Posted by: DCox | October 8, 2008

There’s more to the Gospel

I’ve been trying to understand the gospel more fully – understand it in a way that makes sense to my heart and to how I want to live life. 

Evangelicals have limited the gospel to the atonement of Christ.  Yes, we need the death of Jesus on the cross for the forgiveness of sins.  But if that is all there is, then hope is in the future – we’re waiting for heaven.  In the meantime life on earth is relegated to “sin management” (a term described by Dallas Willard).  This often becomes doing the right thing and looking the right way.  If there are deep struggles or addictions in our lives we fluctuate between sin and asking for forgiveness.

Is this all the Jesus came to do?  When Jesus talks about his mission he refers to only one OT passage, when he could have quoted so many prophesies of his coming; he quotes Isaiah 61. 

The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good new to the afflicted; He has sent me to the bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to captives, and freedom to prisoners. 

Jesus came to give abundant life and give it now (John 10:10).  How does this happen?  I’ve attempted to synthesize some of the things I’ve read about Trinitarian theology (Baxter Kruger) and the heart and the gospel (John Eldridge).  My understanding may be fairly crude, but it’s nevertheless been transformative in my life. 


Jesus came to make the Father known to humanity (John 17:25-26); to make the heart of His father known to us.  Because of sin we are incapable of knowing the Father’s heart.  Why is that?

Our perception of reality is skewed because of the Fall (Genesis 3) and our own sin.  We believe lies about God, for example, God won’t come through for us, God isn’t good because he allows so much injustice in the world, etc. Our beliefs result in pain and fear.  We believe we’re on our own, that others will let us down, and we’re shamed by the wounds inflicted by other and ourselves.  Our own sin reinforces the lies we believe and the cycle continues.

Out of this mess we create an inaccurate image of God.  In fact, we can project our own image on God – “I’m on my own and have to earn my way in this world … God is a hard taskmaster and I probably can’t earn his good grace”.  As Baxter Kruger says, we create a mythological deity by projecting our own fears and lies onto God.

Across All Worlds by Baxter Kruger

Across All Worlds by Baxter Kruger

Let’s go back to the atonement. We are forgiven sin through the work of Christ on the cross.  Kruger asks, “What kind of forgiving God could be satisfied with having the guilty legally clean, yet so trapped in their wrong-headedness and anxiety that they cannot possibly receive His forgiveness and live in His joy?”




Jesus came to give us abundant life by making the Father known to us. If the Father isn’t the mythological deity we’ve created, who is He? The Father testifies to His delight in His Son just prior to Jesus’ baptism. The delight He has for His Son, is the same delight He has for us; this is what Jesus came to make known. 

Jesus came to earth not only to die for our sins, but also to experience all we as humans experience.  He experienced our trauma and the isolation we feel in relation to God.  Jesus cried out on the cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” However, Jesus didn’t arrive at the same conclusions we make.  He knew the fellowship of the Trinity and could testify of His Father’s love before and after Easter. Jesus lived among men, healed and freed the captives, as a way of revealing His Father’s love for us. Jesus bridged the gap between our humanity and the Father communicating in a way that is meant to free us from our wrong-headedness and mythological deities.

Believers are united with Christ and indeed the Father does delight in us as He delights in His Son. But does it feel like it? The incessant blows we take make it hard to believe. How does the Christian take this knowledge and make it his/her own? (…I’ll continue in another blog)


  1. Great post Darrell. This is good stuff to think about. I just finished an excellent book called Shattered Dreams, by Larry Crabb. Have you read it? It was deeply moving for me and ministered to my heart in the midst of pain. I think you might like it.

    You know we are your biggest fans!


  2. Darrell, well said.


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