Equipping God's People to Create Missional Culture

Jonathan Dodson on The Good News

Illustration by Nidhi Balwada from India

Illustration by Nidhi Balwada from India

This entry is a part of an on-going blog series called The Good News, which is taking place throughout the Easter Season, from Easter to Pentecost. A full list of the contributors can be found here. Jonathan’s local newspaper is the Austin American-Statesman. Here is Jonathan Dodson on the Good News.

THE GOOD NEWS

Walking out into the backyard, I could see the Cape Cod peninsula on the horizon. The Boston skyline stood tall to my right, while the Atlantic waves crashed into the shore below. With my pipe packed with black Virginia, I took a deep breath, inhaling New England beauty. Taking in the glories of this veritable paradise, my thoughts climbed the trees around me, jumped to the clouds overhead, and scrambled into heaven. What force, what greatness, what creativity could will such beauty out of nothing?

Why Care About the Environment?

This was my weekly ritual for three years until we moved to Austin. Moving from East to South, more than the climate changed. Austin possesses its own beauty—the Hill Country, the lakes, the urban greenery—but this city has shown me a different side of creation. Austin has taught me, not only to enjoy creation but also to care for creation. I recycle more, waste less, garden more (didn’t take much!), and recently joined Greenpeace. But, honestly, I wouldn’t have embraced creation ethics if it weren’t for my theology.

See, the good news of the Gospel of Christ compels me to care for creation. The Old Testament tells me God made it and that its good. The New Testament tells me that all things were made in, through, and for Jesus. As a result, creation has divine worth. The NT also tells me that Jesus is reconciling and renewing all things through the blood of his cross (Col. 1:20). This is good news. Unfortunately, this isn’t what springs to mind for Austinites when they hear “gospel.” Some think of a narrow dogmatism, “gospel truth” that finds no truth outside the Bible. Others think of hellfire and brimstone preachers or a way to “get saved.” But if we read the Bible closely, this isn’t what Jesus meant by the “good news.”

The Gospel Renews Everything

When I hear the word gospel, I hear overtones of creation, of Jesus making all things new. This is especially good news because, if polar bears and the Amazon need to be renewed, I, a broken, very imperfect, dare I say sinner need to be renewed. In fact, it is humanity that has wrecked so much of creation. The gospel holds out hope not just for a broken creation, but for a broken humanity. The gospel is much more than a collection of facts to be believed or a set of rules to be followed. It is the good and true story that Jesus died and rose to defeat sin, death and evil in order to make all things new.

The question for me is: “How do I get in on the renewal?” I’ve discovered that being honest with God about my incongruity with him, about my selfishness, and my impatience has brought me into an experience of grace and forgiveness. This remarkable grace renews me everyday, slowly but surely. I’ve come to embrace that I am far more broken that I dare to admit, but in Jesus by sheer grace, I’m perfectly forgiven, accepted and continually renewed. This compels me, not just to be nice, but to worship God with everything, especially creation. After all, Jesus died and rose not only for my brokenness, but also for the brokenness in all things. It holds the promise of a new New England and a new me. Now that’s something I can raise my pipe to.

Jonathan Dodson is the lead pastor of Austin City Life and is married to Robie, father to Owen and Ellie. Jonathan graduated from college with a B.A. in Anthropology and earned two masters degrees at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, one in Divinity (M.Div) and another in Biblical Theology (Th.M). Jonathan blogs at Creation Project, Church Planting Novice, and is currently writes for various journals, ezines such as Boundless, Journal of Biblical Counseling, and Resurgence. He is currently working on his first book. Among other things, he enjoys smoking his pipe, chewing on a good piece of theology, and listening to M. Ward.


9 Responses to Jonathan Dodson on The Good News

  1. Pingback: The Gospel for your City « Church Planting Novice

  2. Josh Rowley says:

    “When I hear the word gospel, I hear overtones of creation, of Jesus making all things new. This is especially good news because, if polar bears and the Amazon need to be renewed, I, a broken, very imperfect, dare I say sinner need to be renewed. In fact, it is humanity that has wrecked so much of creation. The gospel holds out hope not just for a broken creation, but for a broken humanity. The gospel is much more than a collection of facts to be believed or a set of rules to be followed. It is the good and true story that Jesus died and rose to defeat sin, death and evil in order to make all things new.”

    I appreciate this holistic articulation of the gospel. And the Christus Victor emphasis is the atonement theory that I too find most compelling these days–perhaps because it is more a summary of the story’s plot than just a theory about one part of the story.

    “How do I get in on the renewal?” Great question.

  3. sonja says:

    Jonathan,
    Hmmm when i take a look at a polar bear i can only cheer for that wonderful more white as snow, animal creature God has made perfect,….Just wish not all the ice would melt so that they could live free.
    I do hear your message ‘it was humanity that has wrecked so much of creation’.Thanks for enlighten that part…
    ‘broken humanity and broken creation’
    Again a message about brokeness-
    It reminds me of a song medley this time i share with you:
    In Your stillness Lord
    we come worship You
    In Your gentleness
    we can rest in You
    In Your righteousness
    we are found in You
    In Your glory Lord
    We are changed in You
    And we give You all our praise

    I am in covenant relationship with God
    through the blood of Jesus Christ
    I’m justified,sanctified,peace with God
    I’ve been redeemed,made wholly clean,now i stand complete in His presence.

    I will change your name, you shall no longer be called wounded, outcast,lonely or afraid
    I will change your name, your new name shall be confidence;joyfullness, overcoming one, faithfulness,friend of God,one who seeks my face (Andy pratt)

    The Lord is marching out in splendour,in awesome majesty He rides,fortruth humility and justice,His mighty army fills the skies,o give thanks…..
    His army marches out with dancing,for He has filled our hearts with joy,beglad the kingdom is advancing,the love of God our battle cry…..o give thanks to the Lord for His love endures forever.

  4. Thanks Sonja. Forgive the polar bear euphemism for polar ice caps…creative license? :)

    What a wonderful song…can you share the title also?

    Great theological framing of the piece, Andy. With you both for a creation renewing gospel.

  5. sonja says:

    Jonathan,you’re welcome…I shared a combination of 4 songs with you.How funny that i was reminded of those old gospel songs a long time ago.I collected these in an order.Most of the time i had no idea of what the lyrics where about really.lol
    Somehow it does make more sense today.
    I only have a few titles okay:
    -‘ I will change your name’ by Andy Pratt
    – ‘The Lord is marching out’ by Graham Kendrik
    The other two i have no information about,sorry.(first and second song)

    enjoy smoking your pipe though! What is your favorite fragrance?

  6. Thanks! Not a fragrance guy, more of a blend smoker.

  7. jrwoodward says:

    Jonathan,

    I appreciate how you remind us of God’s heart for all of his creation, including people, how you continually move from all of creation to people and back again, giving us an invitation to join God in the renewal of all things through Jesus. Thanks for reminding us that it is not just about our relationship with God, each other and our inner wounds, but the creation as well. No wonder you have a blog by the name of Creation Project! Thanks for sharing with us. Peace.

  8. jason says:

    i like to remember that its “for God so loved the world” not just the people in it

  9. Thank you, JR! Your vision for this series speaks to your humility in letting others have a voice, as well as your passion for the Good News. Thanks for being a great leader.

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