“Where the AYDI gospel is measured, safe and vanilla, the real gospel is unmeasured, unsafe and utterly flavorful.” – Mary E. DeMuth, Everything
Mary DeMuth talks about this idea in her book, Everything: What You Give and What You Gain to Become Like Jesus. She reveals how we often water down the gospel as we live it out in our own lives or when sharing with others. Some of her AYDI (All You Do Is) gospel examples include: “All you do is attend church … All you do is read your Bible … All you do is learn how to pray …. All you do is stop doing bad things.” She tells how it’s not that these things aren’t true of the Christian life but that if that’s all you share, then you present an incomplete view of the gospel – a vanilla gospel!
I first heard this about this concept of the gospel while attending Capernwray Harbour Bible School and being assigned to read The Saving Life of Christ by Major Ian Thomas. In it, he shared that Christ didn’t just come to die on the cross for our sins so that we could go to heaven someday but he also died so that we might live abundantly while here on earth too.
His book asserts, “Christian living is not a method or technique; it is an entirely different, revolutionary principle of life. It is the principle of an exchanged life” not I, but Christ liveth in me” (Galatians 2:20) … I would like to explore with you what is the true spiritual content of our Gospel – not just heaven one day, but Christ right now! Christ in you, on the grounds of redemption; this is the Gospel!”
For some reason, I had missed hearing about this part of the gospel growing up or at the very least had not been living it out in my own life at all. So this realization was pretty revolutionary for me, even as a believer in Christ. And that is much of the premise of The Saving Life of Christ – that we can be “saved” but not fully living out the life Christ calls us to live. Or living out “a vanilla gospel” as Mary DeMuth puts it.
The quote from the top of this post really stood out to me while reading Mary’s book, Everything. Probably because I do sometimes measure success in my life as whether or not I am feeling safe and secure at the moment. I also sometimes try to measure out success in my Christian walk by seeing how things fit into the neat little compartments I have created for them. For example, am I reading my Bible regularly? Check. Have I given my tithe to the church this month? Check. Am I reaching out to those around me in love? Check. Well then, my “vanilla” version of the gospel is doing just fine!
But in Everything, Mary states, “This progression is not the gospel. Where it ends, ‘All you do is die to your own desires and embrace Jesus’ lordship,’ is where it should start. As Western Christians, we tend to think linearly, but the gospel is more circular, all-encompassing. The gospel isn’t a progressive list of improvement tactics … If we assign a stairway of steps starting with a simple prayer and ending with lordship, we invite confusion and disillusionment” (emphasis mine).
Therefore, it is when we start by giving up “our wills, our agendas, our fears, our everything” to Jesus that we experience the deepest joy in our lives (Everything). And it is then, as The Saving Life of Christ says, that we truly learn what it means to have Christ living in and through us. Mary DeMuth shares how the mindset of believers in the book of Acts really depicts this because they went through great hardships with rejoicing and praise. These men and women knew that following Jesus wasn’t all about self-improvement but about self-denial. After all, Jesus did say in Luke 9:23, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.”
May we also seek to rid ourselves of the “vanilla gospel” mentality in our lives and instead decide each day to give our everything to Christ. It is then that we will start living out the real gospel in our lives – “unmeasured, unsafe and utterly flavorful.”