the gospel

"What is the gospel?" This is the question that's been on my brain for the past couple of months. At first, I understood it as a bulleted list of facts:

  • Jesus, God's Son, born of a virgin, came to earth and lived a perfect life.
  • He died on a cross, was buried, and raised to life; defeating death and sin.
  • We can have this new life if we die to self and are raised, like Jesus, to a new life.

That's it. Just bullets that didn't penetrate me. Then, I went to camp in 7th grade and began to encounter God personally. The gospel took a back seat to feeling God again and again. Like a drug fiend, I was strung out on holy emotion- wondering where God was when I didn't feel him, "knowing" he was there when I felt him. The gospel only came up when someone would say something like, "you need to speak in tongues to be saved." It was a rhetoric, a writ of apologetics, nothing more.

Fast forward to two years ago. I begin to learn more about John Piper's theology and Christian Hedonism. There was a lot of talk and excitement about God doing things for his own glory. While it's great stuff, it sometimes gets muddled by people who talk about it and the gospel ends up having nothing to do with God being in love with his people.

This haunted me. I guess I lost touch with God during that time, even lost touch with myself. That's when God decided to pull me out of the stuff I was drowning in. All these parts of the gospel without the whole were killing me. He began to teach me about himself. He told me again that he loved me, and I realized that in my search I had glossed over God himself a long time ago. Truly, God's heart is the heart of the gospel. And it is his story of ruthlessly loving and pursuing mankind to one day reconcile them to himself that are the boundaries to the gospel.

Lately, in answering the call to start a church in Lafayette, the gospel has become a more and more central in my understanding of leading people in spiritual formation. It's overtones of freedom, grace, calling, and service are probably the most maligned and misunderstood parts of the gospel. This responsibility of starting a church has pressed upon me a greater desire to understand the gospel personally, because in wrestling with the gospel God is drawing me closer.

What exactly is the gospel? I'm still not sure I can articulate it, but it is a mystery that I cannot walk away from.