When we present the gospel to people – when we talk to other Christians about what God has done for his people – what main benefit do we focus on?
How about this? “We’re sinners. We fall short of God’s holiness. God is rightly angry with us. The punishment due to us is hell. But God sent his son to die for us so we can be forgiven and avoid the punishment that’s due, entering into heaven instead.”
That sounds good on the first pass. But is that last benefit – entering heaven – the whole story? I’m not saying it’s not true – of course it is. Praise the Lord that we can enter into heaven!
But is the heart of the gospel really something else?
The Bible paints a picture of the Christian life as union with Christ. The church (the body of believers) is the bride and Christ is the Bridegroom. Two become one. (e.g. Eph. 5, Rev. 19, Rev. 21, 2 Cor. 11)
But why does the bride marry Christ? What do we want from this union? Why would we tell an unbeliever that they need to be joined with Christ? To get into heaven?
When we focus on the benefit of entering in to heaven (wonderful as it is) I wonder if we’re picturing the marriage in the wrong way. To me this looks like a marriage of convenience! The husband’s great and all, but the main benefit to the bride is not the husband himself, but a heavenly green card.
God’s most astounding gift to us in Christ – on the cross – was himself. He has drawn us into the life and loving fellowship of the Godhead. We are made one with God. We can now cry Abba Father! through and in Christ, by the Spirit.
If we let the heavenly permanent resident status approach creep in too far might we end up losing sight of the Gift we’ve really been given? Might we lose sight of Jesus in our churches, in our prayer life, in our worship, in our evangelism? Just a thought.
“What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him.”