In presenting the gospel should we begin with sin or the image of God?

I want to invite you to read the debate this month in the Pulse Magazine.  The topic is about how we present the gospel… should we begin with sin or the image of God? Pastors Rob Cave and Randy Lemke debate this issue. I put my thoughts below. Read the article and tell me what you think.

Creation, Fall, Judgment, Redemption and Consummation. This is the biblical rhythm of Gospel hope. The melodic line is Jesus I am a harmony and blessed to be a part of the music. If we mess with the order we run the risk of making the Gospel about me and my personal salvation rather than about the Christ… the Messiah… the promised one. I am not the point of the music… Jesus is.

Genesis doesn’t start in Chapter three. John begins his Gospel with Genesis Chapter one… in the beginning. If I start with evil and personal sin than I have missed the very good beginning and ignored John’s Gospel model. Genesis 3:15 is not centered on me it is centered on the promised image restoration of which my salvation will be a part of but not the centre.

When I become the centre of the Gospel Jesus the Christ of the nations takes the back seat to things like “Tebowmania”. My church or “Saved Club” grows in size, programs and debt while the nations starve, thirst and die of Aids. When I become the centre of the Gospel home school keeps my kids from evil so they can get to heaven while apparently the public schools can just go to hell. Our favorite songs humbly say ” Like a Rose trampled on the ground You took the fall and thought of ME Above all.” When the Gospel is all about my “evil problem” than sure I can see why Jesus would think of me above all because my image needs repairing and he’s the only one who can fix it. But it was not my image that was lost in the garden it was God’s image (this is why we are the image bearers of God) and Jesus was not thinking about me ABOVE ALL (even though I was on His mind) he was thinking of the Father above all. We need a Copernican revolution in the church to bring Christ back to the centre of not just me but the royal message of King Jesus.

We breath in the new life of an overly personal Gospel of lordship and breath out a life of personal holiness, selfish piety married to some kind of pragmatic rugged and individualistic sanctification. Remember the rhythm started with God’s image being clearly displayed in man and the rhythm ends with God’s image being completely restored in man. If we start with evil we start with mans image and usually in much of our evangelical circles this doesn’t seem to get much farther than ME getting saved, ME getting holy, ME getting to heaven, Me getting happy, Jesus loving ME etc…. all of this is true but not the centre it is not the point of the Messiah or to use a synonymous word Gospel. These are all products of the restoration of an image greater than my own and my Gospel inhaling should result in a life breathed out for others. An outflow of things like goodness, justice, mercy, humility toward my neighbor should be the mark of the personal Lordship of the messiah in my life… the new birth. Jesus is not the Christ, Messiah or Promised one sent to over throw evil in the end. If the story started with evil than yes this would make sense. But the story started with an image and it consummates or finds its ultimate end in the restoration of that image. I am thankful that the results include not only the world but the hairs on my head.

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2 comments on “In presenting the gospel should we begin with sin or the image of God?

  1. John den Engelsen says:

    It seems to be a question of timing, and how. Eventually, the topic of sin should come up. But I don’t think it should happen until a person has at least the beginnings of an understanding of who God is or that he even exists. There needs to be some sense of clarity as to who Jesus is before someone can accept the notion that they are sinful and can accept forgiveness. Because outside of that understanding, the word sin may have very little relevance for many people. For many, the idea that they are sinful is an extremely offensive comment. For some, God doesn’t even exist. For them, suggesting that a person has committed an offence against God is ludicrous.
    I say, the image of God first. Without that, sin has no relevance.

  2. disableme says:

    Thanks John, Words like reconciliation and restoration suggest seem and out of place if we start with sin. I agree the word sin has very little relevant meaning to many people.

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