I tread no new ground as I seek to understand what it means to proclaim the Gospel and struggle through the questions that accompany this search. I think it is strange that as I am here in
The question of what is the Gospel is the essential question that we all need to ask and answer. I know the answer in part. I know that it is a story of the Creator and his love relationship with his creation (us). Of our fall into self indulgence and the story of the promise of redemption and the fulfillment of that promise. Of a renewed relationship, of following a risen Savior, of learning how much we need to trust and rely upon the One who knows us better than ourselves. This much I know about the Gospel.
But what I don’t know, what I think I am beginning to figure out, is what does that mean for those who call ourselves Christians. What does it really mean to be a Christian? I am reading a book called The Divine Conspiracy by Dallas Willard right now and he says that, “the only thing made essential on the right wing of theology is forgiveness of the individual sins. On the left it is the removal of social or structural evils. The current gospel then becomes a gospel of ‘sin management.’ Transformation of life and character is no part of the redemptive message.”
I know that ‘sin management’ is not the Gospel that Jesus talked about. Despite this, I am certain that I have fallen into one or both of these categories because they are simple, easy and not too difficult to accept. The Gospel, quite literally, that Jesus preached was “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand (Matthew ).” The reason I have been asking questions about the Gospel is because both parts of Jesus’s words throw me for a loop.
I am a coward. Telling people to repent is not in my comfort zone; the honest truth is that I would much rather tell people that God loves them and leave out the part about God calling them to change, to repent. The sad truth is that I often settle for this. I offer a gospel of ‘sin management’; “God loves you, sent his Son Jesus to take away your sins, and you just need to accept that and you are a Christian.” Yes, God does love us and yes, Jesus did come to take away our sins, but he calls us to repentance. God tells us to repent, to turn from our ways.
The part that I love and am just beginning to understand is that he tells us to repent (turn) FOR the kingdom of heaven is at hand. Once again, to steal from Dallas Willard, “the gospel is the good news of the presence and availability of life in the kingdom, now and forever, through reliance on Jesus the Anointed. This was Abraham’s faith too. As Jesus said, “Abraham saw my time and was delighted” (John ).” God is calling us to repent because there is something better! Because he is calling us into a life that is real, that is better than the superficial life that we are living by ourselves.
I really don’t have a good handle on this; I feel like I am simply beginning to learn of the truth that God laid out for us in the Bible. But I have realized two things. One, God is calling us to repent/turn and if we are to present the Gospel in a way that is true to Jesus, we (specifically me) need to talk about this fact. The second thing I have realized is that God is calling us to more than sin management; He is calling us to true life, to something better than our meager self-supported existence. He calls us to something better.
This leaves me with hope. I know that there are cowards like me in the kingdom of heaven, because of the present reality that I can live as a child of The King (John -13). It means also that I have been charged with a responsibility to be an ambassador for The King, to accurately represent what he says (2 Corinthians ). It means that the life that He is calling me to live is something better, is real life (John 17:3). And for that, on this Thanksgiving, I can be thankful.