Friday, April 9, 2021

The Lavish Gospel

 Simply put, it's more than you can imagine.

Gospel blog #5


Last time I wrote about The Minimalist Gospel. Not that there is any such thing. I only used the classification to describe a customized pseudo-Gospel, one filling a need in a person’s life. But not breathing life into a person’s need.

I suggested a minimalist Gospel doesn’t require pain or sacrifice. That it adopts a repentance falling short of the command. I insinuated people are zombies. That we all need the same amount of fixing. It’s hard to accept that we’re completely lost. Utterly hopeless. That even our goodness required the death of the spotless Lamb of God.

This is where we meet the lavish Gospel. While a minimalist approach resists pain and sacrifice, the lavish Gospel begins with it. Not ours, but His. This is the starting point and it’s not easy for a minimalist to see. It’s unpleasant. It takes God and makes Him one of us. Someone whose skin is torn from his bones. Someone who appears hopeless. How can He help us? Doesn’t the very word gospel refer to good news? Violence and death are the opposite of what we expect to find when we’re hoping for good news. But the death of Christ was our death. The substitution. Our sin and rebellion against God was met by His pain and death to pay the penalty for our sin and rebellion against God. That’s the good news.

Disregarding the complete truth about the death of Christ leads the minimalist to curb their repentance. This is not to suggest the work of Christ is dependent on our rigorous understanding of what it means to repent. We can’t and don’t understand much when we answer God’s call. If you met God with the idea you should give up some bad behavior, you didn’t do anything wrong.

But repentance should move us far beyond giving up our assorted sins to total abandonment of our rebellion. Though we most certainly will get a new attitude about sin, repentance doesn’t mean we stop sinning completely. Repentance means we stop running from God. A minimalist Gospel keeps us tripping toward the goal. A lavish Gospel lets us rest at the finish line.

I wrote that a minimalist Gospel doesn’t demand you give up everything. You don’t have to let go of your old way of getting by. You can keep on trying to please God. Your plan for getting into His good graces just might work. This is the mistake of the minimalist. His way is the only way that’s fail-proof. Trust in the finished work of Christ—His death and resurrection—and you’ve got it. God is pleased with you. Sin has no hold on you. Death will not end you. Good news. Real repentance. Lavish Gospel.

I also implied a minimalist Gospel doesn’t gain you anything. It might get you some guilt relief, but it’ll be temporary. You may find yourself believing God has blessed your minimalist approach if your life is going right. But there’s a deal breaker in your future. God will make a move you don’t like or understand. And you will no longer trust Him. A minimalist Gospel won’t endure. It takes a lavish Gospel to hold you together when your world comes undone.

But is lavish a good way to describe the Gospel? It’s simple, really. And straightforward. You don’t need to be a theologian. If you like to keep things plain and unpretentious, say hello to Jesus. In that respect, I think He might be a minimalist. If you want to be lavished with unfathomable freedom and never-ending love from the God of the universe, then say hello to Jesus. He’s got something planned that you can’t imagine.

Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be the glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen. Ephesians 3:20-21

Friday, March 26, 2021

The Minimalist Gospel

Gospel blog post #4

It doesn't mean giving up everything.



She came to church to get things in order. She has cleaned up her life. Stopped dating men she met at bars. Got her kids enrolled in the church’s summer camp. Cleaned out her closets. Tossed a few outfits she should never have bought. And some books and movies. She quit smoking. Made up with her sister. The only thing left to improve is her commitment to God. No more clutter and distractions. Just good clean living. So here she is, telling God what she has to offer. And what she’s willing to give up. Don’t come at her with a bucket of holy water. Don’t put her on the prayer list. This new plan of hers is all about keeping it simple. She’s even thinking about becoming a minimalist, though she’s not quite sure what that means. But she’s not here to get in over her head. She only wants to get her spiritual side in line with the rest of her shiny new life. She figures if anything should fall under the category of minimalism, it’s this thing they call the Gospel.


 
A lot of people approach God that way. The minimalist Gospel is restrained, unassuming, and unobtrusive. It assumes you’re pretty close to being okay. If it does reveal a problem, it assures you it can be corrected with little pain or sacrifice. No prying into your daily life with demands of new behavior. Sin is not the issue. Feeling loved is what counts. Repentance is simply an understanding with God that He will accept you. He didn’t before, but now He does. So, did you repent? Or did God?

A soul reaching for a minimalist Gospel will not extend repentance as far as it must go in order to be redeemed. The belief is that we don’t need to address the depths from which we must be rescued. We want a little soap and water. We want the snot wiped off our noses. We know we need something only God can give, and so we grab a little Gospel and apply it sparingly. And keep on walking. But we’re zombies. Our skin is rotting. Our bones are dried up. We’re dressed in rags that don’t cover our skeletal remains.

A dangerous assumption is that not all sinners need a liberal dose of the Gospel. Some people need a complete overhaul, while others only need a tweak. This attitude leads to self-righteousness, which is really no righteousness at all. It settles in legalism. It pets the ego with sympathy and approval. The result is an unredeemed soul living under the guise of being a good person. And to that—the hope of being good—the soul desperately clings.

The minimalist Gospel demands little from the one who accepts it. There must be a belief in God, recognition of Christ, and a level of commitment to right living. For some, this means going to church. For others, it means giving up some bad habits. It doesn’t mean giving up on everything you consider worthy about yourself. Or casting aside everything you think will set you in right standing before God. Or everything that makes you who you are. It doesn’t mean giving up everything.

And it doesn’t mean gaining anything.

What is the opposite of minimalist? Outlandish, ornate, excessive. Lavish. Next blog post…that’s right…will be about the lavish Gospel.