This Sunday, Kyle brought us the final installment in our "Called to Mission" series. He began with a recap of what we've learned so far. As those called to mission, we have a:
- Mandate to go and make disciples; a
- Model in God Himself; a
- Motivation in God's glory; a
- Mark to leave as salt and light; the
- Means to fulfill our mission through the Holy Spirit; and the
- Methods to use in sharing our faith. (See also here and here)
This Sunday, Kyle added a 7th M-word to the list. We also have a particular message to share.
What the gospel is not:
It's important to understand what the gospel does and does not include if we're going to share it. First, here's what the gospel isn't:
- Merely therapeutic -- primarily about my comfort, needs, and/or prosperity
- Only about God's love and friendship with no mention of His holiness
- Moralistic -- mostly about our good behavior
- Activist -- only about social changes to the exclusion of personal changes
Of course, the gospel includes some aspect of all those points, but each of them is only a partial account of the good news. God does want us to be happy, but true happiness is achieved through the process of becoming holy, which does not always include material comforts and temporary pleasures. God does want to be our friend, but we must first cease to be His enemy. God does want us to have good behavior, but He wants us to have changed hearts even more. And God does want us to work for justice in the here and now, but He wants us to do so in light of His future coming, when He will make all things new.
What the gospel is:
The gospel is a story, both cosmic and personal in scope.
- The Exposition: God creates a perfect world (cosmic) and He creates humankind to reflect His image and be in perfect relationship with Him (personal).
- The Conflict: Adam and Eve sin, introducing death and decay into the universe. Everything is affected by this cosmic fall. On a personal note, man falls out of perfect relationship with God and no longer reflects His image rightly. We become separated from God and subject to death.
- The Climax: Christ, God in the flesh, descends to earth, lives perfectly, dies on the cross as a perfect sacrifice, and rises from the dead, conquering sin, death, and the devil; He ascends into heaven to reign. On a cosmic level, Christ's reign over creation is established, and death and decay begin to reverse. All that is good and beautiful and true in this world is a gift of grace to us, made possible through Christ's death and resurrection. On a personal level, humanity's sin is atoned for. We can now enter into a relationship with God by faith in Christ and begin the process of being remade in Christ's image.
- The Resolution: This is the part we're waiting for -- Christ's return, when He makes all things new. Death will die. There will be a new heaven and a new earth. The whole universe will be made even better than it was before the fall. And we, too, will be made new. All the struggling and stumbling we experience in this life will be gone as we are made complete in Christ. We'll be in perfect, face-to-face relationship with God. And we'll get new bodies, too, that won't feel pain or suffering.
In order to experience the benefits of a relationship with God, we must respond to Christ. We must turn away from sin and self and turn toward Christ in trust.
How do we share this good news with others?
Now that we know the story of the gospel, how should we go about sharing it? Here's a 4-part plan based on the teachings of the good people at Time to Revive.
- Love people -- Love is our goal when we approach people. If we come at people with any "agenda" at all, it should be to love them, to serve them, to meet their needs and help them.
- Learn from and listen to them -- We need to get to know people and truly listen to them before we go in with a sermon. We need to know how to best meet their needs and to learn from them in humility.
- Discern the next step -- not every encounter will warrant a full-on gospel message. Sometimes, a person will just need prayer or to talk about the existence of God or about a particular struggle in their lives. As you love and listen, pay attention to the Holy Spirit's guidance about the wisest way to proceed.
- Respond -- this could be prayer, this could be sharing your own testimony, or it could be outlining the full gospel story. When in doubt, focus on Jesus; it's ultimately about Him.
Questions to Consider:
- Have I believed the true gospel? What false versions of the gospel do I need to correct in myself?
- Who do I know who needs to hear the true story of the gospel?
- What opportunities already exist for me to love and learn from others as I seek to share Christ with them?
- How will I step out in faith to share the gospel today?