Faith Meets World

Reflections on faith in a messed-up but beautiful world

Category: Gospel (Page 2 of 4)

Only one cross

CrucifixionThere are so many gospels out there.

But surely, I hear you object, there’s only one gospel?

Well, yes, there is only one actual, true gospel, but there are many false gospels masquerading as truth, often in perfectly respectable churches. Some of them are quite obvious – the health, wealth and prosperity gospel, perhaps, being the most blatant example – while others are much more subtle.

One thing these false gospels all have in common is that those who embrace them do not think of them as gospels at all. Indeed, most churches and Christians who embrace false gospels would very likely agree among themselves that “the gospel” is the message that if you pray the sinner’s prayer and do your best to live a life that honours God, Jesus will save you and you will go to heaven when you die. Most would agree that Jesus is the only way to salvation. However, while most churches may profess that belief, many have functional gospels that are quite different.

You see, I’m using the word gospel here to mean anything that promises life. I think this is justified. We live in a world of death, manifested in many forms: sickness, war, famine, poverty, slavery, relationship breakdown, stress, depression, and so on. In this world of death, “good news” is the word of life.

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A dramatic announcement

The events surrounding Augustus’s coming to power are […] ‘good news’, euangelia, a word virtually always in the plural in such contexts, though, interestingly, always in the singular in the New Testament. This ‘good news’ is not merely a nice piece of information to cheer you up on a bad day, but the public, dramatic announcement that something has happened through which the world has changed for ever and much for the better.

— N. T. Wright, Paul and the Faithfulness of God

A shocking gospel

There’s no way of preaching the gospel of forgiveness without shocking people with what seems to be the indiscriminateness of it.

— Robert Farrar Capon

No more excuses

We have no more excuses, not because we’re under judgment, but because we are free.

— Ken Blue and Alden Swan, The Gospel Uncensored

Grace for those who need it most

A couple of days ago, Matt B. Redmond reposted a fantastic little article from a few years back on his blog Echoes and Stars. Here’s a paragraph to whet your appetite:

Jesus came for those who look in the mirror and see ugliness. Jesus came for daughters whose fathers never told them they were beautiful. Christmas is for those who go to “wing night” alone. Christmas is for those whose lives have been wrecked by cancer and the thought of another Christmas seems like an impossible dream. Christmas is for those who would be nothing but lonely if not for social media. Christmas is for those whose marriages have careened against the retaining wall and are threatening to flip over the edge. Christmas is for the son, whose father keeps giving him hunting gear when the son wants art materials. Christmas is for smokers who cannot quit even in the face of a death sentence. Christmas is for whores, adulterers and porn stars who long for love in every wrong place. Christmas is for college students who are sitting in the midst of family and already cannot wait to get out for another drink. Christmas is for those who traffic in failed dreams. Christmas is for those who have squandered the family name and fortune – they want ‘home’ but cannot imagine a gracious reception. Christmas is for parents watching their children’s marriage fall into disarray.

Christmas is about the gospel of grace for those who need it.

Go and read the whole thing. This is what Christmas is about.

Free in his death

He will come to the world’s sins with no lists to check, no tests to grade, no debts to collect, no scores to settle. He will wipe away the handwriting that was against us and nail it to his cross (Colossians 2:14). He will save, not some minuscule coterie of good little boys and girls with religious money in their piggy banks, but all the stone-broke, deadbeat, overextended children of this world whom he… will set free in the liberation of his death.

— Robert Farrar Capon, The Parables of Grace

Getting the gospel right

The ‘good news’ is not, first and foremost, about something that can happen to us. What happens to us through the ‘gospel’ is indeed dramatic and exciting: God’s good news will catch us up and transform our lives and our hopes like nothing else. But the ‘good news’ which Paul announces is primarily good news about something that has happened, events through which the world is a different place. It is about what God has done in Jesus, the Messiah, Israel’s true king, the world’s true Lord.

— Tom Wright, Paul for Everyone – Romans Part 1: Chapters 1-8

Read the first line of the above quote again: the gospel is not primarily about something that can happen to us. I put that in bold because I’ve come to realise that it’s of fundamental importance. It’s so important, in fact, that if we get it wrong, we risk not only misunderstanding the entire point of the gospel but utterly misconstruing God and our relationship to Him. This is not hyperbole: I really believe it’s that serious, and I want you to see why.

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