Pursuing the Simplicity of the Gospel: Part 4Friday, July 06, 2012
The Fourth Text:
The Forgiveness of Sins is the Simplest Foundation for our Life Mission
Through my thirty years of walking with Jesus, and my twenty years of discipling others I have found one thing to be true across the board when it comes to making disciples in western contexts: discipleship is extremely complicated.
Stop and think for a moment about how many books have been written on the subject of discipleship. There are thousands of books about discipleship and tens of thousands of books that are supposed to disciple you. I went through several of them while I was in High School. There was the series produced by Campus Crusade for Christ at the time, which included several volumes of small paperback books. I then went through the Navigator series, followed by some stuff put out by a famous Youth Minister back in the day. I was discipled using the materials put out by Bill Gothard and his Institute in Basic Youth Conflicts. And the list could go on and on.
All of this had the cumulative effect, for me personally, of making me feel like there was so much to following Jesus that I often got discouraged because I simply could not do it all. I carried an immense guilt around in my gut most of my teenage and college life because I just knew I wasn't doing all the stuff I had learned in all those books. Yet when I would read the Bible and see a simplicity to the mission Jesus called His disciples to, I would reason that all the stuff I was having to do was also what Jesus made His disciples do, but it just wasn't recorded in the Bible for us. Hogwash!
Jesus made discipleship and His mission quite simple. In summary, Jesus sort of said, "Hey! I love you always and will be with you always, no matter where you go. So do everything I've told you to do. Do everything I've showed you how to do. Make other disciples by teaching them to do the same thing. And always live like my Father's promises are true." Jesus always had a knack for taking the complexity out of things and making most things simple.
Things brings me to the final passage I want to explore in this little survey on Luke. It's Luke 24:46-49 and it's one of the last recorded talks Jesus had with His disciples before ascending to heaven.
46 And he said, "Yes, it was written long ago that the Messiah would suffer and die and rise from the dead on the third day. 47 It was also written that this message would be proclaimed in the authority of his name to all the nations, beginning in Jerusalem: 'There is forgiveness of sins for all who repent.' 48 You are witnesses of all these things. 49 "And now I will send the Holy Spirit, just as my Father promised. But stay here in the city until the Holy Spirit comes and fills you with power from heaven."Notice three things about this passage.
First, notice the simplicity of the message Jesus wants proclaimed "in the authority of his name to all the nations: there is forgiveness of sins for all who repent." That's what Jesus wants you to take to the world, friends. That's what Jesus wants us to pursue in our local churches.
Second, notice the simplicity of the assumption Jesus makes about the presence and power of sin. Do you see anywhere in the passage where Jesus wants us to try to convince the nations they are sinners? No! They already know they are, and we are simply to preach about how it is removed: through the forgiveness of God in Jesus Christ.
Third, notice that the simplicity of the message also is the foundation for the power of the Spirit's work in and through the local church. The promised Holy Spirit was coming, but His power would be based on the authority of King Jesus to forgive sins. This means the effectiveness of the local church would be based entirely and completely on its faithfulness to the simplicity of that message.
In other words, I don't think it's far fetched to wonder if the lack of the Spirit's power in the local church and the lack of a local church's effectiveness in world missions is due to its lack of pursuing a vision of asimple gospel in the forgiveness of sins.
Wherever there's a complex and difficult message, I'll bet you there's no Holy Spirit power. His power ungirds the simple gospel message of forgiveness of sins. In fact, I'd go so far as to say that the power is in the simplicity. Simplicity means purity, undiluted,unclouded, unmuddied, unadulterated.
Now, with the understanding that the simple message of forgiveness of sins is the foundation for our worship, our prayer life, and our life mission, what exactly is the shape of this simple message? What does the forgiveness of sins look like? We know what it means. It means to cleanse or take away sin.But what does it look like biblically?
But exactly how is forgiveness enacted, put into effect, played out, etc.?
In the next post, we'll discover the answer in the Shape of the Simplicity of the Gospel.
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.