Confession: I took four years of Spanish classes in high school and have very little to show for it. I understand the basics of the language. I can regurgitate a few useful sentences like, “donde esta el baño,” and I can usually catch a decent amount of information when other people are speaking in Spanish. But if I were on my own in a Spanish speaking country, I would be in trouble. My wife, on the other hand, grew up with Spanish speaking parents, took four years of Spanish in high school, took four more years of Spanish in college, and spent a semester studying abroad in Costa Rica. She can carry on casual conversation with native Spanish speakers and also translate to and from Spanish and English for non-speakers to understand. It would be accurate to describe her as fluent in Spanish.
The English word “fluent” comes from the Latin word for “flow.” If you are fluent in a language or skill, you don’t have to put a lot of thought or effort into it, it just seems to “flow” out of you. If you were to ask my wife what the biggest key was to her becoming fluent in Spanish she would tell you that all the coursework was incredibly helpful and necessary, but that the three months she spent immersed in a Spanish speaking culture benefited her the most. Putting her self in situations where she had to rely on her classroom training in a real life environment got her to the point where the language began to flow out of her. Rather than having to translate in her head first, she could hear and respond instinctively.
First and foremost, we must become intimately familiar with the gospel. We must first be changed by it before we can become fluent in it.
The same is true for us as believers when it comes to the gospel. Ephesians 4:15 tells us that in order for us to grow up in to Christ we must speak the truth to ourselves and others in love. And when it says “truth” here it doesn’t just mean that we tell people that their breath stinks or that their haircut is ugly. The truth that Paul is speaking of here is the truth of the gospel itself. But, in order for us to be able to communicate the gospel to our selves and others in an effective way, it must become instinctive to us. It must flow out of us with ease in any situation. Just as with language, we cannot expect this to just happen naturally. First and foremost, we must become intimately familiar with the gospel. We must first be changed by it before we can become fluent in it.
Here is where we need to do a little defining. If we are to become fluent in the gospel we must first be clear about what the gospel is. The word “gospel” is used all the time in churches of all types and backgrounds. It is to the point where the word has been used so much that for many it has lost its meaning all together. It has become such a “junk-drawer” term that it can be used to mean almost anything. The gospel has meaning; it is not relative. There is a gospel; there are not many gospels. Paul, in his first letter to them, urged the Corinthians to remember and hold fast to the gospel that he preached to them. He then says that this gospel is “of first importance” to them in their life. Simply put, it is important for us to clearly define the gospel because the gospel is so important. The gospel is, as Aaron Morrow simply states, “the good news of God’s grace invading the darkness of creation.”
In his book “Explicit Gospel”, Matt Chandler rightly gives us two perspectives when looking at the gospel, the gospel in the air and the gospel on the ground. The gospel in the air would be like looking at it from an airplane 30,000 feet in the air. As we peer out our window overlooking the grand story of Scripture, we see how God has worked throughout all of history to bring about his grand plan of redemption for all of creation. We see a people who rebelled against their creator and a God who displays his glory through his grace to those very people. We see the seed of a promised messiah grow into the coming of a Savior King who snatches his beloved from the grips of eternal death.
Creation. Fall. Redemption. Restoration.
As grand and as glorious as the gospel story looks from 30,000 ft. up, the same story has a much different feel once the plane lands and our view is from the ground. From here we see the gritty and sometimes gory details that make such a grand story possible. When we zoom in from mankind’s rebellion against God to our own personal sin and the sins committed against us, we are immediately struck with the brutal reality of this story. We realize that we are caught up in this story and that we, and those around us, are the very ones in need of this redemption.
We are then sent out as rescued sons and daughters to proclaim this good news to those who are in desperate need of it.
We are left then with Jesus, the God-man, broken and crushed for our sins. The one who was promised has come, and through his sinless life, substitutionary death, and bodily resurrection has made the very redemption that we needed possible for us. The righteousness that we lacked and could never achieve is now offered freely by his grace to all who believe. We are then sent out as rescued sons and daughters to proclaim this good news to those who are in desperate need of it. All the while longing for our King to return and usher us into an eternity of joy with him.
God. Man. Christ. Response.
Jesus’ last words to his disciples before he ascended into heaven were, “Go and make disciples.” The way in which we do this is by proclaiming the truth of the Gospel in word and in deed. Therefore, if we want to be a people who are shaped and defined by the gospel, we must be a people who are fluent in the gospel. We must know it from both perspectives, in the air and on the ground, and we must be willing to speak the truth of the gospel in love to ourselves and those around us.