Happy Holidays, White Oak! It’s about this time of the year when you expect to hear someone challenge you with some sort of resolution for the coming New Year. Perhaps you’d assume that you’re going to be encouraged to begin a new habit that will propel you forward with real momentum in your spiritual practices and in relationship with your Heavenly Father.
Well, guess what? That’s not what you’re about to read. I mean, you should definitely do that! I have some plans to put some new things into practice myself, as well. No doubt God is, as we speak, inviting us to experience something new with Him. However, to start out 2024, White Oak is going to step into something, not new, but very old. Ancient, in fact.
The Gospel. It’s a word that is used a lot. If you grew up or spent any time in church, you’ve heard it. You’ve probably used it before. But do we know what it means? You might be able to summon an answer that talks about Jesus and the cross. You might even say that it’s the story of Jesus’s life, death, and resurrection. Maybe you know that the word Gospel means “good news.” However, in more than 20 years of pastoral ministry, I’ve learned that many of us think we understand the Gospel, but the truth is we have a critical misunderstanding of it.
Mark 1:14-15 says, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. ‘The time has come,’ he said. ‘The Kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!”
Euangelion in Greek is translated “good news” or “gospel.” It combines two words: angelos, the word for one announcing news, and the prefix eu-, which means “joyful.” Gospel, therefore, means “news that brings joy.” It means history-making, life-shaping news!
The Gospel message means two distinct but inseparable things: Jesus is, first, King, and second, Savior. Recognition and submission to the former allows us to experience the work of the latter. The Gospel isn’t good advice as to how you should live your life. It’s good news that you don’t need to earn your way to God. The Gospel isn’t just for religious people who believe they have found a way through good living and right beliefs. It isn’t just for irreligious people who believe they can create for themselves a connectivity to God in a way they determine. Instead, the Gospel is for everyone!
Why does it matter that we have a right understanding of the Gospel? We must understand the Gospel and the full implications of it, or the Good News will wilt and become good advice for how you live a good life. We must understand the Gospel message, or we may become judgmental, prideful, and self-focused. If we don’t come to know the true Gospel, we’re left with little more than an academic pursuit or drive-thru approach to Jesus. Both will rob you of joy. All of these will subtly keep you from experiencing Jesus the way he invites you to experience him.
The Gospel is a gift of grace from God given to everyone through the sacrifice of Jesus. The Gospel is about following a King and receiving a Savior. It’s about urging others to follow him, too.
Luke 15:3-7 says, 3 Then Jesus told them this parable: 4 “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? 5 And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders 6 and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ 7 I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.
As we follow the King, we are compelled to go after the ONE. Who is the ONE? It’s those who are seeking to find purpose and identity in something other than Jesus. We all know many “ones.” Who is the first person who popped into your mind when you read that? Who is your ONE?
In 2024, we don’t want anyone in Cincinnati to settle for a good life. We live in the Gospel so we can live out of the Gospel. That everyone will experience full life in Jesus! We’ll spend the coming year coming to a new understanding of an old message. My prayer is that this understanding will invade our hearts transforming us and moving us into our community and into the lives of family, friends, classmates, coworkers, and neighbors with a greater urgency than ever before!
This is Good News! And it changes everything.
*We will not be having services on Sunday, December 31. Check out our website at thewocc.com for some great content you won’t want to miss as I share with our church family about White Oak’s vision for everyone in Cincinnati to come to full life in Jesus!
White Oak Christian Church