Sitting here looking at a book galley I need to read - a book entitled Your Church is Too Small by John Armstrong - I'm reminded of a book from a generation ago by J. B. Phillips, Your God is Too Small. In that book Phillips examined and debunked a number of popular, but false, conceptions of God, on the way to presenting a more Biblical view of the Lord. John intends to do something like this for our view of the Church by encouraging more openness to one another in the Body of Christ and exploring ways of working together to express the oneness we have in Him.
Somebody needs to write a book like that for the Gospel - Your Gospel is Too Small. I continue to be dismayed at the shallow and ineffectual representations of the Gospel that come from pulpits, periodicals, and publications by popular evangelical preachers and writers. From these sources the work that Jesus accomplished boils down to forgiving our sins, securing a place in heaven for those who believe, providing a resource for comfort against the vicissitudes of a dark and sinful age, and perhaps lighting the way to some kind of prosperity here and now.
Now those may well be aspects of the Gospel. But they are not the Gospel. Saying that Jesus is an excellent example of compassion and love, and the greatest teacher who ever lived, are both true statements, right out of the Bible. But they aren't the Gospel (unless, of course, your theology is liberal). The Gospel that Jesus preached is not about forgiveness and eternal life in the first instance. Rather, these are aspects of the Gospel Jesus preached, which is the Gospel of the Kingdom.
The Good News that Jesus proclaimed, and the Apostles after Him, is that the Kingdom of God has come near to men, even into their midst. A new era of redemption, renewal, and reconciliation has begun. A new power is unleashed among men, bringing life and transformation into the image of Christ. A new Ruler is sovereign in the affairs of men, and He has launched a new economy of grace and Truth toward a new agenda that makes building the Church and seeking the Kingdom top priorities for the followers of Christ.
The "good news" of this Kingdom is that it provides salvation, transformation, renewal, and power to go beyond our human limitations in loving the Lord and our neighbors. All this is available by grace through faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, empowering those who believe to turn their world upside-down for the Lord and His Kingdom.
Oh yeah? you say. So where do we see any of that taking place? Precisely my point: We see so little of this because this is not what we are being taught. Simply put, our Gospel is too small. In fact, it isn't the Gospel at all, but another gospel.
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