Summary: In our Scripture passage today, Paul gives the Gospel message in a condensed form. He tells us the story of Jesus, focusing on the main events of Jesus’ life
The Message of a Disciple
I Corinthians 15:1-5 and Eph 1:18-23
Do you know the Gospel message? In our Scripture passage today, Paul gives the Gospel message in a condensed form. He tells us the story of Jesus, focusing on the main events of Jesus’ life: Jesus died for our sins, was buried, was raised from the dead and he appeared to the disciples. Since the time of the disciples, this is the Gospel message which has been preached and shared throughout the centuries as millions have given their life to Christ. But is it enough?
David Fitch and Geoff Holsclaw tell the story of one Sunday in worship when they offer an opportunity for members to share a story of wonder of what God has been doing in their life in the previous week. That morning, a young man named Dustin stood up and began talking about his job at Starbucks. He had been working there for more than two years cultivating relationships with fellow employees and customers. He had been praying for months asking for God to enable him to see what God was up to at Starbucks. His desire was to be used as an instrument of the Gospel. That week, a woman named Sarah he had known for 2 years asked him if he could talk. She sounded serious and downcast. So they moved over to a table away from the store traffic and she began to open up her life to him. She told him her boyfriend, who was a heroin addict, had left her, her parents had split up and she had been denied admission to a graduate program. Everything in her life, she said, was imploding. As she looked to the future, she couldn’t imagine anything to live for. She was spiraling downward and isolating herself from the few people she knew. And for the last two nights, she was having thoughts of killing herself. As Dustin was telling the story, the sanctuary became still. Many stared empathetically. And then Dustin said, in that moment with Sarah, he didn’t know what to say or do. Having grown up in the church, he had been taught the Four Spiritual Laws:
1. God has a plan for your life
2. But we are sinful and separated from God
3. Jesus died on the cross for our sins
4. If we receive him as Lord and Savior we can be forgiven and receive eternal life
Dustin said he didn’t see how the Four Spiritual Laws were appropriate or could connect with Sarah and what was going on in her life. Dave and Geoff said, “We asked ourselves a lot of questions that day as a community (of faith). Was our understanding of the Gospel too small? Does it address only one problem (moral guilt) without dealing with others (relational devastation)? Is our Gospel limited to a ‘decision’ that means little for the everyday lives of those around us?...How does the Kingdom of God actually deal with sin? How does it overcome the relational strife of a broken world? How does it heal the alienation of a rebellious humanity?” The answer is the radical Gospel that “Jesus, the crucified and risen Messiah, is Lord.”
In the 15th century, there was a split in the church. Prior to that time, European towns and villages had their life centered around the Roman Catholic Church. In this time, there was a strong sense of the justice of God seeking out all sin and punishing all unrighteousness. The Christian faith was grounded in the idea of penitence where you confessed your sin, did penance and then were absolved. This served to order the lives of Christians and release them from their guilt. In the midst of this, there was a growing awareness, particularly as cities grew and industrialism and poverty increased that we lived in a sinful world. And there was a growing desire to lead holy lives for God. Because we sin, we are separated from God, need forgiveness and so must confess our sins and receive Jesus Christ. This approach to the faith and evangelism is based on guilt in world where personal sin before a Holy God was an all- consuming problem.
But being able to answer the question, “Will I be forgiven by a just God when I die?” did not speak to the reality of Sarah’s brokenness and circumstances she was facing. Dustin was equipped with a plan of salvation and forgiveness based on sin when she really needed a story of hope and power. A plan of salvation focuses on the moral aspects of sin, offers Christ as the solution and pleads for a decision to trust in Jesus and receive His forgiveness. Now we don’t want to deny this part of the story of salvation. Sin is destructive, and very much alive in our world today. Sin brings darkness, isolation and separation. But Sarah didn’t need a Gospel based on sin and guilt.