There is a reality - a force presently active in my life. It has a re-orienting impact on my being in all areas - Mind, Body, Heart, and Soul. It is the gospel.
For 3 decades I've been in a relationship of sorts with it. It has shaped and defined me to greater or lesser degrees. It has been the core gravitational force behind my development, career, family, and mission. It's been there all the time, since the seeds of it's presence and power were planted in a mysterious way through the Spirit of God (when exactly is still hard to say). But for most of my life, I've missed it, deferring instead to strong influences and motivations that, while close to the gospel, had their own agenda and impact.
The word "Gospel" means good news. And I was given a lot of good news in my 30 plus years of being a "Christian." I encountered many gospels. Each one carried an element of truth. Each one shaped me and my understanding of who I am and why I'm here.
the gospel of personal salvation
The first and most permeating "gospel"in my journey is the good news that I don't have to go to hell. In a nutshell, it's the message that Jesus died on the cross for my sins and will forgive me and let me into heaven when I die if I say that I'm sorry (admitting I am a sinner) and ask him to forgive and save me.
I responded to this gospel many times. I prayed various forms of the "sinner's prayer" for years, always worried that it didn't "take" the last time and that I needed to be "sure". The irony is that there will always be a level of "unsure-ness" when dealing with what happens after we die. This didn't stop me from making this personal plan of salvation my core gospel reality.
One's gospel has an impact on how you live. For me, this gospel led to insecurity and doubt and a profound detachment from everyday life. It was focused on making sure I would go to heaven when I died. It had little to do with today - especially during my youth and younger days when death was incomprehensibly far away. The doubt came because of the nature of the good news it offered. While it claimed certainty about my eternal destiny, the fact that I couldn't access eternity meant it's promise was completely blind. Without a tangible experience in the here and now, it was truly left to faith alone. And while I had faith, I struggled to understand what the gap years between prayer and eternity were all about.
the gospel of service
Somewhere between age 16 and 17 I heard another gospel. This one focused on being serious and working for God. It was expressed often at conferences and retreats. At its core, the message was if you're serious about your faith you will serve God with your life. I made a commitment to full-time Christian Ministry at a conference. I chose to go to a Bible College. I started to center my life around this idea that to be a Christian meant you served Christ. So I pursued training and opportunities that expressed this service. And I found out that I was good at it.
The gap in this gospel took years to emerge. For a while I lived off the sense that I was doing good and I gained a lot of mileage from comparing myself to others who weren't as committed as I was. Those who didn't have the training I had or the ministry experience I had were obviously less committed than I was. This gospel produced superiority and condescension and an overall critical and judgmental attitude. I compared myself constantly with others and found my confidence in my intelligence and effort.
the gospel of experience
I've always been culturally savvy and found my greatest spiritual warm fuzzies within the context of highly creative Christian experiences and environments. I equated spirituality with songs, video clips, and community. And I was good at it. I became known as an experience artist. My career shifted as I became an "event guy." I became defined by my skill to create meaningful spiritual experiences. Retreats, conferences, and camps were my canvas and people loved what I produced.
The gap in this gospel was sustainability. While planning for and producing experiences, life was good. My faith was full and the experience was compelling. Those who joined my team in creating these events shared this enthusiasm and spiritual high. But with each passing event, the crash came harder. I found myself unable to maintain the high when not producing or creating. There was no long-term purpose. Finding my meaning and significance in isolated pockets of experience was not enough.
the rest of the gospel
A return to the source code of the Bible, especially the New Testament, shook the gospel foundations I had carefully built on for decades. I read the first gospel sermons of Peter and Paul. I wrote out by hand the words of Jesus from all 4 Gospel accounts. I read a few books that challenged my assumptions about Jesus and his mission. I became a disciple.
I found a gospel that was big enough to follow. A gospel that addressed the here and now as much as the afterlife. A gospel that bridged the gap between identity and purpose. A gospel that made sense of my life work and my relationships.
In a nutshell, this Gospel is the simple reality that Jesus is King. He is the mighty good leader. He is the one who made everything and holds it all together. He is the center of the story of all of history. Everything finds it's meaning and purpose in him. He is the one against whom I overlay my reality. He exposes my gaps and fills them with himself. He rescues me from my faults and flaws. He enables and empowers me with his Spirit. He gives me a compelling purpose for living and provides a template for being truly human. He assures me that all of life is headed somewhere - to a life after life reality where he rules as King in a world completely remade as he intended at the beginning of time.
Finally, I am discovering a gospel that is big enough. It bigger than fixing my flaws. It's bigger than my eternal destiny. Its bigger than my career or identity. It's all of these and more. And it is centered on the reality of who Jesus is and what he is doing. This gospel can handle any question because it is relevant to every question. It is comprehensive and complete. Nothing lies outside of its relevance or impact. All of life and reality lies under its authority.
Other gospels asked for my belief, my service, my commitment, and my talents. And in return they produced doubt, fear, frustration, insecurity, pride, and despair. This gospel asks for something more simple and yet more difficult than anything else - complete surrender. Yielding. Not in response to an idea or a call but to a person. My purpose and identity are now wrapped up in re-orienting my life to Jesus. To his ways and teachings. It is holistic. I think like him. I act like him. I relate to other people like him. I get my identity from him. The gospel is no longer a message or belief. It is a person. When I get my head around the reality that Jesus is the gospel it changes how I see and experience life, community, and mission. Beliefs and service can be parked in static systems and structures. They can be marginalized and managed. They can be contained. Jesus cannot be contained. He wants absolutely ever part of my life and being. He wants me to recognize his centrality in all things and be like him in every aspect of life.
I titled this blog gospeled for two reasons. First, because it frames my identity. I am gospel-Ed. A person who is shaped and defined by the reality of Jesus as King. Second, it describes my life pursuit. My calling and mission - to be gospeled by Jesus. To let his ways and teachings change me - mind, body, heart and soul.
Thanks for stopping by. May you experience the reality of the gospel in your own life and join me in being gospeled by Jesus.