"For I am not ashamed of the Gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes..." Romans 1:16
THE GOSPEL IS THE GOOD NEWS OF JESUS IN OUR PLACE
In our pluralistic world it is popular to assert that there are many stories and that each (our individual story or collective stories) is equally valid to understand our world. Some stories can have overlapping themes, characters, and occasionally intersect, but when every story has a different starting point and distinct plot it is impossible for every story to be equally true and conflicting worldviews are developed. Our answer to this conflict has been to pretend it doesn’t exist and for every individual to select their own story and own “truth” leaving us all more fractured and frustrated when our stories constantly don’t line up with others.
It is the deepest conviction and assertion of the Christian Gospel (Good News) that there are not many stories, but there is THE Story that is big and sufficient enough to adequately answer our questions, root our identity, explain suffering, cultivate flourishing, and provide real present and lasting hope. In this, the Christian world view is a “Metanarrative”; meaning a big story overarching in providing a comprehensive explanation for every other “little story”. The Story can seem both overly complicated and strikingly simple, strange yet familiar, and challenging yet comforting. We find this metanarrative in the ancient and active narrative of the Bible where we see both a story big enough to make sense of everything in history, now, and forever, and yet personal enough to find ourselves as we are truly intended to be.
The Christian worldview is seen through the lens of the Bible so we are to take what is says seriously, and many Christians and churches do. Various verse are memorized, sermons from the Bible are preached, reading plans are followed (sometimes). Many, even those with years of church background, do not have a proper understanding of what the Bible is. Some, even with good intentions and a high view of scripture as God’s Word to His people, will think too little of the Bible believing it’s really about them. They might describe it as an “instructional manual for life”, “Love letter from God” or use it as a collection of moral stories with many heroes (slay your giants like David, be strong like Sampson…neither would be qualified to serve in our kids ministry), find rules to live by (don’t steal, be kind), or try to find “God’s wonderful plan for my life.”
Others with a low view of scripture will say the Bible includes many myths (basically anything that’s miraculous) full of errors (usually anything they don’t personally agree with), should be read as an allegory (story with a hidden meaning) to be interpreted through the lens of our culture today. Both views are insufficient and rarely lead to real transformation as they are nearly exclusively concerned with personal affirmation.
The Bible is more than individual episodes and instructions. Every part of these ancient, Holy Spirit-inspired, writings from 40 human authors across three continents, over 1,500 years are links forming one solid chain of God’s Story of redemption of His people. For us to fully understand, enjoy, and apply each part of the Bible we need to see how it fits into the greater narrative of the Bible.
The GOSPEL, the storyline of the Bible (and THE metanarrative of history) in its simplest form can be understood through the four words: Creation, Fall, Redemption, Restoration.
There is a God who has made everything both seen and unseen and made them “Good”. Everything is made for God’s glory and God is the source of all life and joy. Humanity is God’s crowning achievement because they reflect the Creator’s image. Humanity is called to partner with God to creatively cultivate the world for an increase of flourishing. God and humanity are in perfect communion.
Humanity rebels against the Creator by rejecting God’s good command in exchange for their own self-rule and separation from God. This rejection of God is sin, infecting every person and part of God’s good creation. The consequences of sin are death, suffering, disease, conflict, injustice, pain, toil, and separation between God and humanity.
The Good God promises and sends a Redeemer to His people, Jesus Christ. In Jesus being truly God (God the Son) and truly man (born of a woman) He reconciles fallen humans to the perfect Creator by living a perfect (sinless) life, dying as a substitute for sinners on the cross, and resurrecting from death providing hope for this life and eternal life for those who believe in Him. Jesus ascends to heaven and sends the Holy Spirit to build His kingdom in the heart of His people. This redemption satisfies God’s just wrath and reconciles the estranged relationship between God and His people as they are adopted into His forever family.
Jesus Christ who first came in humility, will return in glory to restore all of creation to God’s original intention ushering in a new heavens and new earth. Sin, death, disease, and tears will be no more as all things are made perfect and joy will be fully realized as God and His people again, and forever, dwell in perfect communion. Jesus rules as king of this ever increasing kingdom where His will is finally and fully done in earth as it is in heaven.
It is in this big broad story we find ourselves between the Redemption of Jesus at the cross and resurrection and the Restoration of Jesus at His return. Creation is enjoyed in the natural and cultivated beauty of our word. The fall is still experienced as EVERYONE can agree that no one is perfect without sin and the world is clearly broken as war, injustice, and conflict are close at hand. Yet good news of Redemption purchased has given freedom to generations of believing Christ followers who have actively worked to cultivate the ways and values of God’s gracious kingdom all while fueled by the promise of future Restoration.
It is through the lens of this simple, yet grand, unifying narrative of the Bible (and the world) that we can return to the various episodes and instructions of the Bible, as well as the experiences and emotions of our individual lives, and see them as part of The Story!
THE GOSPEL IS UNEARNED
The Gospel is unearned, it is where we are brought into family by the grace and mercy of God alone. The only earning done has been by the work of Jesus Christ (God the Son) in our place living the perfect life we have not, dying the death we all deserve for sin, and rising again so we can be alive now and forever with Him. We haven’t earned any status on our own. Because of Jesus effort for us, we’ve been adopted by a Father (God) who loves us. He picks us up, He carries us, He encourages us, and He empowers us (by the Holy Spirit) to walk in the ways and places He sees fit for us. We walk with the knowledge that He’s the one who brought us here for our growth, our good, and His glory. We are humble because we know how dependent we are. We are joyful because we know how loved we are. We invite everyone and let them know the life with God is not dependent on what they can earn, but is reliant on a God who has big enough shoulder to carry all His people.
In Christ, we have been made alive for a purpose. To live in the way God has created us. Both the rewards of and endurance in this life are by His grace alone so they are by nature unearned.
OUR PREACHING & TEACHING
The broad goals for all our preaching and teaching is that we would have the target of our affections, hope, and worship moved from the things of this world to the Creator of this world who reveals Himself through scripture and most clearly in the person and work of His Son Jesus Christ. Additionally, as disciples of Jesus who are called to go into the world to make more disciples, we seek to faithfully engage with a world opposed to the God of the Bible.
Our world tells us we will succeed based on our effort to earn our best life. That we, who are the greatest hinderance to our flourishing, will somehow be the one who will overcome ourselves by the sheer force of our own will. It is a contradiction that cannot be resolved by us alone. We cannot be saved, changed, or earn life for ourselves. We can only be made truly alive by the unearned grace of God trough faith when we have been, Saved by Jesus’ Work, Changed by Jesus’ Grace, and are Living on Jesus’ Mission.
Specifically, we hope our preahing and teaching helps those who know Jesus grow as disciples in three ways:
- Shaped by Gospel Truth – We are people of the book. We study the Gospel Truth of Jesus in our place. What does God’s word to us in the Bible tell us about God, our world, and ourselves? How does knowing and seeing who God is lead us to deeper desire for Him?
- Formed in Gospel Community – We are all made as individuals, but we are also made to be in communion with God and with His people. This means much of The Way Unearned will be lived out in the context of a community created by and held together by the Gospel. How does Gospel not only change us as individuals but change us as a people?
- Propelled to Gospel Living – Being a disciple of Jesus is never less than knowing, affirming, and believing Gospel Truth. However, it is always more than simple intellectual assent; it changes our life. How does knowing what Jesus has done for us lead us to a new life of holiness and mission for Him?
Also, all of our preaching and teaching is explicitly evangelistic. Our hope is those who do not know The beauty and glory of God in Jesus would hear and understand the Gospel. That one would reflect on their own lives, see their sin and brokenness, their need to be made new, and then respond to the offer of life with God in Christ. We pray we would be Urgent Ambassadors! God saves people, in part, to proclaim His salvation to others. We need to remember because of sin we are all “children of wrath” (Ephesians 2:3) This means everyone needs to hear the Gospel of the God who is “Rich in MERCY” and makes dead people alive (Eph 2:4-5) when they...