I’ve been stalling on writing this post for some time. In the period since the last post, we’ve packed up a house, traveled on three continents, moved back into our home in Narnya, and fought off a few illnesses. But, in reality, I’ve just had trouble getting started on this one.
The reason is that there is a lot – a LOT – I’d love to say about the gospel. I’d love to unpack the whole Pauline corpus and demonstrate how the gospel isn’t primarily about us or our sins, or our destiny, or about God’s wonderful plan for our lives. Rather, it’s about Jesus, and more specifically, it’s an announcement that Jesus is King of Everything. This is good news, because finally, in Jesus, God has become our King, and now the world has a King that is good AND strong AND wise enough to lead us all to freedom. Let evil beware, there is a King in Zion, and he loves us enough to die for us.
Maybe sometime I’ll do that here. Others have done a good job with the concept, though, so for today I’m going to limit myself to helping you talk about Jesus, because that’s what I’m really after, anyway.
In Colossians 1:28 Paul lets the Colossian saints know how he Messages the Mystery – that is, how he proclaims the gospel.
“HIM we proclaim.”
Paul and his friends announce HIM. The structure of the phrase lets us know that Paul is emphasizing HIM. They talk – a lot – about Jesus.
Let’s take a moment and contrast that again with some other good things he could talk about:
- Where one goes when one dies.
- A wonderful plan God might have for someone’s life.
- The mechanics of how one comes to be saved.
- The need for social justice.
- What can be done about our sins.
Each of these is an excellent thing to talk about, and any of them could make appearances in Paul’s proclamations. But the Message he stewarded – our Message – isn’t about heaven or hell, us or our sins, individuals or society. It affects all of those. But our Message, our gospel, is about Christ.
“But,” you might respond, “doesn’t Paul give lots of time to discussing sin and our hope and the mechanics of how we are saved?”
When he’s talking to believers. Paul’s developments of sin, soteriology, eschatology, all the -ologies – these are all things he’s teaching people who have already heard and believed the gospel of Jesus. In those cases, Paul is explaining what they have already and are continually experiencing. But understanding all that is not necessary for entering the experience.
When Paul is talking to unbelievers, he’s talking about Jesus. The Person. Of course he gets to death and resurrection, often quickly. But his announcement is less about the people, and more about Jesus. And what he has to say about Jesus is good news for the people.
Take a moment and read the following passages, and notice what (or whom) Paul consistently says the gospel is about:
In every instance, the gospel is about Jesus.
Here’s what this means for you. If you’re like me, you’re not a great evangelist. Some of you are. But I’m not, and I need some clarity as to what I’m supposed to be talking about with unbelievers. Some of you are more comfortable with pagans than with saints, and that’s great. You probably don’t need this help. But for the rest of you, here’s why this blog post matters to you. Ready?
To Message the Mystery well, just talk about Jesus.
You’ll have to talk about him like he’s real and presently active, of course, so you’ll need to be regularly experiencing him in real life and real time. And your face and body language shouldn’t belie the things you’re saying about him, so you’ll want to be really enjoying and celebrating him deeply.
But given you’re regularly adoring and receiving from Jesus, all you need to do then is talk about him.
That, actually, has become our team’s central practice. We have a mission statement, a carefully maintained team culture, some guiding principles, and some bang-up strategy. But who can hold all that in their head all the time? Not us, so we also have a central practice – something we do every day that, if we do it, should reasonably lead to a win here. Every day we:
- Connect meaningfully with Jesus The Person (not just memories of him, but him now).
- We obey what he has said. And …
- We discuss him with someone.
This is our central practice. Not peripheral practice, when it fits in our lives. And not central idea. It’s a practice, a thing we actually do routinely.
I’d like to invite you to consider joining us in that practice. Encounter Jesus, obey him, and talk about him with others every day. Make certain that at least once a week that discussion happens with someone who does not know him yet.
In future posts I’ll try to offer more help on this point. The story of the Samaritan woman in John’s gospel is a great place to get some coaching. But for now, I dare you to try building your days around those three things (encounter, obey, discuss), and see what happens. At the least, you’ll be appropriately Messaging the Mystery.