Have you ever tuned into a conversation that is part way through? Perhaps you walk into a room, or having been zoned out suddenly pick up a phrase the people next to you are saying. Now it may just be in the circles I keep that this leaves you completely confused and sometimes very worried about the people chatting!
Sometimes when a bizarre conversation is mid flow I think to myself, what would this sound like if I walked in part way through! They would definitely think I was mad! Perhaps correctly when I recollect a recent conversation that involved a card board cut out of ‘Raffa’ Nadal and a splash guard for a urinal… anyway.
When we join a conversation part way through we usually get completely the wrong end of the stick. I sometimes think Christians fall into this trap too when it comes to the gospel.
When I hear some people describe the gospel it feels like they have stopped too early, only reading half the story. Rather than joining the conversation part way through perhaps it is more like they zoned out half way through.
I would describe the first part of the gospel, where we must begin, the awareness of our need. You see in order to accept the good news we must first hear the bad news. We must humbly come to a place where we recognise that our best will never be good enough to reach God. Our best attempts in our greatest strength in just the right moment brings us nowhere close to solving the problem humanity, and therefore us as individuals face. We are broken, we have fallen. The bible calls us sinners, those pre-disposed to sin. We are unable to help ourselves, no matter the charity we show, the good things we say, the rules we obey. All of them are worth nothing.
OK stick with me – if you tune out now you will make my point for me! Without stopping to recognise this first part of the gospel we actually fail to understand what Jesus came to save us from. There was purpose and there was a huge need.
Let’s call this the first half of the story. Now comes the transition point, cue Jesus! He came to save us from our helpless situation. He did everything necessary to deal with the problem of sin, the fall and all that is broken in our world. By grace alone we are saved, it is not earned.
OK, let’s call this the transition that leads to the second part of the story.
Onto the second half. What does that transformative transaction do to us and our situation. Firstly our sins, past, present and future are all forgiven. No more guilt, no more shame, just life as it was intended. We now can have an intimate relationship with God. Sin no longer disturbs the possibility of connection. We are adopted into God’s family. The outcasts become the siblings. We are not just invited into the family, we get given all the privilege, authority and power that comes with having God as your father. We are commissioned as son’s and daughters to spread this good news to the planet, establishing the perfect rule of heaven on earth! Heaven is not just a future reality but a present invitation.
Wow… and I haven’t even begun to unpack the place to which we are saved to.
In part two of the story we discover that those found unrighteous, God has declared righteous through the cross. Just as we reach the point of seeing our unworthiness the Father reaches out and puts sandals on our feet, a ring on our hand and a robe around our shoulders. He declares that we are worthy. He trusts us, he says we are hugely valuable and even goes as far as to say we are co-heirs. We inherit what Jesus inherits… think about that for a moment.
You see my concern is that many Christians get stuck on the first part of the gospel. Remaining problem focussed, and fail to see the size of the solution God provided.
I do get it. Most of us find it easier to identify with our lack than with the abundant solution God has provided. The idea that we are worthless has often been reinforced in relationships and past hurt in our lives. It is easier to see ourselves as broken than it is to see ourselves as healed. Yes you were a sinner saved by grace but now you are a son, empowered by grace. At some point we have to decide whether we want to identify with our old self or our new self. Can we bring ourself to believe the good news!
God did not just solve the problem we faced with a plaster stuck over the wound, he completely transformed us. We are new creations, we are no longer pre-disposed to sin (though we can sin), we are pre-disposed to righteousness.
It seems a shame, a waste perhaps to get stuck on the problem. You were saved unto something. You were saved into a glorious hope and the future is brighter than you can imagine.
Don’t tune out halfway through the conversation, listen in to the voice of God tell you the ways he has already transformed and will transform everything in your life. The best part of your story is ahead of you.