image courtesy of intheway.missionaltribe.org
I don’t want to be known as an evangelist. Don’t get me wrong — the origins of the word make it sound like a great thing: one who announces the good news. Now, I’d love to be known as that. “Why, hello, I’ve got good news to share with you…” Who doesn’t enjoy a bringer of those words in his life?* But, no, instead the word evangelist has come to mean “someone who tries to convince another to become a Christian by explaining clearly and correctly the doctrines which need to be believed in order to be saved from one’s sins.”
I’d rather sell encyclopedias door-to-door.
[But I digress. And again I will. This post is the second in a series on the gospel. I’m attempting to give a definition of the good news of Christ, but keep managing to put it off until later. The first post is here.]
I’m convinced most every denomination and sect of Christianity has grabbed onto some small portion of what actually is the good news — and is biased, then, toward their own abridged and pocket-sized version of the gospel. Many of us orient our Christian communities around that single message, and it becomes evident from our lives which part of the gospel we’ve neglected. We specialize in segments, and therefore, never experience the true and complete goodness of the news we’ve received.
Example: Many western churches have elevated to the status of the fullest manifestation of the gospel the good news of justification through the blood of Jesus Christ — which is indeed good news, to be sure. But it’s clear in looking at our day to day lives that many of us have all but abandoned the Lordship of that same Christ. Jesus is powerful and loving to forgive us our sins, but not so much so that we will allow him to be the the sole authority in our lives. And we’ve traveled so far from this concept of his sovereignty that the authority and Lordship of Christ doesn’t sound like good news to us. Rather we hear it as a sort of passive subservience or a willingness to be dominated. We’re so deeply established in justification and the forgiveness of sins that we’re unable to recognize the good news of possessing an authority who is perfect, gracious, and loving.
I believe I’ve over-made my arguments both for an incredibly large definition of the gospel and for our tendencies to accept — no, prefer — a small part in place of the larger whole. So what is the gospel, then? Can the good news for man be summed up in a blog post? The more I think and study on this, the less equipped I feel for the task. And maybe that means I’m finally beginning to understand the gospel. Dr. Harvey Floyd, a former professor of mine at Lipscomb University, used to say the less sense we can make of the Trinity, the more we truly understand it. I think the gospel may be similar.
The gospel of Christ is such an incredible and vast concept that it can be, and is, good news to every individual and people group on earth, despite culture, context, and time. And as we enter into relationship with God, we continually realize the greater significance and countless implications of the good news which we’ve received. A friend of mine (named Ike) reminded me yesterday that we generally view the gospel as an entryway into Christianity, a shallow and elementary concept adopted by seekers and new believers — from which they can, and do, quickly advance into the weightier matters of God and spirituality. But, Ike suggests, the gospel IS the weightier matter of God and spirituality.
That’s a beautiful thought to me — not that I can unlock the “hidden mysteries” of the gospel as I advance in spiritual maturity — but that the good news is always going to be good news to me, no matter at which station in life I may find myself. The gospel isn’t received when accepting Christ, and then left behind. Rather its goodness compounds and intensifies as we live in Christ. And this truth, in itself, is part of what makes the good news so very good.
I’m afraid I’ve rambled. Forgive me. So now it will be the NEXT post in which I attempt to address what a full and complete understanding of the gospel must include (at least as full an understanding as I’ve realized up to this point in my life) — and I promise I shan’t procrastinate again.
* Except for the “why, hello” bit, which honestly sounds a little creepy — or superheroish; why are superheroes allowed to say creepy things the rest of us shouldn’t, anyway? I mean, Spiderman alone says some pretty creepy stuff: