"The whole gospel to the whole person in the whole world."
This phrase kept pressing its nose up against the window pane of my soul today as I read the Word. I find that I have a truncated definition of the gospel at times. It's been reduced to "Jesus died for your sins. Ask him into your heart. You are now saved." Or the ABC's of the Gospel. "Accept - Believe - Confess" Maybe you think in terms of The Bridge, or The Romans Road, or The 4 Spiritual Laws when you consider the gospel. Each of these expressions provides a piece of the puzzle, but the gospel is much bigger than trite "reduction-ary" bullet points couched in a three-fold pamphlet. The Gospel is simple, but not simplistic. When we share the dwarfed version we look like simpletons.
As I was reading Paul's letter to the Thessalonians my eyes moved across the words and a verse stuck out to me...
"Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well."
The gospel is not all that matters. It's not just about "getting the gospel out there" and letting the Lord work. You don't just throw a verse on a poster board and hold it up in the stands at the footbaall expecting God's word not to return void. God's word is not pixy dust that mystically seeps into the soul of someone through osmosis or telepathy. No, the gospel must be accompanied with someone's life as well.
I think we have all seen the damage of the "lifeless exchange of the gospel" over the years. People trying to get the message out there without putting their own life on the line. People caring more about conversion than conversation. People engaging in smash-mouth evangelism without any personal equity built into the relationship.
What does it mean to "share your life as well" going beyond just the gospel (God's Story) to your own story? Make no mistake, the implications of this intangible variable are incalculable! I think what made Paul's ministry so effective was his ability to remember names and narratives. You see him greeting people by name and signing off his letters with lists of people he appreciated--again, with names and memories. He took time to share his life and to know their lives intimately.
In 2 Corinthians 12:15 he says, "So I will very gladly spend for you everything I have and expend myself as well. If I love you more, will you love me less?"
To spend and expend yourself "because you love so much" sounds almost like John 3:16 lived out in a person's life. This is why it is quite possible that Jesus didn't just die for us so that we wouldn't have to, but also to show us how to.
The other John 3:16 which is I John 3:16 says, "This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers."
The gospel isn't something that ends with Jesus, it is something that begins with Jesus and flows over into how we "share our life" and "God's life" with the world. This is the whole gospel to the whole person in the whole world.
God, help us to share "not only the gospel"..."but our lives as well".