When you go away, what do you pack last?
With a vacation on the horizon, I’ve hauled up the suitcases, gathered clothes, and found the swimsuits and flip flops. Our living room looks like a jungle, (but an organized jungle, of course). I try to follow a list so that I don’t forget anything; packing one thing at a time.
It’s possible that I will forget something, or maybe miss something I could’ve brought, a toy for the plane, maybe a favourite book for the kids.
But one thing I cannot forget are the passports.
I leave them until last, to make sure that I clearly see the moment they go in the bag, to remember exactly where they are. Truthfully, it will probably be my husband who will pack them, but I’ll be right there to make sure they’ve been slipped in the right pocket.
I don’t want to risk it getting lost in the jungle, I don’t want to forget it. So I wait for the end, when I can zip the bags and load them into the car.
For me, the last thing to pack is the most important.
As we've started a teaching series on evangelism in our church, I've been reflecting on the message of the Gospel, and it's presence in my life.
As cross-cultural church planters, we spent a lot of our years learning language and culture, to help us learn the felt-needs of our new community so we could share the Gospel in a way that would communicate well.
A lot of those early years meant living out the Gospel, meeting physical needs, bringing biblical truth to broken relationships, and praying for the sick. The gospel was lived, and it was also shared.
Moving back to our bible-belt area, where a moral life is somewhat the ‘norm’ and church attendance is ‘assumed’. It seems easy to just live a good life, to be friendly, to support our community with acts of love and kindness. To live out the Gospel with good deeds, demonstrating with our hands, feet and words, the love that Jesus has for each one of us.
Yet, I wonder how often we leave the Gospel message to last.
My words, my actions, and my work are tangible ways that I live the Gospel. The Spirit living inside of me flows out of my heart, that others would be loved on and built up.
But our actions alone are not the Gospel.
It is dangerous, when social action and moralism become our ‘message’. Because, as J. Mack Stiles* writes, “this moralism may be the biggest counterfeit to true Christian faith.” If our Christian faith is summed up as living a good, moral life, that is what we communicate to those around us. The people we seek to reach will see our faith and our life, and conclude that it's all about being "good enough".
We can’t live the gospel alone, because above all else, it is a message to be shared.
“So, faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ” (Romans 10:17).
People cannot come to believe in Christ, unless they have heard His message. I’m reminded that living the Gospel is what want to do, but it cannot be an excuse to leave the message of the Gospel behind.
We cannot leave it for the end, it needs to be of first importance, not last.
We lack boldness, we are afraid to offend; we want the best for them, but it's hard. Let's pray for courage, let's become aware of what God is doing around us, and let's remember that the Gospel is the power of God.
"For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes" Romans 1:16.
As you think of the people around you who need the Gospel, is the message of truth of first importance, or last?