30 Sep Go Like Jesus Came
Moving into deep, rich, dynamic community founded on and formed by the gospel involves pursuing a common mission. In John 20:21 Jesus appears to His disciples after His resurrection but prior to His ascension and says to them, “As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” Essentially Jesus says to His followers you must go like I came to continue the mission the Father has given me. What is the mission that Jesus sends His church out on? It is the mission of declaring the truth and demonstrating the implications of the gospel.
I’m not real sure who actually said, “Preach the gospel at all times…if necessary use words” but it is usually attributed to St. Francis of Assisi. However, if we really believe it is possible to preach the gospel without words then we don’t really understand the true nature of the gospel. The gospel is good news about something that has been done, not good advice about what we should do. The gospel is not first a model for how to live, but the news of One who lived and died in our place. In John 20:23 Jesus says, “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.” Jesus is not saying that His followers are now entrusted with the decision of who is forgiven and who is not forgiven. Rather, Jesus has entrusted his followers with the message of His life, death, and resurrection that they might declare the good news of what Jesus has done and whether people receive that news or reject that news would determine who would be assured of forgiveness and who would not. The very nature of the gospel as good news demands that words be used! It is not enough to do good and kind things for people and assume that in those works we are preaching the gospel. To declare the gospel means we report the news.
R.A. Torrey, a late 19th to early 20th century pastor, once said, “We must always bear in mind that the primary purpose of our work is not to get people to join the church, or to give up their bad habits, or to do anything else than this, to accept Jesus Christ as their Savior, the one who bore their sins in His own body on the tree, and the one through whom they can have immediate and entire forgiveness.” The aim of our lives and ministry is to work toward the sharing of this news with people who need immediate and entire forgiveness through the finished work of Jesus Christ. We need to point people toward Jesus not just the church. We need to point people toward Jesus not just changing of habits. We need to point people toward Jesus not just toward marital principles, or parenting principles, or money management tactics. We can do good and kind things for people without ever pointing them to their need for a Savior. We can help people build marriages, raise kids, manage finances, attend church, and change habits all to make them healthy and comfortable on their way to hell if we don’t point them to Jesus. Jesus came to declare the good news that God has come to rescue sinners. Are you going like Jesus came?
Even though the nature of the gospel as good news means that we cannot preach it without words, it does not mean that this news does not have implications for how we live. Twice in John 20:19-23 Jesus declares “Peace be with you.” This was a standard greeting in Jesus day much like our hello, but in this context, following Jesus’ resurrection it is loaded with much more meaning than the common handshake. The concept of peace in the New Testament was built largely off the Jewish concept of “shalom”. When you see the word shalom show up in the Old Testament it referred to not only the absence of hostility and friction but also the presence of harmony and wholeness related to the coming kingdom of God. For instance in Isaiah 9:6 we read about a coming “Prince of Peace” who would inaugurate a kingdom of peace in God’s world where, “The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat, and the calf and the lion and the fattened calf together; and a little child shall lead them. The cow and the bear shall graze; their young shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. The nursing child shall play over the hole of the cobra and the weaned child shall put his hand on the adder’s den” because in that day “the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea.” [Isaiah 11:6-8a; 9b] Isaiah is describing a time when God, through the coming of the Prince of Peace, who is the shoot from the stump of Jesse, would restore the world He has created and reverse the effects of the fall. There would be harmony where there is hostility, wholeness where there is brokenness, and fullness where there is lack.
So when Jesus says, “Peace be with you” he is declaring that although the kingdom of God has not yet arrived in all its fullness, it is beginning to break through into human history. This is the purpose of Jesus’ miracles. Often we think that Jesus miracles were a suspension of the natural order when in fact they were a restoration of the natural order. If Jesus had wanted to give evidence of His divinity by suspending the natural order he could have leaped over a tall building in one bound, made an airplane appear overhead, or caused it to snow in the middle of the summer. Rather Jesus’ miracles were a restoration of the natural order and in fact these were evidence of God coming to save His people through Jesus Christ. In Isaiah 35 we read, “Say to those who have an anxious heart, ‘Be strong; fear not! Behold, your God will come with vengeance, with the recompense of God. He will come and save you.’ Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; then shall the lame man leap like a deer, and the tongue of the mute sing for joy.” Jesus’ miracles were evidence that God was coming to save and that the rule & reign of His kingdom was being inaugurated because the lame walked, mute sang, deaf heard, and blind saw. Jesus didn’t just come to secure homes for us in heaven, but rather to inaugurate God’s kingdom on earth and see the effects of living in a fallen world reversed in the lives of people.
As Jesus followers we are sent to do what Jesus came and did: work in the lives of people in such a way that we push back the darkness and see the effects of the fall reversed. So when we rehab homes, provide medical care, offer tutoring, feed the hungry, clothe the homeless, and love widows & orphans we are demonstrating an implication of the gospel by bringing wholeness where there was once brokenness. Jesus came demonstrating the gospel by restoring broken lives. Are you going like Jesus came?
As a church, we cannot artificially pit declaration and demonstration against each other, rather, like Jesus, we must pull them together to go like Jesus came. Will you declare the gospel like Jesus and be a part of God rescuing sinners from condemnation to salvation? Will you demonstrate the gospel like Jesus and be a part of God restoring lives filled with brokenness to those filled with wholeness? Will you go like Jesus came?