Is Your Gospel Too Narrow?

Is Your Gospel Too Narrow?

The gospel is about more than where we go when we die—it should affect how we live.

Note: This article is excerpted from Kingdom Calling.

The gospel preached in our congregations and small groups makes a huge difference in the kind of people our members become. Specifically, congregants' understanding of the gospel affects their views of three arenas crucial to living as the tsaddiqim (God's righteous ones): sanctification, evangelism, and mission. This is why it is crucial that missional leaders preach the "big" gospel of the kingdom—the gospel centered on Jesus' announcements that the long-awaited kingdom had broken into human history. This big gospel combats the too-narrow gospel so many of us hold.

Sanctification

The big gospel helps us understand that sanctification is a matter of conforming not only to the character of Christ, but also to his passions and identity. Missional leaders should of course be quick to affirm that seeking conformity to Jesus' holy character is absolutely essential. Personal morality and growth in the fruit of the Spirit is a critical part of righteousness, but it's also incomplete. Becoming like Jesus also means seeing ourselves as he did, as "sent ones," and being passionate about the things he is passionate about. Let's look briefly at each.

Jesus is passionate for justice and shalom. We see this as he overturns the tables of the greedy moneychangers in the temple (John 2:14-16), as he calls the Pharisees to account for their unjust practices (Mark 7:9-13), and as he deliberately reaches out to those society has banished to the margins: the poor, the disabled, the lepers. Jesus is also passionate about reconciliation among diverse people. He reaches across gender, ethnic, and religious barriers to minister to the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4) and the 10 lepers of Luke 17. Unity is also a core value for Jesus; consider, for example, his fervent prayer in John 17. And, like his Father, Jesus is passionate about the poor, the vulnerable, the sick, and the stranger. To become like him is to adopt all these passions as our own.

Moreover, genuine sanctification means that we intentionally identify with the identity of Jesus. He saw himself as the "sent one," and he calls us sent ones. Listen to John 20:21: "As the Father has sent me, I am sending you." Sanctification means growing ever deeper into our identity as sent ones—those appointed by God to bear fruit, as Jesus said (John 15:16). It's not just the missionaries in our congregations who are the sent ones. We are all sent ones.

In teaching this point, missional leaders may want to consider using an attention-getting exercise from missionary Darrow Miller. Miller notes how precious John 3:16 is to many Christians. In some evangelical churches, Miller reports, to help not-yet-Christians grasp the amazing significance of this great love and to personalize it, evangelists encourage people to insert their own name into the verse, in place of "the world." Thus, John 3:16 comes to say, "For God so loved [Name] that he gave his one and only Son, that I shall not perish but have eternal life."

Acknowledging the validity of this, Miller then suggests that Christ-followers take another liberty with the text that links it to John 20:21. This helps us better grasp our own sentness. He suggests personalizing John 3:16 to read, "For God so loved the world that he sent me into the world."

Now it should be immediately emphasized, Jesus' sentness is utterly unique. He alone is the Messiah and God's one true redeemer. But, as John 20:21 makes clear, God intends for believers to follow his Son into the world as sacrificial servants. God shows his love for the lost and the least through his Son and through all his children who seek, in the power of his Holy Spirit, to be his hands and feet in compassionate service. God the Father and Jesus have sent us into the world. Sanctification means following Jesus as he sends us into every place and every societal sphere, giving ourselves to the work of the restoration of all things.

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