Previously, we started looking at two of three "whole" statements, the "whole World" and "whole Church" as expressed in the in the Lausanne statement: "Global evangelization requires the whole Church, taking the whole Gospel, to the whole world." Dr. Wright is beginning his book by introducing these "wholes." Understanding what is meant by the "whole Church, whole Gospel, whole world" will help us to live God's mission for his people. One of the key ideas that we touched on so far is the "everything" of the mission of God's people which must be embedded in our thinking for living sent, on missions, in the world and as the Church. Now what about the third "whole" - the Gospel? Does that include everything too?
The other day, while driving and listening to the radio, I heard an idea that was captivating - "the Gospel is the reversal of how the world thinks." It was from an advertisement on a Christian station. While I don't recall what the ad was about, I do recall my reaction - "that's it, isn't it?" I proclaimed to myself. I had never quite heard the Gospel defined in those terms before, as a reversal of how the "world thinks." But the more I thought about the depth of that statement the more I began to understand how true that statement is, when you think about all that the Gospel reverses.
The Gospel redeems (1 Peter 1:18), restores (1 Peter 5:10 )and renews (Romans 12:2 ) all of which are reversals. The Gospel reserves the curse (Galatians 3:13), it cures man of himself (Ephesians 2:5), and it sets right what is wrong (John 16:8). The Gospel is the power of salvation for those who believe (Romans 1:16). The Gospel empowers us to overcome our worldly thinking and now think as Kingdom citizens as we think Christ's thoughts (1 Corinthians 2:16 ). The Gospel gives life to that which is dead as is it's most important reversal (Colossians 2:13). So in every sense the Gospel is everything that is different from our fallen natural world. The Gospel that has been called God's plan of redemption, and it is certainly that, could equally be called God's plan for the Great Reversal.
"So it is written: “The first man Adam became a living being” ; the last Adam, a life-giving spirit." (1 Corinthians 15:45). And that is Good News!
Question: How have you previously thought about the Gospel?
Dr. Ralph Winter spoke of a "Great Reversal" from another perspectives. He noted the reversal from a holistic Gospel up to the mid 19th century that involved all areas of life that God was redeeming to a narrow, sin management, spiritual salvation message focused on a confession of personal faith that became the Evangelical message of the 20th Century. Richard Stearn, President of World Vision, writes about the "hole in the Gospel" which is a reversal from the whole Gospel that neglected care of the poor to what is "true Christianity." Stearn's writes as a response to the election: "Christians can stop worrying about the symbols of the decline of Christian America" an important reversal, "and get back to the mission Jesus gave us to show the world a different way to live -- a way that demonstrates the great character of God: his love, his justice, his compassion, his forgiveness and his reconciliation." (read the article here.) All of which is certainly an important reversal of how the Church thinks and operates.
What if we saw the Gospel as the cosmic Great Reversal it is - from darkness to light, from brokenness to restoration, from despair to hope, from lostness to foundness, from anxiety to peace, from sickness to health, from captivity to liberty? Could we then begin to understand the depth, breadth and width of the "everything" of the Gospel as it is meant to be if "Christ is all." All of these ideas are expressed Biblically concerning the Gospel but we have reduced the grand and glorious Good News to a formula, marginalized it to a concept and too often trivialized it in the Church. If Christ is all, and he is, why wouldn't we want to plunge the glorious depths of the "everything" of the Gospel and the riches of all that he (for the Gospel is Christ who is all and in all) offers us?
Question: What could you add to the above list of Gospel reversals?
Wright asks what is the scale and scope of God's redemption? I think we can say it is the redemption reclamation, restoration, and renewal of every human system and central to that is every human person, according to the will of God who makes this life available to all. Every human system is based on how humans think, even to some extent the human body itself, as we interact with God's creation. But can we, as we grasp the expanse of the whole Gospel, really change "everything" about the human system? To some degree yes although as the old saying goes there are two certainties in life - death and taxes. To those certainties we must add the Good News that in Christ we now have the power to reverse our wrong thinking and live the life of repentance He calls us to.
Question: Have you previously considered that repentance is a reversal of how you think?
We are just getting started. There is much that needs to be explored and expanded on the "everything" of the whole Gospel. Which is why Wright takes use on this Biblical exploration of the Mission of God's People. We are only just beginning to explore the whole realm of truth packed within the pages of the Bible. I think this exploration will take us outside some of the traditional thinking with respect to how we tend to limit the Gospel. But that's wholly okay so long as we explore the full biblical content. We don't want to let our passions about what we believe to be true about the Gospel interfere with what actually is for as Wright points out...
"One of the dangers with a word like "gospel' is that we all love is so much (rightly), and want to share it so passionately (rightly again), that we don't take the time to explore it's full biblical content."That's the journey we are on for Living Sent Today.In the next post we will begin Chapter 2 - "People Who Know The Story They Are Part Of"