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The Essence of the Gospel


#1

“The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.” That’s how Jesus presented the Gospel in the world. The relationship with God they thought was reserved for a future place, had invaded the world and was with them now. The kingdom is where God’s will intrudes into the brokenness of this world.

If we used those words today, however, people would look at us crazy. Those words don’t have meaning in our culture. The last sentence of the first paragraph of chapter 8 is how I find myself often sharing the Gospel. “The God of the universe loves you more than anyone on this planet ever has or ever will.” Everything begins there. How he accomplished that on the cross and how he wins us out of brokenness is secondary to the hope that we are not damaged goods at that our Creator has come to rescue us with his love. I hope this simple phrase does what Jesus’ statement did, open people’s eyes to the hope that a greater redemption is near. We are not just victims of our past or the broken world.

Does that express the Gospel for you? If not, how do you find yourself talking about it with other people? How do you see God sharing his life through you with others?

Yes this is a tough question, but let’s think it through. How you will express it to others, says a lot about how you see it inside. No right or wrong answers here, this is a chance to brainstorm and see how God is sharing himself through the body.


#2

This is EXACTLY what I’ve been wanting to ask you about! Thanks for starting this discussion.

After years and years of the scripted programs like the Roman Road, it’s hard to break out. They aren’t totally bad, just - I think - terribly incomplete. When a person becomes a believer, they have begun an eternal relationship with God right then. He wants to fellowship in love with us right now. Christ in us, his life our new life - not to scare the hell out of us.


#3

The Gospel, meaning Good News, is definitely expressed in your statement, Wayne. It is good news that God loves us more than any human being ever can, and ever will. There is a sense of relief knowing that we are not commanded to love like God loves, only to love like God loves, us. And the expression of God’s love is in many different ways, to many different people. And God does love differently than we love.

There are facets of God’s love I simply don’t understand. And it gets more mysterious when God’s love gets twisted into a mandate which everyone must follow. For example, the phrase ‘Love the sinner, but not the sin.’ What does that mean exactly? How can one possibly separate the sinner from his or her sin? Is it enough to simply say, ‘Love the sinner,’ and leave it at that? For me, it involves longsuffering.

It is more through my actions, than my words, that I express the Gospel to others. Simply being there for someone, through good times and bad, even at times when you don’t want to be there for them. In some cases, it’s not being there, not as a punishment, but allowing them the time and space to consider their relationship with God. Showing geniune interest in others’ lives , even if there are aspects of those lives I am not interested in myself.

I had an interesting interchange with a co-worker that I believe expresses many people’s sentiments about the expression of God. She believed that those people who talked about God, wore t-shirts and had bumper stickers and the like, didn’t have a personal relationship at all, instead, they were using God to try to enhance their image, or worse yet, get away with something. I hope that my expression reflects the true God, how He would like to be expressed in the world, and not for my own benefit.


#4

One of my favorite lines in the Jake story was right at the first when John walked into the angry crowd:

You really have no idea what Jesus was like, do you?

That’s it. Took my breath away. The old church-is-full-of-hypocrites bit just melts in front of that! Challenged me to get into the Gospels in a fresh way. But we have practically deleted the LIFE of Jesus from the New Testament. We’ve made evangelism a separate department - sort of a sub-specialty of discipleship focused on rescue from hell, but we short-circuited the eternal RELATIONSHIP to God.

Wayne, I like the way you put God at the center of the discussion right off the bat. Everyone has been failed by someone, but God doesn’t fail anyone. He is the only one who loves us perfectly.


#5

I have totally had these questions. Like what Beth said with the Romans Road. This is what I know. Your a sinner and God sees you and your sins as reprehensible and He can’t even look at you. His wrath is burning against you. The good news is that Jesus died in your place so you don’t have to suffer eternal punishment. When you stand in God’s courtroom and He plays back your life for all to see Jesus will come forward and say I died for this one and covered all of this. I have no idea what I would say to someone now. I still worry that the above might be true. I don’t want to share the wrong things about God. Revelation, if one adds or takes away from God’s word woe to them. See the trap?


#6

I understand, Gadiela. That’s why fear almost always becomes the lowest common denominator for religious institutions. Not only is it easier to manipulate people through fear, but it keeps them always on edge . If God is an angry, offended deity and prescribed a certain set of steps for us to jump through to love him, then the price of not doing so is great. If he’s a loving Father out to rescue us, then all that fear not only doesn’t serve us it actually undermines the work he’s come to do in us.

So how do we know? There are three things I know to do: (1) Read the Gospels and ask if the angry offended deity with a small set of hoops to jump through describes Jesus. (2) Ask the Father to show you who he is so that we come to embrace his reality on the inside. And (3) find people who seem to live freely in the work of redemption and find out how they view God. The people I’ve met whose relationship with God I admire were definitely on the gracious and tenderhearted track, rather than the angry and controlling track.

For me all three of these lined up on the side of a loving Father, and that continues to grow in my heart. And in doing so it has led me to way more transformation, engagement, and love for others than jumping through religious hoops for 40 years ever did.


#7

I will never forget that line Beth as it was spoken to both unbelievers and the church crowd. It has helped to focus me also on I just want to truly know Jesus better and follow him.


#8

I remember being a new believer in a Christian school setting where one of my roommates very proudly preached his first sermon in a little chapel with about 6 people in attendance on what it would be like to die and go to hell. I believed hell was real then and still do, but something seemed terribly lacking in the influences that led him to do this.


#9

Bob, while rummaging through another small town’s library, I found Joshua by Joseph Girzone. Even this Baptist found his caricature of Christ attractive. Since then, I have often reminded myself and others that God is not standing by with a clipboard waiting to check off everything we do wrong and hand out demerits. And every time I’ve told someone that, they sigh with relief. Now I send them a link to Jake’s story!


#10

I think the kingdom is at hand, here and now…

I think a big part of it is helping others to get to know Gods love, or pointing them in that direction…

I share Gods love with some people by treating them in a kind manner, and when others are interested in talking about it, I will try to talk to them about it. It is rare that I find people that are interested in talking about it. When I talk about it, I usually get verbally assaulted.

I heard another guy say that it’s like we should share the year of jubilee (from the Bible) with other people every day, in whatever way we can, and with whatever means we have. Perhaps we don’t always have money to give, but sometimes we can give a nice smile, or a kind word to those that are hurting or depressed. Maybe that will set some people free from suffering and misery. If we do have plenty of money, we can help folks out, or buy a homeless man a nice hot meal, or give them a blanket to stay warm so they can keep from freezing in the cold winter time. Sometimes giving material good doesn’t help, but sitting and talking to someone will.

I think sharing God’s love is where it all starts, and without that, we are only left with people that are self-loathing, and mired in fruitless self-efforts that don’t seem to produce sustainable long lasting results. People will be left to think God is mad at them for failing, so they think this is how God wants others to be treated, so they get a bad attitude with other people also because they perceive that those other people are failures also.


#11

“The God of the universe loves you more than anyone on this planet ever has or ever will.” I love this. I want to be more open and available to offer words like this to those I encounter in conversation. I want to talk more about God’s love and how I am growing to understand it and less about church (which can feel like a ‘safer’ topic.) I confess it is easier to share in a small group setting with those who have expressed an interest in the gospel than to share my hope and faith with neighbors and others who are not believers. I try to be honest about my life and my struggles, but I am excluding the most important part of my life—my hope in Christ! I want to be a fountain of living water to those around me, and that can only be a Holy Spirit thing.

Wayne, your questions here really reflect the question I asked YOU a few chapters ago when I wondered how you express your faith to others in words. I love the simplicity of your starting place. I have tended to get too bogged down in what to say, when to say it, how to say it…and overthought this whole process of sharing very, very good news.


#12

It’s so interesting that this question really does change as we change and our theology and idea of who God is changes. Our descriptors change. What started out as almost reading from a teleprompter or using tracts as a script morphs into the way we have experienced Him personally.

At this point in my journey with Father God, I would be more apt to talk about how the Creator of All invites us to a deep and profound relationship with Him, where we become co-creators in our life and in His plan. The notion that God not only can tolerate me, but is gesturing to me to come and hang out with Him, dream with Him and partner with Him is a mind-blower!

And it’s astounding as I look back and what I just wrote and to realize I did not mention, “sin,” “redemption,” “blood atonement,” “hell,” “damnation,” or the ABC’s of salvation. And it’s not that I don’t believe that they are relevant or part of it, it’s just not where I begin these days. I begin with the most beautiful and adventurous invitation we will ever be given.

Wow…I need to do some more reflecting!


#13

Wayne, I’ve been thinking: I wish you’d write a much shorter edition of He Loves Me! Smaller, like a gift book - not so long. Distill the essence of the text for folks who need the Cliffs Notes edition. Paperback would be cheaper. Better than tracts! Could read it with a person as you talk them through the gospel. An idea??? [I know many people who just don’t read much. Ladies read romantic fiction, but the men seldom read anything. I know deacons who don’t even read the Bible. 85% of the men in the country have not read a book since they graduated from high school; they are functionally illiterate.]


#14

Isn’t chapter 8 and 9 of FINDING CHURCH is the shorter version?

:slight_smile:


#15

Well, yes. But I know lots of guys who’d freak if you handed them the whole book. Just trying to think outside the usual Roman Road approach. Found a copy of your Man Like No Other book; just came in the mail. Was thinking that might be a good approach for some. Guess I’m trying to reinvent the basic tract. Gotta’ put Jesus back into Christianity. . . . . . . . I’m close to short-circuiting. Something snapped last night. I was thinking about our last church when the thought shot through my head: That was “The End of the Church as We Knew It.” For my prepper friends that would be TEOTCAWKI, lol. You just can’t revive a corpse with a better First Aid kit. We’re supposed to be making disciples, not spending our lives trying to survive members!!! Trying to keep a lid on the panic that’s about to explode all over the walls.


#16

I hear you, Beth. I do! Just not sure what that looks like and how it gets out. Don’t see many tracks these days and most people toss free stuff handed to them. But who knows? God may have a way.

I’m sorry for the pain you’re going through. Being disillusioned about the church as we’ve known it is never easy. It does open some doors to an incredible future, however! Praying for you and your husband.


#17

Boy do I understand this. I had no idea I was not going to go back to church. At first I was just taking some time away telling God I knew He wanted me back in church. Then when I went something had fundamentally changed to where I just couldn’t sit in a pew anymore and have religious obligations thrown on me. My emotions can be a bit up and down with trying to understand God and find my way through the fog. Many time I will be driving and I will be in tears begging God to not “make me go back to church.” I’m not sure of a whole lot but one huge thing that I feel my eyes have been opened to is to not be attached to the outcome, NATO. I have been for years. You know the people. The ones who are “always blessed” because they do all these things for God and He just blesses them. Through conversations on Wayne and Brad’s podcast I was reminded to be in the relationship with God for Him, not what I want from Him or what He’ll do for me. Maybe it’s time to stop doing for awhile. It really takes time for us to hear God. I’m a doer. Give me the plan, show me the chart, list of books and let’s get it fixed. Yeah. God doesn’t really respond to any of that. If we really want to know him and hear him are we willing to wait for him? It’s not easy. Throw your panic and meltdowns to God. I have and do. All day long.


#18

I’m the world’s WORST. Gotta’ problem??: Find a book on Amazon! . . . . Isn’t that what Prime’s for?! LOL

But are we willing to wait for him? . . . . . That’s what is holding me down right now. Determined not to take things into our own hands, but it’s not easy. Don’t have a clue what’s next. I just know somebody is going to come up with the “God gave you a brain, so use it, and you must have good sense” lines any minute now. Like, we’ve waited on God as long as we can, but now we have to DO something 'cause He hasn’t come through?? That doesn’t even make sense. . . . . … Underlining and highlighting Acts till it’s practically in Technicolor. . . . . . . Calling this interim state our sabbatical! Haven’t played softball in years, but I’ll think of you, Gadiela, as I pitch the panic!


#19

Ron, I have also run into the expression “Love the sinner, but not the sin”. And when I hear that from someone something inside me just doesn’t quite jive with me.


#20

Beth, can you explain to me what you mean by “Roman Road”. I’ve seen this now a few times and feel like I missed something. :slight_smile: