I wrote yesterday that the gospel speaks a variety of voices. The reality of what God has done in Christ and by the Spirit is so large and high and deep and wide that it isn’t captured by any singular formula. The gospel is always meeting and transforming every situation it encounters—always devastating and renewing, always tearing down idolatries and corruptions and always rebuilding, restoring, renewing, and redeeming.
A significant part of being Christian is the ongoing joyful task of discovering how every aspect of life is reconfigured by the gospel.
The gospel transforms how we relate to one another, how we are children, how we are parents, how we are friends and neighbors, how we are spouses, how we receive a rebuke, how we answer an insult, how we participate in sports and games, how we watch movies, how we read, how we cook, how we eat, how we laugh, how we cry, how we regard praise or criticism—there is nothing outside the reach of the gospel. Any and every aspect of life is captured, transformed and given back to us as gift by the power of God in Christ.
Being Christian is discovering together how this is so. Paul says this in a number of passages.
Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will (Romans 12:2).
Paul exhorts the Roman Christian community to develop renewed imaginations so that they might creatively embody the gospel reality of God’s new family in Christ.
Paul connects the gospel’s fruit-bearing and the cultivation of discernment for creatively embodying the gospel as a community in Colossians 1:6-12:
In the same way, the gospel is bearing fruit and growing throughout the whole world—just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it and truly understood God’s grace. You learned it from Epaphras, our dear fellow servant, who is a faithful minister of Christ on our behalf, and who also told us of your love in the Spirit. For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light.
Paul wants his communities to cultivate gospel discernment so that they develop the eyes to see how the gospel can move into every situation, capture it and reconfigure it so that there are hopeful and redemptive ways forward for everyone.
The gospel does not have only one voice. It is not a singular formula that we repeat at every opportunity.
Sometimes it talks about the freedom of forgiveness. Sometimes it speaks of the cost of discipleship. It will confront and rebuke, but it will also comfort and give rest.
Christians must take up the wonderful task of getting to know the gospel in its many aspects. We must also develop the discernment to know when to speak and to know what gospel word meets the moment.
2 thoughts on “Finding Our Gospel Voices”
My first response is: How do we “figure out” what you’re proposing we do?
The Romans 12 text you mentioned has an imperative with a passive. This makes it clear (to me anyways) that we are to participate in GOD’s transforming of his people. We do not transform ourselves by the force of our own will. We make ourselves susceptible to the transforming power of the Holy Spirit. This is not, as I presently sense is popularly believed, by some magical, mystical process. Rather, the Spirit shapes us by, for example, the songs that we sing, the prayers that we pray, the Supper and the words we speak at the occasion of the Supper, the study of the word, the fellowship of the Saints,
the preaching of the word, and so on. We are shaped by the Spirit through the Story. If the story, as we tell it is a small one, our shaping will be small and shallow. We must tell the BIG story of the Gospel to be further shaped by a big Story.
Great question, Joey — and good thoughts. Stay tuned!