This is part 1 of a 3 part series on why ENP believes that to transform Fresno neighborhoods, we need the Whole Gospel, Whole Church, and Whole City.
The word “Gospel” literally means “Good News” in Greek. So as we talk about the Gospel of Jesus Christ we are talking about the Good News of Jesus. Our heart at ENP is to help you and your church be a blessing to our city and to point others to Christ. As we go about the work of pointing others to the Good News of Jesus we have to ask… Is your gospel actually good news to the people of Fresno? Can people taste and see it? Do you have a whole gospel?
I don’t know about you, but I was taught that “The Gospel” was a set of truths to know or believe. The gospel communicated the fact that I am sinful, because of my sin I deserve punishment, and God sent Jesus as the solution – so that by his death and resurrection I can go to heaven.
Is that version of the gospel true or untrue?
I could say a lot of things (don’t have space for it here), but ultimately I would argue the simplified version of the gospel is a partial truth. The well-intentioned American church has simplified the Gospel in so many ways that we have a hole in our gospel. (1)
How do we recover the Whole Gospel? It starts with Jesus as everything should!
Jesus’ life reveals the missing pieces to this partial gospel. He came, lived, and proclaimed a fuller vision for our lives and what the Good News is.
What was Jesus central message? Think about it. What was he all about?
Jesus was all about the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom of God, as he shared it, was about the fact that God’s rule and reign has started in Jesus’ coming and will eventually be finalized at his second coming. God’s rule and reign is something that can be seen and known, throughout all generations. We get glimpses of the Kingdom when we see Shalom [peace], or everything as it should be. When we see holiness, grace, sacrificial love, unity, justice, equality, and equity, we are seeing glimpses of the Kingdom of God.
Recovering Jesus’ central message will help us preach and live a Whole Gospel.
Let’s take a quick look at a few ways Jesus displayed his Good News.
Jesus’ first message according to Luke happens in Luke 4:16-21. He comes to the synagogue in Nazareth and opens up the scroll of Isaiah. He chooses a short section of the reading and read:
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” And he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. Then he began to say to them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”
Jesus claims from the start that the Gospel or the Good News would feel like good news. The Good News would not just be a set of propositional truths, but it would be freedom, healing, and favor.
Matthew 4:23-25 shows Jesus starting his ministry and not only proclaiming, but displaying the Good News:
“Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and curing every disease and every sickness among the people. So his fame spread throughout all Syria, and they brought to him all the sick, those who were afflicted with various diseases and pains, demoniacs, epileptics, and paralytics, and he cured them. And great crowds followed him from Galilee, the Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea, and from beyond the Jordan.”
Over and over Jesus displays how inclusion into his family is something to know, believe, but also to participate in (John 4, Luke 7:36-50). Jesus preached and displayed his Kingdom values of holiness, grace, sacrificial love, unity, justice, equality, equity, and shalom.
Why have we settled for a partial gospel?
There are many reasons, but I believe one of the main reasons is that this whole version of the gospel demands a lot more of each of us. It is easier to say a prayer or understand a truth than it is to live it with your life. We preached a gospel that would not ask a lot from the people we wanted to bring into our church, and we are living with the fruit of that choice.
Jesus said that in the Kingdom of God:
- To live you have to die to self (Luke 9:24-25)
- To be great you have to be the servant (Matthew 20:26-27)
- To be rich you have to let go of riches (Luke 12:16-21)
- To be powerful you have to surrender (Matthew 20:16)
So, we have a lot of people in our churches who have settled for a partial gospel. May we never be one of them.
May we display the life changing power of Jesus in our own lives and in the lives of the communities we serve.
We need a complete gospel. We need a gospel that is so grace-filled and life changing that we can’t help but be moved to action. If your gospel allows you to believe and speak the name of Jesus without living how Jesus lived you have an incomplete gospel. Our mandate as the people of God is to reflect the Kingdom of God on this earth.
“Generosity, Jubilee, mercy, and compassion—these are the marks of the new community. Freed from the grip of right-side-up kingdoms, we salute a new King and sing a new song. We transcend earthly borders, boundaries, and passports. We pledge allegiance to a new and already-present kingdom. We pledge allegiance to the Lord of the worldwide kingdom of God and to the values for which it stands—one kingdom, under God, with compassion and forgiveness for all.”(2)
Stay tuned for Part 2 – Whole Church, coming next month.
(1) Stearns, R. (2014). The hole in our Gospel: what does God expect of us? The answer that changed my life and might just change the world. Nashville: W Publishing Group, an imprint of Thomas Nelson.
(2) Kraybill, D. B. (2012). The Upside-Down Kingdom. Harrisonburg: Hearld Press.