Friday, January 04, 2013
THE GOSPEL: FEAR OR FULFILLMENT?
I can hardly believe it, but there are Christians today who are not convinced that preaching the unsearchable riches of Christ is as effective as preaching a gospel of fear, and fire, and eternal suffering.
If I hadn’t heard it myself, I wouldn’t believe it, but when a Christian brother responded to my assertion that the Gospel is “Good News” and that it’s about finding fulfillment in the marvelous person of Jesus by arguing that no one really needs Jesus today because they have great jobs and nice cars, I was flabbergasted.
Now, when I say that the Gospel is about discovering real life in Christ, I’m not talking about health and wealth or money in the bank. The life that Jesus came to give us was His own life. In fact, the life He gives us is the only real, actual “Life” in the universe. What we call “Life” today is simply existence and temporary breath. So, to say that those without Christ do not “need Christ” because they have “great jobs and nice cars” is to miss the point entirely.
Not only is it wrong for a Christian to miss the real hunger and desperation that every human soul experiences without Christ, it’s especially sad to think that we Christians might miss the extravagant treasures of Christ ourselves and settle for a God who is distant and two dimensional.
Never mind that most of us have come into Christianity by way of a Gospel that dealt mainly with our selfish desires to escape eternal torment, and that emphasizes the transactional elements of the atonement rather than the relational experience of knowing and loving Jesus with all of your heart, and all of your soul, and all of your mind.
Or, maybe we shouldn’t disregard that? I think that Christianity in America suffers from a serious misunderstanding of the Gospel message that Jesus himself came and died to preach. That Gospel was not about saying a prayer so that you could go to heaven when you die. No. The Gospel that Jesus preached and that the disciples preached was about the Kingdom of God which was wide open to anyone and everyone here and now. It was a Gospel for the living, not only for the day after you die.
On New Year’s Eve I spent some time sharing this with a brother in Christ who affirmed my convictions about the glorious riches of Christ. As someone who has spent some time dealing with his own issues, and has found Jesus at work in the recovery community, he agreed that people without Christ are desperate for all the things that are found only in Him. “Instead of trying to scare people into submission to Jesus, we should offer people the only true source of peace, of love, of life, and of hope," he said. "Those are the things people are dying for today. They need those things right now, not later on after they’re dead.”
Amen? Is Jesus the best thing in your life? Are you constantly in awe of His goodness? His faithfulness? His astounding love? If so, then share that same “Good News” with everyone around you who has yet to discover this marvelous, vibrant, extraordinary person we know as “Jesus”.
“Although I am less than the least of all the Lord’s people, this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ.” – (Eph.3:8)
Let's not reduce Jesus into a one-dimensional tool for escaping hell. He's so much greater than this. He is our example, our friend, our Good Shepherd, our daily bread, our High Priest, our Intercessor, our brother, and our Lord. We are compelled by scripture to love Him, to serve Him, to seek Him, to know Him, to obey Him, to follow Him, and to declare His excellent greatness to every creature.