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What is Jesus' Robust Gospel?

Written by Brad Hammond, Vice President, Field Ministries

Over the last couple of months, you've noticed that much of our communication has been about creating a future of sustainability within Lifeline's ministries around the world. We have talked a lot about community development, economic empowerment, and the like.

A fair question from those looking in could be, "Is it possible that Lifeline is losing their focus on evangelism?" or "Is Lifeline still focused on the gospel, or could they be losing their focus?"

Those are fantastic questions, and the answer to those questions would be a resounding, "Absolutely not!"

Lifeline's focus on sustainability, economic empowerment, and community development has actually sharpened and elevated our focus on evangelism and making disciples! And the "Why?" behind that sharpened and elevated focus is Jesus' Gospel! 

It truly is the Gospel that has compelled us to be more aggressive in these areas. Let me explain more.

I have learned over the years that when people use the word "Gospel," it's usually taken for granted that those listening understand exactly what the person is talking about.
However, in my experience, if you ask ten people to explain the Gospel in one sentence, you will most likely get ten different answers. I believe there is a large amount of misunderstanding and confusion around what the Gospel actually is according to Jesus.

A familiar telling of the Gospel usually goes something like, "You're a sinner. Jesus died for your sins. If you accept Jesus, you will go to heaven when you die." Obviously, there is truth in that statement. We are all sinners (Rom. 3:23). There is no hope for being saved from your sin apart from Jesus (Acts 4:12). None. However, the problem with calling that the Gospel is that's not what the Bible, and especially Jesus himself, says the Gospel is.

According to Jesus, the Gospel (literally, the "good announcement") was that the Kingdom of God had arrived in him (i.e. Matt. 4, Mark 1, Luke 4). Well, what in the world does that mean?

Put simply, the Kingdom of God is the reign and rule of God. Jesus did not come announcing that he was going to create a way to get people out of here and get them to heaven when they die. He came announcing that he had brought God's reign and rule down here, to earth. He came to free people from the grip that sin, evil, and death had on their lives, and he invited people to follow him, to learn to live on mission with him, to live under his reign and rule as King right now, in the present. He came inviting people into real and eternal life, STARTING NOW! (i.e. John 10:10)

Inviting humanity to live on mission with Him and living under his reign and rule as King has been God's desire since page one of the Bible ... literally page one. Not surprisingly, on the last page of the Bible, we see God coming down to be with His people, and "they will reign and rule with him forever and ever."

It's no wonder Jesus taught us to pray, "Your kingdom come (Your reign and rule come) ... on earth as it is in heaven." Christians need to be faithful to serving their local communities with that ending in their minds.

So, what does it look like when you take Jesus' Gospel of the Kingdom to a community? As stated another way, what does it look like when God's reign and rule infiltrate a community? Theologian N.T. Wright suggests we can begin to understand the answer by first asking the question, "If God were running this town, what would be different?" I like that!

One thing that would be different, without a doubt, is that the Gospel would not just be proclaimed; it would be physically demonstrated in the lives of those who are following Jesus. We are very familiar with the idea of "Preaching the Gospel," but what would you do if someone asked you to prove the Gospel without using just words?

Jesus and his disciples did not just preach the Gospel. They proved the Gospel; they proved that God was presently reigning and ruling in their midst. 

For Jesus, the Gospel isn't only something you say; it's also something you do.

It is expressed publicly through the lives of Jesus' followers as they bring God's reign and rule to the places of brokenness in their community.

That requires the power of the Holy Spirit at work in followers of Jesus. Paul said it like this, "For the kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of 
power." (1Cor 4:20). When we preach (proclaim) the Gospel but fail to demonstrate the Gospel in our communities, through the power of the Holy Spirit, we are falling short of what Jesus has commanded of us.

So, in every one of Lifeline's ministries, we are passionate about not only knowing the Gospel of the Kingdom is being proclaimed in that community but also that God's reign and rule are being demonstrated in that community. 

In other words, we want to be disciples that proclaim and demonstrate the Gospel the same way Jesus and his first disciples did. The mission of the church is to make the wise, gentle, healing rule of King Jesus manifested in self-giving love on earth as it is in heaven. That is what Jesus was praying and asking his Father for in John 17. He was sending us out to continue the mission exactly as he did!

"My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world." - John 17:15-18

At Lifeline, we are focused on being obedient to King Jesus' command to proclaim and demonstrate the Gospel around the world. We are continually seeing people come and receive Jesus, and we praise God for his miracle of salvation! There is no other way to enter the Kingdom! For example, recently, we have seen fourteen new followers of Jesus baptized in Panama. We saw a single mom in Guatemala receive Jesus as her King and was baptized after she was in a serious car accident.

As we are praising God for stories like these, at the same time, we realize that is just the beginning. We want to obey Jesus and make disciples who learn to live and love like Jesus. We want to see these new followers of Jesus bring hope to their communities because the disastrous effects of sin aren't just "in here" (personal sin); they're "out there" too in the broken world. We want these new followers to put God's reign and rule on display with their lives in their communities.

When Jesus brought the Gospel to a community, he brought it holistically. 

He didn't only forgive people's sins; he cared for their bodies and brought healing. That is why Lifeline provides healthcare. 

He didn't only forgive people's sins; he cared about their hunger and fed them. That is why Lifeline feeds the hungry. 

He didn't only forgive people's sins; he cared about their minds and gave them wisdom. That is why Lifeline provides education. 

He didn't only forgive people's sins; he showed them how to love their neighbors and their communities. That's why Lifeline engages in community development.

He didn't only forgive people's sins; he set them free from depending on others to meet all their needs. That's why Lifeline is passionate about economic empowerment.

The Good News!

We believe that the Gospel is GOOD NEWS for the whole person! God's desire is to reign and rule over the whole of our lives. And, if the Gospel is good news for the whole person, then it has the potential to be good news for the whole community as well.

That is why we are taking such a holistic approach in our ministries. Is that more difficult than just preaching and baptizing? Yes. Does that take significantly more time and work? Yes. Does that require the supernatural power of the Holy Spirit? Absolutely! Without that, we can do nothing.

The Gospel requires a proclamation (by the power of the Spirit) and a demonstration (by the power of the Spirit). 

It is Jesus' Gospel that compels us to do this, and we thank you for partnering with us and being a part of this incredible Gospel work!

Church ministry is one of Lifeline's four causes. Learn more about what this looks like in the mission field.