Let’s play word association. Ready?
The word is Gospel.
What comes to your mind? (Be brave—post your responses in the comments!)
For many years, I have associated the term Gospel with evangelism. I get a mental picture of those nifty little booklets with pithy statements of the forgiveness found in Jesus Christ and how to spend eternity with God.
I am now learning that the Gospel is not merely about the forever that will be, someday off in the distance. Forever is happening right now.
So how does the Gospel make a difference today, in this moment? For if it doesn’t, that Good News isn’t so good considering the present sufferings I see in the world.
Richard Stearns—president of World Vision, author of The Hole in Our Gospel—believes the Good News is meant to make a tangible difference and points to Luke’s Gospel to understand the fullness of what Jesus came to do:
“[Jesus] . . . stood up to read . . . ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He anointed Me to preach the Gospel to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim release to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free those who are oppressed, to proclaim the favorable year of the Lord.’ . . . And He began to say to them, ‘Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing’ ” (Luke 4:16–21).
Good News for the poor, liberation for the captives, sight for the blind, freedom for the oppressed, justice for all—that’s great!
But more amazing is Jesus’ conclusion: He says this Scripture has been fulfilled in their hearing. Something about His presence among them will usher in all these things.
That’s the Good News: Immanuel, God with us. He comes to make a difference right now, today. During His three years of public ministry, Jesus extended grace, called people out of sin’s captivity, stood up for the outcast, and defended what was right. Then He died on the cross to pay for sin—yours and mine.
After His death and resurrection, Jesus sent His Spirit to live in His followers, to empower them to carry on His ministry and His presence to a hurting, dying world. (That’s a high calling!) Therefore, Stearns summarizes the Gospel like this:
1. Proclamation of God’s forgiveness
2. Demonstration of God’s compassion
3. Manifestation of biblical justice
The Gospel is moved forward via evangelism (#1). And it is also moved forward by ushering in the Kingdom wherever we go, as we demonstrate compassion (#2) and manifest biblical justice (#3). This is the sort of Good News that the world is desperate for! It’s so exciting to think that we could help build God’s Kingdom by doing what Jesus did.
How do you see these three legs of Gospel in the world today? Which leg is the most tangible in your life? I’d love to hear your heart on this.
*Is your brain now stuck on that redundant tune? My apologies. I couldn’t resist.