Why the Gospel is Way Better than Better than We Ever Imagined
- We don’t confuse the basis of the gospel with its benefits.The gospel is the announcement of Jesus victory through cross and resurrection over the powers of sin, evil, and death which distorted God’s creation and creatures into deathly parodies of what they were intended to be. This is the “good news”! Forgiveness, new life, assurance, reconciliation – are the benefits of the gospel which we receive only on the basis of the gospel.In other words, the gospel is that “Jesus is Victor” (Karl Barth) not that we can have our sins forgiven and be assured of our place in heaven. Confusion here results in a false gospel, a truncated vision, and stunted Christin existence.
- It’s not about our going to heaven but heaven coming to earth.The dualism of spiritual (immaterial) and material which privileges the former as better than or superior to the latter which weigh’s down, hinders, is inferior to, temporary, or not as important as the former has no place in the Christian gospel. Jesus’ victory restores creation as the place of God’s eternal home and fellowship with humans. Heaven comes down to the new earth and the two become one again as they were in the beginning. And best of all we will live there with God enjoying the life God always intended us to have.
- It’s about a people not individuals.God dreams big! The gospel is not about plucking individual “souls” out of sin and death for eternal life with God in heaven (see #2). Rather the gospel is about God’s rule over all that reclaims and restores everyone and everything to God’s good purposes for them. Israel and the church signal God’s purpose to work with communities for the salvation of communities and peoples (Mt.28:18-20 – the Great Commission is about nations!). A whole creation and all its creatures reclaimed and restored to their original design and purposes – to dream and live as if God’s purposes embrace less than that is to settle for too little and believe in a God who is too small.
- It’s about here and now more than then and there.In the Synoptic gospels the emphasis is that in Jesus God’s Kingdom is here; in John eternal life is spoken of primarily in the present tense; for Paul, “now is the acceptable time, now is the day of salvation” (2 Cor.6:2); for the author of Hebrews, “Today” is the day to hear and respond to God’s voice (3:7); and for the Seer of Revelation, “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Messiah, and he will reign forever and ever” (11:15).The past is irretrievably gone (its reality not its influence), the final end is secure in God’s hands, the present is the time in which our agency, response-ability, and responsibility as God’s people is highlighted. We do not wait until the end to exercise and enjoy God’s life. Not at all, we begin to do that here and now even in the midst of an old age which is decaying and passing away. That’s why we struggle with confusion and conflict. But even more that’s why our lives here and now are invested with eternal significance. All that we do now in and for Jesus Christ will, once purified by judgment, somehow be used by God in constituting the New Jerusalem of Rev.21-22. Far from simply marking time till we die or Christ returns, the kingdom, the eternal life, and the salvation of God breaks into and out of our present life marking us as God’s people and making known God’s gracious reality and presence in the world! Quite a vocation, huh?
- The Gospel makes us Christians or, better, human (for the first time)!Fallen humanity is subhuman (Rom.3:23: for all sinned and fall short of the glory of God). We can never blame our failings and fallibilities by saying, “Well, we’re only human after all.” Jesus is not only the true image of God, he is also the true image of humanity.-He is what we are supposed to be like (in a derivative not original sense).-He is our standard of humanity.-It is his image to which we are being conformed (Rom.8:29).
Our aim is not to become better or nice people. It is to become like Jesus Christ! That’s God aim and the Spirit’s work in and on us. What do you expect God to do in your life?