Display the Gospel

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In the true story, we learn that God has always intended to have a visible representation of himself on the earth. Adam and Eve failed. Then Israel failed. But Jesus did not. He is the true image of God—the fullness of deity in bodily form. Now, we, the church, are his body, the means by which he intends to fill every place with his embodied presence through our physical bodies (Eph. 1:22–23). We were not just saved from sin, Satan, and death. We were also saved for his purposes here and now.

Saved from and saved for. We were saved by the power of God for the purposes of God, so that God might be made known and Jesus might be glorified. We are God’s display people, showing the world what he is like. We are also a declaration people, who proclaim who God is and what he has done by proclaiming the gospel. 

In 1 Peter 2:9-15, Peter [tells] God’s people scattered throughout Asia Minor (modern-day Turkey) that they were called to live as God’s chosen people who loved others like family, just as God the Father had loved them while they were still his enemies. They were his royal priesthood, sent into the world by the Spirit to help people be reconciled to God and to each other through Jesus. And they were a holy nation, called to display what life can be like when Jesus is King. So are we. This is our identity.

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This is our calling. Show the world the love of the Father, the healing and reconciling power of the Spirit, and the sacrificial servanthood of the Son in how you live. Show them what God is like.

It has been said that behavior is more caught than taught. Every parent knows this to be true. Our children more often reflect what we do in front of them than what we say to them. The display of our lives is definitely more convincing than the declaration of our lips. In fact, if we say one thing and do another, our doing often trumps what we say in people’s minds. So what are we displaying to the world?

From time to time, I’ve led groups to embrace the practice of being a gospel display through an activity I call “Gospel Metaphors.” I encourage the group members to think about the gospel and what we come to know about God through Jesus’ work. Then I invite them to share the titles, attributes, and activities of God that we see in Jesus. Advocate. Sacrifice. Healer. Forgiver. Counselor. Prince of Peace. Restorer. Redeemer. The list could go on and on. While people are sharing, I write the words down on a whiteboard or poster-sized Post-it note. Often, many suggestions are given. And I usually select a few additional attributes or titles and ask how we could provide a picture of what God is like in those ways.

The apostle Paul said we are like living letters displaying the work of God to the world—gospel metaphors. As a result of an exercise such as this, I’ve witnessed fences repaired (Restorer); houses remodeled to make more space for people in need of places to stay (Hospitable); an empty lot that was used for drug and sex trafficking transformed into a community garden (Redeemer); debts paid off (Forgiver); college tuition raised (Provider); fatherless children cared for by men (Father to the fatherless); and many other displays of the character of God.

Small and big activities alike can display what God is like, as we’ve come to know him in the gospel. We are blessed by God to bless. Physical displays of what God is like show his glory in tangible form.

(Taken from Gospel Fluency Handbook by Jeff Vanderstelt, ©2017)

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Jeff Vanderstelt

Jeff Vanderstelt is the visionary leader of Saturate, the Soma Family of Churches, and the lead teaching pastor of Doxa Church in Bellevue, WA. He also travels around the US and the world equipping the Church in the gospel and missional living. He is the author of "Saturate: Being Disciples of Jesus in the Everyday Stuff of Life." He and Jayne, his wife of 22 years, have three children; Haylee, Caleb, and Maggie.