Monday, November 12, 2007

True gospel living

As a Christian, losing sight of the gospel or even merely relegating it to the margins as "basic stuff" is very dangerous. In fact, when we ponder upon it, we realise just how often we don't grasp how amazing it is, and how it doesn't touch upon our lives as it should. Certainly true for me anyway.

Here's some very thoughtful excerpts on the gospel that I've been meaning to post for a while now.

1. From Darryl Dash's notes on Tim Keller's talk at the Evangelical Ministers' Conference 2007 in London (my friend who was there told me it was outstanding):

We have Christ's righteousness. We understand that we're sinners but infinitely loved. We're as loved now as we will be a million years from now.

This means that we are weaker and more sinful than we ever before believed, but also more loved and accepted than we ever dared hope.

If that is the case, the way that you can tell that you are a Christian who understands the gospel, rather than a religious person, is how you handle repentance. If you are religious, repentance is occasional and traumatic. It's what you do to get out of the sin bucket into the love bucket. Repentance then becomes another weapon in your arsenal of self-salvation. It becomes a work. But you never know if you've been repentant enough.

But if you believe the gospel, then we understand that the gospel has nothing to do with our performance. This gives us the freedom to see sin everywhere in our lives...

My dear friends, most churches make the mistake of selecting as leaders the confident, the competent, and the successful. But what you most need in a leader is someone who has been broken by the knowledge of his or her sin, and even greater knowledge of Jesus' costly grace. The number one leaders in every church ought to be the people who repent the most fully without excuses, because you don't need any now; the most easily without bitterness; the most publicly and the most joyfully. They know their standing isn't based on their performance.

All of life is repentance, and repentance increases joy. It's not traumatic; it's joyful and it's healing.

What this means for us is that as we look at the criticisms we are getting, especially from inside, it's like when I do marriage counseling. A husband and wife are both saying something critical about the other. In each case, 80% of what they are saying is wrong. And yet 20% is right. Yet with the 20% that is right, the way it's expressed may be exaggerated, and the motivation may be wrong. It may be expressed outrageously. It's almost impossible for each side to hear the truth.

What I say to them if they are Christians is, "If you believe the gospel, you will be humble enough and assured enough that you can admit your sin and admit the 20% that's right without excuses or rancor. Just ignore all the exaggeration and bad motivation and admit that 'what you say about this is right and I'm going to repent of it.' If you both do this, it's a tremendous opportunity for growth. If you don't do it, it's because you don't believe the gospel no matter what you say."

...Never believe that criticism of our doctrine is all that's going on. It's also criticism of our practices. And don't think that by writing books defending your doctrine you've dealt with the criticisms of our practice...Isn't orthopraxy [right living] part of orthodoxy [right belief]? Of course it is!
More than enough here to chew on and be cut to the heart! I'd strongly recommend reading the whole thing.

2. From Matt Kleberg at Common Grounds Online:

I internalize and cover up my sin and weakness because I fear that any failure on my part implies a failure of Christianity. I must be perfect; otherwise Christianity is just a big flop, exposed as an elaborate hoax. The pressure is on and I must perform so that Christianity looks like a good buy.

This assumption is the exact opposite of the gospel. It is anti-gospel. To say that my failures somehow discredit Christianity completely disregards the cross! What pride and hypocrisy! Out of death we are made alive in Christ and our new identities are not bound up in our own righteousness, but rather the righteousness of Christ. It is by His perfection that we are presented as spotless before the Father. And while the Spirit does begin its healing work on our hearts, it is forever the work of Jesus that makes us children of God. I no longer have to disguise my sin for fear of nullifying the gospel. The gospel, rather, nullifies my sin, and frees me up to live as though transparent. The world can see through me- can see that I am needy and that there is a savior who triumphs over my brokenness.
(HT: JollyBlogger)

3. "The gospel is a story about Christ, God's and David's Son, who died and was raised and is established as Lord. This is the gospel in a nutshell."

- N.T Wr...wait, it's Martin Luther! from "A Brief Instruction on What to Look for and Expect in the Gospels," Luther's Works, ed. E. T. Bachmann (55 vols.; Philadelphia: Fortress, 1960), 35:118.

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