The life, death, and resurrection of Jesus empowers us to live with hope, knowing we’ve been given the gift of eternal life. Therefore, suffering and adversity in this life are temporary. But, how do we share this fullness without making it overly complex? How do we prevent the Gospel from being moralistic or burdensome, and yet full of change and transformation?
At City to City, the agility and skill needed to do this well is what we call Gospel Fluency, and the way we teach it is by encouraging leaders to constantly return to the person and work of Jesus so that the vastness of God’s grace comes alive in them. He is the hero; his is the work; his is the gift; his is the glory and power.
Defining the Gospel
It doesn’t happen as often as I would like, but as a pastor, I’ll get the question asked genuinely but point blank: “What is the Gospel?”
It’s a tougher question to answer than I’d usually admit, and my instinct is to take them to the Apostle Paul:
“By this gospel you are saved… that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that He was buried, that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He appeared to Cephas, and then to the twelve.” (I Cor.15:2a, 3b-5)
This reminder in Paul’s first letter to the Corinthian church is one of the sharpest, most basic summaries of the Gospel. No doubt, every Christian should know the basic outline: Through Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection, the power of God’s salvation is unleashed into the world, and particularly into the lives of sinners who trust and receive him. It’s a quick answer to a quick question.
But what I really want to say is that the impact of that story is not quickly summarized. It’s vast. It’s full of gifts. It transforms every area of life. It is so far-reaching that it will take a lifetime of discovery and rediscovery. It requires examination and new learning to apply.
It is so big that it also requires a constant defense against the tendency to emphasize one aspect of the Gospel over another. We all have emphases we like. Christians usually have familiarity with the emphases of their own church, denomination, or tradition.
The Gospel Changes Everything
The Gospel is the message of the forgiveness of sins so that your relationship with God is restored. That’s how the Gospel was originally explained to me. So it changes how I look at myself in the mirror every day — I’m a sinner saved by Grace. But it took a while for me to realize that, when Jesus says he also came to, “set the oppressed free,” and “proclaim good news to the poor,” he means that’s part of his saving project too.
The Gospel is the power of the resurrection unleashed on the real world as tangible justice. So if I follow him, it changes how I relate to those with or without social advantages. The Gospel is the gift of the Holy Spirit, so I can no longer live as if my effort in the visible world is all there is. The Gospel is the gift of eternal life, so I have a way of facing suffering as temporary.
Preaching the Gospel
Christ is his own correction. He is his own evidence. Returning to him, whether preach is ing, “God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son,” from John 3:16 or, “He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor,” from Luke 4. Both describe the good news of the savior Jesus. Only by continually returning to the story of Jesus will we not forget the saving power of both, and offer him to our neighbors effectively.
To quote our friends Alan Hirsch and Michael Frost: “We must constantly return to Jesus to authenticate as well as legitimize ourselves as his people. We have no other point by which to set our coordinates or any other touchstone by which we can assess the abiding validity of our faith…The challenge before us is to let Jesus be Jesus and to allow ourselves to be caught up in his extraordinary mission for the world.”