(Re)learning How to Receive the Gospel Part 1

Receive the Word with Meekness

I’m going to make a bold claim without defense: Christians need training in order to learn how to receive the gospel.

Yes. It’s true.

There’s a common assumption that once “you get saved”, receiving the gospel is just what we do. It’s kind of like, once you learn how to ride a bike you never forget. Except, receiving the gospel is not like learning how to ride a bike. It’s more like being born (again) and going through the developmental stages of growth that never ceases until death.

The way into God’s new world is the way we learn to live and move and have our being in God’s new world: hearing, receiving and responding to the word of God, Jesus himself.

If we are to be a people formed by the story of Jesus we have to receive it again and again. It’s not sufficient to simply hear it and be reminded of it. We must (re)learn how to receive the word with meekness which is able to save our living, breathing, embodied selves i.e. our souls. Alas, it’s not that simple. We are bombarded with parody ‘gospels’ both within and outside of the church community on a regular basis. These stories make much more sense to our experience. We’ve been formed to desire these alternative declarations for most of our lives.

3 Common Roadblocks

Over-familiarity

When you hear the gospel our response is often. “Oh, I know that. I just don’t believe it”. Have you said this to yourself before? In one sense, this stems from the frustration that we know -- or so we think -- the contents of the gospel but it simply hasn’t ‘reached our hearts yet’. And I deeply resonate with that.

My gentle pushback on this (first for myself) is that when I hear good news proclaimed, I say, “Oh I know” because I have already comprehended the message (intellectually). But this is not why we proclaim the good news. Our aim is to encounter God, not simply to comprehend propositions. It’s about communion, not consumption.

One time my wife was sharing something with me that I already read beforehand. When she shared it, my response was, “Oh yeah, I know that.” And I totally missed the whole point. She’s not trying to blow my mind with new information. She’s sharing a small part of her day; even more, her life with me. It’s about communion with a person and not the consumption of data.

Longing for advice

If you’re like me, you hate the ‘waiting period’ between being in a problem and seeing it resolved. There’s this visceral anxiety with not being in control. When I find myself in an unwanted situation I long for clear and precise advice for how to fix what is wrong. Preferably as efficient and as quickly as possible. Can you relate?

We call this ‘practical wisdom’. Which is often just Christianese for good advice that keeps me in control. Without creating too strong a dichotomy between ‘practical wisdom’ and ‘receiving good news’, my gentle pushback is that we run too fast to make something happen; to regain control and fix our problems.

The gospel is the royal announcement that Jesus is Lord and is at work to make all things new, including you, right now!

Beneath the surface of our advice and wisdom is a story we live in. If we neglect the unconscious stories we live in, we’re settling for life management instead of life transformation. What we need most is to receive and live into a new story shaped by who God is for us in Jesus.

Disillusioned

This one may be the hardest for you to believe. There’s a good chance that you don’t believe the gospel. I’m sure you believe that you’re going to heaven when you die. It’s just that that isn’t what the gospel is primarily about.

Could it be, that in the bumps and bruises of life, with the slowness of transformation, and the bombardment of bad news in the world via social media and beyond, we’ve become disillusioned with the gospels power to transform and renew?

So we hear it and respond with a shallow ‘amen pastor’ but there’s this nagging thought in the back of our heads -- buried deep in our hearts -- that this message doesn’t really work in the real world.

Selah

In the next post, I will seek to offer a way forward into learning and training how to receive the gospel. Maybe spend some time reflecting on a roadblock you’re face now. Submit these to the love of the Father and pay attention to what he has to say to you.