Summary: The heart of the gospel message is love but the bulk of the gospel message contains instructions for serving Christ.
JESUS – An Example of Tough Love
“Living in this house is like living in hell,” screamed the young girl as she stamped her feet on the way upstairs to her room. The mother stood looking at her daughter, a hint of tears forming in her eyes. She wanted to run up the stairs and hug her daughter but she knew the timing would be wrong. Her daughter had openly refused to clear off the table and put the dirty dishes in the dishwasher: she had to be disciplined. Still, her daughter’s earlier acquisition that her mother did not love her had hit a raw nerve. The mother had come very close to shouting at her daughter: “who was it that always stood beside you in tough times; who was it that cheered the loudest during your soccer games; who was it that constantly encouraged you when you felt like you were failing; or just who do you think it is that constantly keeps you in her prayers?” But she had choked back the harsh questions. Instead, she said a silent prayer that her daughter would eventually come to understand her mother loves her very much. As she watched her daughter angrily slam her bedroom door, the mother wondered if perhaps her daughter wasn’t just a little bit spoiled: perhaps by too much loving attention from her parents. To be honest, her daughter had reached that age where she seemed to think that her parents only existed to serve her wants. The young teenage girl had lost sight of the fact she was part of a family and that she was expected to contribute to the family as well as take from the family. A smile began to creep across the woman’s face as she reflected on her daughter’s attitude: “almost reminds me of me during my last prayer!” As she turned and walked back to the dining room the woman thought: “do I really act like a spoiled child in my expectations from God?” The woman sat down at the table and stared at the dirty dishes, she reflected on her Christian attitude: “its true, sometimes we Christians get to the point where we think God exists for the sole purpose of filling our lives with health, wealth and happiness.”
Is the gospel message only about God’s love for us?
Most of us in Christendom never reach the point where we get tired of hearing about the positive and loving teachings of Jesus. After all, God so loved the world that He sacrificed His only begotten Son that we might have the opportunity for eternal life. (John 3:16) Jesus, Himself, reinforced the importance of love by telling us the two greatest commandments are to love God and to love our fellow man. (Matthew 22:36-40) There is no way we can minimize the importance of God’s love for us. After all, and beyond any shadow of a doubt, the combined teachings of Jesus all point to just one thing: loving forgiveness is God’s greatest gift to mankind. For by grace are we saved through faith, it is God’s gift, there is nothing man can possibly do to deserve this loving gift. (Ephesians 2:8-9) Paul, who Peter accused of being a hard teacher, went so far as to teach that our Christian works amount to nothing unless they are done in love. (1st Corinthians 13:1-13) Now think about this for a moment; how could a Christian ever get tired of hearing warm and fuzzy sermons?
Love is certainly the cord that binds Christianity together; God’s love for us surpasses human understanding; and it is God’s greatest desire that we love Him and we love one another. But, does all this love prove that the gospel message is primarily made up of positive, warm and fuzzy teachings? The answer is no! Yes, the gospel message is about our accepting Jesus as our Savior, but a greater portion of the New Testament is about our developing a servant-lord relationship with Jesus: more accurately, a slave-master relationship. Love is why Jesus wants us to be His servants, and love is why we should want to be servants of Jesus; yet, the fact remains that we must work very hard to develop our servant-lord relationship with Jesus. The heart of the gospel message may truly be the soul-saving sacrifice of Jesus, but the bulk of the gospel message is all about our making Jesus the Lord and Master of our life.
Making Jesus the true Lord and Master of our life is the most difficult thing we will ever do. The gospel message tells us that a Christian is someone who has been spiritually transformed: Born Again. (John 3:1-8) Therefore, a true Christian is someone who is a new creation: ergo, a servant of Jesus Christ. As a servant of Jesus, every single one of us has been given the job of living a life, which is a testimony of God’s reconciling love. (2nd Corinthians 5:17-22 and James 1:1) But remember this, a Christian must carry the loving message of reconciliation in a world that is far from loving. The message may be about love, but we must carry this message in a world filled with trials and tribulations; (James 1) we must live this message in a world where we are constantly under the threat of attack from evil spiritual forces. (Ephesians 6:10-18) Lets face it, most of us do not like to be confronted with the reality that Satan rules this world; we would much rather view life as a walk in a sun-filled meadow of wild flowers. The New Testament, however, does not paint a warm and fuzzy picture of Christian life. The New Testament paints a picture of God’s love transforming us into Christian for the sole purpose of our maturing into faithful servants of Christ: we are transformed into warriors who are in a constant battle against evil. (John 16:33, Romans 7:23, 1 Corinthians 9: 25-27, 2 Corinthians 2:11, 2 Corinthians 12:7, Galatians 5:17, Ephesians 6:12, James 4:7, 1 John 2:14 – 15, 1 Peter 2:11, 1 Peter 5:8, Revelations 12:17) If you are a mature Christian you are an active servant, an ambassador for Jesus Christ; and, this is the most rewarding, challenging and dangerous adventure anyone can undertake.