Last Sunday was my final day with the church that I have been working at for the past year or so. The pastor asked me to speak and I am now posting a slightly modified version of the manuscript here in bite sized chunks.
The second thing I want to do is share a little bit of what I have been really thinking on a lot lately, what has really been on my heart for the last few weeks at least, really more the last few months.
And as a way of warning, some of this may be a bit controversial. But that’s ok, cause I’m leaving, so what you think of me now is really kinda irrelevant… Sort of. We’ll see how this goes…
I want to start by pointing out two dangers to the gospel that we believe as Christians, two dangers that I think have crept into many churches and are in fact prevalent in the society we live in and that if allowed to influence our thinking will completely alter and destroy the heart of our faith.
The first of these dangers is that of over-spiritualizing the gospel.
This can take a variety of forms, but basically, it is the mindset that the focus of the gospel is something other-worldly. That the sum total of our faith amounts to something spiritual- whether that means the spiritual status of our souls after our physical bodies die or whether that means that our faith necessitates the kind of spiritual experience that indicates we really and truly belong to another realm.
The problem with this kind of thinking is that we don’t truly belong to another realm or world, we truly belong to this one.
Of course, the reality of life is that it ends in death for every single one of us. And when that happens, I do believe that something happens to our souls.
But it is interesting to me that you have to work very, very hard to come up with any sort of “biblical teaching” about what exactly happens to our souls when we die. If we polled everyone here about what heaven will be like, we would probably have a different answer from every person.
If this was really what our faith was all about, you would think the book our faith was built on would be bring a little more clarity to the subject. Instead, the Bible spends much more time focused on the world we live in right now and how we should engage and live in it.
That, I think, is because this is our home, not some spiritual place. We are people meant to be God’s people, his image-bearers, here. And so theology that over-spiritualizes our faith, that makes it too much about some place that isn’t here, is I think very dangerous theology.
The second danger is over-materializing the gospel.
I hear many, many very popular preachers in our society today for whom the sum total of their message is that God is going to give you exactly what you want and make all your dreams come true.
But I don’t think that this is what the gospel amounts to, either.
Our faith is about the world that we live in right now, but it also about God’s plan for this world and not ours.
It is about us learning to submit to that plan, learning to trust God in all the circumstances of our life and not treating God as a genie in a bottle that we can call upon to do whatever we like, not using God to “baptize” our dreams or our vision of how the world should be and make that into “gospel truth.” No, that kind of selfish materialism is not the gospel.