Ran across this old post on an old blog and didn't want to loose it. I'm so grateful that tomorrow I will have New Years Day dinner with my son and one of his army friends eleven years later....
Last night we received a phone call from the front lines of the War on Terror. Not one you necessary want to get. With our Son serving in the 82nd Airborne in Afghanistan we consider "no news, good news". Thank God it was our son. He was on a Satellite phone in one of the most remote and dangerous places in Afghanistan. He had just survived an IED (Improvised Explosive Device). He began the conversation with his mom saying something like, "Mom I'm okay, but we just got hit by an IED and I wanted to call you before you got a call from the Army and the story got all messed up." As they were leaving a village they were hit. The IED blow up the Humvee. Two of the brave soldier in the Humvee was blown from the vehicle. Another one was blown into the bulletproof windshield. Somehow they all walked away.
While the others were taken in...my son loaded up his radio, weapons, and other gear and headed to the top of a mountain where he spent the night. As a Forward Observer he is trained to call in the heavy artillery. He spend the night running recon, ready to rain fire down on the enemy at any moment. The next morning he made it back to the camp where he called me. We were able to talk for about 30 minutes. He was banged up pretty good. He had intense pain in his back and legs from the blast, but he was alive. He was hungry and thought he might get a hot meal. All of the soldiers hit by the IED are being flown to a larger Forward Operational Base where they have the medical equipment for CT Scans and observation. In approximately a week my son along with the other three will be refitted and sent back out to continue the War on Terror.
I was on the runway at the Hartsfield-Jackson Airport in Atlanta when I got the news. I immediately thanked God and gave Him all the credit for saving my son and the other troops lives. I thought of Psalm 91. I read it often as I pray for my son and others.
1 Those who live in the shelter of the Most High
will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
2 This I declare about the Lord:
He alone is my refuge, my place of safety;
he is my God, and I trust him.
3 For he will rescue you from every trap
and protect you from deadly disease.
4 He will cover you with his feathers.
He will shelter you with his wings.
His faithful promises are your armor and protection.
5 Do not be afraid of the terrors of the night,
nor the arrow that flies in the day.
6 Do not dread the disease that stalks in darkness,
nor the disaster that strikes at midday.
7 Though a thousand fall at your side,
though ten thousand are dying around you,
these evils will not touch you.
8 Just open your eyes,
and see how the wicked are punished.
I tell you this story to say thanks for praying...prayer does make a difference. I also tell you story to encourage you to continue to pray for my son and our troops...david
The essence of gospel is good news. It’s an announcement that God has done something for us that we could not do for ourselves. All other religious systems offer us good advice. The gospel offers us the Good News.
Jesus begins his ministry with an announcement, “The time has come the kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news” (Mark 1:15, NIV)! In essence he was saying the King has come. Everything has changed. What God began in Genesis, he completes in Jesus. This announcement is good news because in Jesus, God announces that we are redeemed, we are being renewed, and he is restoring all things through us.
We Are Redeemed
The gospel is an announcement of good news that in Christ we have been redeemed. Paul understood this when he wrote, “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus…For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering” (Romans 1:1 & 3, NIV).
The announcement is that God sent Jesus in his perfection to take the wrath of our sin and punishment upon himself. The time had come in that in one moment in history Jesus took all of our past, present, and future sins upon himself; absorbing their wrath and setting us free.
The good news is that “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it” (Matthew 13:45-46, NIV). In this parable grace cuts both ways. Grace is God’s abundant love given to us freely without price or cost. We don’t deserve it. We can’t earn it. It is beyond our reach. The only possible way to receive it is to have it gifted to us by someone beyond our reach. In this parable God is the Great Merchant who is looking for something of great value. When he finds it he sells all that he has in order to purchase it. He redeems the pearl by selling all. He holds nothing back. In Christ, God holds nothing back. He purchases us with his very blood and life. He redeems us.
It cuts both ways in that this becomes our motivation, life. I no longer have to prove anything. I no longer have to gain man’s approval. I no longer have to live up to any particular standard. I have been redeemed. I know what we think. Doesn’t this lead to carelessness? Not at all, because God in Christ has redeemed me, my motivation for life is his love. I am now fully approved, accepted, and complete, resulting in a life of humble gratitude and devotion. When I realize the nature of this good news, I find myself selling all to follow him.
We Are Being Renewed
What I just described is the idea that we are saved by grace. “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9, NIV). For most of my Christian life I have understood this aspect of good news. However, I must confess there was a time when I was young that I struggled with God’s sovereignty and found myself shackled by doubts. These days are long behind me. However, what I didn’t realize, that not only are we saved by grace, we are renewed by grace. I lived as if my salvation was free, but if I was to grow as a Christian it could only be accomplish by my aspiring to some moralistic code or level of performance.
If I did five uninterrupted quiet times in a row I felt good about myself and would declare that I was a growing Christian. If I controlled my temper, abstained from alcohol, and avoided angry people who indulged a bit I was a good Christian. On the other hand, when I fail on either count I was a bad Christian or I stopped growing.
While I depended on the gospel to save me, I depended on my ability to live up to all certain standards and expectations to grow me. I found myself running faster and faster in religious circles in need of rest. My life simply didn’t line up with the teachings of Jesus, who invites us into his rest, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30). Once again this was good news breaking into my tired soul.
The announcement of good news is that God in Christ doesn’t only save us by grace, but he grows us by grace. We see this best in Jesus’ parable of the growing seed. He also said, “This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground. Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. All by itself the soil produces grain – first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head. As soon as the grain is ripe, he puts the sickle to it, because the harvest has come” (Mark 4:26-29, NIV). The seed in this parable is the gospel and soil is our hearts. When we receive the seed into the good soil of our heart something happens. We can’t explain it, but it does. Jesus says, “Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how.” This is an amazing truth that changes everything; gospel in, gospel out.
Paul understood this when he said, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not be conformed any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approved what God’s will is – his good, pleasing, and perfect will” (Romans 12:1-2, NIV). In this text Paul demonstrates that our devotion is based on our understanding of the gospel. We are to offer our bodies, but only as a result of being in full view of his mercy. We don’t present our bodies to get God’s mercy we present our bodies because of God’s mercy. The order has been reversed. I don’t do in order to earn God’s favor, but I do because I have God’s favor. He goes on and addresses the idea of transformation. We are transformed by the renewal of our minds. Once again we see gospel in, gospel out.
When I come to understand that I am fully loved, then and only then can I offer love. When I come to understand God’s forgiveness of me, I become more forgiving and understanding of others. As I come to understand God’s provision for me, only then can I truly become more generous. As I come to apprehend the gospel there is a reformatting and aligning of my values that take place. I am transformed.
This understanding of the renewal aspect of the gospel has the potential to change everything. As a preacher, I once thought I had something to say. I thought it was my job to give people good tips on how to live the good life. Much of my preaching and teaching was about me. As a result we saw many people come and many people go. However, we saw very little spiritual transformation. We preached a kind of moralistic therapeutic deism. We referred to scripture. We even taught passages of scripture, but we had very little gospel in what we preach and taught often seeing the scriptures simply as a guidebook of what to do and not to do in order to experience the good life.
When you understand gospel in, gospel out it changes everything. It produces an urgency concerning, proclaiming a healthy gospel-centered hermeneutic. Our goal in teaching and preaching isn’t to be cool, clever, or even relevant. Our goal is to preach the gospel in every text. Some who read this are thinking I do that, but in essence you don’t. Tagging a gospel presentation at the end of a moralistic theoretic message is not the same as preaching the gospel. We must seek to preach the whole gospel, which includes the redemptive, renewing, and restorative nature of the gospel.
The gospel is not a tag we put at the end of a good blog for those who are searching. The gospel is God’s story of redemption, renewal, and ultimate restoration. It is the entire story. It is the truth that makes its way through out every book in the Bible. Together it tells the story of Creation, rebellion, rescue, redemption, renewal, and restoration. It is the announcement that everything has changed.
He Is Restoring All Things (through us)
This is a profound truth. What God begins, God concludes. He makes all things new! In Genesis we see God’s creative purpose in full bloom. There is relational harmony among all creation and we are at rest. Sin disrupts and destroys. Relational brokenness enters the world. God’s creation looses its way. We are lost.
In Christ we are redeemed, renewed, and ultimately all things are restored. Once again Jesus uses the power of a simple parable to convey this pregnant truth. “He told them another parable: ‘the kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. Though it is the smallest of all your seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and perch in its branches’” (Matthew 13:31-32, NIV). In this parable we see the impact of the gospel to restore all things. A mustard seed grows, becomes the larges of garden plants, even becomes a tree, and the birds of creation come and find rest in them. What God began he completes in Jesus.
If you flip over and read the last chapters of Revelation you see this playing out. John “saw a new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God” (Revelations 21:2, NIV). In this picture we aren’t going up, but heaven is coming down in keeping with Jesus’ message of the kingdom of heaven is here or at hand. God is doing a work in his world. He isn’t done. He is restoring all things. What he began in one garden he concludes in another garden.
Now God is working through his church to restore all things. As Paul declares, “We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his very appeal through us” (I Corinthians 5: 20, NIV). Jesus tells us we “are the salt of the earth and light of the world” (Matthew 5:13 &14, NIV). Salt and light has their greatest impact from within.” As restorers we enter into God’s redemptive, renewal, and restorative work. As restorers we enter into the lives of those who are in the most need of redemption, renewal, and restoration. We become God’s ambassadors. The gospel restores us that we might be restorers.
This changes everything. I no longer see people as a means to an end. I see people as the end. God has our interest at heart in all things. It’s no longer about planting and growing a big church. It’s no longer about my sermons. It’s no longer about feeding my own narcissism. It is about the restorative work of the gospel. I see all things through that lens.
And all this is to the glory of God! May our redeemer, renewer, and restorer of life and all creation receive all praise, honor, and glory.