Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Is this the Essence of the Gospel?

It has been really good to try to come up with a definition of the term "Gospel." John Newton was absolutely right - God's grace is amazing. When you think about the Gospel from the perspective of God's glory, His love and righteousness, it blows the mind and you can't help worshiping Him. So, here goes with my attempt to define "the Gospel":

The Gospel is God’s good news, whereby He demonstrates His glorious character throughout the universe[1] by creating human beings for relationship with Himself[2], knowing, however, that we would all rebel against Him[3]. The good news includes God’s provision of all the means necessary through His Son Jesus Christ, to reconcile rebellious humanity to Himself, by judging our sin, satisfying His wrath against us, paying the just penalty for our sin, giving us the faith[4] to trust His complete provision for us, and declaring us righteous and forgiven. In all of this, God displays His glory as He magnifies, rather than diminishes, His holiness, justice, righteousness, goodness and love.

[1] Eph. 3:7-10: Of this gospel I was made a minister according to the gift of God’s grace, which was given me by the working of his power. 8To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, 9and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things, 10so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.
[2] Acts 17:24-27a: The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, 25nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. 26And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, 27 that they should seek God, in the hope that they might feel their way toward him and find him.
[3] Romans 3:9-18: 9What then? Are we Jews any better off? No, not at all. For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin, 10as it is written: "None is righteous, no, not one; 11no one understands; no one seeks for God. 12All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one." 13 "Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive." "The venom of asps is under their lips." 14 "Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness." 15 "Their feet are swift to shed blood; 16in their paths are ruin and misery, 17and the way of peace they have not known." 18 "There is no fear of God before their eyes."
[4] Eph. 2:8-9: For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Just what IS the Gospel, anyway?

If you were to give a 2 or 3 sentence statement of what the Gospel is, what would you say? What is the essence of the Gospel? is it the answer to these questions (who God is, who we are, what God did to redeem, and what God's purpose is for our redeemed lives)? How would you answer somebody who asked you "Just what IS the Gospel, anyway?"

Awhile ago, in response to someone's question to me, I said that the Gospel is this: that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself. But that answer really doesn't get the essence of what the Gospel is, because it's incomplete. The definition probably should include something about God's identity and character, as well as ours, to demonstrate that there is a gulf between us that is uncrossable by any effort of my own. It should include something that describes that God did everything that was necessary for me to be reconciled to Himself, and why He would even care to do such a thing. It ought to say something about how that reconciliation happened (happens?) and how it gets to be reality in my life, and then, finally, how the rest of my life is lived.

Just thinking. More to come on this, as my husband and I dig through Paul's letter to the Romans.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Who Gets the Breaks in Prayer?

We had a sermon at church this morning that felt as if the pastor had been hiding in our living room, watching me grapple with things over the past year. The sermon was on Psalm 73, in which Asaph chronicals his struggles with why God lets the wicked profit, while Asaph and other "good people" struggle and suffer, even though they are trying to live to please their Lord. We heard a quote during the sermon, and I want to repeat it here:

God's children must learn to think maturely about prayer. During World War II, HIS magazine ran a brief article by an army chaplain entitled "Some Pray and Die." The following quote from this article summarizes mature thinking on prayer:--

"Is there such a thing as getting the ‘breaks’ in prayer? What about the fellows who pray regularly, but get killed regularly? I wish people would stop writing about the soldiers who pray and have their prayers answered by not getting killed. Why do all the other soldiers seem to get the wrong answer? What I want to know is this: what sort of an extra-special, super-powered prayer is needed to make everything turn out the way you want it? That sounds facetious, almost irreverent, but I'm serious. I really want to know. I'm an army chaplain, and I could use some special prayers with my men--and heaven knows, we need them badly at times. Because the fact is there are always more men who pray to come back than there are men who get back. Quite a lot more. What is the deciding factor? The thing for all of us to remember is this: someone else does the answering. What you have in mind may not be what God has in mind. If you ask him something, you must be willing to take what he gives. That is why I am a bit depressed by the writings of those who try to get other people to pray by telling them that you get what you want. People must learn to want what they get. When I talk to soldiers about prayer I try to tell them that they must be adults. God expects us to be men. Only children demand a happy ending to every story. How old must we be before we begin to realize that even prayer can't get us everything we want, unless the thing we want is right for us to have?
Who gets the breaks in prayers? Nobody. There is no such thing. We get what God in his infinite love and foreknowledge, sees fit to give. That's not always the same as getting what we want. But it ought to be."

So, that's what I want - to think Biblically, to be God-focused, and to trust His hand. That may not be all I want right now, but it is most certainly what I need. Thanks, Milt.