(read Mark 2 & 3; finished “The Explicit Gospel” by Matt Chandler)
A public beach seems anything but. It’s an oxymoron; a complete contradiction of terms. What I see some people wearing at the beach is not what they would wear anytime, anywhere, and any place called public. That’s a good thing. How do loving family members turn a blind eye to such fashion. What kind of friend actually says, “Oh, that looks good on you.”
Prosperity gospel is another oxymoron. I have preached and railed against this for years. However, I’m not sure this type of teaching is reserved only for big money churches with pastors in white suits. Prosperity gospel is a contradiction of terms my theology needs to sort out as well. Prosperity is mostly about me, and something I can’t deny pursuing. The gospel includes me, but is so much bigger than I’ve thought. To make the gospel about me and my eternal well-being is to miss the epic nature of the gospel, but I think I have. The gospel must be bigger than me.
I got saved when I was 9. It was 1969, and it makes for quick math as to how many years I’ve been a Christian. Soon after my decision, the rules began to be laid out. This was particularly true in my teen years when rock music played backwards was evil. I was told certain music would work against my salvation, and certain music would enhance it. I understood that if I actually admitted my weakness of liking certain bands (I really liked Kiss and Boston), I could find Christian music that sounded like those bands, but they wouldn’t damage my behavioral management efforts. On the youth room wall was a music comparison chart that was heralded like the Dead Sea Scrolls. The Christian bands had albums sold only in Christian bookstores, and they never really did sound like any of the bands I confessed to liking. I was, however, following the rules of a gospel that was more about me than anything else.
I had accepted Jesus as my personal Savior. How could that be a bad thing? When you make such an eternal decision, there should be rules to abide by until you get there — eternity, that is. Makes sense, right? So with that, I pursued a prosperity gospel that saved me, managed me and my music, and reserved a spot for me in heaven. Is there a problem with this (other than the performance-based treadmill)? If there is, why do so many churches treat individuals as VIP’s whose every need is attempted to be met and every itch scratched. Gets confusing, doesn’t it. Is the gospel about me, or is it bigger?
In the second chapter of the Gospel of Mark, the Bible says Jesus preached the word. What was the word? Was it personal salvation, or was it something bigger? In the beginning was the Word. Did Jesus go back to creation? Did Jesus unfold God’s grand plan to restore and renew ALL of creation? Jesus is in all, through all, and above all.
Seems rather obvious that his preaching would include all. Did Jesus paint bold imagery of the hugeness and perfection of God’s glory beginning at creation? In the beginning was the Word and the Word was Jesus. Jesus was at creation, why would he be preaching about it? As most people were hoping for mere survival of Rome, did Jesus paint a colossal picture of a sinless earth and a perfect creation that far outweighed any political regime?
Interestingly, as Jesus is preaching in Mark 2, He’s also doing some healing miracles and enlisting very unlikely supporters. Could Jesus be doing more than displaying his own super powers and oratory skills? Maybe he’s giving pre-restoration glimpses into what renewed Kingdom life will be like when the gospel is realized, and the glory of God’s Kingdom paradise on earth is restored. Jesus was preaching BIG stuff. It was beyond rules of corporate gatherings or entertainment preferences. It was bigger.
The gospel is bigger than just you and me. The good news is of all creation being restored. The gospel is a narrative story of how God is moving all things back to the garden of Eden, and not further away. All things are slated for renewal. There is a cosmic nature to the good news of what God is doing, and it includes the renewal of Earth, sky, water, plants, planets, animals, rock music, Christian music, you, and me.
When I miss the epic gospel of all things, I settle for prosperity gospel that puts my things in the feeble center. Neglecting the glory and bigness of God forces me to somehow manage my smallness and salvation with works, rules, and religion. Making Christian music a mighty battle of faith might have the appearance of dedication, but it perhaps is more dedicated to self than it is to what Jesus is doing in the universe. I’m confident the smallness of a personal gospel will get someone to heaven, but perhaps only like Paul suggests in I Corinthians 3:15… “but only as one escaping through the flames.”
Chandler writes, “It is imperative that we embrace a gospel that is scaled to the glory of God.”
I want to embrace a gospel bigger than me. I’m thankful it includes me and you, but I don’t want to miss the glory and majesty of an even greater work that God is doing. Chandler calls this the gospel on the ground and in the air. A balance of the two is necessary but rare. I tested this thinking a bit today. Could I see a bigger gospel in seaweed spilled onto the shore? Yep. What about a discarded baby’s diaper callously thrown in the sand? Check. What about how difficult it seems for me to stay in shape these days? Oh yeah. In my sin and depravity? Definitely. If God’s intention is to restore all things, could I begin seeing the possibility of good news in all things? If so, then could I point my marriage and my kids to the gospel? Is there a gospel renewal represented and reflected with Sherry and me? Could I help my kids see and live out a bigger gospel? Will my kids obey Jesus to manage their behavior? Maybe, by God’s grace, they’ll follow Jesus in ways that capture a greater adventure of glory and ultimate refurbishing of everything broken. Now that would be cool!
I will watch another awesome sunset tonight. I’ll probably soak it all in with a nice glass of wine as a toast of God’s great handiwork. I’m reminded that in all the beauty before me, it’s still broken. Fallen. Groaning.
An orange sun being put to bed in the depths of the Gulf waters is really good. Still, it’s but a tease of what one day will be. It will be… bigger.