Which Gospel Do We Preach?

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This post originally appeared on the author’s blog at dahorton.com.

In America today, Christians are divided on how to define the gospel. In evangelicalism, leaders express the central gospel message (in content) but neglect to apply this message to the social turmoil surrounding them (in context).

On the other hand, those in mainline Christianity see the church’s mission as mobilizing social action to alleviate injustice, representing the Kingdom of God, and loving our neighbors—while forsaking the message of Christ’s atoning work.

But we miss the full gospel if we choose one side over the other. Our behavior as Christians is an outward expression of what we believe, and what we believe should trace back to the words of King Jesus. Our lifestyle should line up under Jesus’ lordship, both socially and spiritually. Jesus tells His disciples to “make disciples of all nations” and “[teach] them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19-20). And so, in our Kingdom ethnicity, the social and spiritual commands of Jesus should inform everything we do.

In His teachings, Jesus gives His followers commands that are to be obeyed in real time through our lips and our lifestyle. Here are a few examples of the social commands of Jesus:

  • Practice human flourishing. (Matt 5:3-12)
  • Let your light shine. (Matt 5:14-16)
  • Proclaim God’s law and Jesus’ fulfillment of the law. (Matt 5:17)
  • Reconcile your strained relationships. (Matt 5:23-25)
  • Stop lusting. (Matt 5:27-28)
  • Stop lying. (Matt 5:37)
  • Serve your oppressor. (Matt 5:38-42)
  • Love your enemies. (Matt 5:44-46)
  • Be perfect. (Matt 5:46-48)
  • Seek God’s Kingdom first. (Matt 6:19-21)
  • Do not judge wrongfully, but make discerning decisions. (Matt 7:1-3)
  • Live the Golden Rule. (Matt 7:12)
  • Walk the narrow and unpopular path. (Matt 7:13-14)
  • Protect and value children. (Matt 18:10)
  • Confront sinning Christians and restore them in love. (Matt 18:15-17)
  • Honor marriage as God defines it. (Matt 19:4-6)
  • Always serve the poor. (Luke 14:12-14)
  • Pay your taxes. (Matt 22:19-21)
  • Make disciples. (Matt 28:19-20)

In addition to these social commands, Jesus calls us to obey His spiritual commands:

  • Repent. (Matt 4:17)
  • Follow Jesus only. (Matt 4:19)
  • Store up treasures that are eternal. (Matt 6:19-21)
  • Never stop praying. (Matt 7:7-8)
  • Know and listen to God’s voice. (Matt 11:15)
  • Love God and your neighbors holistically. (Matt 22:37-40)
  • Become born again. (John 3:3-8)
  • Keep His commandments. (John 14:15)

When we make these social and spiritual commands of Jesus the framework of our lifestyles, we show the distinction between God’s people and the people of the world. In Luke 24:46-49, Jesus said that His suffering, death, and resurrection occurred so that His followers could proclaim repentance and the forgiveness of sins to every ethnicity. His followers were to begin in Jerusalem, where they were geographically located, and they were to wait in that city until they were given power from on high. The power from the Holy Spirit would give them the boldness to make Jesus known in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and throughout the entire world (Acts 1:8).

There is a difference between appreciating the country you live in and idolizing it.

After the coming of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2), the church became mobile because of persecution (Acts 8). Throughout Scripture, we see that God does not want His people to remain stuck in the false idea that this earth is their final home. God’s people are sojourners walking with God (Psalm 39:12), citizens of heaven (Philippians 3:20), sojourners and exiles (1 Peter 2:11), and strangers and exiles on the earth who are looking toward the heavenly City of God (Hebrews 11:13-16).

Americans are not exempt from these truths. There is nothing wrong with being grateful for and respecting the country of our birth; however, there is a difference between appreciating the country you live in and idolizing it. When we wrap the Christian faith in the flag of our country, we have added a foreign ingredient to our faith. This is syncretism. When we do this, we must repent and let go of this form of idolatry. Let us cling only to the cross of Christ, which stands above the Statue of Liberty.

Although Lady Liberty says, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,” the marginalized in our nation feel she and her systems have rejected them. Yet it was Jesus who said first,

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light”.

Matthew 11:28-30

Jesus also said, “All that the Father gives me will come to me, and who- ever comes to me I will never cast out” (John 6:37). Our King Jesus not only has an open invitation for people from every nation, tribe, and tongue to come to Him but also guarantees that He will never turn away anyone whom the Father draws to Him!

Every broken soul who comes to Jesus feels His healing embrace and is welcomed into His Kingdom. The Kingdom of Jesus knows no geographic or political boundary. No human nation holds a monopoly on Jesus’ Kingdom. Every Christian, no matter where they live on the globe, is part of the one people of God.

The Kingdom of Jesus knows no geographic or political boundary. No human nation holds a monopoly on Jesus’ Kingdom.

Every Kingdom citizen recognizes that their primary citizenship is in heaven. Christians in the United States must be like the fathers and mothers of our faith who lived in exile with hope, knowing there will come a day when we will enter God’s City. The primary document that should shape the beliefs and lifestyle of every Christian in America is not the Constitution, but God’s Word. The ruler and commander in chief of our lives is not the president of the United States but King Jesus. This is not a cry for anarchy, but rather a recalibration for each of us to get our priorities straight.

The Christian faith did not begin in 1492, 1620, or 1776. Ours is a faith that has withstood the test of time for over three millennia.

D.A. Horton
D.A. Horton

You’ve been reading from Intensional: Kingdom Ethnicity in a Divided World. Get the book or keep reading with a free excerpt here. D. A. is a Mexican-Choctaw-American church planter and speaker who engages with the tensions between our racial realities and the truth of the gospel. He currently serves as an Assistant Professor of Intercultural Studies at California Baptist University and pastor of Reach Fellowship in Long Beach, CA.

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