“I wish I knew then what I know now”. We have all said it a hundred times before; so this month when the topic was put forward on a Synchroblog group that I joined I started to think about it a bit more. If I could go back ten years in time and tell myself one thing, what would it be?
One thing only...I could think of so many things that I wish I had learnt earlier on in life. I wish that I had been given a more accurate, Jesus like, picture of God than the ones I had received from megachurch and fundamentalist groups as a younger Christian. I wish that I could have seen how so many of the traditions and doctrines that I held so tightly to were contrary to what the bible actually teaches. I wish that I had understood the church as something more than just a religious institution. And I wish that I had been exposed to views of the atonement other than penal substitution.
It did occur to me though that there was one thing that I could put my finger on that would pretty much encompass all of the above things and more. That one thing, the thing that if I had the chance to go back ten years into the past to tell myself would be the gospel as I understand it today. In fact, for the first thirty years of my life, most of them spent in churches, I do not think that I had ever heard the gospel presented as anything other than a salvation message. Don’t get me wrong, the news of salvation in Christ is a part of the gospel message which we all need to hear and receive. But that is only a part of the gospel and that incomplete understanding left me with a faith that was largely lacking in both direction and purpose. While I learned that my sins were pardoned, I found myself trying to live righteously by sheer will power alone. While I learned that I was now part of Christ’s church, I quickly discovered that church membership did not equal community or family. I did learn that Christ died for me but never heard about the significance of the resurrection and living life in him by him. I learnt about Christ the Saviour but never about King Jesus. I knew about heaven but was ignorant about the Kingdom and I knew about what mankind needed to inherit life but was ignorant about the eternal purposes of God as Paul spoke of in Ephesians 3:11.
Today I am convinced that if I had heard the Gospel presented as a Kingdom of Jesus centred message, rather than one focused only on salvation, I would have spent much less time unlearning and relearning things over the last few years. It would take several posts to expound on all of the topics mentioned above but for now I would encourage anyone who has only ever understood the gospel as revealed in a John 3:16 presentation (which is still a beautiful scripture) to explore the subject further. Here are two older posts that may be a good place to start.
As mentioned earlier, this post is my contribution to a Synchroblog series for the month of June; check the links below to read some of the other articles.