Lent | Live Out the Gospel
April 07, 2017
The last two weeks we have spent time looking at “Knowing the Gospel” and “Connecting in Gospel Relationships”. We have seen that knowledge of the gospel is crucial to providing a depth of understanding of why we do what we do, and that true knowledge of the gospel will never be void of gospel connections. This leads us to the third part of our vision statement - “Live out the gospel in the world.” This is not placed last because it is the least important; rather, all three lenses work together to help us understand what a mature, holistic follower of Jesus looks like in the everyday stuff of life. When we find there is an area where we are weak, we should welcome the awakening of blind spots and repent toward growth. Having refreshed our minds, we now look specifically to what it means to live out the gospel in the world around us.
Living out the gospel in all of life means that we are literally acting out the Kingdom come here on earth. In Luke 4, when Jesus began to teach and preach the Kingdom of God, He quoted a passage from Isaiah 61.
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captive and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor.” And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. And he began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”
Through His own life, the curse was being reversed, beauty was breaking forth from ashes, and death was giving way to life. Everything Jesus did and said was in light of this good news, also known as the gospel. With His entire life, He was revealing pictures of the Kingdom come, with anticipation that faint pictures would eventually become reality, and that restoration would flood the entire earth on a global cosmic scale. Let us now look at three things about the life of Jesus as He lived out the gospel, remembering that He is not merely an abstract moral example; He is our life.
HE WAS GOSPEL FLUENT
This may seem like an obvious statement, but it is important for us to understand that Jesus knew the language of the Kingdom inside and out. He understood the past work of His Father from the foundations of the world and was also well-versed in the future restoring work that God was working in and through Himself. The lens Jesus looked through was a God-centered lens, as opposed to man-centered. This allowed Jesus to look on the brokenness of the world not in judgment, but in grief. He did not become angry when sinners acted like sinners, instead He engaged them with the better story of God that was being worked out in history. He knew the overarching, global plan and He entered fully into His role as Savior of the world.
How does this affect and guide us today? We too must be fluent in the gospel and our role as news bearers of the Kingdom come. Like any language, this means we must practice speaking and immerse ourselves in a gospel culture. We need gospel fluent friends to correct us when we look to the law to save us instead of Jesus and to support and equip us as we engage a broken world. If we are not grounded in the grand redemptive narrative of God’s story, then we will become judgmental and cynical, never believing those we are engaging can be redeemed. Ask the Spirit to teach you the language of the gospel. After all, He is the best teacher.
HE WAS CULTURALLY AWARE
Jesus lived a life that was not separate or aloof from the world around Him. He broke into a culture and world that was completely antithetical to His kingdom and still He loved well. He did not only meet people where they were, He became flesh, entered into their world and lived their lives as to completely understand the struggle of humanity. Though Jesus never spoke anything less than the good news of the Kingdom, He would emphasize certain aspects of His truth based on who He was talking to. He learned what made people function, what gods they worshiped, what saviors they looked to, and spoke a better story over them - one of a better identity, a better God, and a better Savior. And He did not just speak a better story, He lived it. And as He lived it, His Kingdom was so counter-cultural, so unlike the kingdoms of the age and so life-altering, that questions came, and open mouths of shock and awe begged for an explanation of His actions. Then, and most of the time, only then, did He speak the contextualized good news to those whom would listen and had ears to hear. Jesus spoke grace and truth, and fulfilled the law with love. There is no dichotomy here. It is not as if Jesus was sometimes gracious and sometimes truthful, as if it is ungracious to speak truth when needed, or untruthful to be silent when needed. To the contrary, the grace of God led him to speak truth, and the truth of His kingdom led him to show grace. All grace, all truth, all the time. We see this fleshed out most commonly in speaking truth in love to those in power, and showing ineffable grace to those on the fringes - the outcasts and the unlovable. Different approaches, but the same good news. Jesus was and is the answer for both the Pharisee and the prostitute.
We, too, must learn and be aware of the culture around us. Often, we think the answer is to either disengage from the culture, or force the culture to develop “Christian” morals and standards through lesser redeemers, such as pastors, politicians or better laws. We become shocked when sinners act like sinners, and self-righteously condemn instead of engaging the culture seeking to redeem it with the gospel. It is as if we have forgotten that we are exiles here who are not supposed to fit in. Instead, we should seek to follow Jesus, taking the posture of a servant and listening in humility, seeking to understand the lesser stories our culture is believing, so we can speak the better story of Jesus to the world around us.
HE WAS DRIVEN BY LOVE
In his first letter to the Corinthians (chapter 12), the Apostle Paul spends time expounding on the purpose of various gifts given to members of the body for the purpose of building up unity and maturity in the church. With the following quote, he then transitions into a commonly known section of Scripture (I Corinthians 13) where he spends time talking about the importance of love.
"And I will show you a still more excellent way.”
In this section of the letter, he makes it very clear that void of love, all else is useless. Love is the one thing that will eternally remain. Healings will cease, for we will be with the great Physician. Teaching will be no more, for we will be with the Truth Himself. Faith will be sight and hope will be fulfilled. But love? Love will remain for eternity. We see more fully ourselves and others when we are led by love. And Love Himself walked among us, lived out the good news of the kingdom, and calls us to follow Him, to be led by Love.
Jesus entered into a culture who worshiped and served the gods of wealth, dominance and control, much like the culture we exist in today. Those that possessed wealth and control looked to them as their saviors and those that did not thought that gaining those things would redeem their empty souls. But Jesus knew better. He saw past what people thought they wanted to what He knew they would want if their eyes were opened to the Truth.
Jesus answered her, ‘If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” (John 4:10)
He understood the lesser stories of the culture and helped them understand that for which they were truly desiring. On their level, He met the outcasts, the foreigners, the exiles, the minorities, the refugees, the lame, the needy, and the immigrant. You know, those people - the ones on welfare (as if we are never in need), the ones who are just getting what they deserve (as if that's the way God treated us), and the ones who will just take advantage (as if we never abuse God's grace). But Jesus never treated any of these people that way. He simply loved these people. He treated them as the image bearers they were, with dignity and respect. And lest we forget about the Pharisaical leaders of the day, the wealthy and those in power, Jesus loved them too, and in a way that most of us find just as difficult as loving the outcast - He spoke truth to them. Most of the time it angered them and they walked away, or they slandered His name, but He was not led by fear. And for those who would listen, He engaged them lovingly and truthfully. Like the master Teacher he was, He spoke the good news of the Kingdom over and against the "good" news of their shallow earthly kingdoms of power and control. He lived a better story in word and deed.
Led by love, Jesus welcomed all to His table. A symbol of intimate friendship in his day, Jesus invited all to come and dine with the very Bread of Life and the Everlasting Water from above. He loves the Pharisee and the prostitute, the Jew and the Gentile, the tax collector and the fisherman, the rich and the poor, the town mayor and the immigrant, the majority and the minority, the privileged and the oppressed, the entrepreneur and the one with no home. He loves the mother of five who has a career and appears to have life figured out while dying on the inside and He loves the mother of one who stays home and wonders if she is even worthy to raise a child. He loves the dad who is addicted to porn and fearful of his son following in his footsteps, and the dad who is addicted to work, completely naïve of the danger of living for material possessions. When we see those who are worshiping lesser gods when they were made to worship Yahweh, our heart breaks and the love of Jesus leads us to action. We are led by love to live out the gospel in word and deed. Whether they are worshiping what they possess or what they wished they possessed, Jesus is the answer for them all. Jesus is the solution. Do we believe this? Do I believe this?
The more I experience the power of Jesus, the more I believe He is the answer for all. But the more I experience the brokenness of humanity, I must confess I sometimes doubt He is the answer for all. “Lord, I believe, but help my unbelief.”
Jesus always believed fully that the good news of the kingdom was the only way to truly live, and His actions followed suit. The scandalous way He ate with outcasts, the way He loved even those who were His enemies and the way He challenged oppressors with boldness and clarity demanded a gospel explanation. And in the end, it cost Him. His living out of the gospel was not comfortable or safe, and ultimately led to His execution on a Roman cross. Trusting completely in the resurrecting power of the Spirit, He lived out the gospel to the fullest by dying so that others could truly live.
What if we too believed our lives were not ours to save, nor ours to defend? What if we saw death and the loss of things we truly love as the working out of God’s glory in our lives? How then would we live out the gospel? In light of the suffering and service of King Jesus, may we be a people who invite the outcasts into our midst, humbly wash the feet of our friends and enemies, boldly speak truth to corrupt power and passionately share the gospel of the Kingdom as the reason for our hope when the watching world around us asks, “Why?”
What if we believed our lives were not ours to save, nor ours to defend?
- Thank the Father for including us in His plan of Kingdom expansion.
- Ask Jesus to give you His heart for not-yet believers in the world around you.
- Ask the Spirit to teach and empower you to live out the gospel in word and deed.
*Reminder: Day of corporate fasting and prayer is Good Friday, April 14th.
*Read the Lent Season overview for more details.