Pastoral Relief and Retreat

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Wethersfield, CT, United States
I am Pastor at Poquonock Community Church, Congregational (CCCC) in Windsor, CT. My wife Jama and I live in Wetherfield, CT. We'd like to invite you to Terre Haute -- High Ground -- That's what Jama and I call the retreat space on our property. We offer free intentional get-away retreats. We'll feed you and house you and give you space to be with the Lord. All are welcome; no questions asked. This blog is my daily devotional journal. I write it because it is so easy to go for weeks without ever taking the time to be alone with God. Writing helps me develop a discipline I need.

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Monday, May 2, 2011

What is the gospel?

What is the gospel?

We can almost hear the unwritten words of the question.  If we were writing a catechism we couldn’t have framed the question better or more concisely.  “What IS the gospel?” 

“The gospel is…” That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life—the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us—that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.
(1 John 1:1-4 ESV)

Let’s take John’s answer apart and see what’s inside. 

At the absolute core of it, the gospel is “That which was from the beginning.”  

John is going to add some clues to help us understand that he’s not just talking about the written word or a philosophical or religious system.  The gospel is “That which was.”  The Self-existent One, from the beginning of all things.  As the Nicene Creed says, “begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father.”  The gospel is Jesus.

“Which we have heard” – The gospel is listening to Jesus
“Which we have seen with our eyes” – The gospel is observing Jesus
“Which we have looked upon and touched with our hands” – The gospel is touching Jesus.

The only senses that don’t seem to be involved here are taste and smell.  But he has given us enough to be able to say in fractured Greek, “The gospel is logos-life.”  But let’s be careful, it isn’t a word that gives life.  The truth is really hard to phrase in English, but the gospel is “the word that is life in himself.”  We know this because of the next phrase: “the life was made manifest.” 

The gospel is Jesus, word-life made visible, word-life made visceral.  The gospel is Jesus; life so real you can touch it. 

There’s one more thing the gospel is without which it is not good news.  It would be the worst thing in the world if Jesus had come and had life in himself and one person or only a few people (ie: the 12 disciples) saw it, touched it, and lived in it, and that is as far as it ever went.   If that was all that had happened, the gospel would have been the cruelest tease in all of human history. 

The greatest wonder of the gospel is that we proclaim it to you!  There IS no good news without proclamation.  The idea of a faith that is private is an idea of death, like a house you go into and find that all has been prepared for a wonderful banquet and left for years to decay.  A banquet no one ate.  A party no one came to.   Life – the greatest experience of life possible – never shared with another.  How profoundly sad that would be.

The gospel then, is Jesus, the Life made visible in him making himself visible to me in order to make himself visible through me to you.

When you wake up each morning, your mission is, quite simply, to manifest Jesus to the world.  We’re condensing the phrase “the word of life” into the term word-life because that’s how inseparable Jesus’ words are from Jesus’ way of life.  That’s how inseparable Jesus way of life is from the life he has in himself.  That’s why it won’t do for you and me to simply preach Christ with our mouths.  We must publish Christ with our life. 

Notice I didn’t say “publish Christ with our deeds.”  The Way is far more than just a series of good deeds.  It is a manner of life that is fully transferable to any culture in any age.  It won’t look the same in India as it does in America, but it will still be The Way.  When someone in China has the life manifest in Christ, his life won’t resemble an African or South American believer’s life because each proclaims Jesus in a different cultural context.  But the Way of Jesus is what they all have in common so that the word of Jesus in his prayer in John 17 might be fulfilled, “That they may all be one.” 

Here are the things that mark word-life: “The wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.” (James 3:17-18)

What joy it is to have fellowship with others who have experienced word-life!  And what a joy it is to tell you again what the gospel is.

Jon

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