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Jesus Creed

In this the fifth in a five-part set of posts on the Four Spiritual Laws, I will look at the fourth spiritual law of Campus Crusade’s influential evangelistic tract.

We must individually receive Christ; then we can know and experience God’s love and plan for our lives. Receiving Christ (John 1:12), the new birth (John 3:1-8), and reception by personal invitation (Revelation 3:20), are each supported by a scripture. Here is a clarification by the author:

Receiving Christ involves turning to God from self (repentance) and trusting Christ to come into our lives to forgive our sins and to make us the kind of people He wants us to be. Just to agree intellectually that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and that He died on the cross for our sins is not enough. Nor is it enough to have an emotional experience. We receive Jesus Christ by faith, as an act of will.

Then there follows a new diagram comparing the Self-directed life and the Christ-directed life. Then follows the suggested prayer:

God knows your heart and is not so concerned with your words as He is with the attitude of your heart. The following is a suggested prayer:

Lord Jesus, I need you. Thank You for dying on the cross for my sins. I open the door of my life and receive You as my Savior and Lord. Thank You for forgiving my sins and giving me eternal life. Take control of the throne of my life. Make me the kind of person You want me to be.

Whenever I look at gospel tracts, and as someone who takes more than a casual interest in evangelism I look at any I happen to see wherever I might find them — church foyers, train stations seats, bus seats, I have a strategy: first I look at the “problem” and then I look at the “solution.” The problem for the 4 Spiritual laws is separation from God, and the resolution is the enthronement of Christ, which is not strictly logical but anyone with sense knows that there is a fit here. Christ enthroned enables a human being to be the sort of person God wants us to be. I’ll be honest: I have very little problem with what is said here; I have problems with what is not said.

Let me offer a slightly different tract:

First, the problem is disruption of the Eikon of God in its union with God, in its communion with others, with manifold implications spilling over in all directions, including its relationship with the rest of the created order.

Second, the solution is reconciliation: with God, with others, and with the rest of creation. A good word for this is Shalom, and it needs to be understood eschatologically or teleologically: to know what the gospel is all about we have to know what God wants to do with the world he has created and where the world is going.

Let me put this differently: the solution is the Kingdom of God as Jesus envisions it and as Jesus embodies it and as Jesus teaches it. As I explain in the Jesus Creed (chps. 13-18), that kingdom is a society in which the Jesus Creed/Will of God is done. That was the goal of Jesus’ ministry: the Kingdom of God.

Which means: the problem is that love of God and others and governance of creation have fallen apart, and that the resolution is restoring love and governance in the context of a community.

Third, the means of that solution, as the 4SL has it, is Jesus Christ. But, Jesus Christ must be seen as a person within the Trinity: so the solution is the Father/Son/Spirit’s work in restoring us, through three “acts of God,” none of which can be minimized without damaging the gospel: Cross, Resurrection, and Pentecost. The means, in other words, is a Person (triune one) and to know that resolution means to come to know God personally.

Fourth, the context of that resolution is the people of God: anticipated in Israel and finding its Christian completion in the Church. The Church embodies the gospel, and the Church does so through Word, sacrament, and performance of that gospel in faith and obedience.

Which means this: the gospel is encountered through an advocate (if you want to read up on conversion theory, read this). The most potent advocate is the Church itself, but the Church finds individual embodiment in the individual Christian who is the typical form of an advocate. (Others could be mentioned: the Bible, TV, Christian art, etc.).

Which means this: the gospel cannot be separated from the Church, and the goal of the gospel is to restore Eikons so they live in union with God, in communion with others, in the context of the Church, for the good of the world.

So, in that last chart of the 4SL I would have all these things involved in what it means to enthrone the Trinity in life: union with God, communion with others, for the good of the world. And that means I’d get them on the first page as the problems too.

A story: as a professor, undeniably the greatest privilege I have is to teach the Bible. And I teach it passionately. I love what I do. One of my “common” experiences, and I don’t mean to make this routine, is to learn that some students of mine have found Christ. Last year a student came to me on Day One and said he didn’t belong in class because he knew nothing about the Bible. To which I said “that is why we have this class.” To make a long story short, the student discovered faith through reading the Bible, attending lectures, and (and I’m not doing anything here but telling you the truth) because I learned his name and spoke to him daily when he came to class. That I acknowledged him gave him a sense of worth and gave me credibility to him and enabled him to take a chance of opening himself up to the gospel. He now attends church; against his parents’ wishes.

This series of posts about the 4SL has not been a gripe session so much as an attempt to think through how gospel tracts present the gospel. I know for a fact that Campus Crusaders are taught well how to use the 4SL and I’m quite sure that they are effective because they are, as embodied gospels themselves, advocates who give a living witness to the impact of the gospel. In other words, it is effective because they carry forward the Word of God as people of the Church.

Lots of things could be said, but this is enough for now.

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