Foundations: Salvation = Freedom by Jason Gaboury

16For I am not ashamed of the gospel; it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who has faith… (Romans 1:16)

I’d just witnessed a miracle. I’d shared the gospel story and asked Jane if she wanted to become a follower of Jesus. The confusion and angst that had hung on her face relaxed.  She looked up. “Yes,” she said. freedom

What had happened?  One minute Jane was peppering me with questions, wrestling with the gospel story.  The next minute she believed.  Over time she would come to be baptized, join the community, and share her story with others.

The power that brings freedom

Paul says that the gospel is the power of God for salvation.  The word literally means deliverance, release, or preservation.  The faith that began to rise up in Jane as she heard the gospel story and believed is a sign of salvation.  The gospel we proclaim is the power for salvation.  What is salvation anyway, and why do we need it?

Paul describes the problem in Romans 1:18 – 32. We do not live in truth and harmony with the world and one another because of our idolatry.  When we put ourselves, or any other created thing, in the place of God the result is personal, social, and spiritual disintegration.  Despite the fact that we all experience the deception, destruction, and disintegration that stems from our idolatry, we’re trapped in a closed system.  Even knowing it’s wrong… we’re stuck. “They know God’s decree, that those who practice such things deserve to die – yet they not only do them but even applaud others who practice them.”

Salvation describes God breaking into this closed system and setting people free.  Those who hear and respond to the call of the gospel become free from the prison of idolatry, deception, spiritual, and moral disintegration.  Those who hear and respond to the gospel are set free for the liberating and humanizing purposes of God in the world.  God’s good news sets people free, restores right worship, and sends them to work for the liberation of others.

What does freedom look like?

Freedom is a big deal on campus.  And yet, the truth is that most people on campus aren’t free.  Students are under tremendous pressure to succeed socially and academically.  Celebrating freedom looks at first like the big freshman (or frat) party, but quickly disintegrates into the hangover of isolation, anxiety, dislocation, and despair.  Faculty promotes free thought and study, but are themselves subject to huge pressure to perform, publish, and gain popularity.  Our mission field has placed all kinds of things in the place of God and is locked in a rapidly disintegrating web.

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel; it is the power of God for salvation…”

What if communities of truly free people started growing all over campus?  What if the distinguishing characteristic of our witness was freedom?  What if our passion for proclaiming the message about Jesus was rooted in the true freedom we experienced and longed to pass on to others?

God’s gospel is the power for salvation for your campus.  Will you celebrate it and share it?  When we do, we witness miracles.

Question: What kinds of freedom do you long to see people experience on campus? Share your thoughts in the comments.

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Foundations: Where does the power come from? — Jason Gaboury

16For I am not ashamed of the gospel; it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who has faith… (Romans 1:16)

Gary Haugen, founder of International Justice Mission, established a daily ½ hour prayer meeting for his organization.  Every day at 11:00 the whole office stops work, gathers in the conference room, and prays.  When asked about this Gary responds, “We had to ask ourselves a question, ‘What power do we really believe is going to set people free?’”

on buttonOn campus, what power do we really believe is going to set people free?  Is it our great proxe stations, or our winning personalities?  Is it our campus strategy, or our excellent program?  Or is it something else?

Paul says that the gospel is the power of God.  Paul’s expectation for fruitful ministry (that I may reap some harvest among you…v14) is not ultimately tied to his skill as a messenger, but the message itself.  What is this message?  Paul’s gospel is the announcement that Jesus the messiah is risen from the dead and is lord of the world.  (v1-4)  As Paul is faithful to announce this gospel, he knows and expects that God will act through him to, “bring about the obedience of faith… (v5)”

What implications does this have for us on campus?

1.    Center our Hope
I love and value the work we’re doing to improve our outreach.  We need to be constantly improving our strategies, plans, and programs.  We can’t just dust off last year’s NSO and hope for a better result.  And yet, our hope must not be centered in our activities but in the gospel of Jesus Christ.  What do we really believe is going to set people free on campus?  If we really believe it is the gospel, what implications would that have?  What would we change? 

2.    Clarify our Message
Too often I hear students sharing the gospel in ways that are unclear.  If the gospel is the power of God for salvation, then we need to get crystal clear about this message.  How do we teach students to share this message?  How do we coach them so that they can share it clearly, concisely, and compellingly? 

3.    Call People to Faith
“Would you like to become a follower of Jesus today?”  This is a powerful question that is under-utilized.  In Romans 1 Paul describes his ministry to call the Gentiles to the obedience of faith, and then immediately adds, “including yourselves who are called to belong to Jesus Christ.”  Paul does not simply communicate the gospel he calls for a response.  What would it look like if every time we shared the good news of the gospel we called people to faith? 

Question: When have you experienced power & boldness in your witness? What was its source?

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Foundations: What makes you ashamed? – Jason Gaboury

John looked at me puzzled, “I never would have guessed that you were a Christian.” I smiled, assuming that was a good thing. He paused. “I’m not sure that’s a good thing. If you really believe that stuff aren’t you supposed to tell heathens like me?”

I’d been ashamed of the gospel, and my friend John could tell.

timid

Shame isn’t always bad. A sense of shame is a necessary restraint against negative or destructive behaviors. A healthy sense of shame can strengthen the will to do what’s right in the face of temptation.

But on campus shame is used in unhealthy ways. The social cues send a clear message: “Keep your Christian faith to yourself.” Do a quick word association of evangelical Christian on campus and you find some interesting associations: close-minded, homophobic, judgmental, repressed, backwards, dumb.

We have to come to grips with shame if we are going to be serious about witness on campus. What can we learn from Paul in Romans 1 to help us to not be ashamed?

Reflections on Romans

Paul mentions the gospel of Jesus Christ 3 times in the first 16 verses of Romans 1. Here are some observations of Paul’s presentation of the gospel.

Good News, not Good Advice: Paul does not present the gospel as a private spirituality for people who are into that sort of thing.  He describes the gospel as an event that happened. “Jesus Christ… descended from David… risen from the dead.” (1-4) There are, of course, personal implications that follow from this announcement, but it is an announcement of an event that happened not of a personal or private experience.

No one is ashamed to talk about the news. Perhaps we need to be reminded that the gospel we proclaim on campus is good news about the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus (and his call to repentance and faith) — not good advice fitting awkwardly into the smorgasbord of campus life.

Announcing gospel as worship/service: Is worship simply singing songs?  Is service simply being kind or doing good deeds? Paul sees his announcement of the resurrection of Jesus as the primary means of his worship and service to God (v. 9).

What would it look like if our communities saw the announcement of Jesus’ resurrection as the primary means of our worship and service to God? How would it change our witness if we saw evangelism as the primary vehicle of our worship?

Word, Deed, & Power: Paul longs to share the gospel in Rome so that he might see a harvest. (v13) He doesn’t hope to see a harvest. He expects one.  Paul is not ashamed of the gospel because he knows that this good news is spoken in words, modeled with deeds, and demonstrated in power.

What are we expecting?  How are we praying?  Are we moving onto campus with expectant hope?  Do we have faith to pray for healings, for powerful signs to accompany our witness?  Do we expect the gospel to go forward through our words, in our deeds, and by the power of the spirit? Rome was decidedly more hostile to Paul’s announcement than the campus is to ours, but he expected a harvest nevertheless.

Unashamed

“I am not ashamed of the gospel…” Paul says. Are we? Paul isn’t ashamed because he recognizes the gospel as good news. Our campus needs good news.  It longs for wholeness even as it further fragments itself.  We have hope and wholeness because Jesus Christ has risen from the dead.

“I am not ashamed of the gospel…” Paul says. Are we?  We can’t stop our witness to the university without stopping our worship to God.  If we are willing to see our witness as our worshipm, and our worship as a witness, it would change our ministry. Paul saw his life and ministry that way.  So can we.

“I am not ashamed of the gospel…” Paul says.  Are we? The announcement of the gospel in the New Testament comes with signs of God’s power.  (People coming to faith, healing, signs of repentance, etc.)  Years ago we used to talk about sharing the gospel in word and deed.  We’ve changed that to say, we share the gospel in word, deed, and power.  Yes, train students to articulate the good news in words.  Yes, develop students as women and men of integrity who say ‘yes’ to Jesus in every sphere of their lives.  Yes, expect God to move powerfully as we faithfully to proclaim his good news.

Question: How could you model bold confidence in the Gospel’s power today? Share your thoughts in the comments.

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