Multiplication Center

A Thicker Gospel

March 9, 2010

Tim Keller, pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church, tells us that “every ‘world-view’ has to answer the question: ‘what is wrong with life and how can it be fixed?’ Every world-view singles out some part of the good creation as being the main source of the problem (thus ‘demonizing’ something) and singles out some other part of the fallen creation as being the main solution.” So a Marxist worldview would have one diagnosis and one cure, as would the moralist, a free-market economist, a right-wing conservative, a left-wing liberal, and an evangelical Christian.

The story or worldview I adopted, believed, and shared with others, using Keller’s construct, went something like this: What is wrong with the world is sin—humanity’s rebellion against God. People were created to have a relationship with God, but they sinned against God and that relationship with God was broken. What was the solution? Jesus came to earth, lived a sinless life, and so was able to die in our place. Jesus’ death and resurrection make it possible for people who put their faith in him to be restored to a relationship with God and go to heaven when they die. As more people are transformed through a right relationship with God, societies are transformed and our world is changed. This is all true—but it’s not complete. It is personal but not comprehensive. The facts are correct, but that’s not the story. In the paraphrased words of the English novelist E. M. Forster, “A fact is that the queen died and the king died. A story is that the queen died and the king died of a broken heart.” Is there a fuller story to tell?

A fuller or thicker story might go something like this: When man sinned against God certainly man’s relationship with God was broken. I imagine that when Adam and Eve were walking out of Eden after being expelled, Adam may have turned to Eve and said something like, “OK, we really blew it, and I do feel a bit of spiritual emptiness, but this is still a great place to live.” But sin’s reach also affected personal relationships. Imagine the pain and grief when Adam and Eve discovered that one of their boys was dead and the other was a murderer! Adam probably turned to Eve and uttering the first curse words, said something like “Oh #@&*! This sin thing is way bigger than I imagined.” Sin affected humanity’s relationship not only with God and one another but also with the environment—the world God placed them in. No longer would the earth bring forth its fruit. Adam and Eve would have to labor to make the earth productive. Moreover, the earth was now broken, and there would be earthquakes, tornados, hurricanes, erupting volcanoes, and tsunamis that would ripple down through millennia. Romans 8:22 reminds us that because of sin, the “whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.” Sin affected everything. Nothing is the way it is “supposed to be.”

Brokenness was not the way that God intended things to be. It was the aberration of a broken world filled with violence or indifference toward and hatred of neighbor, exploitation of the weak, tribal factions, pride, covetousness, drunkenness, marital strife, conniving, and chicanery.

We not only minimize the consequences of sin but we also minimize the consequences of redemption. Jesus didn’t die only to restore humanity’s relationship with God (if that were not enough); his death is the basis of reconciliation between people and also with creation itself. The apostle Paul tells us in Colossians 1:19–20, “For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.”

Everything that was lost in the Fall was redeemed through the cross and will one day be fully restored in the restoration. After Jesus’ conversation and interaction with Zacchaeus, he says, “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost” (Luke 19:10). Certainly he came to seek and save the lost, but even more important, he came to seek and save what was lost. Everything that sin and the Fall took away, Jesus came to restore and make new. That’s what makes the Gospel such incredibly good news!

In response to the observable brokenness of the world, we often hear people today say, “It is what it is.” But we believe there is more. For a Christ-follower we should find ourselves saying, “It is what it is, but it’s not as it’s supposed to be, can be and some day will be.”

God now invites us, as his missional people, to join him in his redemptive mission in the world.

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