I realize that the Gospel message has a great joy to it, and nothing is more important that communicating how the love of God is received through it. This is the peace of knowing that Jesus has secured a place in Heaven for anyone who has accepted His work on the Cross and made Him their Savior. I cannot stress enough the positive impact this has on people who trust in Jesus.
However, the Gospel is also intense. Its intensity is seen throughout the New Testament and the Apostle Paul describes it this way:
2 Timothy 1 7For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline. 8So, do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord or of me his prisoner. Rather, join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God.
This suffering for the Gospel is an interesting phrase. The Apostle Paul knew that this world would not accept the Gospel because it exposes their sin, their immorality, and their human independence. He knew that the religious world of his day, and even the religions in our day, would not accept the dictates or the demands of the Gospel. The Gospel is a radical idea that demands your attention and your allegiance. Much of what we do in church circles today is focused on the love, the forgiveness, the mercy of God and how that intersects with our lives. We love to sing songs about His greatness, His desire to know us, and rescue us. We love to remind ourselves of His promises to care and watch over us, but rarely do we talk about the tension that surrounds a commitment to Him.
• The suffering aspect of being rejected and hated for our faith
• The dimension of being misunderstood and marginalized
• The struggle to make Him known in a world that ignores God
• The condemnation of sinful desires and temptations
• The constant resistance that it takes to keep pure and righteous
• The overwhelming manipulation of culture and the lies that accompanying it
• The courage that it takes to follow Jesus in discipleship and be obedient to His Word
So, following the Gospel is intense. The spirit of compromise is constantly nipping at our heels, trying to get us to reverse course and consider new ideas for living out Christianity. In my lifetime of being a Christian, I have seen how new trends of theology and practice take hold, and in a few short years they come full circle in discovering they have come up short in knowing God.
We begin to see how easy it is to discover a new revelation, whether it is a prosperity message or the prayer of Jabez … all have an element of truth, but the emphasis is all wrong. Emphasis is important because it is what gets communicated and believed.
Anytime a theory or a theology gets more attention than God Himself, you have an idol in the making. Today, when the church makes an emphasis on God’s goodness to us but ignores the more intense requirements of Scripture, it leaves us in the driver’s seat and gives God the back seat. Now, you may find that difficult to stomach, but I ask you to at least give it some thought.
The emphasis of Scripture is basically on three themes ministered by the Holy Spirit (John 16:8):
These are the three areas Jesus said would be the emphasis of the Holy Spirit. Who decides what the emphasis of the sermon or the ministry of the church will be? That is a good question, because if we decide that we do not want to make our ministry emphasis on the tension of discipleship but rather on the goodness of God, you can see how the favor of ministry can be so different.
My quest today is to make a case that there is a tension in the Gospel. When I read the Gospels, or the writings of the Apostles, I find that there is a tension present that requires something from me. Grace, of course, is God’s unmerited favor, so nothing we do can earn it or deserve it … it is a free gift of God.
Yet, how I live in this grace and how I live out this grace in our world … there is a tension. No leader can just stay on how great God’s Grace is without talking about the tension we will experience as we accept that grace and become a follower of Jesus.
Words the Bible uses to describe this tension are: suffering, persecution, accusation, deception, hatred, and death. Not pretty words that anyone who wants to go to church to learn about, right? Yet to ignore them would ignore the emphasis of Scripture. That is my point in all of this. Ignoring the tensions found in Scripture will not promote healthy spiritual life.
Jesus talked a lot about tensions in His Sermon on the Mount. I will end with an example from:
Matthew 5 13You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. 14You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.
The tensions of Scripture are not to be ignored.
Challenging the Culture with Truth … Larry Kutzler