Monday, 26 September 2016

Messengers of the Gospel

Sessional Song
24th September 2016 and yet another Cadetsʼ Session began at William Booth College, London, as it did at other Salvation Army training colleges around the world. As ever, the session has a name: Messengers of the Gospel. I think that the General has decided that the next few sessions will all be Messengers. This is an interesting move, which may reveal something of what he sees as the pressing priorities of the time. 

What does it mean to be a Messenger of the Gospel  ̶  or even a messenger of the gospel, as every Christian should be?

First, you have to be a gospel person. You have to believe the gospel and live the gospel. The heart of Christianity, as summarised in our own Doctrines, must be in your own heart. God, who spoke the world into existence, has gone on speaking into the world he made, even after we had turned our backs on him. We were so affected by our rebellion, morally incapacitated in all aspects of life, that we had rendered ourselves unable to get right with God. We were cut off, estranged from him, strangers to his kingdom. But God, in his amazing mercy, grace, kindness and love to the utterly undeserving, sent his Son, his Word, into the world, incarnate as Jesus. This Jesus brings Godʼs kingdom into a kingdom-rejecting world  ̶  he brings rebels back to God. At the heart of his work was his atoning death on the cross, which dealt with the problem of sin and opened the way that we might know God. That is seriously good news  ̶  it is real gospel  ̶  and it is communicated to the world by the Holy Spirit, who opens eyes to see Jesus, changes lives to look like Jesus, and opens mouths to speak of Jesus. Godʼs word through people, empowered by the Spirit, is  a dead-raising, life-giving, world-transforming word that ALWAYS makes a difference. That is how God builds his kingdom, and this powerful, kingdom-building, Word-Spirit communication will go on until the end of the age. Then there will be a judgement, and our lives, and our treatment of this Jesus who we encounter in the gospel word, will go on trial. And then there will be two eternal destinations  ̶  one of unspeakable joy in Jesusʼ new world and another of unspeakable sadness in the place to which Jesus sends determined exiles. 

That, in some form of words or other, is the Message. A messenger needs to believe it for themselves. You need to be a real Christian. You need to know and love this Jesus and his saving love and work for you. You need to be living a life which is being shaped into his likeness by his word and by his Spirit. You need to worship him with your mind, learning more and more of the shape of this message, and working out how to communicate it in your context and generation.

Because that is what you are going to do. Here is the second requirement: You have to be a speaking person. With life changed and heart on fire, with mind engaged and will responsive to His call, you will be looking all the time for ways and means to get that message over. You will be a conscious messenger, a communicator of this message in words. You know that it isnʼt a matter of “when necessary, use words”; you know that God has given you a message to get across, and your duty and joy is to use words in the best way possible to show people Jesus. 

To be a messenger of the gospel is at one level to be as free as a bird. You donʼt have to answer to earthly masters, impress the great and good, get the approval of intellectual elites and academic examining boards. Even your accountability to the law of the land is relativised by having a message that comes from God. You have no one to impress but Jesus. You can be free of all earthly limits, but you are not free to adulterate or skew the message,  to make it more acceptable to the latest incarnation of “this corrupt generation.”  That you cannot do. You are free to communicate verbally in any way you like, provided you are totally unoriginal with regard to the message itself.

You must use your freedom, because if you donʼt, you will preach irrelevantly. You must be unoriginal, because if you arenʼt, you will fill the hearts and minds of your hearers with a fake gospel which converts no one. You will become part of the great process of vaccinating people against the gospel which has been a major and disastrous accomplishment of the church in the West for so long. Don't fall for that - be a real Messenger of the real Gospel.

So far as the cadets in London SE5 are concerned, there are many, I'm sure, who want to commit to praying for you all that you may really be what your sessional name implies and demands of you. And we pledge to help in any way that we can to stimulate and encourage you in the communication of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Personally, I canʼt do much; I am a fly on the wall at WBC, and on an outside wall at that! But I hope at least Iʼm a benign fly and not a hornet, and Sarah is certainly a productive bee; our home is open for cadets to come and talk, share and study.

And if youʼre not in SE5, thereʼs always the Internet!

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