The simple heart of the gospel message

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. – John 1:1-5

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If there has been a theme for the past couple of days it would have to be “simplicity.” It came up several times in my men’s group conversation, then it was beautifully illustrated by our grandchildren in Miami.

Let me explain:

First, I asked the guys to help me vis-à-vis some research I’m doing for my next book. It’s a long-term project I’m working on in response to what I see as a cynical undermining of the essential gospel message. Responsibility for the misinformation, in my opinion, resides with much of the public face of religion as perpetuated via televangelism, fundamentalism, and the Evangelical Right.

This was my email:

“I want to know what YOU think ‘Christianity’ means,” I wrote. “I want to understand what you accepted when you accepted Jesus. I want to know what is central to your faith. I want to know what you would tell someone who asked you, What is a Christian?
  1. Come (to our group meeting) with an idea of what “Christian” means to you.
  2. Come with a Bible verse you think may help a “seeker”.
  3. Come with an example of what you believe may be turning people off.
  4. Come with the name of someone who you would like to explain faith to – so we can pray for them.
  5. Come with an open spirit.

It was as great discussion. 12 men sharing their faith on a deep level, trying to distill the essence of what they believe into an explanation that would communicate clearly. I think it’s an exercise we all could benefit from exploring.

Off course – and this is critically important to understand – there were twelve different answers. Not memorized tidy answers; not in lock-step; not some “repeat after me” formula. Not transactional, but transformational.

As I listened, I was able to pull some threads of continuity. But I will begin with the man who said, “I know that God is there, just as I know the sun will rise in the morning; and I know the Spirit is real.”

Then, the man who confessed that he knows beyond any doubt that he is a sinner, that he needs help if he is to find his way home. And another man, who said that he has accepted Jesus as companion and guide on the journey. And the one who feels his faith confirmed and strengthened the more he follows Jesus, serving others in humility born of love.

The more we talked the less complicated the message appeared:

I am not going to write all the wisdom that was shared (and then amplified as each man referenced a scripture passage – in one case the entire Gospel of John). But I will say that the more we talked the less complicated the message of Jesus appeared.

Here is what I heard:

  1. God is the beginning, the center, and the fulfillment of both creation and meaning.
  2. We are – all of us – lost and unable to find our way home.
  3. Jesus is God’s invitation home and also our guide along the way.
  4. Following Jesus necessarily involves transformation as evidenced in humility, service, love, selflessness, joy, peace, grace, mercy etc. In other words, Christians by definition do something about it, the fruit of the work of the Spirit.

IMG_E9943I was going to illustrate this some more with a story from the grandchildren in Miami. But I’ll save that for another post.

This is the story! This is the invitation to come home – DEREK

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Derek has published seven books in the past decade (you can find them at https://www.amazon.com/Derek-Maul/e/B001JS9WC4), and there’s always something new in the works.

Before becoming a full-time writer, Derek taught public school in Florida for eighteen years, including cutting-edge work with autistic children. He holds bachelor’s degrees in psychology and education from Stetson University and the University of West Florida.

Derek is active in teaching at his church: adult Sunday school, and a men’s Bible study/spiritual formation group. He enjoys the outdoors, traveling, photography, reading, cooking, playing guitar, and golf.

1 Comment Leave a comment

  1. Sounds like a great session to have been in on Derek. You have a very special group there and your leadership and encouragement to them, and us through your blog is much appreciated. God bless and keep you.

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