Brown, fabric pews. I remember the pews were cushy, but the fabric itchy. Often, I’d twitch during the service if my bare leg brushed the edge.
Piano on the right. Organ on the left. Baptistry, lectern, and choir loft, front and center. The pastor a sweet man who would mop his brow with a white handkerchief during his sermon. He dressed in a suit and would step from the “stage” to the altar while preaching.
As a teen I used to think…. Heavens! Who steps on and walks on the altar? Isn’t that bad or something? As an adult, I love that he felt free to close in, making his point.
My friends and I would sit on the right side, halfway back each Wednesday and Sunday, listening as Pastor Delbert explicated God’s word, holding his Bible high in his hand. It was in those brown itchy pews as he mopped his brow that I first heard these two words:
I was either 13 or 14. I associated the words with “gospel” music, so I knew it had something to do with Jesus or singing about Him.
That’s the definition Pastor Delbert gave; the definition stuck in my head and heart for many years.
Over time, the gospel became the good news that Jesus died on the cross for my sin and rose again on the third day, overcoming death.
This is truly the gospel and became (more or less) my standard operating definition for “the gospel.”
Then, I joined a women’s ministry team: Women of Purpose. We began to reflect on and define the gospel in preparation for the annual WOP conference on October 5. Because our theme is Rescued, meaning we were rescued the day Jesus died for us on the cross thousands of years ago, this year’s conference will focus on…the Gospel.
The story of our rescue.
As I searched my heart and my Bible, the gospel continued to be the Good News of Jesus’ defeat of death, but it also became so much more to me. Previously held beliefs and ideas began to change as I read the Bible with a gospel perspective – looking for the gospel, looking for Jesus on every page.
During this “quest” to understand and internalize the gospel message, I happened upon more than one (ok, hundreds of) books about the gospel. I’d read Gospel by JD Greer. The Explicit Gospel by Matt Chandler. And, Suburbianity by Byron Forrest Yawn. All books focused on explaining the gospel.
One of my favorite gospel explanations came from Suburbianity:
The good news, the gospel, is a declaration of what God has accomplished in Christ for sinners. It is comprised of the set of historic facts surrounding the righteous incarnate life, innocent death, and resurrection of the person Jesus Christ. It is the declaration that this Jesus is the Son of God, who came to earth in order to willingly offer His life as a substitutionary sacrifice in the place of sinners to atone for our sin and its tragic consequences before a holy God. (It’s actually the message from Acts 2:21-24)
Information overload. As I talked with a pastor about the gospel, he said, “It’s so simple, yet so complex.”
To which I said, “Amen, brother!” Double whew!
Finally, I happened upon a book in a used bookstore in Nashville, Tennessee, that would connect my prayer, study time, and experiences. I think of this moment and this book as “divine intervention.”
The book? The Divine Rescue by Edward Williams Fudge. You should know…I’ve never fully agreed with a book in my life. The same goes for this one. But, this book walks the reader through the entire Bible – through God’s relentless pursuit of those He created and rescued.
Me. And You.
Wow. The entire Bible. God relentlessly pursuing and redeeming His people whom He loves.
Calming yet overwhelming. Simple yet complex.
And with these paragraphs, something “clicked” in my head and heart…
Jesus taught his disciples a special way to close their prayers: “Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory.” Each time they repeat this phrase, the Rescued community acknowledges Jesus’ agenda and agrees to put it into practice beginning now.
By using the closing phrase, the Rescued also affirm three defining marks of their relationship with the Creator. They solemnly pledge that in their own lives and within the life of their community the Creator will set the agenda (“yours is the kingdom”); he will provide the strength necessary to carry it out (“and the power”); and all the applause and accolades will go to him for the results that follow (“and the glory”).
If you’ve been in church or at a sporting event or any number of places, you probably recognize these closing words from the Lord’s Prayer. (Matthew 6)
Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever.
While I realize this is one man’s interpretation of this Scripture, I couldn’t help but think…
If my life is about His kingdom, meaning I have surrendered to Him and His plan; and it’s through His power – His Spirit in me – that I live and accomplish and grow and learn; and I give Him all glory for my life – failures and accomplishments – come what may….
I am living rescued.
I know. This is an unattainable notion. To live completely surrendered through His power, giving Him all the glory every second of every day.
But, being intentional about surrendering, calling upon Him, and giving Him all the credit? Totally doable.
You won’t get it right or perfect. That’s heaven. But, you can cling to Him, surrendering your will for His, asking the Holy Spirit to guide, and giving Him praise for it all.