Thursday, February 14, 2008

The True Gospel

I have been hearing a lot lately about the true gospel. There seem to be many opinions that sound very different on the surface - but as I dig and wind through to clarify my understanding, they aren't really so different. What the true gospel consists of seems almost universal in understanding: This Jesus of Nazareth who died on the cross and rose from the dead, fulfills the promise of God in the Old Testament as atonement for our sin, and He alone can give eternal life to those who believe in this. Now there are many disagreements on HOW and for WHOM the promise is fulfilled...

...but maybe it would be easier to focus on one thing at a time. {c;

Is the gospel not simply the story - never told in specifically the same way more than once in scripture, by the way - about the salvation given to each man/women who tells it? I find it interesting that one person's experience with accepting the witness of the gospel emphasizes mercy, another eternal life, another love. Are they wrong? Shouldn't they see that my emphasis is certainly more correct than yours? Or could it be that a particular perceived emphasis is exactly what the Holy Spirit uses at the correct place and time in a man's life to persuade him to faith?

I've known people to listen to the brief testimony of one bumbling unskilled speaker, with no colorful beaded bracelet to make sure she's covered every point, and be fully persuaded that Christ is salvation and ready to accept whatever the Word and Spirit reveals - without ever opening a Bible. I've also known people who have had to study and wrestle with scripture for years, ask theological scholars of every denomination on every call radio station, and fully reconcile each historical event of the Bible before coming to faith in Christ.

Was either one less rescued than the other?

Let's look at one example. I will use my experience, because... well, it's what I know. One faction calling their idea of the "gospel emphasis" the true gospel seems to focus on ETERNAL LIFE. That would never have worked on me! I agree that eternal life is definitely a part of the gospel - a critical part. Leaving out eternal life is not like leaving out an "a" or a "the" - it would be death to leave it out. But if your gospel only included or over-emphasized ETERNAL LIFE, I never would have listened.

I grew up imagining my bones feeding the earth upon my death - and that seemed heavenly to me. It still does. Eternal rest is what appeals to me! I was poor, broken and weary long before I should have been (not gathering pity, as I believe many feel this way even before adolescence!) MORE life, ugghh!?!?

And even today, as I rejoice in the eternity I will spend with the Lord, whenever I hear someone extolling gratitude for eternal life, I can't help but think of these words from our Savior:

Matthew 16:25
For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it.

Mark 8:35
For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it.

Luke 9:24
For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it.
These reasons dissuade me from holding ETERNAL LIFE as the emphasis in my gospel. But that's just my gospel - my "gospel emphasis" probably wouldn't work for you either.

The Voice grows hoarse...

I will share more tomorrow!

There is no reason to listen if I cannot hear.
Just Another Voice,

9 comments:

Antonio said...

Missy,

Interesting thoughts. I have much to say, but only one thing for now. The three verses you quoted, what do you suppose they mean and why do they dissuade you from emphasizing eternal life in "your" gospel?

Thanks in advance,

Antonio

Another Voice said...

Antonio, to me these scriptures all speak to trusting in Christ more than self. The personal information I listed above these scriptures were my reasons. They are simply out-of-context words that immediately enter my mind when eternal life is the focus of praise, in a worship service for example.

I think these scriptures enter my mind, because motive is something I look at frequently in my walk. I have a tendency to do what's right for the wrong reason - I want to be right, and I want to get an A. I have a heart very similar to the pharisees that Jesus so often rebukes. Knowing this about myself, I don't want my relationship with the Lord to be about the reward I get in the end - and I have a hard time believing that God's intent is to buy my affection with that reward.

Mind you my point is not that the Eternal Life emphasis is wrong - my point is that it was wrong for me. And by "my" gospel, I mean the information required to persuade ME to faith in Christ.

Thanks for asking. I look forward to your thoughts!

Missy

Kc said...

I'm anxious to hear what part of the Gospel appeals to you. I guess I'm really curious to know how God worked to bring you to Christ.

Missy said...

Well, KC, the short of it is, He brought Christ to me. :)

I'm working on my thoughts, Bro...

Antonio said...

Missy,

#1) Eternal life was the focus of Christ's message in the only expressely stated evangelistic book in the Canon

#2) The verses you quote have nothing whatsoever to do with eternal salavation from hell. They are discipleship passages. If someone wishes to have the abundant life, with purpose, meaning, and significance, life in the temporal now, he will lose his life to himself and live for Christ, for such living is the abundant life. And this is the life that transects into eternity, a life that is worthy of reward. But if someone saves his own life, in the sense of pursuing his own interests in life, he will lose the life he could have had now, and will have a radical discontinuity of experience when he goes into the kingdom.

The verses you quote are not simple salvation passages, but discipleship passages to those who already are saved.

Antonio

Another Voice said...

Antonio,

#1) Which book is that, and in who's Canon? ;)

#2) I have always assumed that the discipleship principles Jesus teaches would be in line with God's character. Would the character of His intent be different for salvation than it is for discipleship?

(Aside: And, this may give away the conclusion of my story, but I don't believe the kingdom is where we are going to go - I beleive it's already here. Another time, perhaps?)

Rose~ said...

Interesting thoughts, Missy.

Another Voice said...

Oh, how the word "interesting" makes me wonder...

Thanks for reading, Rose!

karen said...

girrlll! I can't keep up with you. I just found this. I need to read.