Sunday, February 04, 2007

HAVE WE LOST THE GOSPEL?

Marty Duran asked a question on his blog the other day that stirred several interesting, if not cantankerous, comments. The question he asked was..."Have we lost the gospel?" The discussion which followed was entertaining and enlightening.

There is a sense in which our message is single in it's focus. It is the "gospel.' If we do lose it we will be compromised as christians and will truly be "salt" that has lost it's savor, if not it's soul, and "light" that has been put under a bushel, if not blown out.

Of this I'm fairly sure. We have become single issue focused often and sometimes it hasn't been the "gospel" that captured that focus. Let me illustrate.

No one despises a callous, shallow approach to the issue of abortion more than do I. But in our zeal to correct the law, which needs correcting in my opinion, we have become bed-fellows with a political party. Conservative christianity, in the mind of our culture, is connected to the Republican party and it may be more than just perception. But if we were to remain biblical our concern would have as much to do with feeding the poor, clothing the naked, investing ourselves in the lives of those who are incarcerated and their families, as it does with the genuine evil of abortion. That is made clear from the text of the scripture. ["Inasmuch as you've done it to these..."] In fact, if I understand the gospel correctly, Jesus came, did what He did, and was raised from the dead to redeem us so we can do, in the power of the Spirit, what we are to do. That will always entail a strategy of redemption from, sin, hatred, prejudice, poverty, hunger, and sickness as we are able to accomplish such things. But to focus on one issue to the loss of our unique message of redemption would derail the purposes of God, from the human perspective at least. This would be so if our message were to even become clothing the naked, feeding hungry, or loving the unlovely. That's is all the result of the gospel, not the message itself.

The same might be said for correct doctrine. When we focus on the foundational truths of the gospel, the nature of Christ, the integrity of the scripture, the truth of redemption by Grace through faith in the work of Christ, we will be on track to accomplishing the Great Commission as given to the Church. But to be side-tracked into focusing on being correct/united in the truths of lesser consequence, good though they might be, we would be as the opening illustration shows. We, then, become bed-fellows with people who agree with us and enemies to those who don't. We become, as I believe the Pharisees became, a party of people who struggled with gnats while swallowing camels and was of no real value to anyone. To become a group known for a demand that "all agree" or " we're right" on every detail of doctrine is a death blow to the gospel. Ask the people who knew the Pharisees. It is the same thing as being known or inextricably linked to the Republican OR Democratic parties because of a single issue, even family values, it is a death blow to the gospel.

The "uniqueness" even "dividing" nature of our gospel message is, in and of itself, hard for this pluralistic society to stomach and we certainly must never compromise our message no matter how divisive or difficult it is for some to hear. But to "divide," with a superiority or elitist attitude, from other christians, over the lesser issues of doctrine, is the atmosphere in which that death blow to the gospel is wielded. It is the "gospel" that must be the "great divide", not PPL, baptism linked to eternal security, Calvinism, Arminianism, Eccesiology, dispensationalism,or even women teaching men. We can have our "positions" about each of these, and that's OK, but our dividing point should be the gospel message itself. Have we "lost the gospel"? you tell me.

Paul Burleson

1 comment:

bryan riley said...

In "Searching For God Knows What" Donald Miller tells about speaking to bible students. He tells them up front that he is going to share with them the gospel but leave out one critical element, and then asked them to determine what was missing.

He shared that man was sinful and spoke eloquently of the evidence of this in our world. He spoke of a great and holy and all-powerful and pure God and how the wages of our sin before that God was death and separation from Him. He spoke of the beauty of morality and repentance, and how their lives could be God-honoring and God-centered.

He gave them a great sermon on God and man, sin and morality and then asked what was missing. None of them realized they had just heard the gospel without hearing the name of Jesus. They knew and believed the propositional truths shared, but missed the key. He notes that it isn't because these students didn't love Jesus; he just believes it is evidence of the fact that we have reduced the gospel to bulletpoints and propositions for ease but that this cannot capture the essence of the gospel: a relationship with Jesus, our Savior and Lord.