Lest we forget…The record is history. They died, laying down their lives to preserve our freedom. And this day, on the 11th day of the 11th month of the 11th year of our century at the 11th minute of the 11th hour, (11:11 on 11/11/11) we pause to remember…
There was an infinitely greater sacrifice made, another Life laid down to actually purchase our freedom and all history was changed—the Good News of it has been disseminated throughout the world ever since—but somehow, the news doesn’t seem so fresh anymore. The transformative dynamic of it seems to have ebbed, at least in North American culture. We’re starting to look around in alarm and wonder what’s happened as the younger generation bids ‘adieu, I don’t need you’ to church, and a rising radical tide proclaims religion in general, and Christianity in particular, to be a danger to the human race. The average person on the street is unaware of any radical hope offered in the Gospel. Why is that?
There are a number of directions one could head in answering this question. And maybe it is different for every group of believers. Some possible answers are: It’s because there are no signs and wonders happening. Others say, it’s because there’s sin in the church. A case could be made for insufficient love between believers (which is to be the hallmark of who we are!) Maybe we just live in the ‘end times’ and this cold state of affairs is inevitable…Or maybe we’re just not being obedient to share the Gospel with the ‘lost’?!
But rather than ‘passing the buck’ I thought I’d start with my own appreciation of the Gospel. Does it resound powerfully in my own soul? Is it transforming the way I live? If not, why not?
I sat riveted to a sermon at my son’s church recently. The passage roughly in view was I Tim.4:1-7. The title: Facing Down Falsehood. The pastor proceeded to present a compelling case for living by grace rather than rules, and seeing the glory of the Gospel as far exceeding the self-styled ‘salvation’ of either legalism or lawlessness. He suggested that when we comprehend the extent of God’s love for us personally, which is at the heart of the Gospel, we will be drawn to live out the obedience that pleases Him. This obedience will not be circumscribed by rules and standards but freely given out of love, and directed by God’s very Spirit residing in us, transforming us into the image of Christ. It is for such freedom that we were set free. This is the Gospel.
He clarified: “Morality grows out of trust in God’s radical grace as expressed in Jesus Christ. Acceptance does not grow out of morality. To get these two confused is to miss the Gospel!”
Paul was always warning believers not to shift away from the hope held out in the Gospel, not to fall for another Gospel, not to be taken captive by wrong thinking or intimidated by impressive testimonies…but to hold fast to Christ. He urged the Colossian believers to stand firm against anyone adding requirements to the Christian life. And he spent a good bit of energy extolling Christ in whom all the fullness of God dwells, and who is our source of fullness!
He also realized that it would take super-human strength to ‘get it’. So he prayed that the believers at Ephesus would be strengthened by the Spirit to comprehend this incomprehensible, unconditional, beyond anything they’d experienced, sort of love. (Eph.3)
God so loved us. That’s where the Gospel starts, and believing it is where the power of the Gospel begins to be unleashed.
God loves me. Christ died for my sins. In believing in Him, I count myself dead to sin, (crucified with Christ), forever forgiven, granted access to God, and indwelt by the living Christ. This is incredible. It is from this foundation that I can begin to practice true Godliness—and really to live out the fruit of the Gospel, Christ in me, the hope of glory!
The pastor went on to illustrate what this pursuit of Godliness looks like for the one who is living by faith in the Gospel. (Perhaps this is where we have failed to produce a Christianity that is compelling in our generation?) Here is his illustration:
Let’s liken the pursuit of Godliness to the goal of crossing the Atlantic Ocean. You’ve got three options:
--You can get a rowboat, stock up, and get rowing. You’ll never make it.
--Or you can get a lifeboat. Blow it up; plop yourself in and pray, hoping that the currents will take you over. You will never make it.
--Or you can get a sailboat and learn to sail. Catch the winds of the Spirit, of grace, and enjoy the freedom of knowing what godliness is all about.
This is what the Gospel is all about, not rules, not requirements, but living from a place of forgiveness and love, learning to listen to ‘the music of the Gospel’. It will take effort and time and patience, he said. It will seem hard only because it will seem like you’re doing nothing. (If you’ve ever sailed you get this!) “But the music of the Gospel will transform you. It will make you dance.” ( And I loved this part) “The law will tell you what the dance steps are and are not. It will guide you, but it will never make you dance. Only grace will.”
Then in closing he urged us to “Nourish yourself on the truths of the faith, the Good News. That’s how you fall in love. That’s how it happens. You hear the voice of love coming to you from God continually and finally when you say, ‘You mean me?’ your heart opens to love. You begin to trust the Gospel and your life begins to change. Draw life from the Gospel. Be strengthened by God’s acceptance of you in Christ; it is your food and drink. It’s what will give you strength to live in freedom.”
So that’s where I’m at today… reviewing the truths of the Gospel and praying for God to give it new life in my heart. I don’t want this to be a purely cerebral exercise, but I have to start somewhere. If the Gospel story has become old and crusty to me, how can I expect it to be of compelling interest to my neighbor? May God revitalize our understanding of the Gospel—and may its power be unleashed in our lives for His glory.
And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in [your] mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled in the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in his sight: if ye continue in the faith grounded and settled, and [be] not moved away from the hope of the gospel, which ye have heard… (Col.1:21-23)
You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus (2Tim.2:1)
[quotes from Doug Schroeder, Crossroads Community Church, Calgary, AB. Oct.30,2011]