Everywhere I look I see amazing Christian sermons, teachings, videos, podcasts, and blog posts about things like marriage, leadership, living well, financial health, emotional health, politics, spiritual gifts and just about ever aspect of life. This is great! The Bible has a lot to say on all of these things, and the Church ought to bring the light of truth to all of these facets of life.
I know… You can feel it coming, can’t you? There’s a “but” coming. Yes, there is.
But… there is a central truth upon which the entire Church and everything she has to say is built; it’s the Gospel. The Gospel is the main course, and I am afraid some of us might fill up on the hors-d’oeuvres.
A New Identity
The truth of the Gospel is so radical, that I doubt we could ever fully exhaust its implications for our lives and the world for that matter. The truth that Christ has come, has born our guilt, our sin, and shame, crucified it all on the cross, and rose again; conquering death, winning back the keys of authority over creation which Adam had surrendered to the devil, and now stands victorious over death, hell, satan, and everything else is staggering enough, but it doesn’t stop there. God has crucified our old nature, (Galatians 2:20) raised us with Christ, made us one spirit and one flesh with Jesus, (1 Corinthians 6:17, Ephesians 5:32) has seated us at His right hand with Christ, (Ephesians 2:6-7) and has given us the Kingdom, (Luke 12:32) making us monuments who will declare His greatness, glory, power, and mercy throughout the coming ages! All of this is not because we deserved it, not because we earned it, but because He is just that merciful! This is the best news in all of history!
This is where all of that awesome teaching comes in. We are supposed to “spur one another on toward love and good deeds”. (Hebrews 10:24) We are to stand as the light of the world, a city on a hill. (Matthew 5:14) We no longer act like people who are lost in darkness, we walk as ambassadors of the light. We treat our spouses, our families, our neighbors, our community, our finances, and any social context in which we find ourselves as though what the Gospel says about us is true; that we are one flesh with Jesus. As the Gospel transforms us, we ought to transform society, but if the out-working of the Gospel crowds out the actual Gospel in our thinking, speaking, and acting, we risk forgetting the Gospel and building on a faulty foundation.
In 2 Corinthians 5, Paul talks about the effects of the Gospel in our lives:
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin[b for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.2 Corinthians 5:17-21
If we are united with Christ in our identity, we are united with Him in His mission. His mission is reconciliation. We are His ambassadors, preaching the Gospel of reconciliation, and making His appeal to the world: “Be reconciled to God.” That is the one ministry we have! Whether we function as apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, or teachers; we are called to this one ministry and the diversity of our callings are simply illuminating different facets of the same glorious truth.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., a great civil rights leader, who’s ministry led to a radical and positive revolution in race relations in America said this about his life:
“before I was a civil rights leader, I was a preacher of the Gospel. This was my first calling, and it still remains my greatest commitment.”Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Dr. King had a calling to the culture and to politics. He was incredibly effective in this call because everything he preached and did in politics was built upon the foundation of the Gospel. He didn’t get so distracted by the outflow of the Gospel that he lost sight of the Gospel itself.
Building on the Gospel
It seems obvious, but I think it must be said. We cannot build churches on leadership, we cannot build churches on good music, we cannot build churches on spiritual gifts; Jesus will build His church on the Gospel. If we put our trust in leadership techniques, spiritual gifts, solid worship sets, great social programs, and clever sermon series’ to build our churches, our trust is misplaced. Only the Gospel can transform people’s hearts. If we are to be the Church which Jesus dreams about, we must allow Him to shape us into His image; we must get back to the Gospel.
May Gos bless you, and may you allow the Gospel to transform you more and more until you look just like Jesus.