Thursday, March 20, 2008

The Story is Jesus

Recently my friend Edward Fudge responded to the question, “What is the core of the gospel?” in his thrice-weekly email essay, gracEmail (see I want to share (and paraphrase in parts) a portion of his response and add my comments.

“They had little money and minimal education. There was no business plan, no human sponsorship, no institutional presence. Mass media was unheard of and mass transportation did not yet exist. Yet within one generation, thirteen plain men and their unremarkable helpers spread the Jesus message throughout the Roman Empire in every direction people could go. Most of these messengers lost their lives in the process—but gladly, because of the value they placed on the message they bore.

“It starts in Jerusalem with Peter addressing a pilgrimage of thousands, including many who recently had engineered Jesus’ crucifixion. You killed Jesus the Son of God, Peter declared, but God raised him from the dead and titled him “Lord” and “Christ.” Now Jesus has sent his Spirit to fulfill the ancient prophecies, so turn your hearts to repent and be baptized (Acts 2:22-38).

“The message was always simple. Jesus was killed on the cross but God raised him from the grave and exalted him beside himself in heaven. Now God offers repentance and the forgiveness of sins to everyone.

“It is interesting what we don’t find in the story of the early Christians in the book of Acts. We don’t find moralisms or religious duties, or instruction on joining a particular church, or talk of self-esteem or keys to worldly success. The story is Jesus, killed by men but raised by God, who gives authority to Jesus and repentance to humankind, a new start in a new world. With this story God turned the world upside-down (actually right-side-up) and history and civilization has never been the same. The same God is still in charge, the same Spirit still at work, the same story still true and – when the story goes out straight and unvarnished – the same results will follow. A world is waiting” (3/18/08).

Have you noticed how many books by atheists are on the bestseller lists this year? Two prominent ones are The God Delusion, and God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything. Then there is the book that a LOT of pastors are reading, UnChristian: What a New Generation Really Thinks about Christianity… and why it Matters. This is all perhaps a helpful reminder to focus, or refocus, on the main thing, which is the person of Jesus Christ and the Good News about him. When I had a life-changing series of conversations at age twenty which led to my baptism into Christ, people didn’t tell me about the benefits of religion, or even the truths of Christianity. They told me about Jesus Christ. How he fulfills the promises of Scripture. How he died on the cross for my sins. How he was raised from the dead and reigns in heaven. How he came to both model and offer me a life with God that is contrary to many of the world’s values. How he wants to be both my Lord and my friend (John 15). How he knocks at my door waiting for me to answer (Revelation 3).

Yes, friends, the story is Jesus. He is risen and he lives through the Holy Spirit in his followers throughout the world. What a story!


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