Saturday, February 8, 2014

Rethinking Gospel: Taking Possession of “My Gospel”

“Now to him who is able to establish you in accordance with my gospel, the message I proclaim about Jesus Christ, in keeping with the revelation of the mystery hidden for long ages past, but now revealed and made known through the prophetic writings by the command of the eternal God, so that all the Gentiles might come to the obedience that comes from faith—“

What was Paul proclaiming as his message and what did he mean by “my Gospel?”

Clearly Paul had a much different idea about the Gospel than many understand it today. I mean, who really talks about “my Gospel?”

For Paul, the Gospel was not an ethereal idea about making a “decision” to get “saved,” as some future benefit. Of course, eternal salvation is central to the Gospel and Paul elsewhere talks about the Gospel of your salvation (actually Romans 1:16 and Ephesians 1:13 are the only two verses that directly link the words Gospel and salvation in a single verse). But for Paul, there was much more to the Good News than making a decision. It only started there. 

There is something complete, compelling, and clarifying in what Paul is expressing here when he says, “Now to him who is able to establish you in accordance with my gospel.” Paul understood what he had been “saved” from (Romans 5:6-7). More importantly, Paul knew what he was “saved” to, what he was established by, what gave direction and definition to his life (Ephesians 1:17-20). But Paul knew he was still a work in progress for he says, “not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.” (Philippians 3:12). 

Paul’s message wasn’t just something that he added to his life, as a one-time decision. His message was his very life, because his Gospel was Jesus Christ himself. This Gospel made Paul who he was and by Him he lived, worked and persevered for his Gospel – His Jesus. Paul did so not for his own sake, to his gain alone, but so that “that all the Gentiles might come to the obedience that comes from faith.”
That is what Paul wanted to establish in the Romans he was writing to as well. Paul had just written a very lengthy letter about all he understood about his Gospel. The Gospel had taken hold of all of Paul’s life. Paul had taken possession of his Gospel, or better his Gospel had taken possession of Paul. 

How different this is for most American Christians.  More importantly, we should ask, how is this different in my life? 

I know some of have taken possession of their Gospel.  Their lives are wholly dedicated, defined and directed by their Gospel. There is nothing more that they want in life than to live for their Gospel. We commonly call them missionaries, wherever they serve. They can also be called World Christians  - those who understand their mission, as being part of God’s mission. They are not a special breed of elite Christian. They do however possess a knowledge, a testimony, that activates and animates their lives – just as Paul had. 

What do those who know “my Gospel” understand differently? For one, like Paul, they understand that they have died to self and they live for Christ (Galatians 2:20). This makes the Gospel theirs. They also understand that the Gospel is not about them but rather and most importantly it is about God. They live for God’s purpose in the world, not their own. They then ask different questions and set different priorities. 

Recently, I came across an excellent post, written about one of my favorite books, that provides a good framework by which to rethink taking possession of “my Gospel.” The writer of this post draws a dichotomy between what most of us think is important against the real questions and consideration we need to be making.  We can frame it as the difference between being a worldly Christian and a World Christian. 

Below are six points to prayerfully consider and use as a gauge. It would be a good exercise to honestly grade yourself on where you fit on this scale: 

Worldly Christian ----1----2-----3----4----5----6----7----8----9----10----World Christian

  • We ask, ‘Where does God fit into the story of my life?’ when the real question is where does my little life fit into the great story of God’s mission.

  • We want to be driven by a purpose that has been tailored just right for our own individual lives, when we should be seeing the purpose of all life, including our own, wrapped up in the great mission of God for the whole of creation.

  • We talk about ‘applying the Bible to our lives’. What would it mean to apply our lives to the Bible instead, assuming the Bible to be the reality — the real story — to which we are called to conform ourselves?

  • We wrestle with ‘making the gospel relevant to the world’. But in this story, God is about the business of transforming the world to fit the shape of the gospel.

  • We argue about what can legitimately be included in the mission that God expects from the church, when we should ask what kind of church God wants for the whole range of his mission.
  • I may wonder what kind of mission God has for me, when I should be asking what kind of me God wants for his mission.
Perhaps you don’t know God’s mission. That’s not uncommon, many Christians don’t. I will be blogging more about this in future posts and mentioned some resources in this post. To take possession of “my Gospel” we must move along this scale toward living fully as World Christians, and let that define our lives. 

Paul lived to bring definition from God’s perspective in all areas of his life and ministry, therefore, he knew the Gospel was his. No price was too big, no challenge too great, no obstacle too large to find his place in God’s story for God’s mission, toward the transformation of God’s world, for the glory of God among the nations. I am evaluating what this means for me, how I can rethink the Gospel through these 6 points…for Living Sent Today.

1 comment:

  1. Excellent article. I'm saving in my ευενγελλιον file!