What is the heart of the Gospel?

I just read an article that highlighted five signs of ‘Progressive Christianity’. I’d never heard that term before. The article was interesting and informative and when it exampled sentences or expressions that might come out of this movement, I realised I have actually heard of it before but didn’t know there was a name for it.

However, what I found interesting was that the article stated how ‘Progressive Christianity’ had moved away from “the heart of the gospel being sin and redemption” to now being about social justice. Firstly, let me say that I get what they’re saying. I’ve certainly noticed a strong diversion away from the gospel toward social justice and social issues from within the church. Social media is saturated with it.  But what disturbed me most was that the author of the article said the heart of the gospel is sin and redemption. I sincerely beg to differ.

The heart of the gospel is Christ. From beginning to end it is about Christ. The entire scriptures from beginning to end are about Christ. All of time and creation is about Christ. Before time and creation, was Christ. Outside of time and creation, is Christ. The church exists for Christ and is in Christ, and is the body of Christ. In fact, all things exist in and through, by and for Christ.

Sin and redemption are realities for all humanity, pointing out our need for Christ. Redemption is available to all of us, through faith in Jesus Christ. Sin and redemption are not the heart of the gospel. The gospel is Christ. He is the good news. He is the purpose of redemption. Saving us from sin is not the purpose of redemption. We are redeemed, that we would know Christ, that He would have a body and a bride, through whom He can be expressed. Christ is the All in all. Christ is the One in whom all things will be summed up.

So the heart of the gospel is not even a matter of ‘what’, but ‘who’.

In the beginning the Word already existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was God. John 1:1

And this is the plan: At the right time he will bring everything together under the authority of Christ–everything in heaven and on earth. Ephesians 1:10

For God was pleased to have all His fullness dwell in Him, and through Him to reconcile to Himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through the blood of His cross. Colossians 1:20

For from him and through him and for him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen. Romans 11:36

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How I Saw God’s Love In “Catch Me If You Can”

Catch me if you can from google imagesThis is an amazingly true story of a young man in his late teens called Frank Abagnale Jnr (played by Leonardo De Caprio) and FBI agent Carl Hanratty (played by Tom Hanks).  The way I see it, it’s also the true story of the rebellious heart that is found in each one of us and a loving God who never gives up. Having learned wayward ways from his financially struggling father, Frank takes up a life of fraud, forgery and false identities to escape his painful realites of his parents’ divorce. In a bid to restore what financial loss was incurred by his family through his father’s actions, Frank sets out on an adventurous life, taking risk after risk, all the while dumbfounding the powers that be with his incredible forgery skills. The movie is titled “Catch Me If You Can” because of the cat-and-mouse game running throughout the story between Frank and Carl. Carl volunteers to chase down and bring in this young man who is essentially stealing millions of dollars from American banks through fraudulent cheques, parading as an airline pilot, a lawyer and a doctor. Even though Frank is continually on the run from Carl and the authorities, every Christmas Carl receives a call from Frank. It becomes evident to Carl, that Frank is lonely and Carl has in many ways become his only friend.  As the chase goes on, there appears to be a mutual respect and genuine liking of one another that grows. Although Frank is living a life of criminal activity, as a young man there is still a level of childhood innocence that seems to come through and for which Carl seems to care very much. So in some respects, Carl looks out for Frank’s safety and well being when he is in the hands of the French police. In the end Carl catches Frank and brings him to justice with a 12 year prison sentence, yet chooses to visit Carl during his prison time. Upon one visit Carl brings to Frank, one of the latest forged cheques that he has come across from another fraudulent source. He seeks Frank’s expertise in order to identify possible leads on who is forging the cheques. Recognising Frank’s incredible skill, he then introduces a superior FBI agent to Frank on another visit. Carl volunteers to act as Frank’s custodian and Frank becomes employed by the FBI to assist them in cracking down on fraud. Before the closing credits start rolling it is noted that Frank continues to work for the FBI in this capacity, earning hundreds of thousands of dollars per year and that he and Carl have remained very good friends. It is a truly remarkable story of redemption. Frank Abagnale Jnr is like us when we are lost in our sin before meeting Christ. Even though there may not have been evil intent in our hearts initially, we were drawn to sin, self and deception, even unwittingly. Before we knew it, we were caught up and made prisoner to sin and unable to get our way out of it. The further we ran, the more we lost, and the less control we had over our destiny. Carl Hanratty is like Christ. Christ is always ‘after us’. He is always there, following us, knowing our whereabouts, and looking out for us, calling us to righteousness, even as we continue in our sin and rebellion. Like Carl was always encouraging Frank to give up, Christ never tires of wanting to bring us into righteousness. Christ wants to restore our innocence and He knows it can only be done through Him. Frank had to give in, surrender, give up, admit defeat. It was only by doing this, that Carl could restore Frank into society as a respectable human being contributing to Carl’s cause of upholding the law. We are the same. It is only when we finally give ourselves up and over to Christ that our lives can make sense and we find purpose,  integrity, a future and a hope, awaiting us in Him. Frank was always running from Carl and yet had a longing to be his friend. At one point, he asked Carl to stop chasing him because he was obviously tired of running. We too, even though living in sin and rebellion from God, can have a sense that we actually need Him. We have an aching in our heart for relationship with this God who is always calling and drawing us to Him, even if we try to ignore it. Frank was safer and better off in the custody of Carl than having his own freedom. His own freedom was a threat to himself, he was unable to deliver himself from his past and he was unable to stop his wayward ways. By agreeing to be placed in Carl’s custody, Frank actually found freedom and blessing, which was undeserved. It is like this for us. When we accept the Lord Jesus as our Saviour, we become a bond-slave to Him. We understand that living life by our own independence is really a life of slavery to sin but a life surrendered to Christ, where He is now our Master and friend, is a life of abundance and liberty which we could never create for ourselves. And of-course, all of this is a marvellous story of grace – unmerited, undeserved favour. It is by grace we have been saved, through faith, and not that of ourselves, but it is a gift from God…lest we should boast…