Tuesday, July 07, 2009

How I Got Here - Gospel

The Gospel as been described as a pool in which a toddler can wade and yet an elephant can swim. It is both simple enough to tell to a child and profound enough for the greatest minds to explore.

A little over a year ago I was at the Exponential Church Planting Conference in Orlando. One of the keynote speakers was Tim Keller. He gave a talk on the Gospel. He said that when you read the New Testament, it can seem at times as if there are two gospels. There's the gospel that Jesus preached, and there's the gospel that Paul preached. As you read this, you'll probably have one of two reactions: either Keller is a heretic for saying this, or you can relate to this tension. As I listened to his talk, and later read this article, I found myself in the second camp.

I was raised understanding the gospel (good news) as follows: God created me for relationship with Him. However, my sin caused that good relationship to be broken. Jesus died on the Cross as the penalty for my sin. Because of this amazing act, I can be forgiven and cleansed. To top it off, when I die I will spend the rest of eternity with God in heaven.

Keller describes this "form" of the gospel as Paul's gospel of justification. It's also seen in John's gospel. There's another form of the gospel, though. It's the form, or expression, found in the Synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke). This can be described as the gospel of the Kingdom, and it's the form that I began discovering several years ago.

I began to understand that Jesus came not just to forgive me of my sins and provide a way for me to go to heaven. His plan was much bigger than that. I was drawn to texts such as Luke 4:16-21, and I began hearing people talk about topics such as peace and justice. I began to understand that Jesus came to redeem the entire world. The gospel was no longer so much about me, but was instead about God's Kingdom coming on earth as it is in heaven.

Keller says that we are not dealing with two gospels, but instead with two different forms of one gospel. John and often Paul speak of the individual implications of the gospel (eternal life), while Matthew, Mark and Luke speak of the corporate implications (how the gospel changes society). Both are essential. In this article Keller goes on to explain how he preaches these two expressions of the gospel, yet rarely ever at the same time.

I found this article to be so refreshing and helpful. I'll leave you with Keller's definition of the gospel (if it's possible to put the gospel into one statement, Keller does a fine job doing it):
Through the person and work of Jesus Christ, God fully accomplishes salvation for us, rescuing us from judgment for sin into fellowship with him, and then restores the creation in which we can enjoy our new life together with him forever.

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