I believe there has been a fundamental misunderstanding about Jesus’ message in our day. People have gotten the idea that Jesus’ gospel—his Good News—is primarily about how to get ready for life on the other side of the hedge, rather than the announcement that the mysterious Someone has broken through the hedge and entered our own backyard. This misunderstanding has had the devastating consequence of keeping many people from seeking to experience God’s presence in their lives here and now.
A fundamental misunderstanding is keeping many people from seeking to experience God’s presence in their lives here and now.
Karen Mains writes about a Sunday school teacher who wondered if her class understood the gospel, so she asked them:
If I sold my house and car, had a big garage sale, and gave all my money to the church, would that get me into heaven?
If I cleaned the church every day, mowed the yard, and kept everything neat and tidy, would that get me into heaven?
Well, if I was kind to animals and gave candy to all the children and loved my husband, would that get me into heaven?
Well, then, how can I get into heaven? A five-year-old boy shouted out, “You gotta be dead!”
Here is the difficulty: If you gotta be dead, then the gospel doesn’t have much to do with today. However, when we look closely at what Jesus calls his good news, he does not put it in terms of something that happens after you die. He speaks of something that happens on this side of the hedge.
The good news Jesus announced was simply this: God has invaded our backyard and is making his presence and power available to anybody who wants him. Right here. Right now. “The time has come,” Jesus says. Now God is closer than you think. The tragic truth is that many people have exchanged Jesus’ “Gospel of Life-with-God Here and Now” for a gospel that doesn’t kick in until later: You gotta be dead. — God Is Closer Than You Think: This Can Be the Greatest Moment of Your Life Because This Moment Is the Place Where You Can Meet God by John Ortberg
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