Gospel questions, part 3

Review: Questions part 1 and part 2.

So here we go, if the gospel is “good news” then what is contained about Jesus in these books called “Gospels” is the gospel. “Whoa, Jay. Slow down there Mr. Heresy!” I know. It felt strange and weird to say things like that at first too. Yet I have to confess, it also made a whole lot of sense to say it like that. What I knew to be the gospel never came out of Jesus’ mouth. I don’t remember Him standing on a mountain preaching and giving a jesus-teaches-the-twelve_1128355_inlpresentation anything like what pastors do at the end of sermons today. Never. He said some of those concepts like “leave your life of sin” and “anyone who wants God has to come through me.” And I don’t think He would have thought I was wrong “necessarily” in my gospel understanding, but I was just short-sighted in it. There was more. There wasn’t enough to what I was saying. There was room on my dinner plate for more food. There was other things that needed to be added.

When I started thinking this way I felt like I was forsaking the gospel I grew up on, and in a way, the history and heritage I came from. That being small town, conservative, Baptist, legalism. But I knew that what I knew the gospel to be wasn’t freeing, it was confining. And this new way seemed to actually bring about freedom.

When Jesus said that He came to “seek and save the lost” – that is good news. So that is part of the gospel. It is the gospel. When Jesus got down on the level of a prostitute drug out in the streets – that is good news. That is gospel. When Jesus confronted Peter’s doubts by referring to him as Satan, and saying to get behind Him – that is good news. That is gospel. When Jesus heals a leper – that is good news. That is gospel. When Jesus lets the children climb all over Him – that is good news. That is gospel. When Jesus calls the Pharisees white washed tombs – that is good news. That is gospel. Sometimes the gospel heals and helps, sometimes it cuts and burns. Either way it is good because it is truth that we see in the life of Jesus in these books called The Gospels. The realization of that seemed to be a gospel that full, expanding, filling, satisfying, and abundant. I like that gospel much more.

 

Gospel questions, part 2

ST Faith's Anglican Church, Rotorua, NZ (Saints Matthew, Mark Luke and John)“Is there nothing more to this?” was one of the questions that I shared last time I wrote about if what I knew to be the gospel. I seemed to have questions about it, but no one else did. And even when I posed them to some people that I trusted I didn’t get much of a response from them. Then I had what seemed to be a blatantly obvious question: If the translation of the word “gospel” means “good news” and that seemed to be narrowed down to the death and resurrection of Jesus, and how that deals specifically with my sin, then why were Matthew, Mark, Luke and John called “gospels”? Huh? Anyone else ever have that question? I mean seriously, I couldn’t figure a way to reconcile it. I couldn’t. If a whole book about Jesus is good news, then why did what I knew to be good news only include the last few chapters of that book (i.e.- the parts about His death and resurrection), and a few more chapters in a book that Paul wrote (i.e.-the book of Romans)? The “Gospels” themselves included way, way more than the gospel that I knew. It just didn’t seem to be a logical fit for me.

Then three years ago I started hearing friends using “the gospel” in a way that I hadn’t heard before. Phrases like “The gospel leads us to that.” “That is opposite thinking of the gospel.” “Do you think the gospel would take you to that conclusion?” It confused me because I didn’t know how to reconcile my idea of the gospel with what they were saying. And I didn’t ask. You might wonder why I never asked. Well, I was embarrassed that I didn’t understand what they were saying. Honestly. I have an Masters degree from a seminary and didn’t know what they were saying when they used the basic Christian term “gospel” that way.

But then I was given a book by Brad Brisco and Lance Ford that seemed to help me a bit. It was The King Jesus Gospel by Scot McKnight and…finally. Wow. The light come on. At last there was a language was given to me that put a lot of the jumbled up thoughts in my head on to a piece of paper in a logical form. I am not saying Scot was my “savior” for understanding the gospel, but all of a sudden I began to see it in a way that was bigger than what I ever knew it to be. It meant a whole lot more. It gained so much weight. It actually became greater news instead of just being good news. It wasn’t confined to Good Friday and Easter Sunday, but it spread to before Jesus was even here on the scene, and stretched past when He ascended into heaven. It was almost as if the word “gospel” was freed to be itself in my mind. The way it had been used around me the past few years suddenly clicked. The questions I had about “The Gospels” being called just that went away, because the whole book became a story that was incredible news for saints and sinner alike. I felt like I actually began to understand the gospel. It made sense. And the gospel began to be a comfort to me.

 

Gospel questions, part 1

Small PortionA few years ago I attended a banquet here in Kansas City that was catered by a local high class restaurant. I was fairly excited to about the opportunity to eat such fancy food. However it ended up that the food wasn’t that great and the serving sizes were pretty small. The plates came with only what seemed to be a quarter portion. I was pretty disappointed. And I remember thinking, “That was it? No more. Nothing to add to that?” I honestly thought that there would have been more since it was such a high quality restaurant.

Now, I might make a statement here that could rock the boat a bit. When it comes to the gospel, in recent years I have asked “Is that it? Is there really nothing else? Really?” Yes, I asked those questions about the gospel. Go ahead and take your aghast gasp and read on, please.

For a long time, in my mind, the gospel was a presentation, a logical series of facts. And it was predominantly just for sinners. It let them know that Jesus loves them. He died for their sins. He takes away the guilt and shame of their past. And now they will go to Heaven when they die. Those of us who already heard the gospel, and believed in Jesus didn’t need it anymore.

Now, in all honestly, that is good news. Its great news. Extraordinary news. Incredible news. I don’t want to make light of the fact that what I knew to be the gospel wasn’t good news. Yet, I just remember thinking to myself (somewhere after college during my first few years of ministry) that there had to be more to it. What I had in my mind to be the gospel couldn’t be all there was to it. Talking about how we are bad, Jesus is perfect, and how we need to ask Him into our hearts just seemed too small, too insignificant, and short. I remember thinking that there had to be more to it.

I was taught that the gospel was what we shared with people who needed to have their sins forgiven for the first time. So it was basically only what “the lost/unsaved/unregenerate/pagans” needed to hear. And it mainly became my job to figure out how to take the gospel and “dress it up” or “spice it up” a bit so that people would respond when it was shared with them. It was a concept that you share with non-christians, and in my opinion, needed some help.

So for me the gospel got reduced down to diagrams, small pamphlets, catchy presentations, and a 5 minute spiel tacked on to the end of a sermon. All the power that Romans 1:16 says it has was gone. It had been replaced with man’s best efforts. It was even something that you could get trained in on how to present it. And that was the world that I seem to remember growing up in and living in for a long time. However, when I sat back and thought about it, it just didn’t seem right to me. I was told it was right. I was taught it was right. But it wasn’t. And no one else around me seemed to be asking questions about it, so for a long time I just went along. Kept my mouth shut. Turned my brain off to it.

But then I began to have a lots of questions.