Jesus is more than just a savior or an example.by Clarence Rempel
“To win this game we have to get the ball inside. Drive the lane, take it to the basket.” Simplifying the game of basketball for the moment at hand can be helpful, but most of us know the game is much more complex, with both offense and defense needing to be played well.
“The key to raising healthy children is giving them age-appropriate chores that contribute to the well-being of the whole family.” If only it were that simple.
The tendency to simplify has also impacted us in the spiritual realm and to our detriment. We have this inclination to simplify the gospel, the good news of God’s global redeeming, reconciling, restoring work in the world.
One common version of the simplified gospel focuses on receiving forgiveness for one’s sins and being prepared to meet the Lord. “Jesus was born to be your Savior and die for your sins. Believe in Jesus, and you will be ready for heaven.”
Todd M. Widmer | 2012 TM photo contest entry.
Another common version of the simplified gospel focuses on Jesus as our example for how God wants us to live here on earth. “Imitate Jesus and be fulfilled.”
There is a measure of gospel or good news in each of these salvation paradigms, but by themselves they are so minimalist that they can easily become distortions of the truth.
One is too heavenly to be of earthly consequence, the other too earthly to be of eternal significance. The first focuses on Jesus’ death as the saving event and overlooks the example of Jesus’ life; the other focuses on Jesus’ life and minimizes the salvific significance of Jesus’ death. And both tend to miss the full redemptive significance of Jesus’ resurrection. Read the gospel sermons of Acts and be surprised by the proclamation of salvation by resurrection.
The good news of Jesus begins with multiple assertions by angels, elders and prophets that Jesus is the fulfillment of all priestly instructions and all prophetic visions of the Old Testament. Jesus is the righteous, peacemaking Messiah King ushering in the fullness of God’s rule on earth as it is in heaven.
When we receive Jesus Christ as our life example, we are saved:
• from sin-generated brokenness to life-restoring healing,
• from rule-keeping exclusion to grace-filled
• from violent self-protection to innovative peacemaking,
• from fear-filled hoarding to a life of serving others.
When we receive Jesus Christ in his sacrificial death, we are saved:
• from being outside the people of God to being included in the family of God,
• from being guilty and shamed before God to being forgiven and honored as God’s ambassador,
• from the fear of death and the powers of evil to faith in God’s protection and provision.
When we receive Jesus Christ as our resurrected Lord, we are saved:
• from sexual addictions to sexual chastity and marital fidelity,
• from consumerist addictions to committed giving and generous sharing,
• from mindless pollution to conscientious creation care.
We want to claim all of Jesus and experience all of Jesus’ gift of salvation. We want to proclaim and live all of the good news. We want to follow hard after Jesus—the Jesus who lived, died and rose again for our salvation and for the restoration of creation and culture. Jesus is Lord of all.
Clarence Rempel is conference minister for Western District Conference. For further reading along these ideas see The King Jesus Gospel by Scot McKnight and Simply Jesus by N. T. Wright.
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