It was 2010 and I had just became a Christian. My pastor asked where I thought I could help in church, and my immediate response was that I wanted to be an evangelist. I had no idea what the word meant or what it entailed, but I felt that this is what God wanted of me.
From the word go, I was instructed to be careful about the language I used, as was every Christian that’s ever been to a conference or talk about sharing your faith. However, over the past few years I have come to find that it’s not just our language that needs to be adapted to suit the culture we live in.
To the average Jew in the first century there was a massive emphasis on holiness and sacrifice. Jews were expected to be perfect, or to pay the price of sacrifice in order to regain righteous. There were two overwhelming norms in the Jewish world at the time. First, they were overwhelmed by the need to keep the law, and second they were overwhelmed by the Roman rule around them.
Jesus’ message of freedom from guilt, and the ushering in of a new kingdom was music to their ears. The rich and powerful were taken aback by his words, but the poor saw him as saviour.
For the past few hundreds years, the Church has focused on a sin-battling Pauline gospel – that is, the gospel that the Apostle Paul lays out in the New Testament. This gospel focuses on our need to be freed from wrongdoing with the use of a sacrifice. This gospel focuses heavily of the death and resurrection of Jesus, but as I’ve read the words of Jesus over recent years I’ve come to realise that this isn’t the same good news that Jesus preached.
It would have sounded a bit weird for Jesus to turn up and speak to thousands of people about his coming death and resurrection. No, instead he kept this information to his closest friends, probably so that they would know this was always the plan after, and during, the crucifixion.
The Jews needed Jesus to go to the cross, but the poor needed to know that God was for them, not against them. Jesus told people that they were forgiven and saved before he died, and sometimes without any sort of request, or repentance, at all (Luke 5:20).
Most people in our generation don’t understand Jewish culture or pressure because we’re not Jewish, and we’re not ruled by Jewish law or barbarous Roman occupiers.
What they do understand is that when life isn’t heading in the right direction, or they can’t sleep at night due to fear or shame, they need a way out.
I’m convinced that if Jesus was here now he wouldn’t be showing us his scars, he’d be showing us what it means to live a life of freedom from fear, shame, pressure and sickness. None of these things are part of God’s kingdom, but all of them are part of life.
We’ve seen hundreds of people responding to the common gospel of Jesus. People in our world don’t need to know who they are and what they’ve done wrong, they need to know who the Father is and what He’s got planned for us.
Almost every time I preach, I explain the gospel in the simplest terms: “Because we walked away from God, who is our spirit’s life source, our spirit has died within us. It means that we struggle to communicate with God and we don’t live in the full and free life that He had planned for us. We feel dead and purposeless inside, but the Bible says that if we choose to follow Jesus towards our heavenly home he is able to bring our spirit back to life. He raises our spirit from the dead and gives us a new beginning. We are able to hear God again, and life begins to make sense once more. We are alive!”
There are so many people that can’t be reached with the Jewish gospel, but that can be reached with the Jesus gospel – the gospel for commoners. Maybe the key to revival in the UK is to preach Pauline theology to Christians, and to preach Jesus’ good news to those that are spiritually dead.
What do you think? How do you explain the Christian message to others? We’d love to hear your thoughts on the commoner gospel below.