Have you ever noticed that Jesus never asked people to pray “the sinner’s prayer?”
Nor did he ever go through “the Roman’s Road” or Steps to peace with God in order to compel someone into the fold.
This of course doesn’t mean that the sinner’s prayer is wrong and shouldn’t be prayed, nor does this mean that the Roman’s Road and Steps to Peace with God lack value altogether. I see some value in them.
They are methods or guides in helping people connect with God. They include important Bible passages worth considering for those who may not be Christians in hopes of compelling them to consider how faith in Jesus might transform their life.
The problem I see about those guides is that they are often the byproducts of an overarching mindset that places personal salvation as the primary focus of the gospel of Jesus Chris to the exclusion of anything else. What do I mean?
Personal salvation is how the gospel affects your relationship with God, how you get peace with God, how Jesus has changed your life, forgiven you of your sins, set your life on a better path, secured your future.
Look, I believe in personal salvation.
I am so grateful for what Jesus has done in my life personally. And he has done a lot.
But the gospel (or good news) of Jesus is an announcement about what God has done in and through Jesus for the whole world. More than that, it’s about what God has done for all creation.
So while personal salvation is a priority, it is not the primary or only focus of the gospel. The gospel does change my life personally, but it does much more than that. It affects much more than me. It calls me to much more than having or maintaining my peace with God.
Have you ever noticed that mindsets and ways of framing the gospel that overemphasize personal salvation (an inner and individual reality) often neglect the outward and forward leaning focus of the gospel. The outward focus is that the good news is for the whole world and all creation. And this focus comes about through movement. By going. By connecting. By making a difference in this world of ours.
Gospel presentations that focus more on personal salvation are much more likely to have an other worldly vibe to them. What do I mean? I mean that God is more concerned about the afterlife, not about life here and now on planet earth. More to the point, God is more concerned with what happens to me in the afterlife rather than what happens to everyone here and now.
So when our Christian faith is primarily about our personal salvation, we are often less concerned with things that matter on earth: things like systemic racism, rampant social and economic inequalities, or growing worldwide environmental concerns. Have you noticed that in your life too?
Making my (or your) personal salvation the priority of salvation often means turning a blind eye to other people’s needs both in the church and outside. It’s as if the priority of personal salvation has been an excuse to not take responsibility for how our life does (and should) affect other people. It has been implied for far too long by some Christian leaders and institutions that it doesn’t really matter what we do after we become Christians. What matters is being right with God (as if one had little or nothing to do with the other).
I hear Paul’s words loud and clear saying, “The only the thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.” What we do does matter.
The beauty and power of the gospel of Jesus is that it is outwardly focused; it’s not just about us.
The announcement of what God has done for all the world in and through (and as) Jesus is intimately attached to Jesus’ great commission to go into all the world and invite people to follow Jesus and his way of life.
We do this of course because it’s Jesus’ life and power and grace that continues transforming and enabling us to make a very real difference in this world and in the lives of people.
Today’s a reminder for me that the gospel is an all creation, whole world kind of announcement. It’s not just about what Jesus has and is doing for me. It’s not just about my personal salvation. It’s about what Jesus has done and is doing for the whole world.
So let’s be intentional about how we live out the priority of the good news of Jesus.
It’s not just about you.