Jesus died for our sins, not so that we could sort out abstract ideas, but so that we, having been put right, could become part of God´s plan to put this whole world right.” –The day Revolution began, NT Wright
I would dear stick out to say that we have over the years developed a salvation culture in our churches but not a Kingdom culture. This has generated a bunch of individuals instead of a family in the Kingdom with a common goal, focus has been on meetings and sin management instead of discipleship.
A salvation culture
I have been thinking a lot why we have such a weak christianity in Europe, with many churchgoers but few disciples. Many meetings but very little progress and influence in society.
The disciples we have tends to, over and over again, even though they boldly sing “Lord I give you my life…my everything ” struggle to give just their whole life to Lord Jesus Christ. Still struggle with whom they are, what they should do, seeking positions and titles more than towels and serving the King and his Kingdom. Few wants to serve in the hidden, but many on the platform.
I believe, we struggle with what we are fed with in everyday life from media and western culture. Like, “To fulfill your destiny you must promote yourself”.
Also in the church our focus away from sacramentalism, infant baptism and unclarity of a salvation to instead focus to measures people on the basis of whether they had a personal salvation experience or not, or if filled with the spirit or not, have also brought us here. I do not by that say we should go back to sacramentalism, but sometime when we react to something we also miss some depths. And, both evangelicals and orthodox streams struggle with discipleship. Focus on sacraments or personal salvation experience makes no real difference if you look at the fruits.
Also the way we in charismatic streams focus on personal prophetic words, personal break through and personal healing, how each and one of us can be led by the Spirit, often on a very individual basis. All this good and important, but this have also created an unhealthy individualism and independence in the church.
How many times have I not met members of the churches I have pastored, saying: “God has told me to do this and that…” not even considering evaluating together with me as their pastor or other members in the church if this really is God or just a new idea. E.g Everything from, God has told me to leave my responsibilities in the church to leave the spouse for a new love….God said, really…?
Then over the years we have tried to either emphasize more on grace (antinomianism), and then more on judgement with no real difference in the end result though.
What are we doing wrong?
I believe we have been to salvation oriented and not enough Kingdom oriented which for me is something broader.
From focus on one decision when receiving forgiveness four our sins, to live a life as a a disciple, being a servant to King Jesus and his mission that includes the whole creation and not just saving people from hell.
The gospel of the Kingdom
Problem is that due to our emphasis on salvation gospel, the full story, from beginning in Eden has somewhat been neglected.
What gospel did Jesus preach? Was that the same as Pauls gospel?
Why? Yes, many say the teaching before the cross refers to the old covenant, and the salvation gospel comes with Paul.
”The Law and the Prophets were until John; since then the good news of the kingdom of God is preached, and everyone forces his way into it.” – Luke 16:16 ESV
Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel* I preached** to you, which you received***, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures,…” – 1 Corinthians 15:1-3 ESV
”…But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death.” – 1 Corinthians 15:20-26 ESV
*the word “gospel” (euangelion in greek) means good news.
**the word “I preached to you” could be translated like this: “which word I gospeled to you.” So you could translate it “the gospel (read Jesus message) I gospeled”
***the word “you received” (15: 1). (parelabete in Greek) refers to the authorized tradition of the apostles that they had mastered (or had mastered them) and which Paul himself “received” (15: 3, parelabon, same Greek verb). Paul “passed on” that same gospel tradition to the Corinthians so they would have the authentic gospel. Basically, Paul says, the gospel he received he has given to the Corinth’s.
The gospel Paul gospeled
that Christ died, was buried, was raised, and appeared. Then the end when he gives the Kingdom, that now have defeated the darkness, back to God.
Yes – Paul preached the same gospel as Jesus.
Gospel of the Kingdom
But as mentioned earlier, the gospel is not something hanging lose, it connects the dots, it completes the whole story. The gospel is the resolution and fulfillment of Israel’s Story and promises, going back to the beginning.
Jesus walking on earth connects the story and vision to put man not only right with God but also put man back on track with Gods relation and mission on earth.
The gospel, is more than just the life of Jesus around his birth, death and resurrection. All Jesus taught and lived out is ever so important as the salvation message.
”And he went throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction among the people.” – Matthew 4:23 ESV
The good news of the Kingdom is more than just being in church. Therefor discipleship should be something that included Gods full creation and mission. The sooner we see this the better.
The result of a salvation only gospel has not only made us to become independent individuals, it has limited our visions, targets and goals to only relate to church life. “So the best disciples are those becoming full time paid pastors.” It could not be more wrong!
Kingdom disciples should live for the main goal to restore this earth with its people back to Eden. Not mainly to become a pastor but to become a true disciple of Jesus, putting this world back on track.
True Kingdom disciples should not focus on how to follow but whom to follow!
When New Testament talks about sin and sanctification, it does not mean to focus to much on every sin we commit, but instead to follow Jesus and not go back to our old sinful life.
Salvation gospel tends to put focus on my sins and my salvation, whereas the gospel of the Kingdom says, yes that is important, but not the meaning of life.
”In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” – Matthew 3:1-2 ESV