WARNING! INTERACTIVE BLOG POST AHEAD!
In my last post I talked about how taking time to intentionally refresh my soul with the gospel was used by God to save my faith. The words of Jesus are “full of the Spirit and life“(John 6:63). When I let the core message of Jesus sink into my soul, I find my faith increased to the point of no return – I simply can’t believe that anything else is more true than the gospel. So in this post I’m inviting you to join me in this process as a kind of spiritual practice for our mutual edification (which is just a fancy word for building each other up and helping each other grow).
To help ourselves experience this kind of “gospel refresh” I think three elements are important:
- Learning and loving the words of Jesus themselves (acknowledging that we don’t have the actual words of Jesus in Hebrew/Aramaic since the gospels were written in Greek and now translated into our language). It is important to get the gospel inside us as it is articulated in Scripture. Our gospel cheat sheet can help you with this.
- Hearing and cherishing the various ways other believers have articulated the gospel in their own words, with fresh terminology and analogies. This second stage is only valuable if we are committed to the first. But once we know and are committed to returning to the gospel in the words of Scripture, hearing other voices rephrase the same truth in different ways helps us get it into our bones. In fact, even when we find ourselves disagreeing with how other Christians paraphrase the gospel (which I often experience, including an example I’ve listed below), even that mental interaction, theological objection, and cognitive reframing is helping us deepen and develop our understanding of the gospel.
- Articulating the gospel in your own words, speaking it back to yourself as well as to others. This is something the early church did regularly: they reminded each other of the basics of the gospel over and over (e.g., 1 Corinthians 15:1; 2 Peter 1:12-15), and they preached this good news to others (e.g., Acts 17:22-31), while using fresh language and imagery to communicate the same timeless truth.
I was listening to New Testament scholar Craig Evans recently talk about Matthew 13:52 where, after teaching in parables, Jesus goes on to say:
“Therefore every teacher of the law who has become a disciple in the kingdom of heaven is like the owner of a house who brings out of his storeroom new treasures as well as old.” (Jesus)
Evans sees this as Jesus encouraging his disciples to learn how to articulate the gospel both in familiar ways from Scripture and also in fresh expressions of the same message, through the leading of the Holy Spirit. Jesus knew that his disciples didn’t really know his teaching if they could merely repeat his teaching. A trained parrot can do that. To really get to know a message, we need to do more than memorize it; we need to do the work of developing our own expression of it. When we expand and contract a teaching, rearrange the presentation, and find new words and images – this process helps us better understand and communicate the same message. (This, by the way, explains why the apostle Paul and other New Testament leaders tend not to quote Jesus as often as they rephrases, expand, and apply the teaching of Jesus in their context. That’s what true disciples are supposed to do!)
I’m convinced that learning to express the words of Jesus in our own words is a key element for our gospel refresh and our continued discipleship. Wanna try?
For step 1, as I’ve already mentioned, I recommend our gospel cheat sheet for an overview of gospel scripture passages to review.
For step 2, below are a couple of my own paraphrases of the gospel plus one I’ve heard used by another Christian church from a different tradition.
For step 3, I’m going to invite you to craft your own paraphrase and, if you’re willing, share it with the rest of us as a comment on this blog post.
But first, here are some examples to help you with step 2…
EXAMPLE 1: The Gospel in Thirty Words
Jesus is God with us, come to
SHOW US God’s love,
SAVE US from sin,
SET UP God’s kingdom, and
SHUT DOWN religion, so we can
SHARE IN God’s life.
EXAMPLE #2: The Gospel of Love (from the last post)
- The creative Force that is the Source and Sustainer of all things is pure Love. We were made by love, and we are kept alive by love. It’s always relating, always engaging – it is the pure spiritual light of Love. This is what we call God, our Source and our Sustainer. That’s the universe we live in.
- That Love made us in his own image and likeness, to reflect and magnify this love to each other and to all creation. All people, Christian or not, are made in the image of God and have the potential, if we live in tune with our Source and Sustainer, to amplify that love around the planet. He wants to work in partnership with us because that’s what love does.
- We have distorted our own calling and have wandered off the path of our purpose. We have turned love into a selfish thing rather than other-centered service. We have used creation and we have used other people to serve our own agendas. We’ve reversed the polarity on love, increasing our separation rather than unity.
- Jesus is The-God-Who-Is-Love come to us in our own form to lead us home. Jesus is the place where God and humanity experience (re)union, and he embodies for us the way of love, peace, simplicity, and grace. Grace, that great irreligious concept of God coming to us and gifting us with everything that religion tries, but fails, to accomplish.
- Right now, we can trust this good news of Jesus and receive his life and love as a gift. We can begin to live loved, because we are. And we can pour out divine love to others and to all creation, because God himself is empowering us through the Holy Spirit to be fully ourselves, the image bearers of pure love.
EXAMPLE #3: The Gospel of salvation from sin and wrath
God is a righteous, just, and holy God. We are his creation and are responsible to him. There is coming a day when everyone will be judged in righteousness. All of us will be guilty on that day of judgement because all of us have broken God’s law. We have lied, stolen, lusted, used God’s name in vain, etc. He knows every sin we have committed in word, thought, and deed. God is good and just and therefore must punish our sin. The penalty for sin is eternity in hell. No amount of good works, apologies, or confessions can erase our sin. But God, in his mercy, has provided a way for his justice to be satisfied and our sin to be forgiven. In love Jesus Christ came, fully God and fully man, and lived a perfect sinless life. He was murdered on a cross and rose from the dead on the third day. Christ, though innocent, bore our sins on that cross, satisfying God’s wrath against our sin. God commands you to repent, to turn from your sin and turn to Christ in faith, trusting that Christ died in your place. If you will do this, the Bible says that Christ will bear your sin and give you his righteousness. You’ll be made new and you will have peace with God and have eternal life. When you face God it will not be in judgement but with joy. Repent and trust in Christ today, and you will be forgiven of your sin, reconciled to your Creator, and will enjoy him forever in heaven.
Three very different summaries, eh? So now it’s your turn! Here’s what I’m asking: please take some time with this as a spiritual discipline. Refresh your thinking with Scripture. Meditate on the examples above, interact with them, disagree with them, think through them. Then, write your own, and, if you would be so kind, please post it in the comments! Then check back later and see what other gospel summaries have been posted as well. We can help one another interact with and deepen our understanding of the gospel by sharing our own formations of this message, the good news of Jesus, for seekers, saints, and sinners.
Let the gospel refresh begin!