached by most people today is not what was preached in the bible? That’s what we are going to explore.
If you were to ask most Christians in the United States today what the Gospel is, in its simplest form they would most likely say “People are sinners and therefore will go to hell when they die. Jesus died for their sins. If they pray, and ask Jesus into their hearts and accept Him as savior, they’ll be saved and go to heaven.”
This concept of being saved by saying a prayer came into existence back in the mid 1950’s when Bill Bright of Campus Crusade for Christ released a pamphlet that contained what has come to be known as the “sinner’s prayer.” This pamphlet was very successful, and some form of it is still being distributed on street corners today.
Over time, different groups have come up with their own version of the prayer. This is Billy Graham’s:
“Dear Lord Jesus, I know that I am a sinner, and I ask for Your forgiveness. I believe You died for my sins and rose from the dead. I turn from my sins and invite You to come into my heart and life. I want to trust and follow You as my Lord and Savior. In Your Name. Amen.”
Many church organizations have adopted their own version. This one is common:
“God, I know that I have sinned against you and deserve punishment. But Jesus Christ took the punishment that I deserve so that through faith in Him I could be forgiven. I place my trust in You for salvation. Thank You for Your wonderful grace and forgiveness – the gift of eternal life! Amen!”
One thing these prayers have in common is that they are focused on the death of Jesus.
Jesus’ Death Does Not Save Us
The “sinner’s prayer” focuses on the death of Jesus, but Jesus’s death does not save us. That may sound dangerously heretical to some, but let’s look at a few passages of scripture that show this.
Romans 5:10: “For if, while we were enemies we were reconciled to God, through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved through His life.” (NASB)
According to this passage, the death of Jesus does one thing, the life of Jesus does something else. The death of Jesus reconciles us to God so that we can have right relationship with Him, but we are saved by His resurrection life.
The definition of reconciliation is the restoration of friendly and peaceful relations. Reconciliation opens the door and makes it possible to have right relationship with God, but It’s because Jesus was raised from the dead and now lives, that we can walk through that door.
In this next passage, we again see the effects of the cross as reconciliation, not salvation.
Colossians 1:19,20: “For it was the Father’s good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him, and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross…” (NASB)
In this passage we discover that not just people, but ALL things have been reconciled to God through the blood of the cross.
Let’s look at one more passage, this one showing again that the resurrection of Jesus is what saves us.
Romans 6:8, 9: “Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, is never to die again; death no longer is master over Him.” (NASB)
According to this passage we now live with Him because Jesus overcame death, never to die again. We will live with Him forever because He Resurrected, not because He died.
The Living King and the Gospel of the Kingdom
The primary message preached in Matthew, Mark, Luke and John was “The kingdom of heaven is at hand”, not “Jesus died on the cross for your sins.” The expressions “the kingdom of heaven” or “the kingdom of God” (they are interchangeable) are used 99 times in the new testament. There is something that doesn’t align when our message is “Jesus died on the cross, you accept Him as savior, and then you’re saved,” when their message was, “the Kingdom of God is at hand.”
The Gospel of the Cross is not wrong. We do know that we are sinners, Jesus died on the cross for us, and without His death we could never be saved, but there is a more profound truth in what was preached in the New Testament. The gospel message preached in the new testament was the kingdom of heaven is here among us, right now and is within our reach.
These are the primary elements of the Gospel of the Kingdom.
- 2000 years ago, Jesus died
- He rose from the dead and ascended into heaven
- He now sits at the right hand of the Father and has established a kingdom that will never end.
- He is now King and Lord of that kingdom and everything that’s under His authority is now part of His kingdom.
- Everyone who bows to the King, becomes a citizen of His kingdom
In the Gospel of the Cross, the resurrection and enthronement are not taken as foundational to the gospel and are seen essentially as “add-ons.” He resurrected to prove that His death was valuable, and that He was God. He ascended into heaven and sat on the throne as a reward for dying on the cross.
I want to reiterate, I’m not saying that the cross wasn’t important. It is critical to our salvation, and we wouldn’t be saved without it, but in the Gospel of the Kingdom, everything is part of the gospel. He died, yes, but He also conquered death and we now live with Him! He ascended into heaven and we ascended with Him! He sits on His throne and the Father has given Him all rule and authority so now we reign with Him!
THIS is the good news! It is life, healing, wholeness, joy, peace, reigning and overcoming. The gospel is not about Jesus’s death, it’s about Jesus overcoming death!
New Testament Evangelism
Peter’s evangelistic sermon in Acts 2 on Pentecost mentions Jesus’s death, but only in the context of His resurrection.
Acts 2: 23,24 “…this Man, delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death. But God raised Him up again, putting an end to the agony of death, since it was impossible for Him to be held in its power.” (NASB)
In the rest of Peter’s sermon, his primary message is that Jesus rose from the dead and is now king over His kingdom.
Acts 2:29-38 “Brethren, I may confidently say to you regarding the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. And so, because he was a prophet and knew that God had sworn to him with an oath to seat one of his descendants on His throne, he looked ahead and spoke of the resurrection of the Christ, that He was neither abandoned to Hades, nor did His flesh suffer decay. This Jesus God raised up again, to which we are all witnesses. Therefore, having been exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He has poured forth this which you both see and hear. For it was not David who ascended into heaven, but he himself says: ‘The Lord said to my Lord, sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.’ Therefore, let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Christ—this Jesus whom you crucified. Now when they heard this, they were pierced to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, ‘Brethren, what shall we do?’ Peter said to them, ‘Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins…” (NASB)
What caused the Jews to be “pierced to the heart” and repent? The answer is found in verse 36:
“Therefore let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made Him both Lord (king) and Christ (savior) —this Jesus whom you crucified.” (text in parentheses added)
The Jews that heard Peter suddenly came to the horrifying realization that they had killed the king and savior that had been promised to them and prophesied about for over 1000 years! They came to understand that Jesus had established His promised kingdom by His resurrection, ascension, and enthronement. Realizing who Jesus was, 3,000 of them repented from rejecting Him, submitted fully to the king of the kingdom, and entered into eternal life with Him.
The Gospel of the Kingdom and Evangelism
What are the implications of this for evangelism today? In 21st century America, if you were to ask most people how they’re doing, their most likely, honest response would be, “tired.” People are busy almost to the breaking point. They are struggling and working every day, trying to make a life worth living. But deep in their hearts they know there’s something they are searching for that’s just out of reach. Almost anyone you ask will tell you that they know there must be more to life than what they’re experiencing. Everyone feels the weight of the chaos and disorder of their own lives. Everyone wants to “get off the merry-go-round.”
The simple reason for this is that, before we become Christians, each of us lives in a kingdom of our own making. The quality of our lives depends on the kind of kingdom we have built for ourselves. We sit on the throne and rule over a kingdom we have built using the natural skills and abilities we have gained through life. We also bring to that rulership our pain, shortcomings, and sinfulness. Ultimately, we all fail miserably as kings.
People don’t know it, but what they want is to step down off the throne. They want to be free of the burden of carrying the weight of trying to rule over a dysfunctional kingdom they built for themselves. A kingdom that they were never meant to rule over, and was never meant to be in the first place.
Your understanding of this will radically change your approach to evangelism. You don’t need to convince the guy sitting in the cube next to you who loves his wife and kids, has his elderly mother-in-law living in his home, and goes to a job every day to provide for them, that he’s a horrible sinner who needs to repent or he’s going to hell. What you can tell him is that he can give up trying to run his own life. Tell him there’s a different kingdom he can step into that’s all around him and freely available. A kingdom that’s full of life, and love, and hope, and joy, and peace. A kingdom that can be entered into simply by stepping down from his own throne, and bowing His knee to the TRUE King. And how much more effective that message will be if your life is a witness to those kingdom realities.
That’s it! No tears. No mea culpas. No beating of the breast, or making themselves feel bad enough to convince God, (and everyone else), that they really mean it. Just the simple act of taking a huge sigh of relief, asking Jesus to take His rightful place on His throne, and passing their burdens on to Him. There may be tears, but not because they feel bad about themselves. Rather, because they feel a relief they have never felt before.
If you still want a prayer, try this one:
Lord Jesus, I’m tired. I no longer want to rule over my own life. I’m weary from trying to carry the burdens of a life I was never meant to carry. I willingly give rulership of my life over to you. I am asking you to come and sit on the throne of my heart. Amen.
So, what can you, as a Christian, offer the people of the world? Offer them freedom. Offer them hope. Offer them LIFE. And they will come. Everyone is looking for it, and the Lord has given it to you to give away.
By: Steve Marusic
I’m the type of person that likes to have all the answers. I like to understand… how things work, why things happen, and how things in life fit together. I’ve always been curious and I usually ask lots of questions. Sometimes this can work in my favor and sometimes it gets annoying. Just ask my husband 😉 But I think that the Lord gifted me with a strong desire for learning. I was always an excellent student and now as I’m in the “real world” of adult life, I strive to be the best employee and worker I can be. I always go above and beyond, striving to exceed expectations and be the detailed and thorough person that I am.
When I was 14 years old, I lost my dad to a battle with ALS. It was devastating, to say the least, and threw me in a loop of unanswered questions. I needed to understand why this happened, but my 14-year-old brain couldn’t rationalize how a wonderful, Christian father and husband would be taken from this Earth. He did all the right things. He played piano at the church I had been going to for 14 years. He was a loving and caring father, husband, teacher, brother, son and friend. He was the spiritual pillar of our family, leading and guiding us to be stronger believers and God-seekers. WHY would he be taken away so early? It really bothered me that I couldn’t figure this out, and to be honest, it changed my view of God for years to come.
Everybody kept telling me, “Everything happens for a reason” and “God works in mysterious ways,” but none of that BS ever helps. Has anyone ever been comforted by someone telling you that everything happens for a reason? Well I haven’t! So probably around the age of 18-20, I began trying to fill in the gaps myself. I started wondering why God would do this…
Was God trying to teach me a lesson?
Maybe He took my dad away to get my attention?
Maybe that was the only way I would have gotten closer to God was if my dad was taken away.
Maybe I would have drifted away from God had my life went on like normal. If God hadn’t taken him, I wouldn’t have been the strong Christian I am now because nothing would have pushed me towards God.
Maybe there was nothing left for my dad to do on this Earth anymore?
And so, that is what I started telling myself… that this was a lesson for me and that God was trying to get my attention. This was my view of God.
Fast forward to about two years ago: I got introduced to better covenant theology through the Bible school that my husband is enrolled in. I started learning about the God of the Old Testament and how the apparent differences between Him and Jesus weren’t what I had always been taught. I started connecting the dots to many things I had wondered about in my early years of Sunday school. I knew God wasn’t a mean God, but I couldn’t explain why. When confronted with questions about the God of the Old Testament in all his rage, killing sprees, and malice, I couldn’t answer. But through new teachings, my mind started to be renewed with fresh and contextual biblical understanding and interpretation. Mind you, I grew up in a non-denominational, un-spirit-filled church for 22+ years and through which laid the foundation for 99% of my theological and spiritual understanding. So many teachings were completely new to me and thus I’m still trying to unlearn a lot and relay ground work for a new foundation.
In the midst of these last two years, many times my thoughts have returned back to my childhood and my dad. The Lord has gently showed me how I have misunderstood many things about my past and many things about Him. My understanding of God’s character has probably seen the most transformation. Understanding the truth about the God of the Old Testament has freed me of so many things. The Bible is truly a love story and now I get it! I finally understand the full picture of God – not just the “New Testament” Jesus. God has always been for me and for my family, just like He was always for his people, Israel. He had perfect plans for them from day one. He wasn’t a punisher by nature. In the same way, He loved my dad very much and it was never his plan or desire for him to be stripped of this Earth early. It was never his desire for me to go through so much pain and heartache. ALS was never his plan or desire. He wouldn’t have tried “to get my attention” by taking away somebody that I love. That’s not how a good Father treats his child.
On a bigger scale, I have heard that the church is in a season of understanding and encountering God the Father, and this couldn’t be more true for my life right now as well. I’m getting to know and better understand God as my father. I’m not a parent yet, so I think even more revelation will come in that season of my life, but I am gaining deeper understanding about the relationship between a parent and child.
Over the last two years, I’ve started allowing God to fill in the gaps for me instead of trying to do it myself. I know that I might never fully understand why my dad died until I’m in heaven, but I can easily understand God’s heart towards me.
One of my favorite verses is 1 Peter 1:6-8.
In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith – more precious that gold that perishes though it is tested by fire – may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
Our faith is more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire. We aren’t promised a perfect life without trials, but we can hold steadfast to the hope of heaven! I can rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory knowing my Father is a perfect Father and loves me more than any earthly father could. Now, this is comforting!
I encourage you to allow God to fill in the gaps of your life. Allow your understanding of God’s character to penetrate your daily thoughts – especially the ups and downs that life brings. Give God the credit He deserves by acknowledging him as the God of the Bible – the same yesterday, today and tomorrow – and not just the God of the New Testament. Help others to understand this God too!
Written by: Kelsie Ebel
Ever try to take a big winter jacket off without unzipping it? You can struggle and struggle, pulling, pushing, and straining, but you will probably just end up red-faced and frustrated and a little embarrassed if anyone was watching. But, if you just unzip the big jacket it just slides right off, no problem. Why? Because that’s the way it was designed.
Many times, Christians who are trying to get free from an area of sin in their life look like someone trying to get a big heavy winter jacket off without unzipping it. They can struggle and struggle fighting, pushing and pulling, but many times they just end up red-faced, frustrated, and ashamed.
The problem is that the dominion of sin isn’t conquered through will power; it’s conquered through Jesus and his grace. Before the big heavy jacket of sin’s dominion can be removed, we must first unzip the condemnation off of someone’s life. Freedom from condemnation comes FIRST, then freedom from the dominion of sin follows. Just like the zipper on the big heavy winter jacket must first be unzipped, then the jacket easily comes off.
So it is with sin. Jesus took the punishment for our sin. He bore the shame and he was condemned on the cross for us. Now that we are in him there is NOW NO CONDEMNATION! When you remove the condemnation, you remove the power of sin to cling to you. But only Jesus and his grace can unzip that heavy burden of sin and shame and call that beautiful new creation forth that YOU really are in him.
As a Christian, you’re going to make mistakes, but don’t let the devil put you in a strait jacket of condemnation NO! Keep your eyes on Jesus and his finished work and enjoy his wonderful grace and live life free from the dominion of sin. YOU are the righteousness of God. YOU are forgiven. YOU are loved. TAKE THE JACKET OFF!
Written by: Jeremiah Johnson
As a father, nothing, and I mean nothing, is more annoying than listening to my kids fight and bicker with each other. It literally drives me insane. Anyone else feel this way?
But why? Why does this make me so crazy? As parents we often find ourselves saying and doing crazy things as a result of our kids fighting. The other day I just stood there yelling unintelligible words [I think it was the word STOP mixed with the word NOW = SOW!] as my 7 year old boys were talking down to my 2 year old daughter. The argument was essentially a battle of 7 year old logic versus 2 year old logic, which as a parent would actually be funny if it wasn’t so annoying and accompanied by the hell-raising whining noises coming from their mouths. My boys had their Pokemon cards in neat little stacks, and my two year old daughter felt the need to swat them down. Cue the hell-raising whining noises followed by yelling and pushing with a sobbing 2 year old as a cherry on top, unable to figure out why her brothers don’t like card swatting.
I got to thinking about that yesterday and came up with some ideas about why it makes me so crazy…
I believe it bugs me so much because they are my children and there is no easy way out of the situation. It requires me to get involved and problem-solve. It makes me feel like a failure as their father. I don’t want to have to get involved. I want them to just know how to get along based on the lessons I provided them in the past. After all they are my children, not my slaves – I shouldn’t need to command them around. I feel like I shouldn’t need to give them rules to live by – they should just know by now, shouldn’t they?
Maybe not. They are just kids after all. I guess that’s what parenting is all about – showing them the right way and praying that it will eventually make sense to them – that eventually by the time they leave the confines of my protection that my desires for their good – for their best lives – will finally become their desires.
“The heir is subject to guardians and trustees until the time set by his father.” – Galatians 4:2
As parents we make the rules because without them our “heirs” will die. They just don’t get it – as my wife Susie keeps reminding me, their little minds don’t yet have the capacity to understand right and wrong – the knowledge of good and evil. They must be told. It must be demonstrated for them.
That’s why it bugs me so much. I want them to get it. Like, now.
Don’t get me wrong, my kids are growing up far too quickly – before my very eyes. But sometimes I want them to learn faster. I want them to remain children but operate with my will and desires so they stop fighting with each other and start helping each other. Sometimes I wish I could just impart my will & desires – my Spirit – within them so they would “get it,” yet still remain my little children, intimate with me, under my roof, under my care – yet with my spirit of wisdom so they walk alongside me as sons instead of behind me like slaves.
“And because we are his children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, prompting us to call out, “Abba, Father.” For the Helper, the Holy Spirit. He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to.” – Galatians 4:7; John 14:26
I think all our fighting and bickering frustrated God too. I think it frustrated Him to the point of death. It frustrated Him for the same reason it frustrates us. After all, we are made in His likeness. Relational. Loving. Nurturing – with all the joy and frustrations that go along with it. He will never leave us or forsake us, but we sure grieve Him from time to time.
We all pay a steep price for our children – for them to “get it”. Thousands of hours requiring truckloads of patience. Buckets of blood, sweat and tears are the prerequisite for even a chance at success.
The joy of parenting is watching as our kids finally start to get it. It warms our heart like beaming rays of sunshine as they willingly cling to the essence – the spirit – of what we taught them.
Without. Being. Told.
I watch on as my 7 year old son encourages my two year old daughter as she colors her picture, or as my two sons give up their favorite things for the sake of the other. As they get older and older my rules and commands will begin to fall off their souls like training wheels off a bike. Not because they aren’t good rules, but because they have accepted and trusted in my wisdom which has taught them how to ride the bike.
That’s my child.
When they come of age they will leave my rules behind completely and be free – relying instead on the deposit of wisdom I’ve placed within them rather than the confines of my rules – rules which I hate having to enforce.
God is like that too.
Rules are not needed where His Spirit exists. Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom (2 Cor. 3:17). We still may fall down from time to time, and those times may serve as reminders about why the rules once existed. But rather than try to put training wheels on a mountain bike, we must get back up and keep riding the bike in freedom, not only because our Father told us to, but because we simply like being with Him where He is – in complete freedom.
God doesn’t want slaves and servants, He wants sons and daughters. He wants to share all that He is and all that He has with those who seek His own heart – with those who take ownership and responsibility in His estate.
Without. Being. Told.
“I no longer call you servants, because a servant doesn’t know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends.” – Jesus
Wait a second, we have been forgiven of all our sin and the Bible tells us to “love the sinner, but hate the sin,” right? Well of course, so why do you say that “Christians love sin?” Let me start off by saying that the Bible actually does not have a verse in it that says to “love the sinner but hate the sin.” St. Augustine has a quote that is similar, but not exactly that; and Gandhi quotes this, but it is actually not in this context. It’s funny, so much of what we hear and see in the world becomes gospel because many of us haven’t actually studied these things out for ourselves. But I digress, on to the point.
Before I became a Christian I was a wild and crazy sinner. The way I lived my life, I knew I was wrong for much of it, but I did “what seemed right to a man” (Proverbs 14:12) and darkness and destruction was the result. By the time I was 31 years old I was on the ground begging God to forgive me and help me change. Something supernatural happened, the presence of God came into my house that night and I was forever changed. I knew that Jesus Christ was Lord. I knew that He loved me at my worst. I knew that I was forgiven. The best part of all for me, was that I knew that I was a new creation. I listened to an audio bible that I had, day and night for several weeks before I stepped foot in a church. I was so happy to know God, all I wanted was to do work for the Kingdom and tell people about Jesus.
Sin was the last thing on my mind. But then I found myself around Christians.
I remember it clear as day, I was excitedly talking to an older man and telling him about my conversion and about all the awesome things God was doing in my life. He was happy for me, but I remember like yesterday, he said “you’ll come back to reality soon.” It was such a hit to my joy. What do you mean I will come back to reality soon? Well, after finding a church and getting around a bunch of men who had been Christians for much longer than me, I quickly found out what he was talking about. So many of these guys “struggle with sin” and many of them looked at me as weird when I told them I no longer did. That I was a saint, and I am free from sin. That I wasn’t perfect but God isn’t focused on my sin, so why should I be? I just wanted to know Him and His will for my life, I don’t have time to even think about sin and even when I do, I thank Him for His forgiveness and I move on. I remember some old guy getting absolutely MAD at the things I was saying. “What are you saying, you are perfect and not a sinner?” The Bible says, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” (1 John 1:8) The verse he read is in the bible, albeit he was using this verse in a way that is out of context. John isn’t saying we will always have sin, he is making the point that if we see no need for salvation, for the blood of Jesus, because we have never sinned- than we are deceiving ourselves.
The simple fact that I believed the good news, that I was a new creation in Christ, that I had been set free from sin and had become a slave of righteousness, that I was hidden in Christ, that I was predestined to be holy and blameless and above reproach. All of these statements come from the same Bible that this man was reading, but because of what he had learned his whole life and his experience, because it didn’t measure up to what he believed the Bible says and his experience, he found a verse in the same Bible that basically gives him excuse to settle where he was at and to believe the lie that he was still a sinner. So many denominations and streams in the Body of Christ, because of their systematic view of God and humanity and their experience have caused them to believe the lie that we are still sinners. When I read the New Testament, I see that Paul writes to the saints. He never once writes to the sinners. And though sometimes when he is writing a letter to them, it is to correct some of the things they are teaching and/or doing, such as sinning, but he doesn’t say they are no longer saints. He goes out of his way to remind them of what Jesus Christ has done for them. He reminds them that they are clean, so why would they live as though they are still dirty?
Being a Christian doesn’t mean we are perfect, we worship the one who is. And because of all that Jesus Christ did by living as a man, dying on the cross and raising from the dead, we have been made new creations. I believe this is what we should be focusing on. The fact that we are new creations and that Jesus Christ has made a covenant that we take part in by faith. If at our absolute worst Christ was willing to die for us… why do we still focus so much on sin rather than focusing on the fact we are made new?
Jesus says “Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or else make the tree bad and its fruit bad; for a tree is known by its fruit.” (Matthew 12: 33) Do you see what I see? He tells us to “make the tree good… and its fruit will be good.” In other words, when we focus on the fruit, whether it is good or bad… we judge them according to what we see, we are told to live by faith and not by sight. I believe we should be telling people that they have been made good trees, which is what produces good fruit.
So many Christians are known for what they are against, not actually what they are for.
So you might see a Christian who is “against abortion,” and telling people that “abortion is murder.” Okay, so what? I am not for abortion at all, I think it is horrible but does telling people that they are murderers and that God hates them for what they are doing actually change anything? I remember a few years ago I knew a Christian man who would do the whole sign holding thing on the corner, standing in front of PP and he was so consumed with anger about all the bad things going on in the world. I couldn’t get him to see the error of his thinking, but I did help him change his perspective a bit. I told him, rather than telling these scared and hurting women that they are murderers and whatnot, do you think you could tell them that “God loves them and their baby.” Maybe a sign that tells them how loved they are, maybe offering to give them a hug, maybe talking to them and finding out about why they are so scared, maybe that is a better way to prevent abortion rather than being an accuser and telling them how evil they are. (He did this for a few weeks and then moved on to another topic that consumed him and caused him much anger).
I look at the life of Jesus and how he would call things that weren’t as though they were, in fact he called Peter a rock before he denied him three times. The entire pattern of God throughout the Bible, when He comes to establish a relationship with people, he gives them a new name. We are told that David is “a man after God’s heart” and look at his life? Many Christians today would look at David and say, “you aren’t saved, look at all the things you are doing.” But that is not the reality. I don’t say these things to minimize sin and its consequences. I say these things because I don’t believe sin is our biggest issue, or at least I don’t think correcting people’s behavior is the solution. If we focus on the exterior problems we will never get to the root, which is that people believe that they are sinners, and if they believe that they are a sinner, what will they do? They will sin. In the church, we need to tell people that they are new creations. That they are the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus, they have the same power that raised Jesus from the dead, how much more can they live victorious and full of peace and joy now. I am not saying that because a Christian believes in Jesus, that they will never have the urge to sin, or they don’t sin. I am simply shifting the focus to Jesus and who we are in Him. Whatever we focus on will get bigger, so when we focus on the “new man” we will start to manifest the things of a new creation. The fruit of the spirit will be more present in our lives.
Christians need to be more known for what we are for, not what we are against. We need to actually be teaching believers that they are more than conquerors, that they are overcomers. We need to speak life into people and encourage them that they are capable of reigning over the old man that didn’t know God. The very fact that they believe the gospel is proof that they are capable because the Holy Spirit lives in them. The world around us needs to know the joy of what it means to walk around as a new creation. The bible says “all of creation is groaning for it.”
Written by: Andrew Strobel
Many believers have been taught the story of the fall in the Garden (Genesis 3). Many have centered their presentation of the Gospel with this as the backdrop. The concept being that since mankind messed up we needed Jesus to right our wrong. All of humanity was impacted by the fall and in need of rescue. This is true, humanity was impacted and surely needed rescue. In steps Jesus and that rescue takes places. I’d like to focus more on the original backdrop and how it connects to the way we see the Gospel and present it to others.
Humanity’s story begins before the fall and even before the Garden. Our story begins in the heart and mind of God. Before humanity was created God already had servants (angels) so the mentality that we are just meant to serve God is slightly skewed. Yes, we do serve but that was not the purpose for our existence. We were created for family. God created humanity for a family of loving relationship. We were not created to be playthings that are divinely controlled for His amusement. We were not created to bring glory through our destruction and demise. We were created solely for the heart of relationship.
When we go back before the fall, where the stigma of sin and its consequences were attached to humanity, we are able to see our purpose and value. Mankind is not worthless or a chore to God. We are highly valued and adored by our Father! Jesus’s main objective was to redeem humanity back to the Father’s original intent. What is that? Genesis 1:26 states that we were created in His image and likeness. What does that mean? God made us like Him or in the pattern of Himself. In the Hebrew, the words for “image” and “likeness” both give a word picture of humanity being like a model of God. We are not Him, we are similar in nature to Him by design. This is important to understand.
The fall wrecked havoc on humanity, but Jesus made right what the fall had impacted. Through the birth of the Spirit, humanity is brought back to being the expression of God on earth. Our mission to rule over the earth is restored in the Kingdom as it was originally instructed in the garden. This pairs with the language of Jesus in the Lord’s prayer of “on earth as it is in heaven.” Believers are to express the heart of the Father to the world around us, impacting it with the culture of the Kingdom or God’s family. God gave man the instruction to rule the earth through His authority and dominion. In the new covenant we co-labor with God via the Spirit. The concept is consistent. In the garden, Adam and Eve ruled the earth in relationship with God. In the new covenant we do likewise in relationship with God.
So what does this have to do with a Gospel presentation? The Gospel is far more than a discussion of heaven and hell or sin. The Gospel is the story of How God, through Jesus, brought humanity back on course for His plan all along that started in the garden. His value and purpose for humanity was not lost at the fall. The Gospel is not just how to avoid hell. It is about a Father getting His children back. It’s about a family being restored.
I believe there is a transition taking place in the Church today where the old presentation of the Gospel is being shifted to one that more clearly expresses the heart of Father God. Rather than portraying Him as a judge obsessed with sin, we are more accurately portraying Him as a Father who has spared no expense in bringing the solution to the problem of sin. Now, with the solution taken care of (the new covenant of forgiveness through the Cross), the aim is to spread the news so His kids come home. We are to let people know that their sins have been forgiven and their Father longs to embrace them in relationship. How we present His heart to them matters.
A presentation focused on the problem of sin and the consequences is an inaccurate expression of the Good News. I’m not saying ignore it. I’m saying let the presentation clearly emphasis the actual good news which is that sin has been forgiven and relationship is waiting for them. The emphasis should be the solution of the new covenant and the beauty of the Kingdom. Jesus preached the good news of the Kingdom. He demonstrated what His Kingdom was like and people responded. Let’s follow His example and express to the world just how much their Father loves them and cares for them with demonstrations of His goodness.