There’s a concept in the faith tradition in which I serve called the “second half of the Gospel.” Now, I had not heard of anything like this until I started learning more about John Wesley, so I assume there are still others who have never heard this term nor understand how applicable it is to our day.
Basically what it refers to is that conversion (when you “accept Jesus as Lord and Savior”) is only half of the Gospel story, but that many times it’s what most churches spend their time focused on and so it is the only part of the Gospel someone gets. However, there is an entire second half to what the Gospel means for our lives that many never hear about – and thus are never empowered to live out.
This second half of the Gospel is the part about sanctification – which is a churchy word for becoming like Jesus. [If you’d like to watch an awesome video explaining the second half of the Gospel, just Click Here.]
If you didn’t know, the Gospel doesn’t stop at conversion; in fact, it is merely just getting started. And it is interesting, some people think that if you focus your conversations on sanctification then you will turn into a “frozen chosen” and only focus on those who are “already saved.”
However, that is a false dichotomy. The opposite is actually true:
When we focus solely (or even mostly) on conversion as the goal of the Gospel, and as the “line” we need someone to cross, then that is what their goal will be. But if we explain to them that the goal of the Gospel is actually sanctification, or being like Christ, then not only might they experience conversion but they also might actually become like Christ as well!
What I have found in my years of ministry thus far, is that if we expect the bare minimum of people, then that is what they will give us. As humans we will naturally be drawn toward the least expectation. And if all God “requires” of me is to be converted in order to “get into heaven” then that is likely all I will give him. But if his desire is for me to be like Christ on this earth, and conversion is one of those steps along the way, then I might actually set my sights on that goal.
And that’s the fullness of the Gospel our world needs today.
When we look at the news and there are people who are claiming the name of Christ (because they might have had some sort of conversion experience) and yet are known abusers, rapists, sexual perverts, etc., then we can see the desperate need for us in the church to have an honest conversation about what it actually means to believe the Gospel.
The bottom line is this: Jesus did not come to merely create converts, but to make disciples who are transformed and whom transform the world.
And those are two very different things.
This has huge implications for how we understand God’s will for our lives, God’s design for redemption in the world, and what it means to be a Christian. And it’s where what I term “Christian insecurity” comes in to play.
So what do I mean by Christian Insecurity?
I mean that many Christians – including many churches and many pastors – sell God short for what He desires for people’s lives. Maybe they don’t fully deny that God wants people to “act” like Jesus. But they’re insecure about offering people the hope that they could actually “be” like Jesus.
And again, those are 2 very different things.
The Scripture portrays the Christian life as an opportunity to actually “be” like Jesus, and not simply just do good works like him:
John 14:12-14 – “I tell you the truth, anyone who believes in me will do the same works I have done, and even greater works…” (NLT)
John 16:13-14 – “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all truth…” (NLT)
Romans 8:2 – “And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death.” (NLT)
2 Corinthians 5:17 – “This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!” (NLT)
Philippians 2:5-11 – “You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had…” (NLT)
Why most people are insecure about this is because of their view of sin. They truly believe that they will never be anything more than a “sinner saved by grace.” And while I understand the sentiment (I truly do! The depth of the sin I have been saved from always amazes me…), it’s simply not what I read in Scripture as the definition of the Christian life.
The example of Jesus and the teachings of the New Testament portray Christians as saints who have not fully been removed from the temptations and effects of sin – but not as people defined by their sin nor required to give into the desires of their sin any longer.
Rather, because of the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives, we are given the opportunity to be like Jesus in the desert (Matthew 4:1-11) – “tempted in every way” and yet not giving in to sin: Hebrews 4:15 – “This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin.” (NLT)
In fact, think about the description of how a Christian is empowered to overcome sin in I Corinthians 10:13 – “The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure.” (NLT)
This is the GOOD NEWS! That because of Jesus’ incarnation, death, resurrection, and ascension, we have the opportunity to once again have the very presence of God walking with us in this life! The very Garden of Eden is recreated in us. Think about that for a second.
And if that is true, then it means we have the chance for the first time to actually be what God originally designed us to be – the very image and likeness of God in this world!
If that doesn’t get you excited about the Gospel, I’m not sure what will.
When I discovered this truth it completely changed my perspective on the Christian life. I went from sin-management to desire-transformation. I stopped thinking of myself as a sinner who’s barely saved but as a saint who now can overcome sin. I no longer wallowed in my guilt and shame but celebrated in my freedom and victory. And I left behind Christian insecurity and began living into Christ-likeness.
While I certainly do not believe it requires someone else to become a “Wesleyan Theologian” to believe this to be true. It was thru Wesley that I learned this Biblical truth. And I do believe it is this pearl of truth that Wesleyan’s have to offer the 21st century world that has been hidden for some reason in the previous century – maybe because we whittled down the Gospel to simply the act of conversion.
The difficulty of believing this truth is then actually living it out! And this is where Wesley’s concept of “social holiness” and his structuring of the Methodist renewal movement into Classes and Bands became important. [If you would like to learn more about those I would encourage you to watch these videos & read these articles: Phil. 2:1-11; Class Meetings; Band Meetings]
So as you begin to wrap your mind around what it might mean for you to actually start to be like Jesus in this life, I encourage you to seek out others who desire the same thing. And as you live together with others who are also being like Jesus, I think you will find that the fullness of the Gospel and the full will of God for your life will begin to be worked out.
And you might just find that you are also a lot less insecure about your Christianity. Because really, Christian insecurity shouldn’t be a thing. We’ve just made it one…