Monday, April 21, 2008

The Message of the Gospel?

It is not uncommon around church circles, for people to have various takes on "what is the gospel." We can all answer, Good News. But what does that mean? I believe, the gospel is this:
God, the creator, sent His son, Jesus, in the flesh to redeem humanity back to Himself through his death and resurrection in order for us to live in intimate community with Him.

I can nuance the phrases and add more meat to it, but bottom line, that is where I stand on the gospel. Incarnation. Redemption. Reconciliation.

But what about hope? You like me have heard the lessons and have taught them. So often I have thought "if only those people knew Christ, their life would be hopeful and fulfilled." Interesting. I am beginning to think that is not as true as I would like it to be. If knowing Christ brings fulfilled lives, then our churches would be full of people who would circle "fulfilled" on the great survey of life. And, the flip side is that non-believers would be desperate in their hopelessness and unfulfillment. Not exactly true. Take Oprah. She is intensely spiritual, not a Christian in my estimation, but a God lover for sure. Do you think she sees her life as hopeless and unfulfilled. What about Katie Couric, Diane Sawyer, Barbara Walters - none of them known Christians and none of them wailing in their own hopelessness or unfulfillment either. What about the guy across the road from me. Nice guy. Friendly. Kind. Non-Christian. Happy. Hopeful. Fulfilled.

Now it would be naive to believe this to be the case in every situation. The world is full of hopelessness and lack of fulfillment. But here is my point. I think if we are going to spread the good news about Christ, it needs to be about what life looks like with Christ. It needs to be about community, about serving something other than ourselves, about sacrifice, about joy and about the kind of hope that comes from Christ. We can not assume that all people who do not know Christ are unhappy, miserable, unfulfilled and hopeless. Many have dandy lives. Our job is to help them see that when our stories merge with the great story of God, something happens. Something bigger than ourselves, something transformational, something more than happiness.

You may agree or disagree. These are just my musings on a Monday morning. I just wonder if what we sometimes spread as good news, is underwhelming to people. If all we are promising is fulfillment and God as the ultimate vending machine, that may not be that attractive to a people who are already quite happy with life. However, if our good news calls them to something more in life, we may have some takers.


Angel said...

I have been pondering this for a while. I have a friend who is an atheist. She and her family seem very "fulfilled," yet she has commented to a mutual christian friend that the friend has a deeper joy. I guess you have to show the depth of a christian life to those who are fulfilled. People today don't seem to go very deep, or to even recognize there could be depth. As for those christians who don't appear to be fulfilled, they certainly make our job harder. They seem to do more for the enemy than for the Master.

preacherman said...

Great post.
Excellent blog.
I hope you have a wonderful week.
I hope you had a great earth day!

jamie riley said...

Arlene - I really appreciate how you said...
"I just wonder if what we sometimes spread as good news, is underwhelming to people."

You have a refreshing spirit, and a gift with words. Thanks for sharing them with us...

Have a great night...


Cassie said...

So true! What a good way to tell people about Christ and to try to explain the change that happens when you accept Christ! Thank you for your encouragement!

Frank Bellizzi said...


First, I like your definition of "gospel" as a noun. It's worth considering too that "to gospel" is a NT verb, in which case the question goes from "What is it?" to "What is its action?" or "What does gospeling look like?"

What I think I hear you saying is that the verification of the truth of the gospel, and its appeal to non-Christians, cannot be based on the notion that "Your life will have SO much more meaning. You'll be SO much more fulfilled." I agree with you.

Since being called a Christian is in our context so easy and popular, it's also easy and popular for us to mute the New Testament's teaching that if people want to live a godly life in Christ Jesus they're going to be persecuted; that unless the Resurrection is real, Christians are the most pitiful people on earth; that we Christians not only carry around in our bodies the life of Jesus, but also his death.

In terms of humility and glory, who has gone lower and higher than Christ? And Christians are supposed to be like Him. So, I think that if a person is doing it right, Christian life means that there is both unspeakable joy, but also willing participation in the sufferings of Christ.

But even then, people get quite happy about things that, according to us, don't matter (the idolatry that surrounds us); conversely, people sacrifice and get themselves killed for things that are downright ungodly (Nazi leaders). Who measures the highs and the lows?

I've decided that I'm a Christian not because Christianity's logic compels me, or because it's got a superior benefits package, or anything like that. But I do believe the gospel of Christ is true.

5 Johnson Kids said...

Incarnation gets so overlooked in the face of the death and resurrection of Christs. But He FIRST was made incarnate- lived and dwelled among us. Is this not the gospel?

We focus on the death/burial/resurrection (rightly so) but often to the neglect of the gospel message becoming incarnate in the fully God, fully Man presence of Jesus.

Community, community, community. Incarnate amongst yourselves. This is a compelling witness to the world.

Arlene Kasselman said...

thanks for your thoughts on this. I agree that sometimes the witness of Christians is not compelling.

Thanks for stopping by. Always know that I am lifting you up in prayer.

So good to stop by your blog and read your insights.

Don't you love that God meets us where we are but loves us enough to change us and shape us into something transformed.

YES! Beautifully stated.

Community is our witness to the world.