In recent years, months and even weeks my son and I who love to watch rugby and ‘theologise’ together, have noted again how we as ‘evangelicals’ (many definitions!) have lost the gospel.
Eugene Peterson hints at it when he reminds us in his introduction to the Book of Proverbs that so many people think that what’s written in the Bible has mostly to do with getting people into heaven – getting right with God, ‘saving their eternal souls,’ etc. Of course we need to get right with God through Jesus, but being a Christian is equally concerned with living on this earth – living well, “living in robust sanity.” As Peterson says, “In our Scriptures, heaven is not the primary concern, to which earth is a tag-along afterthought. ‘On earth as it is in heaven’ is Jesus’ prayer.”
Some time ago my wife and I read through Prov. 13 in The Message. We were fascinated, encouraged and stirred by some of the verses in this chapter, especially as a couple trying to live skillfully on a daily basis [my wife’s godly mother who died in her 40’s and whom I never got to know, apparently used to often say “I raise my children by the Book of Proverbs’ – after almost 39 years of marriage to Melanie I can only say ‘thank you!’].
Check out some of these rivetting images and maxims with me:
v. 9, ‘The lives of good people are brightly lit streets; the lives of the wicked are dark alleys.’ I recall an elder in one of my early pastorates whose proudest moment was when his son, then at university, said to him, ‘Dad, you are a good man!’ The elder’s life had been like a ‘brightly-lit street’ to his son in a dark time. And your life and mine?
v. 14, ‘The teaching of the wise is a fountain of life, so, no more drinking from death-tainted wells!’ What a lesson for those of us who are models and mentors in one way or another. What a lesson for local ecclesiae: is our ‘church’/fellowship a fountain of life or a death-tainted well? How do you and I contribute to that?
v. 15, ‘Sound thinking makes for gracious living, but liars walk a rough road.’ God knows his people need ‘sound thinking’ in these days when so many of his offspring appear more like head-less chickens running around than saints with transformed lives and renewed minds (Rom. 12:1-2). And if we believe that being truly ‘spiritual’ excludes mental activity, let’s think again (pun intended). For one thing, look again at the Proverbs’ repeated call to ‘sanctified common sense.’ Years ago I was helped by John Stott’s wonderful little booklet, Your Mind Matters: The Place of the Mind in the Christian Life – if you can get hold of it, do. The Spirit’s mystical impartation and renewed thinking surely work in tandem. Paul says he will pray ‘with his spirit’ and ‘with his mind’ (1 Cor.14). We need the fire of devotion and truth.
A post-script on ‘the gospel.’ It includes personal justification by faith, but its focus is primarily the person and work of Jesus: the whole gamut of his messianic call, incarnation, life, death, resurrection, post-resurrection appearances, ascension, kingship, resurrection of the saints and return to ‘a new earth.’ It is summed up, as I’ve pointed out before, not in ‘3 easy steps to salvation’ but in the broad spectrum of the 4 Gospels [cf N.T. Wright’s The Challenge of Jesus] and more specifically in Paul’s words to the Corinthian church in 1 Cor. 15:1-28! [now if you really want to be blessed out of your spiritual socks, try and listen to some of Anabaptist theologian Scot McKnight’s talks on ‘gospelling the gospel,’ etc. I thank my son for putting the old man on to them!]
Whatever we do, let’s seek grace this week (and beyond) to WALK WITH THE WISE!