Pursuing the Clarity of the Gospel: IntroductionSunday, July 01, 2012
In the last series on Pursuing the Simplicity of the Gospel we explored what it means for our local churches to pursue the simplicity of the gospel. In short, the simple gospel is this: Jesus Christ came to forgive sins. That’s the message He sent His disciples out with, according to Luke 24. And that’s the message we are to go out with in our local churches.
In our review of what this forgiveness of sins looks like, we discovered from Luke 15 that it looks like Jesus going out with an intention to find what was lost. You’ ll recall that there were three stories there.
The first was about a shepherd who’ d lost one of his 99 sheep. So he leaves the other 99 behind and goes out and finds that one, brings it back rejoicing,and then calls his neighbors over to have a party to celebrate the fact that he found it.
In the second story, there’s this woman who lost some of her money. So she is portrayed sweeping and dusting and cleaning every nook and cranny in the house until she finds the lost money. So joyful over the fact that she found it, she calls her neighbors and friendsover and throws a party to celebrate.
In the third story, there’s a father with two prodigal sons. One of them stays with him, while the other takes his share of the inheritance and squanders it on wicked living. He comes to his senses, wants to be taken back by his dad as a hired hand, walks home, and suddenly finds himself in the arms and embrace of his dad who just ran out to meet him. So overjoyed at finding his son, the dad throws a huge party and celebrates this son of his who was lost and now was found.
So this is how Luke portrays our Savior: looking for what He’ s lost, finding it, rescuing it,bringing it back home with Him, and celebrating that He found it. So Luke offers us another story in chapter 19 with Zaccheus "the wee little man." Let me read the story to you briefly from the
Good News Bible.
Jesus went on into Jericho and was passing through. There was a chief tax collector there named Zacchaeus, who was rich. He was trying to see who Jesus was, but he was a little man and could not see Jesus because of the crowd. So he ran ahead of the crowd and climbed a sycamore tree to see Jesus, who was going to pass that way. When Jesus came to that place, he looked up and said to Zacchaeus, "Hurry down, Zacchaeus, because I must stay in your house today." Zacchaeus hurried down and welcomed him with great joy. All the people who saw it started grumbling, "This man has gone as a guest to the home of a sinner!" Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, "Listen, sir! I will give half my belongings to the poor, and if I have cheated anyone, I will pay back four times as much." Jesus said to him, "Salvation has come to this house today, for this man, also, is a descendant of Abraham. The Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost."This is a stunning story of forgiveness and inclusion. An outcast tax-collector (see Pursuing the Humility of the Gospel series for more information the background of a tax-collector's life) is personally called by Jesus Christ to eat dinner together, after which he is included into the family of God. King Jesus, the Son of Man, was on a mission while He was on this earth, to seek and save the lost...whoever they may be. And He is still on that mission today through His body the church.
Your local church is the body of Christ on earth right now, pursuing the same mission to seek and save the lost. Jesus is seeking and saving the lost through your efforts at your local church right now. This takes the gospel of Jesus out of a book written two thousand years ago and puts it squarely in your lap as both a gift and responsibility. I'd say that makes the gospel pretty clear. It's yours. And Jesus expects you to do with it what He Himself did.
Clarity is about making things clear. It’s about cleaning things up that have gotten in the way of seeing clearly what we want to see. When there are dog nose smudges on our windows, and fingerprints, and dirt, and streaks on our windows, we clean them because we want to see things clearly through our window. Things don’t look quite the same, do they, when the windshield on our car is all dirtied up.
Last night my wife was bringing me home from the Savannah airport and the fog was rather thick. As we drive through it, it condensates and turns to liquid on our windshield. Our wipers are pretty old and so all they served to do was smear the condensation all over our windshield making it extremely difficult to see. So during the entire trip my wife, who was driving at the time, was constantly lifting her head up and bringing it back down again, over and over, in order to see clearly through the windshield.
Eventually, we both got the bright idea to try to defrost, and so I cranked the temperature up on high, turned on the A/C, pointed it to the windshield, and the A/C dried the hot air so that the windshield actually cleared up from the inside, rather than from the outside. In similar fashion, friends, things often get gunked up for us as we look out on the world and what needs to be done. Politics need to be changed. Our city needs more businesses so that unemployment will be lower. Our neighborhoods need to be changed. Abortion needs to be stopped. Strip clubs need to be shut down. Corruption needs to be stopped. Etc.
And I fear that many times all of these so-called “needs” gunk up the windshield of the local church so that they can no longer see their mission clearly. The clarity of the mission, again, is this…not just for your local church, but for every true local church of Jesus Christ. The clarity of the mission is found in seeking and saving the lost.
You see, when you return to this, it's almost like the Windex we use to clean our windows. All the smudges and distractions disappear and we can see clearly again. And that’s what we must be pursuing in our local churches. A clarity of vision. A clear vision of the gospel. We’re clear about Jesus' mission in my local church, and it is the same as Jesus’ mission: to seek and save the lost.
In the posts that follow, I will open up the story of Zaccheus in Luke 19 in more detail in order to help frame up the clarity of the gospel so that we can all keep our mission simple and clear.
About the Author: Rob is a entrepreneur in Statesboro, GA, where he envisions and pursues missional-shaped business for the kingdom. He and his wife Sherri have been married for 18 years and together have three sons and a daughter. Rob believes the mission of the gospel is summed up in four simple phrases: know God, obey Jesus, make disciples, and plant churches. This is the pursuit of his life, as well as the point of his blog.