Like me, you probably have friends and family who’ve grown up in the church but who have since wandered away. Pentecostals call such people back-sliders, but I suspect most of them are simply victims of poisoning. They’ve been fed a toxic cocktail of grace and works and it has produced in them all the symptoms Paul said it would, including, condemnation and death (2 Cor 3:7-9). Think about it. If there was some place you regularly visited that made you feel like a loser, would you want to go back?
Then there are those who are too scared to walk away. They’re scared because they believe that God gets mad at them when they don’t perform. Some of these folks are working their butts off for Jesus, yet the things they do, Jesus never did and the things Jesus did, they never do! They follow the rules because they’ve never learned to follow Jesus. Sadly, most of them know they’re in a rut but they can’t see the way out. They have become enslaved to what Paul called the weak and beggarly principles of this world (Gal 4:9).
My heart grieves for both groups – the poisoning victims and the slaves of religion. I know Jesus loves them and died to set them free, but they don’t know it so they’re not free. How could they know? The gospel has always been good news, but it has been poorly packaged, poorly delivered, and sold when it should have been given away. Just as there are people dying in Africa for lack of medicines that are available elsewhere, God’s children are suffering unnecessarily for lack of access to His love and grace.
But the world is changing.
Poisoning victims who would never set foot inside a church building and slaves who would never leave can now see and hear the gospel of the kingdom being demonstrated live on Facebook and YouTube. They can watch miracles unfold before their eyes and hear first-hand accounts of lives being radically transformed. They can ask questions anonymously without fear of being embarrassed. And no one will pressure them to give, quit, sign up for stuff, or turn around and hug their neighbor while they’re doing it. (Lest any one get the wrong impression, let me add that I love the church that I regularly attend.)
Ever since I started Escape to Reality I’ve been looking for just the right words to convey the good news to people who might otherwise never hear it. It has taken me this long because I set myself a number of goals. In addition to all the usual elements (death, resurrection, etc.) my gospel message had to meet the following criteria:
1. it must be written in plain English (Jesus never used jargon)
2. it must be good and fill people with joy (just like the angel said it would)
3. it must be good news for Christians as well as sinners (Jesus died for all!)
4. it must present the Father and the Spirit as being united in purpose with the Son (Jesus was not on a rogue mission)
5. it must reveal the heart of the Father (enduring love! reconciliation!)
6. it must present an invitation to a relationship, without threats, rewards, or any other performance expectations (just like when you get married)
7. it must reveal God’s covenant oath (we’re not changed by the promises we make to God, but by the promises He makes to us)
8. it must clearly portray discipleship as Christ living through us (and not us trying to be Him)
9. ideally it should touch on oft-ignored truths like His divine exchange, His perfect work, the gift of righteousness, our new nature, and eternal redemption (phew!)
10. it must be less than 400 words
It was the last aim that was hardest to meet!
I didn’t want to write a book, but something short that people would actually read. I don’t know if I’ve succeeded, but at least it’s short and covers most of the bases. I’m giving it a permanent page here on E2R. You will find it by clicking here. Note that there are three pages. The first presents the good news, the second suggests a response, and the third recommends further reading.
Let me know what you think.