This is a paragraph from a book manuscript that I'm writing. Anyway, a friend has read an early draft of the book and found this paragraph to be helpful. I am been meditating on it over the last few days to see if it is really saying what I want it to say. Here I want to experiment with a few expanded thoughts.
Scot McKnight's book, The King Jesus Gospel, helps us to see that in order to understand what the Bible means by the word "gospel" that we need to think in four big ideas:
- The Story of Israel/the Bible
- The Story of Jesus
- The Plan of Salvation
- The Method of Persuasion
If we make the "gospel" primarily about the plan of salvation—something which has largely shaped the imagination of the American church and especially American evangelicalism—then it's almost impossible not to read the Bible through the lens of my "personal"—and therefore individualistic—salvation experience. As a result, "I" then put myself at the center of the Bible. Every Bible passage becomes about "me." Then we come to the Bible with questions like these:
- What does this passage say about God's plan for my life?
- What do I need to change about my life?
- What blessings will come my way if I obey this passage?
- What is God saying to me through this passage?
I've been wrestling with a recipe for spiritual growth: Nine parts mystery and one part effort on my part. The more I walk with God, the more I see this to be true. It's not about me. Now if I don't offer my one part of effort and develop spiritual disciplines, I miss out on most of the nine parts of mystery. (In other words, this is no excuse for laziness.) But my one part of effort is not about trying to focus my attention more and more on what I need to be doing and how I need to apply some nugget of truth. My one part is to put my effort into allowing my imagination to be shaped by God's grand and mysterious story.
Let me say it again: My one part is NOT to focus on my actions and develop some pragmatic self-help steps for becoming a better Christian. My one part is to focus my heart, soul, mind and strength on the mysterious story of God's salvation of the world. And as I allow this story to shape me, my actions change. I relinquish control and my need to make myself a better Christian. My love grows organically. I become the kind of person that I was created to be.
This is God's story. The Father, Son and Holy Spirit is the main actor. I've got a bit role, but when when I really see what the Father, Son and Spirit are doing in the world, my role takes on huge significance. My life matters. I become a change agent for Kingdom life, not because I'm following someone's plan to change the world for God, but because I am truly different.